“Miracle on 34th Street” and 9 of the best Christmas movies based on books and short stories

Some of the best Christmas movies didn’t start from an original screenplay, but were instead based on books: a children’s book, short story, or novel; many authors have paved the way for great storytelling during the Christmas season.

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While film crews brought the words on a page to life, these authors also played a huge role in delivering Christmas classics for generations to come. These movies are something movie buffs and readers can fully appreciate!


“Christmas with the Kranks” (2004)

The Kranks family Christmas with the Kranks together

The film follows a couple who plan to skip Christmas as their daughter is away, instead wanting to spend their time and money on a cruise for themselves. While their neighbors and friends are distraught at their lack of Christmas spirit, they’re forced to scramble as she returns for the holidays.

The film was originally based on the popular book, Skipping Christmas Of John Grisham. Gaining popularity, it was eventually adapted into an exact remake of the book.

“It’s a Wonderful Life” (1946)

The cast of It's a Wonderful Life
Image via RKO Radio Pictures

In A Christmas storyGeorge Bailey (James Stewart) is regretful of his compromises and sacrifices, leaving him frustrated with what could have been. As she contemplates suicide, he proclaims, “I wish I’d never been born.” His guardian angel Clarence then gives him a look at the world as if it never existed.

The film is loosely based on a short story called “The Greatest Gift” written by Philip Van Doren Stern. There are some minor plot differences, but the film is a more than faithful adaptation of the book.

‘Christmas Shoes’ (2002)

The Christmas Shoes 2x1 Still

The film follows several character arcs from a workaholic lawyer who worries about his failing marriage and a boy, Nathan, who wants to buy a pair of Christmas shoes for his dying mother.

While the film is based on the novel of the same name by Donna Van Liere, the book was a novelization of the Christmas themed song written by NewSong. The song recounts the events of the boy’s attempts at the store to buy shoes, which reminds the narrator of the true meaning of Christmas.

‘The Blessing of Christmas’ (2005)

Again the 2x1 Christmas blessing

As a sequel to Christmas shoes, the film picks up with the boy who is now grown up. The adult Nathan (Neil Patrick Harris) questions her career path and returns to her hometown, where she encounters romance and faces tragedy.

Similarly, the film was based on a book of the same title written as a sequel to Christmas shoes by Donna Van Liere. The band NewSong also featured a song in the film called “The Christmas Blessing”.

‘The Hope of Christmas’ (2009)

Christmas hope again 2x1

Continuing the interwoven storyline, The Christmas Hope is the third part of this trilogy. While Patty grieves the loss of her son, she finds comfort in finding homes for her adopted children. Meanwhile, Nathan searches for the parents of a dead boy in the ER in the second film.

Mirroring the book trilogy, Nathan connects the entire trilogy. While Donna VanLiere wrote the book on which the films are based, she has written 11 books in this series.

‘How the Grinch Stole ‘Christmas’


The Grinch hates Christmas celebrations. Increasingly frustrated with the joyful spirit of the holidays, he decides to ruin everything for the citizens of Whoville by dressing up as Santa Claus and stealing their gifts and decorations. Confused by their continued celebration, he realizes that the holiday spirit isn’t in a box after all.

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The film was originally based on Doctor Seuss‘ children’s book How the Grinch Stole Christmas. As a children’s classic, the book has been adapted several times. It was first made into an animated TV movie in 1966, followed by a live-action film in 2000 and an animated version in 2018.

‘The Polar Express’ (2004)

polar-express-standing train

When a young boy who has grown skeptical of Santa Claus boards a train bound for the North Pole on Christmas Eve, he embarks on a unique journey whose memories keep him in the eternal Christmas spirit.

The film was based on a book of the same title by Chris Van Allsburg. The book itself was inspired by Allsburg’s childhood memories of going to department stores during the holiday season.

‘Miracle on 34th Street’ (1947)

Miracle on 34th Street

When a department store on 34th Street hires Kris Kringle (Edmund Gwenn) to work as Santa Claus, attract attention by claiming to be the real deal. He is being taken to court so that it can be decided, once and for all, whether “Is Santa Claus real?”

The plot of the film and the book were inspired by Valentine Davisexperiences lining up at a store this holiday season. She brought his story to the big screen while simultaneously writing a book of the same title, which was released alongside the film.

“A Christmas Story” (1983)

Ralphie before being pushed down the mall Santa Claus slide in A Christmas Story
Image via MGM

The film follows an adult Ralphie who remembers a particular Christmas when he was a child. Wanting nothing more than an air rifle, he is choked up by everyone around him, who dismiss him saying, “you’ll shoot yourself in the eye.” When he finally gets the shotgun, he reflects on how it was the best Christmas present he’s ever gotten.

The film was inspired by the novel In God We Trust: Everyone else pays in cash written by Jean Shepherd. He described them as simplistic childhood stories that are entirely fictional but leave you with little lessons that last a lifetime.

‘A Christmas Carol’

A Christmas carol

Ebenezer Scrooge is a mean, embittered, uncharitable man who hates Christmas. After being visited by the ghosts of his old business partner, who warn him of his cruel ways. He is also visited by the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future who force him to reevaluate his life and consequently embodies his kindness and goodwill.

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The original book A Christmas carol was written by Charles Dickens in 1843. The story has been told in a variety of mediums, from stage to television to live action and animated films.

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