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Our Favorite Christmas Movies
We’ve put together 25 of the best holiday movies, from classic Christmas films like Miracle on 34th Street and It's a Wonderful Life, to newer favorites like Elf and The Nightmare Before Christmas, for a festive evening at home
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A Charlie Brown Christmas
A perennial favorite family Christmas movie that addresses the material and spiritual aspects of the holiday season, A Charlie Brown Christmas offers families a break from the usual clamor surrounding Christmas. The storyline follows the ups and downs of Charlie Brown, initially depressed by the commercialism of Christmas, but ultimately buoyed by directing the school pageant, a pep talk from Linus and the strength of a sad little fir tree. Kids and parents alike will enjoy bopping along to Vince Guaraldi's iconic musical score.
Run time: 72 min. Not rated. Recommended for ages 3 and up.
Buy A Charlie Brown Christmas now! ($13; amazon.com)
The story of Buddy (Will Ferrell), a human raised among elves, who journeys to New York City to find his true identity and his biological father (who is on Santa's naughty list) after learning he's not actually an oversize elf. Kids will delight in Buddy's naïveté and the silliness that comes when he explores human culture. This Christmas film’s top-notch cast also includes James Caan, Bob Newhart, Ed Asner, Mary Steenburgen and Zooey Deschanel.
Run time: 96 min. Rated PG. Recommended for ages 7 and up.
Buy Elf now! ($14; amazon.com)
It's a Wonderful Life
This beloved Christmas classic is still popular more 60 years after its release. The movie tells the story of frustrated businessman George Bailey, who has been tied to the town of Bedford Falls for years instead of living the life of travel and adventure he dreams of. When events take a turn for the worse, George considers ending his life, but his guardian angel, Clarence, steps in to show him what things would be like without him and all of his good deeds.
Run time: 130 min. Not rated. Recommended for ages 9 and up.
Buy It’s A Wonderful Life now! ($7; amazon.com)
The Nightmare Before Christmas
This stop-motion animated classic Christmas movie for kids, based on a poem by Tim Burton, features Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King of Halloweentown. Bored doing the same thing for Halloween each year, he discovers Christmastown and decides to try to bring a bit of yuletide to Halloweentown, even kidnapping Santa Claus to make that happen. A delightful (and slightly scary) combo of two beloved holidays.
Run time: 76 min. Rated PG. Recommended for ages 7 and up.
But The Nightmare Before Christmas now! ($16; amazon.com)
Accidentally left behind while his family heads off on a Christmas vacation in Paris, Kevin (Macaulay Culkin) must defend his home against two bumbling burglars (Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern) who are taking advantage of the fact that so many families are out of town. Kids will be impressed by Kevin's ingenuity in protecting his turf and will alternate between laughing and cringing at the slapstick violence that ensues in this beloved family Christmas movie.
Run time: 103 min. Rated PG. Recommended for ages 7 and up.
Buy Home Alone now! ($15; amazon.com)
Rise of the Guardians
Sometimes eschewing classic Christmas films in favor of newer tales is a fun switch up for the holiday season. Enter Rise of the Guardians. This movie tells the story of a dark spirit, Pitch, trying to take over the world, but the immortal Guardians band together to protect the dreams and beliefs of children. If you want to spend a snowy night watching Santa fighting evil alongside the Easter Bunny, this is the flick for you.
Run time: 97 mins. Rated PG. Recommended for ages 7 and up.
Buy Rise of the Guardians now! ($10; amazon.com)
Original Christmas Classics
This is a whopper of a collection, including seven holiday movies like the classic stop-motion animated Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (narrated by Burl Ives as Sam the Snowman), Mr. Magoo's Christmas Special, Frosty the Snowman (narrated by Jimmy Durante), Frosty Returns, Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town, The Little Drummer Boy and Cricket on the Hearth. As kids, we used to wait all year for these specials to be shown on television, but now your family can enjoy them whenever they wish. Don’t let your kids miss out on these magical Christmas movies.
Run time: 275 min. Not rated. Recommended for ages 3 and up.
Buy Original Christmas Classics now! ($14; amazon.com)
Lights: The Miracle of Chanukah
Narrated by Judd Hirsch and featuring the voices of Leonard Nimoy and Paul Michael Glaser, this animated film introduces kids to the story of Chanukah and its traditions. This enchanting tale is perfect for family members of all ages to celebrate the holiday season.
Run time: 24 min. Rated G. Recommended for ages 3 and up.
Buy Lights: The Miracle of Chanukah now! ($40; amazon.com)
Merry Christmas, Olivia
Everyone's favorite 6-and-¾-year-old pig enjoys holiday fun in these eight Christmas- and winter-themed tales. Episodes include "Olivia Claus," "Olivia and the Family Photo," "Olivia's Ice Spectacular," "Olivia's Snow Day," "Olivia Makes a Wedding Gift," "Olivia Makes Magic," "Olive and the Babies" and "Olivia's Good Luck."
Run time: 95 min. Not rated. Recommended for ages 4 and up.
Buy Merry Christmas, Olivia now! ($19; amazon.com)
The Polar Express
As serious fans of Chris Van Allsburg's Caldecott award-winning The Polar Express, we're delighted to watch this animated kids’ Christmas movie again and again. Tom Hanks voices multiple roles in this memorable tale about a train trip to the North Pole and the wonder of Christmas, as seen through the eyes of a young boy.
Run time: 100 min. Rated G. Recommended for ages 6 and up.
Buy The Polar Express now! ($13; amazon.com)
Miracle on 34th Street
A lovely, classic Christmas story about Susan (Natalie Wood), a 6-year-old girl who has doubts about the existence of Santa Claus, and a department store Santa (Edmund Gwenn) who attempts to convince Susan and her mother (Maureen O'Hara) that he's the real deal. This timeless holiday film is a must-watch for anyone celebrating the season.
Run time: 96 min. Not rated. Recommended for ages 6 and up.
Buy Miracle on 34th Street now! ($14; amazon.com)
Shrek the Halls
Fans of the Shrek movies will be delighted by this short and sweet holiday-themed special. Starring the usual cast of characters, Shrek (voiced by Mike Myers) struggles to make his family's first Christmas special but doesn't have any experience with the holiday. As he attempts to follow a Christmas for Village Idiots guidebook, the festivities go on around him.
Run time: 22 min. Not rated. Recommended for ages 6 and up.
Buy Shrek the Halls now! ($10; amazon.com)
The 2017 film The Star tells the story of the first Christmas through the eyes of Bo, a lovable donkey who wants to escape the monotonous life he experiences in his village. After breaking free, he teams up with friends Ruth and Dave to follow the North Star and see where it takes them. This holiday film is voiced by an all-star cast including Steven Yeun, Keegan-Michael Key, Aidy Bryant and Gina Rodriguez.
Run time: 73 min. Not rated. Recommended for ages 5 and up.
Buy The Star now! ($15; amazon.com)
How the Grinch Stole Christmas
This 2000 version of the Dr. Seuss classic How the Grinch Stole Christmas will have the whole family laughing — and maybe even tearing up! Jim Carrey does an amazing job as the Grinch, who feels shunned by the people of Whoville and sets out to destroy Christmas. This heartwarming family Christmas movie has a wonderful message for kids and grown-ups alike, with tons of quotable moments.
Run time: 104 min. Rated PG. Recommended for ages 6 and up.
Buy How the Grinch Stole Christmas now! ($15; amazon.com)
The Muppet Christmas Carol
Charles Dickens + the Muppets = a true holiday classic. In this version of Dickens' A Christmas Carol, directed by Brian Henson (son of the late Jim Henson), Kermit plays the role of Bob Cratchit, with Miss Piggy as his wife and Michael Caine as his miserly employer, Ebenezer Scrooge. Gonzo appears as Charles Dickens to help narrate the tale. A lovely combination of originality and faithfulness to its literary predecessor.
Run time: 85 min. Rated G. Recommended for ages 5 and up.
Buy The Muppet Christmas Carol now! ($16; amazon.com)
A Christmas Story
This funny and touching 1983 adaptation of an autobiographical novel by humorist Jean Shepard (who narrates) remains one of the best Christmas movies ever made. Ralphie is a 9-year-old boy in the 1940s Midwest who has his sights set on one thing: getting a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas, with which everyone tells him he'll "shoot his eye out." There are plenty of hilarious antics, including an unforgettable moment where another boy gets his tongue stuck to a frozen flagpole.
Run time: 94 min. Rated PG. Recommended for ages 8 and up.
Buy A Christmas Story now! ($13; amazon.com)
Curious George: A Very Monkey Christmas
This is a sweet holiday story about George and the Man with the Yellow Hat's preparations for Christmas (and all the accidents George gets into before the big day) and the lessons they learn about the meaning of the holiday along the way. They have difficulty determining what to give each other on Christmas Day, but ultimately come to realize just how much they mean to each other and are able to solve their gifting dilemma.
Run time: 58 min. Not rated. Recommended for ages 3 and up.
Buy Curious George: A Very Monkey Christmas now! ($14; amazon.com)
The Santa Clause
Comedian Tim Allen stars in this family Christmas comedy as Scott Calvin, a divorced toy company executive who takes over Santa's rounds on Christmas Eve after Santa takes a fatal fall off his roof. Calvin thinks his tour as Santa is over after just one night but ultimately comes to learn that he is subject to the Santa Clause and must become the new Santa — big belly, beard and all. And that creates some major problems for Calvin in his regular life.
Run time: 97 min. Rated PG. Recommended for ages 5 and up.
Buy The Santa Clause now! ($18; amazon.com)
Mickey's Christmas Carol
This collection includes the animated Christmas interpretation of Dickens' classic, starring Mickey Mouse as Bob Cratchit in the 25-minute short "Mickey's Christmas Carol." Other shorts include "The Small One," about a boy and his donkey; "Pluto's Christmas Tree," about the chipmunks Chip and Dale who live in the tree Mickey cuts down; and "Santa's Workshop," featuring Santa and his elves.
Run time: 58 min. Not rated. Recommended for ages 4 and up.
Buy Mickey’s Christmas Carol now! ($20; amazon.com)
Shalom Sesame: Chanukah Special
Like most of the other Chanukah-themed specials for kids, this one is, um, vintage. Parents who grew up in the '80s may get a kick out of watching Jeremy Miller (Growing Pains) travel to the land of the Maccabees and seeing Levana White host the game show "Dreidel of Fortune." Also starring the Muppets, Nell Carter and Joan Rivers.
Run time: 32 min. Rated G. Recommended for ages 3 and up.
Buy Shalom Sesame: Chanukah Special now! ($35; amazon.com)
The Dog Who Saved Christmas
Voiced by Mario Lopez, Zeus is a retired K-9 dog who can't seem to bark. Determined to protect his family's home to prevent his return to the pound, Zeus attempts to foil a burglary à la Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone, dropping ornaments on the bad guys’ heads and dousing them with flour. This is a fun Christmas movie your kids will love.
Run time: 88 min. Rated PG. Recommended for ages 6 and up.
Buy The Dog Who Saved Christmas now! ($5; amazon.com)
Dora's Christmas Carol Adventure
Dora lovers will be delighted by this holiday-themed adventure. After Swiper attempts to steal the Christmas Star at Dora's Nochebuena (Christmas Eve) party, Santa puts him on the "naughty list." In an effort to help Swiper redeem himself and get off the list, Dora travels through time with him to discover the true spirit of Christmas. Sound familiar?
Run time: 47 min. Not rated. Recommended for ages 3 and up.
Buy Dora’s Christmas Carol Adventure now! ($10; amazon.com)
This 1954 musical is yet another favorite classic Christmas movie. Starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye and Rosemary Clooney, and featuring the Irving Berlin song "White Christmas," the film focuses on a song-and-dance duo (Crosby and Kaye) who team up with a sister act (Clooney and Vera-Ellen) to help save a failing Vermont ski lodge. Lots of singing and dancing may get the kids choreographing their own show by the end!
Run time: 120 min. Not rated. Recommended for ages 8 and up.
Buy White Christmas now! ($13; amazon.com)
Elmo's Christmas Countdown
Although the kids might be wowed by Elmo alone, parents will love the celebs packed into this Christmas special. When the boxes in Stiller the Elf's (voiced by Ben Stiller) tree-shaped Christmas Counter-Downer are scattered (leaving Elmo and the elf thinking Christmas won't ever come), Elmo and Abby Cadabby step in to save the day and help restore the elf's faith that Christmas is still on its way. Celeb guests include Sopranos stars Tony Sirico and Steve Schirippa, Sheryl Crow, Jennifer Hudson, Anne Hathaway, Alicia Keys, Jamie Foxx and Brad Paisley.
Run time: 44 min. Not rated. Recommended for ages 3 and up.
Buy Elmo’s Christmas Countdown now! (free with a Prime membership; amazon.com)
Pint-size puppy lovers will, er, “sit and stay” for this holiday film starring talking dogs (the fourth in the Buddies series). At the North Pole, Santa Claus and his canine pal Santa Paws notice that the Christmas spirit icicle is melting due to lack of Christmas spirit in the world. They're counting on Puppy Paws to spread the message of the importance of Christmas spirit to the next generation, but he just wants to be a normal dog — and so he hitches a ride to the real world, where he ultimately realizes his elders were right and sets out to restore Christmas spirit. Saccharine but fun, especially for younger viewers.
Run time: 88 min. Rated G. Recommended for ages 5 and up.
Buy Santa Buddies now! ($16; amazon.com)