Christmas is coming quickly; one surefire way to get into its spirit is to watch holiday movies with your kids. If you’re like me, you’re a kid at heart who loves to be lost in a seasonal story. With so many options, picking just one to watch is difficult. With that said, I chose my top 12 holiday movies for kids to stream.
When deciding what to watch, I chose movies with meaning and value, with plentiful, entertaining Christmas cheer. The holidays can be stressful, and while the promise of presents and freshly baked cookies seems to ease it, so do movies that the entire family can watch.
Gather around the TV, popcorn and hot cocoa in hand, and enjoy our holiday selection!
The top thirteen holiday movies for kids to stream (and the kids at heart)
A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)
First up on our list is A Charlie Brown Christmas. In this animated classic, Charlie Brown hopes to find the true meaning of the holiday after being struck by commercialism. Even his dog, Snoopy, was bitten by the material bug when he lavishly decorates his house.
After picking out a less-than-desirable tree, poor old Charlie is ridiculed. Then his friends realize that it’s not the size of the tree that matters, but the warmth of the spirit and togetherness.
What makes it cheerful: Snoopy’s antics, Linus’ Biblical speech, and its wholesome story.
Where to stream: Apple TV+
Christmas Inheritance (2017)
Eliza Taylor trades her post-apocalyptic tough girl of Clarke Griffin and steps into the “New York Party Heiress” life of Ellen Langford. To get past her “scandal,” her father, the CEO of a very lucrative gift corporation, sends Ellen upstate to a small, unified town where no one knows her to hand-deliver a letter to a family friend.
Ellen befriends many citizens during her stay, including the coffee shop owner (Andie MacDowell) and the Inn’s host, Jake (Jake Lacy). The experience additionally unlocks Ellen’s heart to generosity and kindness; not that she didn’t possess those traits before, but the warmth of the townspeople allows her to embrace them.
Due to the opening scenes, this movie may work best with older kids.
What makes it cheerful: Although typical of a holiday rom-com, the story expands Eliza’s acting talents beyond her sci-fi medium and into something new. Christmas Inheritance is also a feel-good piece, especially on a cold night. We also love the fashions Ellen wore, including her red party dress.
Where to stream: Netflix
A Christmas Story (1983)
Set in 1940, A Christmas Story recalls the memory of Ralphie (Peter Billingsley) wanting a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas. Much to the objection of his mother and teacher because he could his eye out, Ralphie receives his dream gift and a trip to the local Chinese restaurant for Christmas dinner.
What makes it cheerful: A Christmas Story is a holiday classic that deserves yearly enjoyment. In 2022, the long-awaited sequel, A Christmas Story Christmas, premiered on Max. Its narrative now shows Ralphie as a family man who heads back to Cleveland Street for the holidays and to pay tribute to his recently deceased father, whom he called “The Old Man.” Darren McGavin, who portrayed him, was dedicated in the film using archival footage.
Where to stream it: Hulu, Max, Prime Video, and YouTube for purchase or rent.
Have you ever wondered what one of Santa’s elves does outside the North Pole when faced with the real world? In Elf, we see precisely that as Buddy the Elf (Will Ferrell) ventures out from the comforts of Santa’s Workshop and his home to the busy city of Manhattan. On his journey, he learns the meaning of family, has some self-discovery, and sees holiday magic unlike what he experienced before. We can’t help but love how creative Buddy can be regarding snowy crafts and culinary skills. Spaghetti and syrup, anyone?
What makes it cheerful: There’s plenty of comedy between Buddy, his adoptive dad (Bob Newhart), and his biological father (James Caan) as they figure out what to do with their overgrown son.
Where to stream: AMC+, Hulu, Prime Video, Max, and TBS
A Garfield Christmas (1988)
The fat cat gives the holidays his usual snarky commentary in A Garfield Christmas. While spending time with Jon’s family on the farm, Garfield discovers there is more to Christmas than food and presents; it’s the love of family and a good back scratcher.
What makes it cheerful: Garfield’s classic cat attitude, the voice talent of Pat Caroll, and the ’80s animation. Additionally, it’s a childhood favorite.
Where to stream: Prime Video and YouTube
Dr. Suess’s How The Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)
Director Ron Howard’s live-action spin on the infamous holiday-hating Grinch will offer a chuckle or two as The Grinch weaves his way through the house of Cindy Lou Who (Taylor Momsen). We do have to give credit to Jim Carrey, who does a remarkable job of bringing Mr. Grinch to life and his comedic characteristics to him. Unlike the original 1966 animated version, the 2000 adaption gave the titular green character a vivid backstory so the audience could understand why the Grinch is who he is.
What makes it cheerful: Anthony Hopkins provided the film’s narration, giving it that extra spice. The wardrobe, music, Max the Dog, and the wintry scenery can’t be ignored.
Where to stream: Apple TV+ and Prime Video. Additionally, from Dec. 20-31, the movie will be available to stream on Peacock.
Miracle On 34th Street (1947)
Do you believe in Santa Claus? Young Susan Walker (Natalie Wood) does, after seeing Kris Kringle (Edmund Gwenn) in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Despite her mother’s (Maureen O’Hara) objections, Susan is determined that Kris is the real-life Santa Claus. After a lengthy trial, mailbags filled with “dead letters,” and Susan’s dream present, there’s no conclusion other than Kris Kringle being the real Santa Claus.
What makes it cheerful: Natalie Wood brings her charm and childhood wonder to the film, which we can all relate to.
Where to stream: AMC+, Apple TV, Disney+, Hulu, Prime Video, and YouTube.
The Polar Express (2004)
Take a magical train trip to the North Pole with Billy and his friends as they discover the mystique of Christmas and the wonderment of Santa Claus. It all began when Billy was losing his belief in the known figure. He absorbs the North Pole’s busy but warm atmosphere to regain faith. Santa then gifts Billy a bell that rings even several years later, symbolizing his belief in the holiday season.
What makes it cheerful: Tom Hanks plays many characters, including Billy, Santa, and the train conductor, concluding that he can transform any role.
Where to stream: AMC+, Hulu, Max, Prime, TBS, and TNT (with cable subscription)
In Prancer, a young girl named Jessica finds a lone reindeer in the woods after school and believes he’s one of Santa’s. After “Prancer” gets injured, Jessica brings him home, much to her father’s chagrin. Soon, the town hears about the reindeer and wants to see him up close.
Prancer is then sold to a butcher, who uses him as an advertisement prop for his Christmas tree lot. With fear, Jessica sets out to free him but gets injured when rescuing him. Prancer is later reunited with Santa and the other reindeer on Christmas Eve, to the delight of Jessica and her family.
What makes it cheerful: Prancer is filled with heartwarming storytelling and advocacy for animal rights. As a fun fact, the reindeer in the movie was a pregnant female named Boo.
Where to stream: AMC+ and Prime Video
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964)
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is a must on any holiday watch list as the titular reindeer has been a symbol of Christmas since the late 1930s when he was introduced in a storybook. The Rankin-Bass production tells the story of Rudolph from his birth to the first Christmas where he becomes the lead reindeer in Santa’s team. He meets others like him during his growth, being “misfits” themselves. Because of this, they realize each other’s purposes; different or not, Rudolph finds his own “shine.”
What makes it cheerful: Burl Ives provided the music and narration for Rudolph, making the songs classic hits. Additionally, Rudolph has been featured in two more Rankin-Bass specials: Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas In July (1979) and Rudolph’s Shiny New Year (1976).
Where to stream: Apple TV+ and Prime Video
Samantha: An American Girl Holiday (2004)
Samantha Parkington (Anna Sophia Robb) is an upper-class girl who lived with her grandmother during the late Gilded Age/early Progressive Era in 1904. After her uncle’s wedding, she goes with him and his wife to New York City, where she witnesses the harsh and dangerous conditions of child labor, unsanitary orphanages, and societal divisions, all common at the time but inhumane. On Christmas Eve, her uncle and aunt adopt Samantha and three Irish orphan girls, whom she met earlier when they were employed as maids.
What makes it cheerful: Samantha is based on the American Girl Doll of the same name, who grew up in America’s early 20th century. Samantha also wants a change in how society treats people, regardless of class and position, and through history, we can learn how America has evolved.
Where to stream: Currently, Samantha can be streamed on Prime Videowith purchase. The movie is also available YouTube.
The Simpsons Roasting On An Open Fire (1989) (and other Christmas episodes)
The Simpsons are the family who genuinely have seen and experienced it all. In their very first Christmas episode (and the first in general), Homer takes the job as a mall Santa to compensate for his bonus loss. When the job doesn’t provide the financial stability he expected, Homer and Bart head to the dog track, hoping to win. That, too, was a failure, but not all is lost for the Simpsons. The dog Homer bet on was abandoned, and the father and son fell in love with Santa’s Little Helper and made him a family member.
What makes it cheerful: No one knew in the late ’80s that The Simpsons would go on to be one of TV’s longest-running shows or that they were witnessing a piece of TV history. It’s also worth mentioning that this episode highlighted early adoption.
Where to stream: Disney+, FXX, and Prime Video for purchase.