holiday streaming

The 21 Best Christmas Movies Streaming Right Now

Elf. Photo: Warner Home Video

This article has been updated to include new additions.

Ah, Christmas — having fun with your family, spending some quiet time cozied up by the fireplace with a good book, and taking your hometown high-school crush to the local ice-skating rink. These are just some of the things we all know you won’t actually do. No, because you’re a sicko like the rest of us, you will be spending the holidays streaming movies and TV shows on the couch, slowly turning up the volume as your relatives get tipsier and tipsier. To that end, we’ve compiled a handy list of some of the best Christmas movies, new and old, for you to queue up whenever your parents start asking you once again why you pay so much to live in such a small apartment. Good luck!


The Christmas Chronicles (2018)

From a demented belting of “Ho, ho, ho” to an Elvis-inspired blues performance in a jail cell featuring Steven Van Zandt from the E Street Band — as well as cultish elves with chain saws who act out scenes from Gremlins — Clay Kaytis’s The Christmas Chronicles runs on high-octane, bonkers energy. It begins rather simply: Experiencing their first Christmas without their recently deceased father, estranged siblings Teddy (a jaded Judah Lewis) and Kate (an eager Darby Camp) stow away on Santa’s sleigh during Christmas Eve only for Saint Nick (Kurt Russell) to crash-land in Chicago — losing his reindeers, presents, and hat in the process. Russell plays Santa with an inspired grouchiness that lands in the precarious space between menacing and cool in a film that blends together The Santa Clause and Bad Santa. The jokes are sometimes clunky and dated, but this gritty holiday tale has its heart in the right place, breaking the mold of what makes a merry classic. —Robert Daniels

Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey (2020)

It’s unfortunately still a rare sight to see an all-Black movie musical: DreamgirlsGet on UpRay, and Idlewild are exceptions. Black Christmas movies, though, are a tad more common (Last HolidayThe Best Man HolidayThis ChristmasThe Preacher’s Wife, and so forth). Writer-director David E. Talbert’s Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Story is an ambitious combination of the two genres: A once-brilliant toy-maker and inventor, Jeronicus (Forest Whitaker), is psychologically shattered when his trusted assistant, Gustafson, steals his book of ideas to begin his own toy-maker empire. To make matters worse, Jeronicus watches all this happen as his business and family crumble after the death of his wife. Several decades later, when his precocious, mathematically brilliant granddaughter, Journey (Madalen Mills), comes to stay with him, Jeronicus must rekindle his greatness before Gustafson (Keegan-Michael Key) steals his latest invention. This lovely family fairy tale’s brightness and vibrant costumes recall The Wiz, while the banging show tunes delivered by the talented ensemble are a compendium of earworms about redemption, jubilance, and unfettered belief. —Robert Daniels

Single All the Way (2021)

Demonstrating the growing inclusiveness of the modern Christmas movie is this gay Christmas rom-com from director Michael Mayer, which opens with beefy, shirtless models working their wares for a shaving-cream ad in a modest small town where true love takes flight. The film follows a heartbroken Peter (Michael Urie) returning home to New Hampshire to visit his parents for the holidays. Embarrassed about being single again, he asks his best friend and roommate, Nick (Philemon Chambers), to accompany him as his fake boyfriend. It doesn’t take long before the ruse is uncovered and Peter’s mother (Kathy Najimy) tries to set him up on a date with the one gay man in town, the hunky and sensitive James (Luke Macfarlane). But mixed signals and fear abound when Peter and James seem to become more than friends. An energetic Jennifer Coolidge and the strong script and comedic performances provide copious laughs, but it’s the romantic twists and turns that gives this familiar story a brand new carol to sing for marginalized groups and identities. —Robert Daniels

White Christmas (1954)

As traditional as a ham and some mistletoe, Michael Curtiz’s White Christmas is the lone classic holiday tale amid a sea of Netflix original movies. The film follows two World War II veterans, the blue-eyed maestro Bob Wallace (Bing Crosby) and the ginger-haired clown Phil Davis (Danny Kaye), during their postwar travels as a famous duo. At the behest of an old Army buddy, they collide with a sisterly double act — Betty (Rosemary Clooney) and Judy Haynes (Vera-Ellen) — and are immediately smitten. The quartet eventually arrives at an empty, nearly bankrupt inn owned by their former commander, the kind General Waverly (Dean Jagger). Can these performers save the inn? Doubtless, you already know the answer. Surely, some of the charm of this Technicolor Christmas tale resides in its precisely timed comedic performances, particularly by Kaye and Vera-Ellen. There are some uneven moments, particularly musical numbers that veer between adorable and minstrel, but the pageantry of the film’s title song, replete with lush, ruby-red Santa suits, will remain as affixed in your memory as Jack Frost nipping at your nose. —Robert Daniels


A Christmas Story (1983)

You can program your own marathon by simply hitting the play button each time you finish Bob Clark’s nostalgic comedy inspired by humorist Jean Shepherd’s memories of his Indiana childhood. Or, as effective as it is as holiday background noise, you could watch it from beginning to end. Some unfortunate racial stereotypes in its final moments aside, the film remains a charming comedy that captures the joys and anxiety of being a kid at Christmastime, following Ralphie (Peter Billingsley) as he dreams of a Red Ryder, carbine action air rifle in spite of the possibility he might shoot his eye out. (HBO Max also features the 2022 sequel A Christmas Story Christmas starring Billingsley and several members of the original cast and, somewhat confusingly, A Christmas Story 2, an unrelated sequel from 2012.) —Keith Phipps

A Christmas Carol (1951)

There’s no shortage of adaptations of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, and variations on the oft-told tale just keep getting made. It’s impossible to declare one definitive, but few have been as influential (or, for that matter, as good) as this 1951 version (released in the U.K. as Scrooge). Much of the credit should go to Alastair Sim’s turn as Ebenezer Scrooge, a performance that makes the miser’s transformation seem like a true Christmas miracle. This is Dickens played straight and played incredibly well. There’s a reason this story became a classic in the first place, after all. —Keith Phipps

Christmas in Connecticut (1945)

Characters having their cynicism blasted away by the holiday spirit is something of a Christmas-movie tradition. Barbara Stanwyck stars as a tart-tongued New York writer whose tales of living on a farm in Connecticut are 100 percent fiction. When threatened with exposure, she finds she needs to turn the fake life she’s been writing about into reality, or something like it, in time for Christmas. Stanwyck’s perfectly cast as the center of a fast-paced comedy in which disaster, or romance, could break out at any moment. —Keith Phipps

Elf (2003)

A film that wouldn’t work without its central performance, Elf stars Will Ferrell as Buddy, a human raised at the North Pole who travels to New York to search for his father (James Caan). Ferrell throws himself into the role with abandon, making Buddy’s naïveté feel both convincing and winning. Sure, he’s a goofy, cheer-filled weirdo with a simplistic view of the world. But maybe he has the right idea? He’s well-matched by Zooey Deschanel’s performance as Jovie, who lets her character’s cynicism melt away with each scene. —Keith Phipps

Gremlins (1984)

Say you’ve had enough Christmas cheer and wouldn’t mind a movie that shares that sentiment. This Joe Dante horror-comedy has you covered. Zach Galligan stars as Billy, a small-town bank teller who receives a cute little creature he names Gizmo as a Christmas gift from his dad (Hoyt Axton). Gizmo comes with some catches about water, sunlight, and when he can or cannot be fed, however, and when those rules get broken, chaos breaks out. Dante’s gleefully destructive impulses pervade the film, which turns a picture-perfect little town adorned in Christmas lights into a holiday war zone. Anyone sick of the holidays can have fun rooting for the bad guys to burn it all down. —Keith Phipps

The Shop Around the Corner (1940)

When people use the phrase “the Lubitsch touch” to describe what director Ernst Lubitsch brought to classic comedies like Design for Living and To Be or Not to Be, it’s a shorthand for a mix of sophistication and sexiness. Both can be found in abundance in this holiday classic starring James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan as co-workers in a leather-goods shop who hate each other — but have also unwittingly begun courting each other as anonymous pen pals. But Lubitsch also brings a heartfelt quality to his films that makes it easy to care about the characters and hope they find happiness with each other. (Yes, You’ve Got Mail shares the same plot. Both films draw from the Miklós László play Parfumerie. But You’ve Got Mail isn’t filled with Christmas spirit, so save that one for another day.) —Keith Phipps


Home Alone (1990)

Join Kevin McCallister (a towheaded Macaulay Culkin on his most precocious behavior), who was accidentally left at home in his parents ’90s dream house — only to discover his turf is being invaded. Kevin remains one wily step (and trip and fall and Looney Tunes injury) ahead of Marv (Daniel Stern) and Harry (Joe Pesci), the boneheaded thugs who try to rob his house and ruin his family Christmas. Pesci, of course, is perfect as the hot-tempered villain who gets so many comeuppances you almost feel sorry for him. Home Alone is so much of a Christmas tradition it’s now a December must-watch for many families. A revisit, not to mention a marathon through its several sequels on Disney+, will soon remind you why. —Christina Newland

The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)

With Kermit the Frog as Bob Cratchit and Michael Caine as an unforgettable Ebenezer Scrooge, The Muppet Christmas Carol may be one of the most endearing Christmas films ever made. It’s also one of the most adorable Charles Dickens adaptations in existence, dispensing with the vague scariness of the ghostly elements in the book’s other filmed versions. Always walking the line between the genuine pathos of the story and the inherent absurdity of these scruffy little puppets, The Muppet Christmas Carol is a genuinely warmhearted holiday affair with Caine giving every ounce of his very considerable acting talent to the effort without once seeming above the material. Just look at Muppet Tiny Tim: Little mini-Kermit is sure to make anyone melt. —Christina Newland

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

For those of us who like our yuletide viewing more on the goth side, Tim Burton’s introduction to the hideously, comically moribund world of Jack Skellington, with all of its stop-motion creepiness and cockeyed angles straight from a ’40s crime film, is hard to deny. Burton, who has always been interested in the grim underside and darker corners of life, hits a rich strain of cynicism about the wanton consumerism and faux good cheer of the holiday season. But we get to have our cake and eat it: Sandy Claws finally teaches Jack and the residents of Halloween Town the true meaning of Christmas too, making for a happy ending. The inventiveness and the rebellious spirit of The Nightmare Before Christmas make it a one-of-a-kind classic. —Christina Newland

The Santa Clause (1994)

Disney+ and its streaming selection have always been a great boon for ’90s nostalgia, so it’s pretty fitting that the 1994 holiday hit The Santa Clause is on the service. You probably know the story: Tim Allen is an ordinary suburban dad who accidentally kills Santa when the big man falls off a roof. (Somehow, when you write it down, that doesn’t sound at all like the amusing, cutesy bit of fluff that follows.) Forced to fill Santa’s boots and finding himself abruptly, inexplicably obsessed with milk and cookies and with a face fully sprouting a white beard and an expanding waistline to match, our baffled protagonist stumbles into the role of Santa and an inevitable happy, festive ending. This year, a brand-new Disney+ original show, The Santa Clauses, sees Allen reprise the part over two decades later when his character sets out in search of the next lucky inheritor of the red-and-white suit. —Christina Newland

Amazon Prime

A Christmas Carol (1984)

There are so many A Christmas Carol adaptationsand ironic adaptations of those adaptations, and reinventions, and reinventions of reinventions, that there’s something pleasing and charming about a simple straightforward adaptation of Dickens’s book the way he wrote it. This CBS TV-movie stars George C. Scott as Scrooge, and he’s excellently George C. Scott–y in the role: cranky, bug-eyed, mean but with a hint of the sweetness underneath. Chances are a lot of you fell asleep on your grandparents’ couch watching this movie, and it was surely a pleasant, warming, comforting rest. The movie plays like a cozy old blanket you only half remember. —Tim Grierson and Will Leitch

Eight Crazy Nights (2002)

About a month after the release of Punch-Drunk Love, the film that signaled a shift for Adam Sandler toward more serious fare, the Sandman was back to his old tricks with Eight Crazy Nights, an animated film in which he voices (among others) Davey, the town drunk who needs to turn his life around or face a prison sentence. This is the immature, sophomoric Sandler of Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore, and the jokes are undeniably juvenile. And yet, they can also be disreputable fun — especially if you have kids who are tired of heartwarming treacle — and, of course, there’s a version of Sandler’s popular “Hanukkah Song” thrown in for good measure, too. Don’t tell the grandparents you’re watching this — they won’t approve. But how many other holiday movies feature deer who eat feces? (Actually, don’t answer that. We don’t want to know.) —Tim Grierson and Will Leitch

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

Often mislabeled as a sappy Christmas movie — usually by people who haven’t seen it — this Frank Capra classic is, instead, a fairly clear-eyed portrait of despair and depression led by James Stewart’s mournful George Bailey, who ponders killing himself because he thinks his life has been for naught. A hapless angel named Clarence (Henry Travers) intervenes, showing him the impact of his existence, and in the process It’s a Wonderful Life delivers a moving portrait of selflessness — albeit one filled with minor tragedies and still-pertinent lessons about greed and man’s inhumanity to man. In other words, this film’s iconic happy ending is hard-earned, brought to beautiful life by Stewart, who embodied modest decency as wonderfully as any actor ever has. —Tim Grierson and Will Leitch

Little Women (1994)

Greta Gerwig’s acclaimed 2019 adaptation boosted the visibility of previous big-screen versions of Louisa May Alcott’s beloved tale — in particular, Gillian Armstrong’s 1994 Christmastime hit. Appropriate for an age in which women rock musicians were starting to be afforded the same stature as their male peers — and Jane Campion became only the second woman to be nominated for the Best Director Oscar for 1993’s The Piano — this take on Little Women emphasizes Jo March’s (Winona Ryder) hunger for independence, wanting to be taken seriously as an author and not just for her beauty. Before the Gerwig adaptation, this was the version — also featuring Samantha Mathis, Kirsten Dunst, Claire Danes, Christian Bale, Eric Stoltz, Gabriel Byrne, and Susan Sarandon — that was the gold standard for Gen-Xers and older millennials, combining a feminist spirit with a warm paean to family and true love. Nearly 20 years later, it still more than holds up. —Tim Grierson and Will Leitch

Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

Greatest Christmas movie ever? Miracle on 34th Street is on the short list, even though it originally opened in the summer of 1947, 20th Century Fox doing its best to hide the film’s obvious yuletide themes. Edmund Gwenn won an Oscar for his portrayal of Kris Kringle, a kindly bearded man who becomes a mall Santa — except, he’s the real Santa Claus, touching the lives of several New Yorkers he meets, including Natalie Wood’s impossibly adorable Susan. A love story, a tribute to the power of optimism … even a courtroom drama? Sure, the more’s the merrier when it comes to a film that’s unabashed in its belief that a little kindness goes a long way. All these years later, it’s impossible to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and not think of this eternal charmer. —Tim Grierson and Will Leitch


Happiest Season (2020)

Happiest Season made a lot of noise back in 2020, partially because we were all stuck inside and there were no movies in theaters. Also, because it was a landmark film thanks to it being a rare queer romantic comedy. Director Clea DuVall assembled an all-star cast (Mackenzie Davis, Kristen Stewart, Aubrey Plaza, Dan Levy, and countless other notables) to tell the story of coming out to your family during Christmas. This movie is really, really great. It’s funny, heartwarming, and exactly what we all need to be watching at a time like this. —Dave Schilling

Santa Claus: The Movie (1985)

Santa Claus: The Movie is a fascinating relic of a time when lavish, mildly pompous fantasy movies could revolve around a wacked-out origin story for Santa that is mildly Christ-like. In this telling, Santa (David Huddleston) is a kindly woodcutter and toy-maker in the Middle Ages who learns from a pack of elves (led by a woefully miscast and confused Dudley Moore) that he is the fulfillment of a prophecy that a man would deliver gifts to all the little boys and girls on earth. From there, we get a Batman Begins–style explanation of where Santa got all of his wonderful toys. Fast-forward to the present day, and Santa is disillusioned by how commercial Christmas has gotten. Never mind that the whole point of his existence is to make children lust after presents. Those presents are made … with love. Please watch this movie as soon as possible, then tweet at me about how perplexed you are that a deeply pretentious musical about Santa’s origin story exists. It’s great. —Dave Schilling

The 21 Best Christmas Movies Streaming Right Now