Since Christmas can feel like a magical time for many, it’s not too shocking to see whimsical movies throughout December. Many fictional stories typically involve beloved Christmas characters like Santa Claus, elves, and reindeer with peculiar noses.
While several Christmas-movie writers enjoy using their creativity to create fictional stories, others have used the holiday season to shed light on real people with authentic experiences. And they can be some of the most exciting films to watch during Christmastime. Here’s our roundup of the top 5 Christmas movies based on true stories!
‘A Christmas Story’ (1983)
A Christmas Story is undoubtedly a classic film to watch during Christmastime. Still, some fans may not know that Ralphie’s (Peter Billingsley) adventures happened in real life. Well, kind of.
A Christmas Story is based on radio personality Jean Shepherd’s “semi-autobiographical” stories of his childhood. From 1955 to 1957, Jean shared entertaining anecdotes about growing up during the Great Depression, serving in WWII, and readjusting to “modern times.”
“These stories featured his manic father (‘the old man’); his mother (always standing over the sink in a yellow rump-sprung chenille bathrobe with bits of dried egg on the lapel’); his kid brother, Randy, and assorted pals, bullies, beauties, and other neighborhood types,” Jean’s friend Donald Fegan told Slate in 2015.
Jean eventually moved his radio stories to print and wrote several short stories for Playboy in the 1960s. The stories caught filmmaker Bob Clark’s attention, who made it his mission to bring Jean’s work to the big screen.
Over 30 years after Jean’s radio broadcasts, A Christmas Story aired in theaters and became the holiday staple we know today. According to Flicklives, a website that celebrates Jean’s legacy, the film includes many of Jean’s real-life friends, including Flick (Scott Schwartz), who was inspired by Jean’s best friend, Jack Flickinger.
‘Dolly Parton’s Coat of Many Colors’ (2015)
Dolly Parton is known for many things, but in 2015, she gave fans a glimpse into a section of her life’s story. The “9 to 5” singer narrated an NBC special, Dolly Parton’s Coat of Many Colors, with Alyvia Alyn Lind as young Dolly. As many Dolly fans know, the singer released her song “Coat of Many Colors” in 1971 and a children’s book in 1994.
Dolly Parton’s Coat of Many Colors received rave reviews for Dolly’s transparency and the film’s heartfelt themes. The movie spawned a sequel in 2016, Dolly Parton’s Coat of Many Colors: Circle of Love. The sequel landed an Emmy nomination in 2017. While Dolly has created many holiday specials since Coat of Many Colors, fans were pleased to learn about the beloved country star.
‘The Man Who Invented Christmas’ (2017)
In 2017, director Bharat Nalluri told Charles Dickens's origin story in The Man Who Invented Christmas. While many are familiar with Charles for his famous novella A Christmas Carol, the Irish-Canadian film dives into what led the writer to create the book in the first place.
Dan Stevens plays Charles, and when viewers meet him, he’s desperate for a big break. During several meta experiences, like his first interaction with the real-life “Scrooge,” played by Christopher Plummer, Charles’s hit comes to life. Although Charles died in 1878, his legacy continues as A Christmas Carol has spawned many movies and holiday TV episodes.
‘A Godwink Christmas’ (2018) and the rest of the 'Godwink' movies
Although Hallmark has gained a reputation for dishing out a new Christmas movie every year, the Godwink movies are a bit different than the feel-good, romantic, fictional stories the network likes to air. Hallmark’s Godwink movies began in 2018 and are based on true stories.
The first Godwink movie, A Godwink Christmas, starred Kimberly Sustad and Paul Campbell as Paula and Gery Conover. In the film, Paula and Gery fell in love while staying at Martha’s Vineyard and eventually married and started their lives together.
Godwink’s 2018 premiere spawned other true love stories like A Godwink Christmas: Meant for Love (2019), A Godwink Christmas: First Loves, Second Chance (2020), and A Godwink Christmas: Miracle of Love (2021). Additionally, real-life married couple Louise DuArt and Squire Rushnell executive produced the movies.
Louise, a former actor, and Squire, a former ABC producer, co-authored stories from people they interviewed for their Godwink book series. Squire said the books and movies show the unexpected ways he believes God looks out for others. In an interview with the Vineyard Gazette, Squire described Godwinks as “a coincidence that isn’t a coincidence, but comes from a divine source.”
‘Spoiler Alert’ (2022)
Spoiler Alert debuted in December 2022, just in time for Christmas! The film stars Jim Parsons and Ben Aldridge as Michael Ausiello and Kit Cowan, respectively. The LGBTQ holiday movie follows Michael and Kit’s love story.
Sadly, Spoiler Alert also discusses the couple’s love story tragically ending when Kit succumbs to his terminal cancer diagnosis. The real Kit passed in 2015, one year after he and Michael married. Michael, best known for being the CEO of TVLine, is still alive and worked as an executive producer on the film.
Christmas is a recurring theme in Spoiler Alert. Michael shared his love for the holiday season with Kit, and the couple had adorable Christmas traditions, such as their annual Christmas cards and sitting under the Christmas tree each year.