6 Holiday Movie Decoration Themes

Get into the spirit of the season with on-point decor and creative crafts inspired by your favorite funny, classic, and heartwarming holiday movies.
holiday movie decoration themes

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Is Christmas decor becoming a chore? Bored with the same old, same old? Deck your halls differently this year by turning to your favorite holiday film for inspiration. If you can recite every line right along with Buddy the Elf, think of angels whenever you hear a bell ring, or look forward every December to an annual 24-hour movie marathon, you’ll love these fun, film-inspired touches and twists on time-honored traditions that will make the season’s celebrations extra special.

1. ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas’

the grinch stole christmas tree
Photo: BloomingCreationsLtd via

Before deciding on a theme, ask yourself one very important question: Will your dog tolerate having fake antlers strapped to its head?

If the answer is no, that’s OK. You can pivot and still make your home classically, “Grinchtastically” festive. Start with the color scheme: a standard white, a Santa-suit red, and a bright lime green. Find a super-skinny tree—you can even buy an artificial one with a bendable top!—to deck with oversize ornaments and giant striped candy canes. Wrap it in a garland made from wide, Grinch-green ribbon. For a whimsical finishing touch, set up a silhouette of Mr. Bad Banana himself, his hands perfectly poised to purloin the very last can of Who-hash.

Of course, the easiest Grinch decor—the easiest decor, full stop—would be to ditch all holiday decorations. After all, one of the biggest plot points in this story is that The Mean One steals everything that’s even remotely festive during his epic B & E adventure, leaving nothing but crumbs much too small for Whoville’s resident mice. While that would be a great Grinchy trick to play, it certainly wouldn’t jibe with the Grinch’s redemption arc.

2. ‘A Christmas Story’

a christmas story leg lamp

It’s not practical to spend the entire holiday season in a pink bunny suit or to pile on so much winter outerwear that you can’t move your limbs. Even worse, should you decide to decorate by propping a Red Ryder BB gun on the mantel, someone’s sure to shoot an eye out.

Instead, your best bet for evoking the vintage vibe of “A Christmas Story” is with (you guessed it!) the classic high-heeled, fishnetted and fringed leg lamp. It’s a major award, you know! Especially gung-ho Ralphie & Co. fans can DIY this “frageelay” prop, or keep it simple and purchase one ready-made. That way, you’ll have plenty of time to whip up a batch of delicious Ovaltinis for the grown-ups—no Orphan Annie Secret Society decoder pin required.

3. ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’

nightmare before christmas string lights

From antiquity to modernity, poets, scientists, and deep thinkers of all stripes have engaged in philosophical debates that persist despite being ultimately unknowable—the chicken and egg conundrum, nature vs. nurture, whether to store glassware right side up or upside down, Coke or Pepsi, and which was the superior mid-1960s TV show, “The Addams Family” or “The Munsters.” Tim Burton’s 1993 stop-motion animation classic, “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” presents a similar question: Is it a Halloween movie about Christmas, or a Christmas movie about Halloween? Happily, you don’t have to decide in order to deck your halls with delightfully dark decor befitting this beloved movie.

Skelly and Sally fans can set the spooky mood with Halloween colors—black, natch, but also plenty of orange, purple, and bright green. For an easy, inexpensive shortcut to an instant “Nightmare Before Christmas” atmosphere, start with Halloween-hued twinkling lights like this highly rated option available on Amazon and add tinsel garlands, crepe paper, or Mardi Gras-style beads. You could even go old-school with colored-paper chains!

Slightly more ambitious Burton fans could carve a pumpkin with classic Jack features, or try their hand at crafting a super-cute Zero from items that are either already on hand or easily sourced. There’s no better way to say “Happy Holidays” and “Long Live the Pumpkin King!”

4. ‘The Polar Express’

polar express model train

Here’s a good excuse for doing some more online shopping: You’ll need cardboard boxes to construct this impressive DIY Polar Express train. Decorate your tree with train-themed ornaments, and don’t forget to lay model train tracks around its base. Erect a candy-striped signpost pointing the way to the North Pole, or use artificial snow to create the illusion that yo

If you plan to host a holiday open house or are always happy to welcome drop-in visitors, why not whip up some hot chocolate ornaments? This is a fun craft for the whole family. First, fill clean transparent ornaments partway with hot chocolate mix, then go crazy adding mini marshmallows, tiny chocolate chips or candies, sprinkles, and sparkling sugar. Finish the sweet spheres by tying on a ribbon loop for hanging, and then add a gift tag if desired. (If you don’t have time to DIY, you can also purchase hot cocoa ornaments on Etsy.) Set up a small Christmas tree in your foyer or near the front door to display these sugary, festive orbs, and send one home with each holiday guest as a token of friendship.

5. ‘Elf’

elf movie model NYC skyline

Gimbels’ ho-hum interior was transformed overnight by elfin magic, but you can evoke the same elaborate, over-the-top extravagance by stringing as many paper snowflakes and garlands as you can convince your family members to cut out. Got some Lego fans in the family? Task them with creating the iconic Manhattan skyline in homage to Buddy’s behind-the-scenes build. Don’t be too much like Buddy, though: Spare your pillows and instead scatter faux snow on the mantel and side tables.

While no “Elf”-respecting host would completely forgo the four elf food groups, you might want to skip the maple syrup—unless you want 2022 to go down in family history as the stickiest Christmas ever. Candy canes, old-fashioned ribbon candy, and peppermint bark should be enough to suit everyone’s sweet tooth just fine while also being lovely to look at.

6. ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’

it's a wonderful life print
Photo: GraphicsbyHand via

Perhaps the quintessential feel-good holiday story, “It’s A Wonderful Life” may not seem rife with decoration inspiration, but sometimes a subtle suggestion is just what’s wanted. To transform your living room into something that wouldn’t be out of place in George and Mary Bailey’s “drafty old barn,” start by trimming a classic evergreen with vintage-style Christmas bulbs and old-fashioned ornaments.

Other touches of times gone by include strategically hung mistletoe, a mantel festooned with boughs of holly (real or artificial), and sweet-smelling pomanders of clove-studded citrus. Dig out doilies and place antimacassars on the backs of armchairs. Shop Etsy for a “George Lassos the Moon” print just like Mary made, build a roaring fire (or cue up the yule log), and—most important of all—enjoy every minute of the time spent with your loved ones over the holidays.