12 days of streaming Christmas movies the whole family will (or won’t) love

Here are our evergreen Christmas movie recommendations, complete with summaries and links for where to watch.


’Tis the season for streaming Christmas movies, so fa-follow-a-la-la-long as we…sorry. We’ll stop.

In no particular order, here are a dozen picks for holiday movies that are perfect for your family movie night, each with a link to JustWatch so you know where to find them among all your streaming services.

 

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

A classic in the truest sense of the word. You’re probably familiar with the story, but just in case: George Bailey finds himself in dire straits as the holidays approach and wishes he’d never been born. His guardian angel, Clarence, is sent to Earth to show him the impact he’s had so he’ll change his mind. Spoiler alert—he does.

Where to stream It’s a Wonderful Life

 

The Lego Star Wars Holiday Special (2020)

Not to be confused with the infamous late 1970s Star Wars Holiday Special, this 44-minute movie sees the Lego Star Wars characters preparing for Life Day. There’s a time-travel element that brings Star Wars heroes and villains from across timelines together in one fun, family-friendly romp.

Where to stream The Lego Star Wars Holiday Special

 

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

For those still in a spooky mood during the lead-up to the winter holiday season, The Nightmare Before Christmas is the perfect movie to help make the mental switch. From the mind of Tim Burton, this stop-motion animated story is super stylish. It may be a little much for young kids; some of the Halloween Town characters are a bit scary.

Where to stream The Nightmare Before Christmas

 

Die Hard (1988)

There is some debate about whether Die Hard is a Christmas movie. It’s not a feel-good, moralistic tale. No one learns the true meaning of Christmas or promises to change their ways (though who knows what’s going through Hans Gruber’s mind as he falls from the 30th floor of Nakatomi Plaza). Still, Christmas is central to the plot, so put us down for a vote in the “yes, it’s a Christmas movie” column.

Where to stream Die Hard

 

Arthur Christmas (2011)

Finally, an answer to how Santa does it all in one night: He’s got a veritable army of highly trained elves, and he’s seriously upgraded his tech stack. For kids, there’s a bunch of fun gags and some fun, frenetic action all centered around a story of succession. There are also some teachable moments as viewers unpack the role of work and identity as Santa looks to hand over the reins. Overall, this is a fun, funny, feel-good animated tale.

Where to stream Arthur Christmas

 

The Santa Clause (1994)

Whereas Arthur Christmas teaches us that the Santa gig is handed down in the family line, The Santa Clause suggests another succession path. When a divorced dad, played by Tim Allen, accidentally offs Santa, he’s required to take the reins. This movie is undemanding, fun family watching (and so are both of its sequels!)

Where to watch The Santa Clause

 

The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)

It’s tough to choose just one movie retelling or interpretation of this Dickens classic. For family viewing, the Muppets version is where it’s at. Starring Sir Michael Caine, who never breaks character in his role of Scrooge, it features Gonzo as the narrator and a whole cast of Muppets characters. It’s not too long or overwrought, it does a great job of placing itself in the original Dickens storym and it’s just plain fun.

Where to stream The Muppet Christmas Carol

 

Klaus (2019)

This Netflix original is beautifully rendered in stylish hand-drawn animation. An animated comedy at heart, it presents an alternative origin story for Santa Claus and a redemption story for the main character, a mail carrier deemed to be the worst the postal academy has ever seen. This is a fun and memorable holiday story that deserves a spot on your annual watch list.

Where to stream Klaus

 

Home Alone (1990)

Li’l Kevin McCallister finds himself abandoned for the holidays as his family jet sets off to Paris, accidentally leaving him behind. As the new head of the house, he’s left to defend it from would-be robbers Harry and Marv, two grinches doing B&Es while houses are left empty over the holidays. Kevin defends his homestead in a bunch of slapstick ways, which will be sure to entertain.

Where to stream Home Alone

 

A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)

A nostalgia watch for adults, this movie is a fun time warp for kids with themes that hold up today. Charlie Brown is feeling bummed (as Charlie Brown is wont to do). Looking for the meaning of Christmas, he tries to get in the spirit by directing the school play. The soundtrack, created by the Vince Guaraldi Trio, really helps to make this 30-minute animated classic.

Where to stream A Charlie Brown Christmas

 

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)

The extended family descends on the Griswold home from near and far for a “fun, old-fashioned family Christmas.” It’s not as innocent as you may remember, so it’s best watched when the kids are a little older. It is fun, funny and full of holiday tropes, a few of which—like the over-the-top Christmas light display that puts a drain on the power grid—it created.

Where to stream National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

 

Elf (2003)

Buddy the Elf (Will Ferrell) never quite fit in at the North Pole among Santa’s other elves. He’s got the right spirit, but he’s clumsy, and he doesn’t fit elf body proportions…Probably has something to do with the fact that he is, in fact, human and was accidentally brought to the North Pole as a babe. Now as an adult, Buddy travels to New York City to reunite with his dad. This is a fun one the whole family can enjoy.

Where to stream Elf

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