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66 Best Christmas Movies for Kids Who've Been Very Good This Year
New and old, for toddlers to teens, there's a family-friendly holiday film for everyone on your list.
When there's tinsel everywhere, the smell of gingerbread in the air and the wisps of leftover wrapping paper hanging around, you know it's that time of year: Time to start planning the annual holiday movie marathon. And while there's nothing wrong with staying in your comfy holiday jams and just watching whatever Christmas rom-com is playing on the Hallmark schedule, if there are kids involved, they're probably not going to be on board.
Luckily, kids' holiday movies are some of the best Christmas movies of all time. When you're looking to gather the family around with freshly popped popcorn strings and mulled wine (just kidding — we all know it's really juice boxes and whatever Clif bar you have on-hand), these are the best Christmas movies for kids to watch with the whole family in 2022. Some focus on the joys of the holiday, playing up the themes of family togetherness and generosity. Others are Christmas comedies that go more for the big laughs. We shied away from Christmas horror, though there are plenty of movies on here that have ghosts, if that's what you're in the mood for. (So. Many. A Christmas Carols!) Whether you're looking for a family-friendly holiday movie on Netflix, on Disney+, on HBO Max, on Amazon Prime Video or any other service, this list of the best Christmas movies for kids — listed in chronological order of release, with the most recent first — is sure to have something that'll please everyone in your family.
Wait, you thought Spirited would be the only musical Dickens adaptation of 2022? Think again! What does this one have to offer? A killer soundtrack, to start. Theater legend, composer and Oscar winner Leslie Bricusse — known for, among other things writing Bond themes like "Goldfinger" and "You Only Live Twice" — has re-imagined songs for this adaptation.
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No one knows how, but somehow the Guardians of the Galaxy have become the Marvel heroes most associated with Christmas. First, they get their own LEGO advent calendar. Then, they have a holiday special coming to Disney+! But will Groot get to wear holiday lights?
It's The Nutcracker like you've never seen it before! Run D.M.C.’s Rev Run presents a version of the story that takes place starting at a block party in New York City. The cast is stacked with amazing dancers, including Caché Melvin as Maria-Clara, Allison Holker Boss and Stephen “tWitch’ Boss as Mom and Pop, Comfort Fedoke as Drosselmeyer, Du-Shant “Fik-shun” Stegall as the Nutcracker and even the Jabbawockeez as magical snowflakes.
Actor Peter Billingsley reprises his role as an all-grown-up Ralphie in a sequel to A Christmas Story. There is currently no word whether the leg lamp will return, too, though. Vince Vaughn, Julie Hagerty and Zack Ward also star.
There have been film adaptations of Dickens' A Christmas Carol going back as far as 1908, and there's something to recommend in pretty much all of them. This one stars Ryan Reynolds as a hard-hearted "unredeemable" and Will Ferrell as the Ghost of Christmas Present. It promises big laughs, and bigger musical numbers with songs by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, who did the songs for Dear Evan Hansen and The Greatest Showman. (Note: It's rated PG-13, and has lots of bad language and a couple references to sex, so save it for the older ones.)
Fans of the delightful Shaun the Sheep and Shaun the Sheep: Farmageddon already love this set of plucky barnyard animals who often get into mischief, but work together to get themselves out again. (And if you're not already a fan, you're lucky you get to experience them for the first time.) For their holiday adventure, they have to save the smallest sheep from accidentally becoming a Christmas present. It's only 30 minutes, so it's good for the littlest ones on your list.
Like Shaun the Sheep, Robin Robin is made by Aardman Animations, the creators of Wallace and Gromit. Only instead of clay, Robin Robin has more of a flocked, felted, cozy feel. The 30-minute story follows a bird who was raised by mice and believes she's more of a mouse than she is, which gets her in trouble on a winter day. It was nominated for an Oscar for Best Animated Short.
Based on the best-selling novel by Matt Haig, this starts off before Santa Claus even exists. It tells the story of Nikolas. a boy who loves toys, who goes on a search for a legendary place called Elfheim. He heads North, befriends a reindeer and — can you see where this is going?
There may be some among us who (ahem) remember the acute feeling of yearning for an 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System for Christmas. In this movie, Jake (Neil Patrick Harris) tells the story of the Christmas he had when he was 11, when all he wanted was an NES of his own. This movie is for anyone who remembers where all the warps are hidden in Super Mario Bros., and all the kids of anyone who has to listen to stories about where the warps were hidden.
The '90s kids who remember Home Alone should clap their cheeks and yell, "Ahhh!" at excitement for this reboot. Only instead of the McCallister clan, this time the action switches to the Mercer household. There, a young Max Mercer (Archie Yates from Jojo Rabbit) has to defend his home against a couple looking to retrieve a priceless artifact while his family is in Japan.
To be related to Santa — that's big shoes to fill! This movie, which was originally Dutch, follows a holiday-hating teenager named Jules who discovers his grandfather is the real Santa Claus. Not only that, Santa needs his help! If your kids take to it, there's also a sequel, The Claus Family 2.
Star Wars tried to do a holiday special — pardon, a 'Life Day' special — back in 1978, and it was a notorious flop. What they needed was a big dose of zany LEGO humor. In this hourlong special, Finn, Poe and Rey try to gather for a Life Day party (and some delicious tip-yip), but Rey keeps getting distracted trying to find a Jedi temple. The search takes her all over the Star Wars timeline, and teaches her a lesson about home and family (but in a funny way).
Not only is this an original story — hooray for something other than another Scrooge adaptation — it has original music, too, with songs by courtesy of John Legend, Philip Lawrence and Davy Nathan. One is even performed by Usher! In the film, when a toymaker (played by Forest Whitaker) has his prized creation is stolen by a former apprentice (Keegan Michael-Key), his inventive granddaughter (Madalen Mills) goes on an adventure to get it back.
For anyone who's ever wanted a peek behind the scenes at a big, holiday dance performance, Dance Dreams is the documentary to watch. It simultaneously covers the career of acclaimed choreographer Debbie Allen while following preparations for her yearly Hot Chocolate Nutcracker, so you get a lot of great dance moments.
So many movies focus on passing on the Santa mantle from father to son, but what about the daughters? In this movie, Santa's son (Bill Hader) disappears right as he's supposed to take over the big job, so his daughter, Noelle (Anna Kendrick) has to step in and save Christmas.
When this came out in 2019, it made such a splash it was nominated for an Oscar for Best Animated Feature. (It lost to Toy Story 4, but won the BAFTA.) And when you watch it, you can see why: It's a gorgeous animated feature about a postal worker who befriends a lonely toymaker. (Hmm ... wonder what happens next.)
The Nutcracker is so imaginative, but you don't really get to spend so much time in the Land of Sweets. The Nutcracker and the Four Realms takes you further into that world when Clara takes another wonder-filled journey. She starts to suspect that Mother Ginger is a danger to the Realms, but is there really something else going on?
This Netflix original movie follows two kids who accidentally crash Santa's sleigh, and then have to go on an adventure-filled mission to save Christmas. A sequel, The Christmas Chronicles 2, continues the story.
For those who want to see more of the Grinch, this movie — from the studio that brought us the Minions — offers a feature-length glimpse of his life. Benedict Cumberbatch provides the voice of the Mean One.
This movie is based on another story by Angela's Ashes author Frank McCourt, titled Angela and the Baby Jesus — so named because, in it, Angela decides that the Baby Jesus in the manger must be cold, and takes it upon herself to remedy the situation. There's a sequel, 2020's Angela's Christmas 2.
When Anna and Elsa realize that they have no family holiday traditions, Olaf goes on a mission to find them some. As he visits the townspeople and asks them about their family customs, kids will be reminded of their own cherished rituals. It's only a half hour long, so it's good if you just need something quick to throw on for fast holiday cheer.
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Fans of the sweet but under-the-radar Home movie and Home series on Netflix will love this 45-minute special, where well-meaning alien Oh decides to bring Christmas to his fellow Boovs (with disastrous results).
Mariah Carey does the voice of this movie's main character, a little girl who wants a puppy for Christmas, but it's really worth watching to get your kids as into the song as you are.
This isn't explicitly about Christmas: Feeling guilty that she took away the Bergens' only holiday, Poppy undertakes a mission to find a new yearly tradition for her friends. It's about fun and celebration without any of the typical Christmas-movie tropes.
In this 22-minute special, Donald decides to stick around to experience a wintry Christmas rather than fly south for the winter. But Ducks don't deal well in the cold, and the whole thing results in a silly, over-the-top comedy about trying to give Donald the Christmas he deserves. This is done in the style of The Wonderful World of Mickey Mouse, with the same, more mischievous humor.
Fans of The Snowy Day picture book — and who isn't? — get to see it a short, small-screen version courtesy of Amazon. Join Peter as he crunches through the snow on a walk to bring Christmas Eve dinner to his grandmother's house.
This film follows the boisterous Buckley family of four brothers. They have a tradition of secretly delivering presents to a different family each year, and 11-year-old Matthew is dismayed to find out his mom picked the family of the worst bullies. While you can probably guess what happens from there, it's a nice reminder that everyone deserves a little empathy at this time of year.
This international film, originally done in French, is about Santa's need to find someone to take over after he retires (which, by the way, he doesn't want to do). After this movie was released in its native France, it won the Annecy International Animation Festival's prestigious UNICEF award, which honors animators who focus on children's rights. If your kids find it charming, there's a sequel: The Magic Snowflake.
This is like a Bad Santa for the PG-set, with lots of rude humor, so you might want to save it for your older ones. The British film is about a dad who is just released from prison, and he's determined to walk the straight and narrow with his son — until Santa lands in jail and needs their help.
Director Kasi Lemmons (Eve's Bayou) directs this adaptation of the Langston Hughes classic. It's about a boy whose mom, in danger of losing their home, sends her son to go stay with his grandparents. where he learns about community and family. Hughes' words are set to gospel music for a song-filled film.
This version of the North Pole uses a highly trained team of elves to take care of Christmas business, but when one gift is left behind it's up to Santa's hapless son, Arthur, to make sure no kid goes without a present. Arthur's underdog status makes his journey feel extra triumphant.
Similar to Arthur Christmas, this short adventure goes behind-the-scenes with an elite squadron of elves as they prepare for Santa's arrival and maintain the security of the North Pole. Created by Disney, it has a lot of the same snap and wit as the Disney shorts that are shown theatrically before movies. Two sequels, Prep & Landing: Operation Secret Santa and Prep & Landing: Naughty vs. Nice, are also on Disney+.
If you like the look of motion-capture animation, in this film Robert Zemeckis — who directed the Back to the Future movies— uses the innovative technology on Jim Carrey, who takes on multiple roles in the Dickens classic.
Who doesn't love a good, gentle Curious George adventure? In this one, George gets into some trouble, as he always does, trying to figure out what to get the Man in the Yellow Hat for Christmas. This is a good one for the toddlers and other real littles out there.
A spin-off of the Air Bud movies, this film follows a group of pups who are tasking with helping revive the Christmas spirit. You can follow it up with the prequels, The Search for Santa Paws and Santa Paws 2: The Santa Pups.
The Muppets star in a 45-minute TV special for viewers with shorter attention spans. (Doesn't Kermit look great in a Christmas sweater?) The special follows the Muppet friends as they try to re-deliver lost letters to Santa.
Before A Christmas Carol, Zemeckis's The Polar Express used innovative motion-capture animation to really make it feel like Tom Hanks has been transported into the beloved Chris Van Allsburg book. The North Pole has never looked so beautiful, either.
Don't be surprised if you catch yourself watching this one even if your kids aren't around — it's so funny, it's easy to forget that it's only rated PG.
If your kids are Muppet fans and want to see something in addition to their version of A Christmas Carol (more on that in a bit), It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie does a Muppety take on It's a Wonderful Life instead.
This is an anthology of three Christmas stories starring kids' favorite Disney characters. If your kids love it, there's also a sequel, Mickey's Twice Upon a Christmas, that follows the same anthology format.
This one-time, direct-to-home video movie stars a calf who wants to be one of Santa's reindeer. Everyone tells her that her dream won't come true, but will Santa actually need her help to drive his sleigh? This one is narrated by Randy Travis and also features country music.
Arnold Schwarzenegger has defeated Predators. He's beaten Terminators. But Jingle All the Way knows that he's still no match for the mob who wants to buy the hottest toy of the year on Christmas Eve. Use this as a reminder to get your shopping done early.
Everybody knows Santa is a magical, all-powerful being, but nobody really thinks about what it actually takes to do his job. This movie, about a divorced dad who unexpectedly has to become the next Santa, is great for those with questions about the inner workings of the North Pole. Watch it and the sequels, The Mrs. Clause and The Escape Clause, and the new TV series, The Santa Clauses.
For those who need a little dose of Halloween to cut through the Christmas treacle, this stop-motion movie from the mind of Tim Burton shows what happens when vampires, skeletons and witches take over the Christmas season. Songs by Danny Elfman, especially "What's This?" are good enough to earn a spot on your yearly holiday playlist.
Michael Caine stars as Scrooge in this Muppet adaptation of A Christmas Carol. Unlike other Muppet holiday specials, The Muppet Christmas Carol is feature-length, so it's better for kids who have longer attention spans. For hardcore Muppet fans, starting in December, Disney+ will be offering a "restored" version of the film, featuring "When Love Is Gone," a song that was cut from the theatrical version.
Okay, the best parts of this movie are about how 8-year-old Kevin sets a series of booby traps to stop a pair of robbers from a home invasion, which isn't exactly in the Christmas spirit. But the experience does teach him to appreciate being with his family during the holidays, which is something we all need to be reminded of once in a while. And if you already watched the reboot and this film and still want more child antics, there's always the sequels: Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, Home Alone 3, Home Alone 4: Taking Back the House and Home Alone 5: The Holiday Heist.
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Rudolph usually gets all the glory, so it's nice to see one of the other reindeer get the spotlight for a change. And since the movie is about an 8-year-old girl nursing a wounded Prancer back to health and returning the animal to Santa, it has a good message about being giving and caring during the holidays.
Fans of the Tchaikovsky classic can watch the Pacific Northwest Ballet's production, which features designs and costumes by Where the Wild Things Are's Maurice Sendak.
It just isn't the Christmas season until you watch a Rankin/Bass stop-motion holiday special — and, luckily, there's quite a few of them. This one is based on a biography of Santa written by The Wizard of Oz author L. Frank Baum.
Who wouldn't want a Mogwai under their tree? Gremlins is like Die Hard for children — an action/adventure that takes place around the holiday season, so you can use that as an excuse to re-watch it every year even though it's only tangentially related to Christmas.
A Christmas Story is simultaneously very nostalgic and completely unromantic about the holidays. It looks like a Norman Rockwell version of Christmas, but Ralphie and his family find as many ways to ruin the holidays as celebrate them — something we can all relate to.
For kids, the best Ebenezer Scrooge is the Scrooge they already know — Scrooge McDuck — who does a fine job inhabiting the role of the famous miser in this kid-friendly abridged version of Dickens' tale. It gives you all of the essential Christmas Carol elements in just half an hour.
Frosty isn't the only snowman that's ever come to life. This gentle adventure tale is based on the beloved Christmas book by Raymond Briggs, and its near-wordlessness and short running time means its appropriate for your youngest little elves.
This hourlong special combines some of the best things you can put into a holiday movie: Jim Henson puppets (including a Kermit narrator), a Gift of the Magi-like story and, of course, singing woodland creatures. The songs were written by Paul Williams, who has contributed some of the best Muppet songs (including "Rainbow Connection").
Another Rankin/Bass classic, this one is famous for its two villains: Heat Miser and Snow Miser. They're the ones stopping two elves named Jingle and Jangle from delivering toys after Santa decides to take a year off.
Fred Astaire narrates this hourlong Rankin/Bass story, which looks into the origins of many Christmas traditions. Watch out for the Winter Warlock!
It's impossible to watch this one without getting the song stuck in your head, so be prepared to thumpity-thump-thump your way through the rest of the day.
Go behind the story of the timeless Christmas carol with this half-hour special, about a boy who meets the Wise Men on the way to Bethlehem.
By now, there are lots of different movies about our favorite three-decker toadstool and sauerkraut sandwich (we didn't even mention the one that stars Jim Carrey), but our hearts grow three sizes whenever we see the gorgeous Chuck Jones animation in this '60s special.
Christmas isn't always jolly for everyone 100% of the time, and we've all had Christmases that just didn't go our way. It's nice that A Charlie Brown Christmas gives kids permission to feel a little melancholy — and then gives them the spirit to keep going.
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Another Rankin/Bass classic, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is a good one to start with because as Rudolph teams up with a group of misfit toys, it teaches kids to be accepting of their differences.
Just like in the the 1934 version, storybook characters like Mother Goose, Tom Piper and Little Boy Blue get mixed up in nursery-rhyme antics that end in a march of toy soldiers that puts any Nutcracker display to shame.
Not only is this one of the best Christmas movies in existence, the song "White Christmas" is still the best-selling single of all time. After you watch it, you'll be in the mood to do some caroling yourself.
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As kids get older, it gets easier for them to start doubting Santa's magic. When the questions start to creep in, put them to rest with this classic, which urges even the toughest skeptics to believe.
Kids might not grasp all the nuances of George Bailey's embezzlement predicament, but they do understand the themes of being grateful for what's important to you in life. It'll also have them thinking of angels whenever they hear jingle bells.
In many parts of the country, it's a tradition to watch this movie on Thanksgiving, so it's not only one of the best Christmas movies, it's one of the first Christmas movies of the season. Comedy duo Laurel and Hardy are a riot as bumbling toymaker apprentices.