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Best Christmas Movies to Stream with Your Family

From "It's a Wonderful" life to "Elf" and many in between, there are plenty of Christmas movies you can stream with your family this December.

"It's a Wonderful Life"

“It’s a Wonderful Life”

Paramount Home Entertainment

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While it’s much harder to gather with family in 2020, that doesn’t mean we can’t uphold some well-worn holiday traditions, like settling in on the couch with some hot cocoa to watch Christmas movies. Even if you’re not physically in the room with them, technology like watch parties using integrated apps or Zooms or other virtual meetups means you can still have a collective, shared experience — just over the internet.

And if you are lucky enough to be in the same place as your family, you can spend time with your loved ones and cherish the fact that you’re able to be close to them IRL when so many people cannot be with theirs. (Not to get too sappy, but 2020 has definitely allowed plenty of people to be introspective and thankful even if that wasn’t necessarily in their nature before. When everything is terrible, it’s okay to focus on the good things!)

If you don’t own a physical copy of your favorite Christmas flick, chances are it’s available to stream online somewhere, whether as a part of one of your existing streaming subscriptions or as a rental on Amazon. We’ve rounded a list of some of our favorites below, including well-worn classics and a couple of newer selections.

If your favorites aren’t on this list, chances are they’re available on a multitude of other streaming services — or you can rent them via Amazon Prime, Redbox, or any number of other ways.

“It’s a Wonderful Life” (1946)

Available On: Amazon Prime

What better place to start than with this 1946 Frank Capra Christmas classic, which IndieWire deemed the No. 1 Christmas movie of all time. (Sorry if that’s a spoiler for you, but come on — what else could it be?) Yeah, the plot’s kind of a bummer — suicidal family man George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) is so overwhelmed by his problems that it takes the intervention of a guardian angel showing him what life would look like in his hometown of Bedford Falls without him to make him realize just how important he is in so many people’s lives, and how much he needs to stick around.

As Anne Thompson wrote in our list, the film has remained relevant in pop culture for so many years because it truly holds up. “It’s more noir fantasy than Capracorn, more disturbing than wholesome, and less mawkish sentimental treacle than deeply moving,” wrote Thompson. “While many people truly love this movie, it wasn’t a hit on release and sent Capra into a tailspin. The Italian emigre’s ability to tug moviegoer heartstrings has lead him to be sadly underrated among cinema cognoscenti.”

“Miracle on 34th Street” (1947)

Available On: Disney+

Another Christmas classic from the ’40s, the original version of this film follows a man who fills in for the man playing Santa at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade — but who is suspected of being mentally ill when he insists to customers at the department store’s Midtown Manhattan location that he is the real Santa Claus (going by the name of Kris Kringle doesn’t help). But when a court case puts his identity up for debate, it’s up to nine-year-old believer Susan (Natalie Wood) to convince her skeptical single mother (Maureen O’Hara) that Kris is the real deal.

Wrote Jenna Marotta in IndieWire’s best Christmas movie list, “Skeptics traditionally make for bad Christmas party guests, but this wintertime standard explores distrust in several facets, questioning our justice system, consumer culture and treatment of the mentally ill right alongside Santa Claus’s identity. The film is also notable because seven decades ago, it was rare to see a single mom with a high-powered job onscreen — Maureen O’Hara plays the Macy’s event director who hires (then nearly fires) her department store St. Nick (Best Actor Edmund Gwenn), who might be the real thing.”

“Babes in Toyland” (1961)

Available On: Disney+

Reportedly Annette Funicello’s favorite of all her films, the 1961 musical was based on Victor Herbert’s 1903 operetta of the same name and starred the actress as nursery rhyme heroine Mary Contrary, who’s about to marry her sweetheart Tom Piper (Tommy Sands). But their walk to the altar might be canceled thanks to the villainous Barnaby, who wants to ruin the wedding and force Mary to marry him instead. But the villainous Barnaby (Ray Bolger) hires goons to mess everything up and force Mary to marry him instead.

Note: This is not to be confused with the 1934 Laurel and Hardy version, or the 1986 made-for-TV version starring Drew Barrymore, Pat Morita, and Keanu Reeves.

HOME ALONE, Macaulay Culkin, 1990. TM & Copyright (c) 20th Century Fox Film Corp. All rights reserved, Courtesy: Everett Collection.

“Home Alone” (1990)

Available On: Disney+

Want to feel old? Macaulay Culkin turned 40 in 2020 — but the Gen Xers and Millennials who grew up with this Christmas classic have already come to terms with the fact that they’re not that young anymore. But the fact remains that this film, starring Culkin as an eight-year-old kid who is accidentally left behind when his entire extended family goes on a vacation to Paris — and then must fight off the burglars who scouted his home to rob while the family was away — has been a holiday classic since its debut 30 years ago.

Wrote Dry in the Best Christmas movies list, “Buoyed by the superior comedic talents of Catherine O’Hara as Kevin’s frenzied mother, and Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern as the half-baked burglars outwitted by the eight-year-old, ‘Home Alone’ is a Christmas classic for the whole family.”

The film’s other theatrically released sequels are available on the streaming service as well, so you can turn your movie night into a movie marathon if you want to watch more of Kevin McCallister’s hijinks.

"The Muppets Christmas Carol"

“The Muppet Christmas Carol” (1992)

Available On: Disney+

We’ll leave it to IndieWire’s Jude Dry to lay out exactly why this ’90s movie has become a Christmas classic alongside so many other revered films: “The great Michael Caine plays Scrooge with all of the gravitas of a Shakespearean actor in this joyous remake of the Charles Dickens classic, except his scene partners are all puppets. Caine understood the comedic possibilities of juxtaposing his dour Scrooge with a gaggle of squawking Muppets, and he was right. Brilliantly casting Gonzo and Rizzo the Rat as odd couple narrators, director Brian Henson delivered a smart and accessible joy ride of a film that introduced a generation of kids to the Christmas classic.”

“The Nightmare Before Christmas” (1993)

Available On: Disney+

In a way, Tim Burton’s spooky holiday classic is the perfect Christmas movie for 2020, in that it follows long-legged Jack Skellington as he tries to get the residents of Halloween Town excited about Christmas — and time has moved so strangely this year that plenty of people decorated for Christmas before whatever modified form of trick or treating took place on Halloween. The stop-motion animated feature has a score by Danny Elfman (who also provided Jack’s singing voice), and also lands on IndieWire’s list of the 20 best holiday movies.

Wrote Marotta, “Although Jack and his co-stars resemble a cabinet full of well-worn, slightly-sinister toys, the stop-motion musical was a tremendous undertaking, requiring 230 model sets and shots of 110,000 unique frames. ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’ was the first film to receive a Best Visual Effects Oscar nomination, and remains one of the most cherished titles in Burton’s canon.”

“The Santa Clause” (1994)

Available On: Disney+

Like many movies on this list, the basic premise of “The Santa Clause” is kind of disturbing. Tim Allen accidentally kills Santa and then has to assume his identity? Weird! And terrifying when re-cut as a horror movie. But it’s true — Allen plays a divorced dad who is magically transported to the North Pole with his son following a Christmas Eve mishap, where he’s told that he will have to take Santa’s place before next Christmas. Scott tries to write it off as a crazy dream, but when he starts to put on weight and grow a white beard he realizes that the experience probably wasn’t a dream after all.

Like “Home Alone,” the other “Santa Clause” sequels are available on Disney+ for marathoning purposes (or for another movie night).

Will Ferrell, "Elf"

“Elf” (2003)

Available On: Starz

Chances are you can quote several lines from “Elf” even if you haven’t actually seen the movie, and that’s because the comedy came out at the height of Will Ferrell’s popularity and very quickly made its way to the pop culture lexicon. Ferrell stars as Buddy, a human raised as an elf at the North Pole who sets out on a journey to find his birth father (and coincidentally spread Christmas cheer to a bunch of cynical New Yorkers in the process. Wrote William Earl in IndieWire’s list of the 20 best Christmas movies of all time, “The adorably clueless Buddy the Elf experiences New York City through the eyes of a 6’3″ child; hilarious set pieces like revolving doors, maple syrup, and telephones are a prime showcase for the comedian’s infectious charm.”

“Happiest Season”

Available On: Hulu

“Happiest Season” might not have debuted to universal critical acclaim — IndieWire’s Jude Dry wrote that it has “a lackluster script that offers little in the way of surprise or delight.” But the rom-com, about a woman (Kristen Stewart) who plans to propose when she goes home with her girlfriend (Mackenzie Davis) for Christmas only to discover that her girlfriend isn’t out to her family yet, has an appealing cast (Dan Levy and Aubrey Plaza in particular) and is filled with the same familiar tropes that make all those made-for-TV Christmas movies so eminently watchable. If you’re burned out on existing holiday cheer, you could certainly do much worse.

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