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 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 Christmas movies and where you can stream them.
Children’s 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)
Source: Apple TV+
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)
Source: HBO Max
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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Mickey’s Christmas Carol (1983)
Nominated for the Best Animated Short Oscar, this retelling of the Dickens classic has been a holiday tradition going on 40 years. Mickey plays Bob Cratchit while Scrooge McDuck (obviously) stars as Ebenezer Scrooge.
If you’re looking for Mickey and Friends in a holiday flick longer than 22 minutes, Disney+ also has Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas.
Prep & Landing (2009 – 2011)
We’re cheating a little bit, but not enough to get on the Naughty List. Prep & Landing isn’t a movie, but a trilogy of annual Christmas shorts.
The series started with the 22-minute Prep & Landing in 2009, followed by Operation: Secret Santa, which is a mere 7 minutes long. The third installment, Naughty vs. Nice in 2011, is as long as the first, making the entire trilogy watchable in under an hour.
The bite-sized stories are perfect for those in-between times and kids who can’t sit still for a full-length feature.
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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Curious George: A Very Monkey Christmas (2009)
Everyone’s favorite monkey is having his very first Christmas, and The Man in the Yellow Hat is teaching him all about the season. However, the 2 friends are soon faced with deciding what to get the other for Christmas — while George wreaks havoc now and then.
Kids around 3 to 7 will enjoy this most.
Stream Curious George: A Very Monkey Christmas on Hulu.
My Little Pony: A Very Minty Christmas (2005)
Ponyville risks losing Christmas when pink-and-green pony Minty breaks a magic candy cane. And a journey to the North Pole is the only solution.
Bronies aside, the 44-minute Hasbro commercial may or may not hold the attention of its 3-year-old target audience for the full runtime. But with plenty of bright colors and a catchy Christmas tune, it’s worth a shot.
Stream My Little Pony: A Very Minty Christmas on Hulu.
Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas (1977)
A dirt-poor young otter and his mom risk it all to win a talent contest so they can buy each other Christmas presents. But they’ve got the Riverbottom Nightmare Band standing in their way at every turn.
Ages 4 and up – and all fans of The Muppets – will want to check out Jim Henson’s TV musical that became a Canadian holiday classic. And don’t just take our word for it, over 4,000 voters give it 8.2/10 on IMDb.
Stream Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas on Amazon Prime
The Snowman (1982)
A young boy’s snowman comes to life on Christmas Eve and takes him on a journey to the North Pole to meet Santa.
A moving classical score accompanies gorgeous traditional animation. And at just 26 minutes, this dialogue-free classic can capture the attention of even the youngest viewers. Like the otters above, The Snowman also has 8.2/10 on IMDb.
Stream The Snowman on Amazon Prime.
Stick Man (2015)
Like The Snowman, this is a short animated TV special based on an award-winning children’s book. A happy-go-lucky stick gets snatched up and carried away by a playful dog, launching him onto a perilous journey right before Christmas. He must overcome a series of obstacles as he makes his way back home for the holiday.
Like the 2 above, Stick Man is short, simple and fun enough to keep young kids around 4+ engaged and entertained. And it’s got 7.1/10 on IMDb.
Stream Stick Man on Amazon Prime.
Christmas classics on streaming right now
As time stretches on, the term “classics” needs to expand in scope. We’ve got 7 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)
Source: Amazon Prime Video
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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Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
A young Natalie Wood stars as a little girl who doesn’t believe in Santa Claus. But is the department store Santa at Macy’s real enough to change her mind?
This is another Christmas classic the whole family can watch, but parents shouldn’t be surprised when they’re grilled on whether Santa is real or not.
The Bishop's Wife (1947)
With 5 Oscar nominations and 1 win, they sure knew how to make Christmas films in the 1940s. Cary Grant stars as a charming angel sent to help an ambitious bishop rediscover his faith and what’s important in life.
With positive messages throughout, this is one for the whole family to enjoy – but the same old classic caveats apply.
A Christmas Carol (1984)
This TV adaptation of the most retold Christmas story ever is one of the best. Arguably a bit bleaker than most others, George C. Scott’s interpretation is right up there with Alastair Sim’s gold-standard Ebenezer Scrooge.
Everyone knows the story, but this slightly darker version is probably best for kids around 6 or 7 and older.
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)
Source: HBO Max
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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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.
Source: HBO Max
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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The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
Our third entry of Dickens’ holiday classic is a musical comedy starring Michael Caine as Scrooge – and everybody’s favorite puppets are nearly everyone else. Kermit plays Bob Cratchit, of course, with Miss Piggy as his wife. And Gonzo narrates – as Dickens himself.
And if you’re looking for more Muppets holiday cheer, Disney+ also has the 2008 made-for-TV special A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa.
Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992)
A sequel getting its own entry? Seeing as it’s the third-highest-grossing Christmas film of all time, it’s earned it.
Director Chris Columbus and writer John Hughes don’t mess with a good thing in this quick follow-up set the year after the first film. It’s full of familiar gags and clever traps – except they’re in the Big Apple. Even Pesci and Stern return as the recently escaped (and renamed) Sticky Bandits to do battle with young Kevin.
Critics may call it derivative, but to that we say bah humbug!
Miracle on 34th Street (1994)
The original version is already on this list but this 1994 remake (written and produced by John Hughes) was just worth mentioning. 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)
Source: HBO Max
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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Christmas comedies to stream this season
A lot of Christmas comedies can obviously fall under the family category as well. But with these 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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Ernest Saves Christmas (1988)
Ernest was a big thing in the 80s. The character, created by an ad agency for TV commercials, miraculously spawned 10 feature films and a Saturday morning TV show.
This goofy holiday installment has Santa forget his sack in Ernest’s taxi cab. Upon discovering the sack’s magical powers, Ernest embarks on a mission to return it to its owner and – of course – save Christmas.
It won’t spark any deep conversations or pull at too many heartstrings, but Ernest Saves Christmas is packed with enough silliness to keep the kids giggling for 90 minutes straight.
Santa passes away during the offseason and by the time Christmas rolls around, his heir-apparent son isn’t up to the task. So it’s up to Santa’s spoiled daughter to get things back on track and save Christmas.
It’s a familiar plot line, but Noelle is a warm and friendly, easy-to-watch holiday film for the entire family.
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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Source: HBO Max
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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Santa Claus: The Movie (1985)
John Lithgow plays a wicked toy tycoon out to steal Christmas and it’s up to Santa – and his exiled elf, Patch – to save the season.
A verified box office bomb, this movie may be loathed in America, but it’s loved enough to be mandatory holiday viewing in the UK. Fine performances, beautiful sets and costumes, and a wonderful musical score — the Brits know what they’re talking about.
This one can be enjoyed by kids and adults alike.
12 Dates of Christmas (2011)
Starring Amy Smart and Zack from Saved By the Bell, this made-for-TV movie is essentially the Christmas rom-com version of Groundhog Day. And that’s not really a bad thing – when we’re talking about Christmas movies.
If you like 50 First Dates and The Good Place, there’s a 120% chance you’ll enjoy this opposites-attract holiday fling. It’s also fairly tame as rom-coms go, so it’s fine for older tweens.
A Merry Friggin’ Christmas (2014)
You can probably tell by the title that this isn’t family-friendly. The dark comedy-drama stars Robin Williams (in one of his final roles) as an estranged father who embarks on an 8-hour, Christmas present rescue mission road trip with the son who hates him.
It wasn’t a hit with critics – or a lot of viewers – but if you enjoyed Four Christmases and Bad Santa, put this on when the kids have visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads.
Happiest Season (2020)
There aren’t a whole lot of LGBTQ Christmas movies to choose from, so thankfully Happiest Season is a good film. This coming-out rom-com has plenty of drama as the secret romance trope gets a dash of fish-out-of-water. But who you end up cheering for might surprise you.
It’s got positive messages and role models, but there’s a bit of profanity and implied sex, so this is one to watch with kids 13 and older.
This modern take on A Christmas Carol stars Bill Murray as Scrooge-like TV network president Frank Cross – who schedules a live-to-air TV special on Christmas Eve. And in a somewhat meta way, people either love Scrooged or hate it.
But it’s firmly in our top 10 for good reason.
It’s got a lot of gunfire for A Christmas Carol, and a bit of sex talk and blue humor, so it’s best suited for older tweens and up.
Surviving Christmas (2004)
With his girlfriend demanding to meet his family, a wealthy ad exec pays the family living in his childhood home a quarter-million dollars to pretend they’re his family for the holidays.
Another “wealthy exec hates Christmas” movie, this Ben Affleck rom-com also has its lovers and haters. And admittedly, there are more of the latter. But if you like Bad Santa and Scrooged, you should get a few jolly laughs from this.
With some strong language and not many positive messages, this one’s suitable for young teens and older.
A Sunburnt Christmas (2020)
A recently widowed single mom with 3 kids is struggling to make ends meet in the Australian outback. And when a criminal on the run dressed as Santa crashes the family farm, he not only brings trouble but hope as well.
Think of it as an award-winning, non-vulgar “Bad Santa Down Under”. With some mild language and a few guns, this heartfelt comedy is fine for kids around 9 and older.
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)
Source: DirecTV Stream
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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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.
Stream Gremlins on:
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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Christmas thrillers to stream this season
Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010)
Home Alone meets Raiders of the Lost Ark in this folk-tale-inspired Santa story.
An American corporation excavates Korvatunturi, a stout Finnish mountain best known as the home of Father Christmas. And what they unearth on Christmas Eve will change things for everyone.
With steady tension throughout, it strikes a fine balance between horror and dark comedy – all on a budget of less than $2 million. Outstanding performances and cinematography, along with a compelling screenplay and score, make signing up for Hulu’s free trial worth it just for this.
This “movie” is actually from Hulu’s Into the Dark horror anthology series that had episodes based on different holidays. And Pooka was a Christmas hit.
An out-of-work actor gets a gig as the life-sized stuffed animal of the Christmas season’s hottest toy – Pooka. But he soon develops a split personality.
It’s from the producers of The Purge and Happy Death Day, which should tell you this isn’t one to watch with the kids.
The Lodge (2020)
The week before Christmas, a soon-to-be stepmom and her 2 future stepchildren head up north to the family cabin in hopes of bonding while Dad’s at the office. Things don’t go as planned.
If you enjoyed Saint Maud or The Shining, this creepy holiday slow-burn is worth watching over a cup of hot cocoa.
It’s only streaming on Hulu and, obviously, The Lodge is another one to watch when the kids are in bed.
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 • Author
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.
Davan Hamilton • Editor
Davan Hamilton is an editor and writer based in Jacksonville, FL. Holding a degree in Interdisciplinary Studies, her writing spans a wide range, from essays on film criticism and analysis to surreal poetry. Now, she works for Flixed as an editor, continuing to ignore the list of passion projects she’s accumulated. When she’s not glued to her computer, you can find her building endless amounts of Lego sets, binge-reading manga, or playing with (fighting) her cat.