With ghosts and goblins on everyone’s minds, it may seem early to be talking about elves and reindeer. But the Christmas season will be here before we know it, and there’s no need to be a last-minute shopper when it comes to holiday viewing plans. So we’ve got the 25 best Christmas movies to stream this season – and where to stream them.
As streaming libraries will change between now and then, we’ll keep an eye out to see which platforms add Christmas movies and update this list as needed. Either way, we’ve got you covered with a movie to watch every day of the month until the big man comes down the chimney.
Which Christmas movies aren’t coming to town?
You may be surprised to learn that a great many Christmas classics aren’t available on any streaming service. But we’ll keep an eye out to see which of these, if any, make it onto a streaming platform before we crack open our Advent calendar.
To anyone who watched Christmas TV specials in the previous century, some of the most glaring omissions may be the Rankin/Bass stop-motion seasonal masterpieces. These include Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964), Frosty the Snowman (1969) and Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town (1970). Frosty and Santa are available to rent, but you’ll need to buy Rudolph.
You also won’t find comedy classics such as Christmas Vacation (1989), Scrooged (1988), and Bad Santa (2003) included with any streaming service. You’ll need a streaming service with rentals if you want to watch them. All 3 of these films are available to rent on DirecTV Stream.
Some of the other holiday classics unavailable include A Christmas Carol (1938), Miracle on 34th Street (1947) and Scrooge (1951). Fortunately, these tales have been told many times, and some of the other versions have made it onto our list. Read on to see what they are!
Many of the movies listed above can be rented through streaming services such as DirecTV Stream, Apple TV+ and Amazon Prime Video. However, we kept our list focused on movies that are included in at least one service’s streaming library. We’ll update this page if any of our favorite Christmas movies that couldn’t make the list due to this fact are added to a service’s library.
Which streaming service has the best Christmas movies?
Not all movie genres have dedicated streaming services the same way horror has Shudder, Screambox and others. And Christmas movies aren’t something you watch all year round, so don’t expect a Santaflix or Elfbox any time soon.
Which streaming service has the best Christmas movies depends on whether you prefer the classics, romantic comedies, or animation and family-friendly features. So before we arrive at our top choice for the best streaming service for Christmas movies, let’s look at our top 25 Christmas movies and where you can stream them.
5 animated Christmas movies to stream in December
A couple of the entries in this section are under a half-hour long, but for young cartoon viewers, that might be just long enough.
A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)
It’s only 25 minutes long, so there may be some debate about whether it classifies as a “movie”, but it’s been mandatory Christmas viewing in countless households for generations.
Perennial lovable loser, Charlie Brown is named director of the gang’s Christmas play. Tasked with finding the perfect tree, he embarks on a philosophical journey to find the true meaning of Christmas.
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How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)
The second title on our list is also only 25 minutes long, but it’s arguably even more mandatory than Charlie Brown and friends.
From his mountaintop perch, the bitter, green Grinch watches over the incredibly happy village of Whoville. Then promptly decides to steal their Christmas. Fortunately for all involved – especially, perhaps, his dog Max – his heart grows 3 sizes that day.
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The Polar Express (2004)
Based on the 1985 Caldecott-winning children’s book of the same name, the computer-animated feature film is as beautiful as the book.
Starring Tom Hanks as he voices 6 characters, it follows the story of a young boy who is losing faith in Christmas. Thankfully, a magical steam locomotive en route to the North Pole swings through town and he hops aboard on a journey of self-discovery and belief.
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A Christmas Carol (2009)
There are at least 135 versions of A Christmas Carol, and even though this $200 million production was considered a box office bomb, Jim Carrey voices a superb Ebenezer Scrooge. Gary Oldman, Robin Wright and Colin Firth are a few of the other big names on the marquee of this computer-animated feature film.
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Arthur Christmas (2011)
With a fresh take on Santa, jolly old Saint Nick isn’t immortal, but a hereditary title passed down through the generations. And the current Santa’s bumbling son Arthur can’t seem to do anything right. Until he embarks on an international mission with Grandsanta to save Christmas.
The award-winning, critically acclaimed computer-animated feature film holds a 92% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and is one to have on your Christmas list.
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4 Christmas classics on streaming right now
As time stretches on, the term “classics” needs to expand in scope. We’ve got 4 films spanning nearly 50 years to do just that.
This lesser-known version of the Dickens classic was the first version to be filmed with sound. And its lead actor, Sir Seymour Hicks, had his screen debut playing Scrooge 20+ years earlier on the silent screen. The audio quality sounds like a staticky record and the video quality is, well, 75+ years before 4K, but it’s still much better than most of the other 135+ versions out there.
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It’s A Wonderful Life (1946)
Frank Capra’s classic film is very loosely based on, you guessed it, A Christmas Carol. And it’s one of the most-loved, most highly acclaimed films of all time. Jimmy Stewart stars as George Bailey, a troubled businessman contemplating suicide on Christmas Eve. But instead of vists from ghosts, George gets a guardian angel who gives him reasons to live.
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An American Christmas Carol (1979)
It may not be what most people consider a classic Christmas film, but this adaptation of the season’s most retold tale is an underrated gem.
Set in Depression-era New Hampshire, the ABC made-for-TV movie stars Henry Winkler as the Scrooge-like Benedict Slade. It’s one of the few films where the actor portrays the character as both a young and old man.
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A Christmas Story (1983)
Ohhh… fudge. That’s just one of the many memorable lines from this more modern Christmas classic. (The Library of Congress added it to the National Film Registry in 2012.)
Set in 1940s Indiana, 9-year-old Ralphie deals with a whiny little brother, relentless schoolyard bully, and dismissive adults as he dreams of the ultimate Christmas present. An “official Red Ryder, carbine action, 200-shot, range model air rifle, with a compass in the stock and this thing that tells time.”
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5 family Christmas movies to stream with the kids
Most Christmas movies can be watched with the whole family, but these 5 movies are sure to entertain kids and parents alike. And they offer a good balance of fun and positive messaging.
Move over Rudolph. Eight-year-old Jessica encounters a wounded reindeer on the family apple farm and is convinced it’s Prancer. This heartwarming movie is full of feel-good moments and enough holiday cheer to put a smile on any face. A great one to watch with the kids.
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Home Alone (1990)
This movie could easily be in the category above, for this John Hughes masterpiece is the definition of a Christmas classic – and it brought in nearly a half-billion dollars at the box office.
Macaulay Culkin stars as 8-year-old Kevin McCallister who is accidentally left behind when his family travels to Paris for Christmas. He then goes to war with 2 burglars as he defends the upscale family home with a series of clever and inventive traps.
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Miracle on 34th Street (1994)
The original version is one of the most beloved Christmas classics ever, but it’s not currently streaming. Fortunately, this 1994 remake (written and produced by John Hughes) is a worthy replacement. Especially as Richard Attenborough is one of the best Santa’s to hit the big screen.
Six-year-old Susan’s belief in Santa Claus is already waning when she meets a department store Santa claiming to be the real deal. But if her 3 wishes come true, she’ll be a true believer again.
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How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)
This full-length feature film remake stars Jim Carrey as the titular character. It may have divided Seuss fans, particularly traditionalists, but there’s no other actor who could deliver a live-action Grinch like Carrey.
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The Christmas Chronicles (2018)
A brother and sister stowaway in Santa’s sleigh on Christmas Eve and cause it to crash land in Chicago. On top of that Santa loses his magic and the reindeer have scattered. If they can’t deliver the presents in time, the world will enter a new Dark Age.
This is definitely one of the edgier family Christmas movies out there, so it’s probably better for tweens and up, but it’s still packed with positive messages. Kurt Russell stars as Santa Claus in this Netflix Original.
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5 Christmas comedies to stream this season
A lot of Christmas comedies can obviously fall under the family category as well. But with these 5 films, comedy comes first.
The Santa Clause (1994)
Toy salesman Scott Calvin accidentally knocks the real Santa off his roof on Christmas Eve, so he and his young son finish Santa’s delivery route. Upon traveling to North Pole, Calvin discovers that he must become the new Santa Claus.
It’s an undemanding, feel-good film with humor the whole family can enjoy. It spawned 2 sequels (that are best avoided) and an upcoming miniseries made exclusively for Disney+.
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Jingle All the Way (1996)
Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sinbad star as 2 dads racing (or rather, battling) to buy the year’s most popular action figure for their sons.
While it may not have the best reviews or ratings, it’s packed with slapstick mayhem that’s bound to have the kids rolling on the floor.
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A baby orphan crawls into Santa’s sack and ends up back at the North Pole. Raised by elves in Santa’s Village, Buddy eventually realizes he doesn’t fit in. Literally. So he travels to New York City in search of his real dad. Considered one of the greatest Christmas movies ever, it’s another one the whole family can enjoy.
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Deck the Halls (2006)
Steve is a small-town optometrist who takes Christmas very seriously. His new neighbor Buddy is a car salesman who doesn’t take anything seriously. Until he aims to have Christmas lights so bright, his house can be seen from space – which launches the 2 men into an all-out war.
With abysmal reviews, ratings and box office receipts, why is this on a Best Christmas Movies list? Because it’s simply a fun, ridiculous movie.
Some (or much) of the humor is not for kids, so it’s better for tweens or older.
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Bad Santa 2 (2016)
While the comedies listed above are fine for kids, Bad Santa 2 is strictly for adults. It’s one to watch when the kids are asleep. Fast asleep.
Cantankerous, self-loathing alcoholic Willie once again dons the Santa suit to team up with his backstabbing partner in crime, Marcus, to rob a Chicago charity on Christmas Eve.
The original Bad Santa is not currently streaming, so if you haven’t seen but want the background story first, you’ll need to rent or buy it on a platform like DirecTV Stream or Amazon Prime Video.
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3 Christmas rom-coms to stream with your S.O.
While a lot of Christmas comedies have some romance in them (such as Elf and Scrooged, for example), for some movies romance is the driving plot line. Here are 3 of the best romantic comedies to stream with your significant other this Christmas.
Love Actually (2003)
An anthology of 9 loosely connected stories, the film deal with the complexities of love at different stages of a relationship. And it all takes place in London during the weeks leading up to Christmas. The star-studded ensemble cast includes Hugh Grant, Lima Neeson, Alan Rickman, Emma Thompson, Laura Linney and Keira Knightley.
Packed with memorable moments, one stands out in particular. Long before he became the world’s most famous zombie slayer in The Walking Dead, Andrew Lincoln had one the most iconic and imitated scenes in rom-com history when he professes his love on Keira Knightley’s doorstep with a stack of TV cue cards.
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The Family Stone (2005)
Romantic Hollywood heavyweights Sarah Jessica Parker, Diane Keaton and Rachel McAdams are joined by Dermot Mulroney, Luke Wilson and Craig T. Nelson in this fish-out-of-water holiday favorite.
Parker plays Meredith Morton, an uptight, conservative New York City businesswoman who joins her boyfriend, Everett Stone (hence the title), home for the Christmas break. Unfortunately for Meredith, the Stones are about as conservative as a kid writing their Christmas wish list for Santa.
Sure, it’s got its fair share of silly moments and cliches (show me a rom-com that doesn’t). But when a talented cast has a good script to work with, the end result is usually a really good movie. So add The Family Stone to your Christmas Streaming List.
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Love Hard (2021)
Netflix has a knack for Christmas content. Its first original series in Norway – Home for Christmas – is also a Christmas romantic dramedy with 2 seasons worth watching.
An L.A. woman meets her perfect match on a dating app. The only problem is that he lives on the other side of the country. So, with a stroke of incredibly poor decision-making, she flies to the East Coast to surprise him for Christmas. The surprise is on her when she realizes she’s been catfished.
What makes Love Hard stand out like Santa on a ski hill is the choice for the male romantic lead. Hong Kong stand-up comedian and Silicon Valley actor is possibly the first Asian romantic lead that doesn’t have a chiseled Western jaw or six-pack abs. And that’s a great thing.
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3 controversial Christmas movies to stream this season
These movies aren’t controversial in the sense that they cause some sort of hullabaloo when they hit theaters. Their controversy lies in the debate about whether or not they can (or should) be called “Christmas movies”.
Trading Places (1983)
Part bet, part social experiment, 2 wealthy brothers orchestrate a far-fetched plan to have one of their executives switch places with a street hustler. The 1983 comedy classic went on to be the 4th-highest-grossing movie of the year.
Why is it a Christmas movie? It occurs during the weeks leading up to Christmas and the season plays a key part in the mood of the film. Trading Places is also an annual fixture on Italian television on Christmas Eve, or as it’s called in The Boot, Una Poltrona per Due.
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Teenager Billy gets a strange, furry little pet “Mogwai” from his dad for Christmas. As with all mysterious things, it comes with 3 rules. Keep him out of the light, don’t get him wet and – most importantly – never, ever feed him after midnight. Obviously, Billy will do all 3 before the film is over.
In a nutshell, Furbies come to life, have a midnight snack, and morph into evil, reptilian monsters. And it’s got everything you need in a Christmas movie – snow, carols, decorations, christmas lights and killer presents.
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Die Hard (1988)
The 1988 blockbuster that turned TV actor Bruce Willis into an action hero movie star is the quintessential controversial Christmas movie. It pretty much lies at the heart of the debate.
Willis stars as NYPD cop John McClane who flies out to L.A. in hope of repairing his marriage. Unfortunately, a gang of heavily-armed criminals hijack his wife’s office Christmas party on the 30th floor of the Nakatomi Plaza. Gunshots and explosions follow – but maybe that’s just what he needs to jumpstart his marriage.
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Which streaming service has the best Christmas movies in 2022?
The results are in and based on our Top 25 Christmas movies for 2022, only 4 of the 12 services (with at least 1 movie) have 5 or more.
- Philo: 8
- DirecTV Stream: 7
- HBO Max: 6
- STARZ: 5
- Disney+: 4
- fuboTV: 2
- Peacock: 2
- Showtime: 2
- Netflix: 2
- Hulu: 1
- Apple TV+: 1
- Amazon Prime Video: 1
With 3 out of 6, HBO Max has the most family Christmas movies on our list. But if you’re in the mood for laughs and love, DirecTV Stream has 2 of our 3 Christmas rom-coms. It also comes in a close second place with a total of 7 Christmas movies on our list.
But Philo is the star on top of the tree with 8 of our 25 best Christmas movies. It offers a well-rounded variety with something from each category, except for Christmas family movies.
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What if your favorite Christmas movie isn’t streaming?
As mentioned above, we’ll keep an eye out for Christmas movies added to streaming libraries. But for any movies that don’t make it onto a streaming service, you’ll have to either rent or buy through platforms like DirecTV Stream, Amazon Prime Video and Apple TV+.
In the meantime, if you’re in the mood to watch movies for a more timely holiday, check out our Top 31 Halloween Movies to Stream in 2022.
Douglas Wright is a freelance writer based in Japan. A former web designer and technical writer, he left beautiful Vancouver for bustling Tokyo, where he spent a decade recruiting for software and high-tech firms. No longer commuting through the world’s busiest train station, he writes fiction and a wide range of formats for clients around the world. When he gets AFK, he’s either outdoors with his two boys, streaming a show with his wife, or reading a book over a French-pressed, hand-ground coffee.