It’s almost Christmas, and that means it’s time to bunker down with family and friends, break out the eggnog and watch your favorite Christmas movies.
The following list has some classics, some newer films and some off-beat ones that you may not even consider Christmas movies. There’s a bit of something for everyone here, whether you have little kids or everyone’s all grown-up.
So, without further adieu, here are some of my favorite Christmas movies of all time and where to stream them. HBO Max really wins out this year, though you’ll find movies on Netflix, Apple TV, Disney+, Amazon and Peacock in the list below.
It’s A Wonderful Life (1946)
I just watched this one again with the kids and I must say, I never get tired of it. I always get teary at the end. I love Jimmy Stewart in just about everything, and this is one of his best—a story about family, resilience, giving up your dreams to help others, and the importance of community in the face of an often unfair capitalistic system. Frank Capra is at the top of his game here (though perhaps my favorite Capra picture is Arsenic and Old Lace—easily one of the best Halloween movies ever made).
Home Alone (1990)
Is there a funnier Christmas movie than Home Alone? I’m not sure. Macaulay Culkin is about my age, so when I watched this I could absolutely relate to Kevin and his excitement at getting the whole house to himself—and then his dismay. But it’s the Wet Bandits—Joe Pesci as Harry and Daniel Stern as Marv—that make this movie so hilarious. It’s really quite violent (and Kevin is a straight-up psychopath in the sequel!) and one of the best modern slapstick comedies ever made.
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)
One of the funniest, most ridiculous Christmas movies ever made, Chevy Chase’s National Lampoons Christmas Vacation is a must-watch at Christmas. It’s so hilarious and silly. A friend of mine used to throw a costume party based on the movie each year on his birthday (in December). There are many great costumes to choose from, I should add. Each one takes you right to that scene in the movie.
You probably don’t see Hook on a lot of Christmas movie lists, but I think it counts. Peter and his family are visiting Aunt Wendy on Christmas, after all. The movie has a distinctly Christmas feel to it. In many ways, it’s actually a retelling of A Christmas Carol, with Peter as Ebenezer Scrooge. I love this movie and I adore both Robin Williams as Peter Pan and Dustin Hoffman as Captain Hook.
Die Hard (1988)
Probably the most debated “is it or isn’t it a Christmas movie?” films of all time, but the answer is simple: It’s up to you. If you feel like this is a Christmas movie, great! If you don’t, great! Get in the spirit of of the season and let people have their opinions. I consider it a Christmas movie. We can agree to disagree!
How The Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)
Accept no substitute. The original animated Grinch is still the best. It’s perhaps the greatest book-to-screen adaptation of all time, faithfully reproducing Dr. Seuss’s classic Christmas tale with the added benefit of Boris Karloff’s narration, the classic song written by Seuss and Albert Hague and performed by the wonderfully named Thurl Ravenscroft.
Edward Scissorhands (1990)
Sure, Christmas isn’t what springs to mind when you think of Edward Scissorhands, but a big chunk of the movie does take place around Christmas and during a major Christmas party. And besides, everyone includes Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas in these lists. I wanted to include some of his other Christmas films (one more below).
Klaus was one of the surprise hits of 2019, and an instant animated Christmas classic. I absolutely adore the animation style and artwork in this movie. It’s also a really great story about mending old wounds and ending old rivalries. Definitely worth your while!
I must admit, my favorite Will Ferrell movie that has elves in it is Eurovision Song Contest, but Elf is a pretty great Christmas movie and one of Ferrell’s more adorable roles. Always a fun modern classic to return to and good fun for the whole family.
A Christmas Story (1983)
This movie is about the same age as I am (two years younger, actually, which makes me feel old). It’s one of those timeless Christmas classics that highlights just how weird the suburban American family can be, even back in the 1940s.
Batman Returns (1992)
Not your typical Christmas movie, but it counts in my book. Batman Returns is quite possibly the best Batman film ever made, and it takes place during Christmastime in Gotham, which makes for a nice visual twist. Tim Burton in the director’s chair, Danny DeVito’s Penguin, Michael Keaton’s Batman and especially Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman (meow!). Just an awesome movie all around.
The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
As much as I love the Mickey Mouse Christmas Carol, the Muppets still do it best. A big part of that is Michael Caine’s performance as Scrooge. What a wonderful combination. Michael Caine and Kermit the Frog. One of my favorite Muppets outings as well.
The Shining (1980)
I wanted to put a scary movie on here, and Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining fits the bill nicely. It’s basically an inversion of your typical Christmas movie. It takes place in the dead of winter in an isolated hotel far from any holiday cheer. While films like Christmas Vacation are all about everything going wrong at a family gathering all wrapped up nicely with a wholesome resolution, this is about a family being torn apart by madness, violence and demonic forces from beyond. One of Jack Nicholson’s most iconic roles. No holiday cheer, but a little holiday chill.
The Bishop’s Wife (1947)
My two favorite actors from the black-and-white days are James Stewart and Cary Grant, so I had to include one movie from each of them. The Bishop’s Wife is also about an angel, this time one who comes to help a struggling bishop—and stir up a little trouble with his wife.
A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)
A humble little made-for-TV classic and one of the shorter picks on this list, I still find it a comfort to watch this as an adult. I love the piano music, the small ambitions of the short, the tiny little tree that just needs a bit of love. Very wholesome and heartwarming.
This one is a bit less wholesome and a bit less heart-warming, but it’s still a great Christmas movie. Or at least a movie that frequently returns to Christmas scenes, parties and so forth. I wanted a mobster movie on this list and Goodfellas fits the bill. One of my favorite Martin Scorsese films and a modern classic.
The Guardians Of The Galaxy Holiday Special (2022)
James Gunn is the big boss over at DC Films now, but he’s not done with the delightful Guardians of the Galaxy. This is a Christmas special like Charlie Brown rather than a full-blown movie, but it’s a lovely little holiday escape and fun return to some of the MCU’s most charming characters while we wait for Guardians 3.
Bonus: Violent Night (2022)
I wanted this list to be all movies you could stream at home this holiday season, but I had to include David Harbour’s new movie, Violent Night as well. The Stranger Things star is the not-so-jolly hero in this Die Hard-meets-boozy Santa Christmas action movie. You can still catch it in theaters!
Obviously I couldn’t include everything on here and many great movies have been left off this list so that I could include a good variety. Please do let me know what your favorite Christmas movies are on Twitter or Facebook.