Every year, a dizzying array of new Christmas movies come to streaming, but nothing captures the warmth of the holiday season quite like the classics. Fortunately, you can stream the following classic Christmas movies right now!
Babes in Toyland
The nursery rhyme that inspired the plot of Babes in Toyland is basically nonsense, and it doesn’t actually have much to do with Christmas.
Still, both the Laurel and Hardy (1934) and Annette Funicello (1961) versions of the toy-based story feature family-friendly comedy which has made them holiday favorites. Adults marvel at the bizarre storytelling and surreal imagery, while kids enjoy the silly characters.
You can watch the 1961 version on Disney+.
The desire to be left alone at Christmas is pretty universal, and it’s all 8-year-old Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin) wants when his suburban home is overrun by his loud, obnoxious extended family.
Of course, after he’s accidentally left behind when his entire family goes on a holiday vacation, his relief soon turns to dread. Not only does he have to look after himself, but Kevin also has to deal with a pair of burglars (Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern) who are trying to break into his house.
Home Alone features a parade of slapstick violence that would kill real burglars many times over. But it’s also sweet and goofy, and features one of cinema’s all-time greatest performances by a child actor.
You can stream Home Alone on Disney+.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas
It took the manic energy of Jim Carrey to successfully capture Dr. Seuss’s grumpy green Christmas-loathing whatsit in live-action. This version finally topped the 1966 animated TV special starring Boris Karloff.
Carrey really throws himself into the role. As he conspires to sabotage Christmas in the wholesome village of Whoville, the old Grinch’s heart eventually grows three sizes, thanks to the holiday spirit. This version of the Grinch, however, remains weird and off-putting, even after he embraces Christmas. It’s this off-kilter energy that has been appreciated over time.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas is streaming on Netflix.
It’s a Wonderful Life
Perhaps the first movie to establish itself as a Christmas viewing tradition, Frank Capra’s 1946 fable stars James Stewart as despondent banker George Bailey, who gets a glimpse at what the world would be like without him in it as he contemplates throwing himself off a bridge.
It sounds pretty depressing, but, true to its title, It’s a Wonderful Life is a celebration of generosity and selflessness, and a reminder that even when life is tough, it’s still wonderful.
It’s a Wonderful Life is streaming on Amazon Prime.
Miracle on 34th Street
Is Santa Claus real? A court rules on the question in this family holiday classic, starring Edmund Gwenn (who won an Oscar for his performance) as a New York City Macy’s department store Santa.
This particular Santa claims he’s the genuine article and, eventually, a judge has to weigh in when management attempts to have poor Kris Kringle committed. Thanks to some kind-hearted adults (and a bit of Christmas magic), a little girl’s faith in Santa Claus is reinforced, along with the spirit of the season.
Miracle on 34th Street is streaming on Disney+.
The Muppet Christmas Carol
Of the many, many adaptations of Charles Dickens’ beloved novel, A Christmas Carol, the version featuring the Muppets is, surprisingly, one of the closest to the source material. Although it features a cast of mostly anthropomorphic animal puppets (and whatever Gonzo is), it’s a classic for a reason.
Michael Caine stars as Christmas-hater, Ebenezer Scrooge, and brings some gravitas to the role alongside Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, and the other Muppets in supporting characters. It might not be the best of the Muppet movies, but it’s a great way to introduce little ones to the characters. The familiar holiday story is the perfect entry into their weird little world.
The Muppet Christmas Carol is streaming on Disney+.
The Nightmare Before Christmas
A movie with the word “nightmare” in the title doesn’t seem like it would be a Christmas favorite. However, this stop-motion animation movie, produced and conceptualized by Tim Burton and directed by Henry Selick, has become a staple of both Christmas and Halloween.
The plot follows a Christmas-loving ghoul named Jack Skellington. Despite its sometimes macabre imagery, The Nightmare Before Christmas is warm and upbeat at its core. Danny Elfman’s memorable songs and Burton’s creative designs unite mopey goths and cheerful extroverts.
The Nightmare Before Christmas is streaming on Disney+.
This dark comedy starring Denis Leary as a fugitive hiding out with a bickering, upper-class couple (Kevin Spacey and Judy Davis) was a box office failure. Since its release, though, it’s become a holiday favorite, thanks to its perfect balance of cynicism and sentiment.
It’s foul-mouthed and sarcastic, but, in the end, it embraces the joy of the holiday season. With a bit of adultery, drunkenness, and blackmail on the side.
The Ref is streaming for free on Hoopla via many local libraries.
The Santa Clause
Tim Allen launched a franchise with this comedy about a grumpy suburban dad who accidentally causes the death of Santa Claus. He is then magically enlisted to become the new Santa. Despite its somewhat horrifying set-up, The Santa Clause is a sweet, sitcom-style story.
The divorced, career-focused dad is forced to shift his priorities and reconnect with his young son, while proving to the world that Santa Claus is still relevant. Plus, Tim Allen gets fat and grows an enormous white beard.
The Santa Clause is streaming on Disney+.
A showcase for Irving Berlin’s iconic song, this classic musical stars Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye as a pair of Army buddies who launch a successful musical act after World War II. They also fall for a pair of singing sisters (Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen).
All four spend the holidays performing at a Vermont inn owned by the men’s former commanding officer. Featuring values that still resonate today (along with that ever-present desire for snow on Christmas), this film celebrates the true spirit of the season.
White Christmas is streaming on Netflix.