Celebrate with the Most Popular Christmas Movies for Families

A woman wearing a Santa had and blue sweater is sitting on a couch with a girl wearing reindeer antlers and another girl who is wearing a Santa hat. They are all smiling.

Whether you want to create new holiday traditions for your kids, or you’re in the mood for a yuletide movie night, many Christmas movies for families to watch.

The question is, which ones are the best?!

From classics like “It’s a Wonderful Life” to unusual favorites like “Die Hard,” there are endless holiday film options for you and your kiddos to pick from. If you’re confused about which ones to add to your viewing roster, though, get ready!

As a self-proclaimed Christmas movie expert (it’s a real thing, trust me), I’ve made it my business to visually consume as many holiday films as possible every yuletide season.

Over the years, I’ve realized that some of these movies stand out among the rest.

From cartoons to comedies, look at this list of the funniest, sweetest, and most memorable Christmas films for kids and families.

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Classic Christmas Movies the Whole Family Will Love

Some movies will go down in history as the best holiday films ever made. These have earned a spot on our list of Christmas classics!

1. Elf

Lots of families have annual Christmas traditions. Right next to matching holiday pajamas and cookie decorating, a yearly viewing of Elf is a popular choice for many of us. 

Elf tells the tale of a baby that was adopted by elves, only to learn later in life that he’s a human. Buddy the Elf, played by Will Ferrell, leaves the North Pole searching for his birth father and spreads Christmas joy throughout New York City.

Rated PG

2. It’s a Wonderful Life

This Jimmy Stewart classic is a Christmas Eve staple in our home. When George Bailey thinks life would be better for everyone if he didn’t exist, a helpful angel arrives to help him.

This is the movie the classic line “Every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings” comes from.

Rated PG

3. The Santa Claus

When Tim Allen’s character, Scott Calvin, accidentally makes Santa Claus fall off his roof, he puts on the red suit and becomes the big guy himself. The Santa Claus tracks his journey from regular guy to holiday icon. 

If your family likes this Christmas movie, you’ll be happy to hear there are two sequels, The Santa Claus 2 & 3, and a new Disney + show called “The Santa Clauses.”

Rated PG

4. Miracle on 34th Street

There are two versions of The Miracle on 34th Street, one produced in 1947 and another in 1994. While each is impressive in its own right, the original film still reigns supreme.

This Christmas movie for families tells the story of a lawyer and a young girl who must prove to everyone that a man named Kris Kringle is the real Santa Clause. 

Rated PG

5. The Polar Express

Based on the classic Christmas book by Chris Van Allsburg, The Polar Express is a cartoon classic and one of the best family Christmas movies you’ll see.

This story delves into the idea of children losing their belief in Santa Clause. The Polar Express train takes them on an unforgettable adventure to help them believe again. 

Note: While the whole point of this movie is the importance of believing, it does question the reality of Santa. It may reinforce their concerns if your kids are getting to an age where they’re starting to have doubts.

Rated G

6. Home Alone

No list of the best Christmas movies for families would be complete without mentioning the raucous adventures of Kevin McCallister.

What happens when a young boy gets left home by himself during Christmas while his family vacations in Paris? This movie is an absolute favorite in our house–our girls like to invent ways to catch burglars like Kevin has to do in the film!

If you watch this one and want more, there’s a sequel where the little boy, played by a young Macaulay Culkin, ends up alone in New York City during Christmas. 

Rated PG

7. The Grinch Who Stole Christmas

Based on the classic Dr. Seuss story, there are actually three different versions of The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. While I’m a fan of each one, the live-action version with Jim Carrey playing the Grinch is my favorite!

The Grinch is a tale about the town of Who-Ville and the Christmas-hating creature that lives up on a nearby mountain that attempts to ruin the joy of the holiday. 

Rated PG

8. A Christmas Story

A pink bunny suit, leg lamp, and a Red Ryder BB Gun are three things that don’t usually represent the magic of Christmas. Put them together, however, and you have a memorable holiday movie for kids and families you won’t soon forget.

Let’s face it, A Christmas Story isn’t your typical holiday film. That said, however, the Parker family Christmas adventures add up to a surefire classic that our family watches every Christmas Eve. 

Plus, almost 40 years later, a sequel called “A Christmas Story Christmas” just came out on HBOMax!

Rated PG

9. The Muppet Christmas Carol

There are many ways to watch A Christmas Carol during the holidays, but my preference will always be The Muppet Christmas Carol!

A silly retelling of Ebenezer Scrooge’s Christmas Eve visits from the ghosts of Christmases past, present, and future. 

Rated G

10. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

Any adventure involving the Griswold family doesn’t usually go the way they plan. Christmas is no exception in this hilarious holiday comedy! You’ll watch as Clark Griswold tries to give his family the best Christmas ever with every odd stacked against him.

While this film is a great family Christmas movie option, be away that it’s probably not the best choice for younger kids as it features some violence and inappropriate language.

Rating PG-13

A mom and dad are in a bed with their two daughters, a son, and a dog. There are snowflakes hanging from the wall behind the bed and mom and dad are each holding a bowl of popcorn.
Looking for Christmas movies for the family? We’ve got a list for you!

The Best Christmas Cartoons Ever Made

When it comes to Christmas movies for toddlers and younger kids, cartoons are always a great option. Here are a few popular choices. 

1. A Charlie Brown Christmas

The holiday season is upon the Peanuts gang, but what happens when Charlie Brown is having a hard time getting into the Christmas spirit? 

This cartoon Christmas classic is a beloved part of many families holiday traditions. Plus, it’s only 30 minutes long, making for a short and sweet viewing experience.

Not Rated 

2. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

I am a sucker for all the classic Christmas animated movies, starting with Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer! This stop-motion film uses the Christmas carol as a jumping-off point for the story’s plotline.

Rated G

3. Santa Claus is Coming to Town

Since I was little, Santa Claus is Coming to Town is one of my all-time favorite Christmas season films. 

If your little ones have wondered how Santa got his start as the most legendary toymaker in the world, the holiday movie for families tells his origin story. 

Not Rated

4. Frosty the Snowman

Like the Rudolph movie, the Frosty cartoon is inspired by the famous Christmas song. This holiday film is a traditional cartoon instead of stop-motion, though.

Rated G

5. The Year Without a Santa Clause

When Santa develops a bad cold and starts feeling down about the number of people who believe in him, a few brave elves set out to find proof the magic of Christmas is still important to many.

If you’ve ever heard of Snow Miser and Heat Miser, this is the film they make their appearances in!

Not Rated 

6. Arthur Christmas

A newer Christmas cartoon is Arthur Christmas! This one features the voices of famous actors like Bill Nighy, James McAvoy, and Hugh Laurie.

It tells the story of one Christmas when Santa forgets a child’s present, and his youngest son, Arthur, steps in to save the day! In recent years, many friends have told me this is a new staple for their families during the holiday season.

Rated PG

7. Curious George: A Very Monkey Christmas

Give me anything with Curious George in it, and I’m pretty much guaranteed to love it. That’s why it should be no surprise that A Very Monkey Christmas has become an annual Christmas tradition for our kids

As the Man in the Yellow Hat and George prepare for Christmas, they encounter plenty of fun, silly adventures along the way!

Rated G

8. The Elf on a Shelf: An Elf’s Story

Does your family participate in the Elf on a Shelf holiday tradition? If so, this movie will be a hit with your children!

This film introduces us to Chippy, a scout elf from the North Pole who’s trying to help the little boy he visits regain his belief in the magic of Christmas.

Not Rated

Stream These Netflix Original Holiday Movies

Not only does Netflix offer many of the other holiday favorites mentioned on this list, but they’ve also made a niche for themselves as top-notch creators of original Christmas content.

1. The Christmas Chronicles

The Christmas Chronicles gives us a newer, more sassy version of Santa Claus! When two siblings make it their mission to catch Santa in the act and get proof of his existence, the plan gets messed up and results in a missing bag of toys!

Along with Santa and his elves, the two must help make things right to save Christmas.

Not only does this movie have a fantastic cast, including Kurt Russel, but it also has a sequel called Christmas Chronicles 2.

Rated PG 

2. Dolly Parton’s Christmas on the Square

Who couldn’t use a little Dolly Parton during the holidays? Dolly plays a holiday angel whose job is to convince an angry woman not to sell the town she owns. Oh, and there’s lots of great music!

Not Rated

3. The Princess Switch

The Princess Switch takes the same classic trope of movies like the Parent Trap and puts a holiday spin on it! When a young princess meets a regular woman who looks just like her, they pull the old switcheroo to experience life as one another.

And if you love what the first film brings to the table, you’ll probably enjoy the two follow-up movies, as well!

Rated PG

4. A Boy Called Christmas

When a young boy’s father goes off looking for a mythical land of elves, the boy sets out to find his dad. He gets help from a reindeer, pet mouse, and many other wonderful creatures.

Rated PG

5. Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey

Imagine if you were an amazing toymaker whose loyal apprentice suddenly betrays you. You’d probably be pretty angry.

Well, that’s the case in this new Christmas movie for families on Netflix. A scorned toymaker receives renewed faith and holiday spirit when his granddaughter shows up at his home.

Rated PG

6. Alien Xmas

I know, I know–aliens and Christmas?! It sounds like a weird blend, but it somehow works in this Netflix original holiday movie! 

Created using traditional stop-motion animation, this one catches families’ attention everywhere!

Not Rated

7. Klaus

Klaus is a Netflix original movie about a postman who ends up in a chilly northern town where he meets a loner toymaker named, you guessed it, Klaus. 

While I have yet to check this one out, it’s currently the top-rated Christmas original on the streaming service and has an excellent 95% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Sounds like this year is the year for my family to check it out!

Rated PG

A boy wearing a Santa hat and a red sweater is sitting at a table looking at a laptop screen with his mouth open in shock. There are Christmas lights on the wall behind him.
Don’t forget Christmas movies with the family! We’re sharing the best ones out there!

Family Movies for Christmas on Disney+

As with Netflix, Disney + has an impressive collection of classic and original Christmas movies for families. Here are some of our favorites!

1. Noelle

With Anna Kendrick and Bill Hader at the top of this casting helm, it should come as no surprise that this Christmas movie is comedic gold!

It weaves the story of Noelle, Santa’s daughter, who must help her brother Nick prepare to become the “new Santa.” When Nick disappears from the North Pole, it’s Noelle’s job to bring him back!

Rated G

2. The Nutcracker and the Four Realms

From stage to film, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms brings the classic ballet to life in a new way. 

Rated PG

3. Santa Buddies

My daughter is a major fan of all four-legged friends, so as soon as I saw the trailer for Santa Buddies, I knew she’d be a fan. A spin-off of the movie series, Air Bud, a group of adorable golden retriever puppies heads to the North Pole to restore the holiday spirit of the “official” Santa Claus puppy, Puppy Paws.

Rated G

4. Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas

When our girls were little, they were huge fans of everything Mickey Mouse. That said, once we discovered Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas movie on Disney, they were hooked!

This film is a collection of three short holiday films. One involving Donald Duck and his nephews, another with Goofy and his son Max, and Mickey and Minnie! If you have Disney lovers at home, this should be on your list of annual Christmas movies.

Note: This one does cover some heavy topics, like kids losing their belief in Santa Claus and financial problems. 

Not Rated

5. LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special

In this holiday Star Wars special, Rey finds herself on an adventure that puts her face-to-face with all of your favorite LEGO Star Wars characters. It’s a race against time to make sure she’s back in time to celebrate the Life Day Feast with her loved ones.

Rated TV-Y7

6. Olaf’s Frozen Adventure

If you have kids that love Frozen as much as mine, don’t reach the end of the holiday season without watching Olaf’s Frozen Adventure at least once!

During this fun jaunt through Arendelle, Olaf makes it his mission to learn about different holiday traditions that he can use to celebrate with his friends Anna and Elsa. Bonus points for learning about different cultures and traditions!

Rated G

Unconventional Holiday Movie Favorites

Sometimes you want a Christmas vibe without any over-the-top holiday cheer. If this sounds like your family, here are some great holiday movie options!

1. Die Hard

No, Die Hard does not scream Christmas – it does, however, take place during this most magical time of year! So, if your family’s in the mood for a classic action movie that features a few well-placed Christmas trees, give it a try!

Note: this one is probably for pre-teens and teens only. Or for a parents’ Christmas movie night!

Rated R

2. The Nightmare Before Christmas

If your family is big on Halloween, this is the Christmas film for you! 

When Jack, the Pumpkin King and leader of Halloweentown, gets tired of the screams and terror of his usual holiday, he sets out searching for something else. 

What will happen when he decides to give Santa a “break” and put the rest of the Halloweentown residents in charge of putting on Christmas?

Rated PG

3. Gremlins

You might think there’s no way that Gremlins could be a Christmas movie, but here we are. The main character gets Gizmo as a holiday gift, and the Gremlins wreak havoc on the town on Christmas Eve.

This one may be too scary for younger kids, but the older ones will probably love it!

Rated PG

Which Holiday Movies Are the Top Picks in Your Family?

So, whether you want to incorporate a movie into your Christmas party activities or curl up on the couch with the family, it’s obvious that there are plenty of outstanding options for your viewing pleasure.

From Home Alone to the Muppets, you’re guaranteed to find something your family loves.

What are your favorite Christmas movies for families? Do you still watch the same ones you did as a kid?