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HBO Max’s movie selection features a wide range of genres and eras, and that’s reflected in its Christmas-themed offerings as well. From vintage classics to modern adaptations, here are the best Christmas movies to stream on HBO Max.

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Arthur Christmas

Santa Claus’ neglected son gets the chance to redeem himself in the charming Arthur Christmas. Animation studio Aardman switches up its typical stop-motion style for CGI, but Arthur Christmas is just as creative and distinctive as the company’s Wallace & Gromit movies, with similarly wry, winning humor.

Lovable loser Arthur goes on a quest to deliver a missing present on Christmas Eve, in the process proving why he and not his smarmy older brother is truly deserving of taking up the Santa mantle.

Christmas in Connecticut

The cozy 1945 romantic comedy Christmas in Connecticut stars Barbara Stanwyck as a single New York City gal who writes a magazine cooking column that presents her as a rural housewife and mother. When her publisher arranges for a Christmas visit to honor a returning military hero (Dennis Morgan), she suddenly has to conjure up this fake life.

Stanwyck gives a warm, earthy performance that balances out the potential sentimentality, and the comedy surrounding her is lively and goofy without ever becoming frantic.

A Christmas Story

So ubiquitous in pop culture that many of its lines have become holiday catch phrases, A Christmas Story is a warm coming-of-age comedy based on memoirs by Jean Shepherd. Shepherd himself narrates the tale of young Ralphie (Peter Billingsley), who wants nothing more than a Red Ryder BB Gun for Christmas, but must navigate bullies, surly department store Santas, and his parents’ disapproval in order to realize his dream.

The nostalgic but sometimes sarcastic tone, the hilarious performances, and the endearing characters have made A Christmas Story nearly universally beloved.


Will Ferrell brings his boundless enthusiasm to the title role in Elf, playing a human who’s been raised by Santa’s elves at the North Pole. Ferrell’s Buddy leaves Santa’s workshop to seek out his birth father in New York City, where his childlike understanding of the world clashes with big-city cynicism. Elf has plenty of heartwarming moments as Buddy helps his curmudgeonly dad (played by James Caan) appreciate Christmas, but it’s the bizarre, off-kilter humor and Ferrell’s dedication to his absurd character that really make the movie memorable.

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Devious little creatures disrupt a picturesque small town’s Christmas in Gremlins. A traveling salesman buys his son a cute little pet called a mogwai for Christmas, but when naive Billy (Zach Galligan) fails to follow the rules for mogwai care, friendly Gizmo spawns terrifying offspring that wreak havoc. Part old-school monster movie, part family comedy, Gremlins balances gruesome effects with sardonic humor, held together by expert genre filmmaker Joe Dante.

It Happened on Fifth Avenue

A makeshift family of vagrants, veterans, and undercover rich people comes together to celebrate Christmas at the climax of the lovely comedy It Happened on Fifth Avenue. In post-World War II New York City, a pair of squatters in the empty mansion of the world’s second-richest man are inadvertently joined by the owner’s daughter, posing as a fellow down-on-her-luck job-seeker.

Struggling dreamer Jim (Don DeFore) and secret heiress Trudy (Gale Storm) fall in love, while Trudy’s wealthy industrialist father learns the true value of family, just in time for the holidays.

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National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

The third movie in the Vacation series chronicling the hapless Griswold family, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation may also be the best. The Griswolds decide to stay home for Christmas, but that just means that the chaos comes to them, in the form of various visiting relatives. Family patriarch Clark (Chevy Chase) just wants to have the perfect family Christmas, but everyone from his stingy boss to crazy cousin Eddie (Randy Quaid) seems to be standing in his way. The more frustrated Clark becomes, the more hilarious the movie gets.

Santa Camp

Documentary Santa Camp isn’t just about the title location, a New Hampshire retreat for aspiring and veteran Santas to hone their craft. It’s also about the Santa industry’s efforts to diversify, by embracing Black, trans, and disabled Santas, as well as an array of Mrs. Clauses. It’s fun to see all these jolly folks get together to study the best approach to spreading Christmas cheer.

There’s also plenty of seriousness here, though, as the Santas who deviate from the traditional presentation face backlash, which only strengthens their resolve to make sure that Christmas and Santa Claus are for everyone.

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The Shop Around the Corner

A classic romantic comedy from master filmmaker Ernst Lubitsch, The Shop Around the Corner stars James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan as bickering co-workers who don’t realize they’re each other’s romantic pen pals. Alfred (Stewart) and Klara (Sullavan) squabble by day and swoon over each other’s letters by night. Lubitsch creates a vibrant, funny world in the Budapest general store where Alfred and Klara work, bringing together multiple storylines, including the romance, during the sweet Christmas Eve climax.

A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas

The stoner buddies played by John Cho and Kal Penn celebrate the holidays by getting totally high in A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas. The pair’s third movie initially finds them having gone their separate ways after their previous misadventures. Harold has even given up smoking weed, but that doesn’t last long, once the friends reunite on a quest to find the perfect Christmas tree to impress Harold’s father-in-law. The movie combines the pair’s typical silly, absurdist humor with a surprisingly sweet story about estranged longtime friends reconciling.

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Profile Photo for Josh Bell Josh Bell
Josh Bell is a freelance writer and movie/TV critic based in Las Vegas. He's the former film editor of Las Vegas Weekly and the former TV comedies guide for He has written about movies and pop culture for Syfy Wire, Polygon, CBR, Film Racket, Uproxx and more. With comedian Jason Harris, he co-hosts the podcast Awesome Movie Year.
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