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The best Disney Christmas movies to watch for a touch of magic this season

Mickey, Goofy, Jack Skellington and Santa himself are on hand for the holidays.

Written by
Andy Kryza
Written by
Danielle Valente

You’d think it would be easy to throw together a list of Disney’s greatest Christmas movies. After all, this is the company that built an empire on magic, mirth and childhood dreams. Surely its vaults must be positively bursting with yuletide cheer. But think about it: how many House of Mouse classics can you actually name? Sure, scroll through Disney+ and you’ll find heavy-hitters like Home Alone and Jingle All the Way, but those movies were acquired from other companies and stuffed under the extremely wide Disney umbrella.

As for actual Disney-branded Christmas gems, you’ve got to dig fairly far ‘neath the proverbial tree to come up with a solid 15. You’re in luck, though. ‘Tis the season for giving, so we’ve gone through the studio’s expansive catalog and excavated the movies most likely to make your heart swell with cheer. Some are familiar; others are truly hidden chestnuts. All of them are guaranteed to get you in the Christmas spirit.


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Disney Christmas movies

Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Photograph: Courtesy Disney Enterprises Inc.

1. Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

Tim Burton and Henry Selick’s stop-motion musical is more of a Halloween movie than a Christmas movie – you see its iconography everywhere in the month of October, and its core audience is Disney goths who keep their homes decorated in fake cobwebs and plastic skeletons all year long. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t work as a shot of yuletide cheer. In fact, in telling the story of a weary skeleton who hatches an ill-fated plan to bring the joy of snow and Santa back to his home of Halloweentown, it says more about the magic of the season than just about anything else the House of Mouse has produced. Rated PG.

Disney's A Christmas Carol (2009)
Photograph: Courtesy ImageMovers Digital LLC

2. Disney's A Christmas Carol (2009)

Although the stop-motion animation now looks rather antiquated, Charles Dickens’s classic tale of a rich curmudgeon being taught the true meaning of Christmas by divine force is timeless. Robert Zemeckis’s interpretation gets a significant boost from Jim Carrey, who not only voices cantankerous old Scrooge but all three ghosts who visit him in the night to show him why the holiday matters. Speaking of those ghosts – they look pretty dang scary for what’s ostensibly a kids film. So parents of very young children, be forewarned. Rated PG. 

The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
Photograph: Disney

3. The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)

Perhaps the Muppets’s most underrated outing recasts the Dickensian affair with the world’s most treasured felt ensemble – Kermit is Bob Cratchett, Statler and Waldorf as the ghost(s) of Jacob Marley, Fozzie as Fezziwig – but is wise enough to put Michael Caine in the Scrooge role. And truly, there are few annual gifts more satisfying than watching the famed British thespian scream at puppets for 80 minutes. Rated G. 

The Santa Clause (1994)
Photograph: Disney

4. The Santa Clause (1994)

It’s the jolliest film franchise ever launched by the accidental death of Santa Claus! After inadvertently causing the big man to tumble off his roof on Christmas Eve, a divorced dad (Tim Allen) is forced by mystical decree to succeed him – red suit, unshaveable beard, permanently expanded waistline and all. It’s a bit of an odd premise for a family comedy, yet it spawned multiple sequels and a Disney+ series, all of which stretched the concept much farther than it was meant to go. The original, though, exudes genuine warmth, and produces a few solid laughs along the way. Rated PG. 

Prep & Landing (2009)
Image: Disney

5. Prep & Landing (2009)

This delightful holiday special – which spawned its own micro-series of adventures – reimagines Santa’s elves as a magical covert squad akin to the IMF, giving us the action-packed Christmas-themed Mission: Impossible parody we never knew we needed. As a bonus, Betty White is on hand to voice Mrs Claus, while Oscar-winning Pixar composer Michael Giacchino is pulling the strings with the orchestra. Rated G.

  • Film
  • Animation

If you ask us, any movie that takes place on or around Christmas qualifies as a ‘Christmas movie,’ and this foundational Disney classic is bookended by scenes of adorable puppies scampering around a twinkling tree the morning of December 25. So, it counts. Plus, its message is all about togetherness and family, so it fits the themes of the season, too. Got a problem with its inclusion here? Take it up with Jesus. Rated G

Olaf's Frozen Adventure (2017)
Image: Disney

7. Olaf's Frozen Adventure (2017)

Did you really think we’d be able to pull off a Christmas list without the mention of Frozen? This spinoff short – preceded by the also-delightful Frozen Fever – finds Olaf and reindeer Sven traveling throughout Arendelle to learn about holiday traditions in an effort to help Elsa and Anna – whose years of isolation left them without traditions of their own – celebrate the season. The entire principal cast returns for this short and sweet adventure, which also includes four brand new songs that did nothing to stop children from singing ‘Let it Go.’ Rated G. 

Mickey's Christmas Carol (1983)
Image: Disney

8. Mickey's Christmas Carol (1983)

Sick of Dickens? There’s always room for one more trip to the past, present and future, and this delightfully short classic is a must-watch for the season. Surprisingly, it took Disney nearly 40 years to cast its penny-pinching bajillionaire Scrooge McDuck in the Ebeneezer role, but once they did, it became an instant classic, with familiar faces from the Disney universe filling out the rest of the cast with aplomb. Follow it up with the 1999 anthology Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas, a trio of feel-good stories that pairs perfectly with the Dickensian classic. Rated G. 

Noelle (2019)
Photograph: Disney

9. Noelle (2019)

Quickly forgotten after Disney+’s launch, this slight but lovely comedy stars Anna Kendrick as the daughter of St Nick, who seeks to make an impact on the season while toiling in the shadow of her brother/heir apparent Nick (Bill Hader). It’s an all-star affair – Billy Eichner, Shirley MaClaine and Julie Hagerty further populate the North Pole – and the kind of old-school Christmas comedy they simply don’t make anymore. Rated PG.

I’ll Be Home for Christmas (1998)
Photograph: Disney

10. I’ll Be Home for Christmas (1998)

What Disney roundup would be complete without a little appearance from then-teen heartthrob Jonathan Taylor Thomas? In this film, ’90s kids will swoon as JTT plays a college student named Jake who is lured home for Christmas with the promise of an awfully nice sports car. How’s that for a present? Will he be able to snag the keys when troublemakers on the football team desert him in a Santa suit sans wallet? His promised Porsche isn’t the only thing he'll have to worry about – looks like his main squeeze is cozying up to his rival as this holiday debacle unfolds. Rated PG. 

’Twas the Night (2001)
Photograph: Disney

11. ’Twas the Night (2001)

There's nothing quite like a kid who's about ready to drive. But what happens when one young fella and his uncle decide to go for a test drive with Santa's sleigh instead of a car? Shenanigans, that’s what. And yes, that's future Walter White Bryan Cranston pulling the reins. Don’t worry, this is long before he landed on the (very) 'Naughty’ list. Not rated. 

Winnie the Pooh: A Very Merry Pooh Year (2002) 
Image: Disney

12. Winnie the Pooh: A Very Merry Pooh Year (2002) 

The Hundred Acre Wood becomes a winter wonderland in this delightfully straightforward Christmas treat, which packs more joy into Pooh’s quest to set up his Christmas tree than the live-action Christopher Robin could muster across its entire drab runtime. The gang’s all here, and there are few characters better suited for the holidays than Piglet, Tigger and Owl. Except maybe Eeyore… somebody get that donkey some nog, stat. Rated G. 

Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas (1997)
Image: Disney

13. Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas (1997)

In this gem from Disney’s golden age (of cheaply made direct-to-VHS sequels), Mrs Potts regales Chip with a tale as old as time: This one about a holiday kerfuffle that almost tore Belle and her beau/captor apart for good. Obviously, it all worked out, and unlike many Disney sequels, this one’s a joy thanks in large part to returning cast members Angela Lansbury, Jerry Orbach and Paige O’Hara, plus new additions Tim Curry, Haley Joel Osment and Paul Reubens. Rated G. 

One Magic Christmas (1985)
Photograph: Disney

14. One Magic Christmas (1985)

Ginny (Mary Steenburgen) thinks she and her husband have it rough finanically. As a result, they're not too keen on festive Christmas celebrations. However, when their daughter goes to mail her wishlist to the man in the red suit, she meets an angel who’s willing to help rekindle that Christmas cheer. The beats here are familiar in this ‘true meaning of Christmas’ yarn. But this is the only version that features the great Harry Dean Stanton as an angel. Rated G. 

The Christmas Star (1986)
Photograph: Disney

15. The Christmas Star (1986)

One con man (the great Ed Asner) has a great idea: To channel his inner Saint Nick and dress up like the man in the red suit himself. That way, he'll be able to bust out of the slammer and reclaim the goods he belives to be his. But what's going to happen when two little ones mistake him for the real Santa Claus? Why, he discovers the true meaning of Christmas, of course. Rated G. 


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