The best Christmas movies for kids

Pause the holiday rush for these great christmas movies for kids! Enjoy A Christmas Story, Home Alone and more.
Photograph: Courtesy Stuffpoint/Rankin/Bass Productions/Universal Television
By Allie Early and Stephen Garrett |
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Make time to watch the best Christmas movies for kids! 'Tis the season for classics like Home Alone and Miracle on 34th St, among newer favorites like The Polar Express and Elf. Why not plan a family movie night, make some hot chocolate and cuddle in for a Christmas movie marathon?

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to Christmas for kids in New York

If you're looking for even more holiday cheer, peep our guides to the best family movies on Netflix and best kids' movies of all time, plus our favorite family comedy movies and animated Christmas movies!

The best Christmas movies for kids

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It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

The reigning king of Christmas movies, Frank Capra’s poignant fable stars Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey, a man with big ambitions (and a bigger heart) who defers his dream of leaving small-town Bedford Falls, but makes personal sacrifices that create a staggering ripple effect of inspirational goodwill on earth—a great message for young viewers watching at home. He even helps an angel get his wings. Rated PG

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A Christmas Story (1983)

A Christmas Story (1983)

“You’ll shoot your eye out, kid!” All nine-year-old Ralphie wants is an official Red Ryder BB gun—and the only things standing in his way are a pink bunny suit, a leg lamp and a tongue sticking to a flagpole. Humorist Jean Shepherd’s short stories are the basis of this sassy sentimental brew. And who knew that duck was actually Chinese turkey? Rated PG

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Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)

That small-hearted villain from Mt. Crumpit goes down to Whoville for some seasonal spoiling—only to discover that Christmas cheer can never be stolen. Spooky thespian Boris Karloff is the inspired narrator for this delightful TV special, a faithful rendition of the rhyming classic that will have everyone singing “Da hoo doray.” Not rated 

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Home Alone (1990)

Home Alone (1990)

When mischievous young Macaulay Culkin gets (accidentally) left alone as his parents and family fly off to Paris during the holidays, he wastes no time making the place his own. As it turns out, he also has to hold down the fort against bumbling burglars by setting impressive booby traps any kid would be envious of. Who will prevail? Rated PG

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Frozen (2013)

Ever since she was a girl, Elsa (Idina Menzel), princess of Arendelle, has had literally chilling powers. With a wave of her hand she can cover everything around her in ice and snow. However, when her frosty abilities nearly kill her sister, Anna (Kristen Bell), Elsa is confined to a room in her castle, not to emerge until she comes of age for her queenly coronation. On that day, unsurprisingly, things go very awry, and the two sisters—with help from a friendly snowman who dreams of spring—must work together to save the kingdom from eternal winter. Plasticine CG animation brings the icy world to life in this Walt Disney musical production, which sparked a nationwide frenzy to scoop up any and all themed merchandise. The almost instantaneous popularity speaks to the film’s success with the peanut gallery—not to mention countless parents who admittedly sang along to Menzel’s showstopping, self-actualizing ballad “Let It Go” more than a few times. Rated PG

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The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)

Second only to Muppet Treasure Island (sorry, we’re biased), Jim Henson’s The Muppet Christmas Carol retells the famous tale with characters like Kermit and Miss Piggy. The musical—set in the Victorian era—features Michael Caine as Scrooge among puppets. Did we mention that Gonzo plays Charles Dickens? Rated G

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A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)

Cartoonist Charles Schulz first brought his soulful Peanuts comic strip to life in this divine television special, a clever skewering of Christmas commercialization (Charlie Brown’s sister Sally even asks Santa for cold hard cash) and a heartfelt celebration of holiday holiness, all set to Vince Guaraldi’s iconic jazz piano. Plus: the most pathetic Christmas tree ever. Rated G

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Polar Express (2004)
Photograph: © Warner Brothers/ABC Family

The Polar Express (2004)

Chris Van Allsburg’s enchanting children’s book made its way to the big screen as an animated flick in 2004, drawing a new generation in for even more family fun. As the story goes, on Christmas Eve, a young boy finds a train parked outside his house—The Polar Express—which is headed to the North Pole! He finds out he’s been picked to receive the first gift of Christmas, and he asks for only one thing: a silver bell from Santa’s sleigh. But what happens when he tries to take the bell home with him? Rated G

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Miracle on 34th St (1947)
Photograph: Courtesy Twentieth Century Fox

Miracle on 34th St (1947)

Is that bearded fella really Santa Claus? Macy’s hires gentle Kris Kringle to be its department store St. Nick, but his stellar commitment to the job (as well as insistence on being the genuine article) has all the kids in awe. Unfortunately for Kris, many considered his wonderful behavior and magical affect quite unusual—so unusual that he actually ends up at Bellevue! Will he be freed and his reputation redeemed? You’ll just have to watch to find out. Rated G

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Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)

Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)

This charming Vincente Minnelli musical features the director’s future wife Judy Garland as the restless daughter of a Missouri family during the 1904 World’s Fair. Not festive enough? Wait for the dramatic yuletide climax—along with the knockout debut of the holiday perennial “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” Not rated

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Elf (2003)

Now-iconic quotes like "We elves try to stick to the four main food groups: candy, candy canes, candy corns and syrup” sprouted from this endearing, belly laugh-inducing Christmastime tale that—believe it or not—only came into our lives in 2003! Buddy (Will Ferrell) is raised as an innocent, wide-eyed Elf, and he’s told way too late that he’s actually human. When he’s officially outgrown the North Pole, he’s sent to New York to live with his own kind, but will he be able to relate to the outside world? Keep a lookout for scenes of Buddy enjoying Christmas in NYC! Rated PG.

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Frosty the Snowman (1969)

Ever wished your snowman would come alive? This 1950s classic—and its earworm hit song popularized by Gene Autry—tell the tale of a snowman doing just that! After children give him a magical silk hat discarded by a local magician, he becomes real and befriends a little girl that plots to keep him alive forever. The two head to the North Pole in hopes that he’ll never melt, but it seems they’re not the only ones interested in the hat’s magical properties. Rated G

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The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

Restless ghoul Jack Skellington tumbles into Christmas Town through a magical portal and becomes so enchanted with the holiday that he abducts Santa and decides to deliver presents himself—spooky gifts for every girl and boy, whether they want them or not. This shrewd seasonal mash-up of Halloween and Christmas is a spine-tingling hoot, with musical numbers galore. Rated PG

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A Christmas Carol (1951)

Humbug! Deliciously malevolent Alastair Sim plays Ebenezer, the grouchy miser who endures various visions of Christmases Past, Present and Future in the world’s last-ditch effort to save him from being a true scrooge forever. Will he give his faithful clerk Bob Cratchit the raise he deserves? Save Tiny Tim from a cruel fate? Treat his neighbors with any respect whatsoever? Learn to love Christmas? His marathon evening of soul-searching ends with a surprising decision, and while the film holds a rather dark plot, it’s ability to warm the hearts of all ages solidifies its role as one of the best holiday movies of all time. Not rated

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Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer (1964)

A young reindeer is picked on and banished from the reindeer games because of his bright red nose. He quickly befriends a prospector and an elf who wants to be a dentist, and together, the group happens upon a whole island of misfit toys. Rudolph makes it his mission to see if he can help them. On Christmas Eve when he returns to the North Pole, it seems like it may be too foggy to fly. Fortunately, Santa sees Rudolph’s nose as an excellent solution. Rated TV-G

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Arthur Christmas (2011)

This smart and very British 3D animation from the Aardman stable opens with one of life’s great questions: how does Santa visit so many homes so quickly? The answer, it seems, is a high-tech army of elves dispatched, SAS-style, from a silent spaceship disguised as a cluster of stars. But it never used to be like this, not before Santa’s eldest son, Steve (Hugh Laurie), modernized the operation. Nevertheless, one parcel slips through the net, so it’s left to Santa’s sensitive younger son, Arthur (James McAvoy), and the retired, grumpy Grandsanta (Bill Nighy) to deliver the package using reindeer and sleigh. All of which inspires a frenzied inter-continental dash and one too many padded-out mishaps. What makes this festive fantasy engaging is the savvy way in which it debunks cold efficiency in favor of more wholesome values. Rated PG (via Time Out London/Derek Adams). 

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The Santa Clause (1994)

The Santa Clause (1994)

Scott Calvin (Tim Allen) is upset to find that his ex wife and her new husband have told his young son that Santa isn’t real. On Christmas Eve while reading The Night Before Christmas, Scott calls out to someone climbing on his roof. He accidentally startles Santa Claus, who falls and vanishes, leaving an eight-reindeer sleigh and a suit. Rated PG

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White Christmas (1954)

White Christmas (1954)

Swap Connecticut for Vermont, turn the entertainment troupers into former military troopers and slather on Technicolor sheen: You’ll be forgiven for thinking this Bing Crosby musical is just a toe-tapping variation on Holiday Inn. But it’s still a swell time, and no one should begrudge another cinematic victory lap for the juggernaut title song. Not rated

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Holiday Inn (1942)

Families dreaming of a “White Christmas” are required to watch this delightful romp about star-crossed show people and a Connecticut resort. The comedy boasts a cavalcade of Irving Berlin songs that includes one of the biggest holiday standards of all time—and helped to make Bing Crosby the de facto voice of the yuletide season. Not rated

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Mickey's Magical Christmas: Snowed in at the House of Mouse (2001)

Disney characters like Mickey and Donald are snowed in at the House of Mouse at Christmastime, so Mickey saves the day and throws a Christmas party! When Donald still isn’t in the holiday spirit, Mickey finds a series of fun cartoons that demonstrate the meaning of Christmas, like “Mickey’s Christmas Carol,” “Donald on Ice” and “Pluto’s Christmas Tree.” Rated TV-G

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Olivia: Merry Christmas, Olivia (2010)

Your favorite Nickelodeon 6 ¾-year-old piggy Olivia is back in action in this series of live episodes. You’ll follow Olivia as she wishes to become a Santa that returns lost toys (her favorite toy monkey Matilda is missing). You’ll also see her trying to make the perfect family Christmas in the middle of summer (complete with a snow machine). Above all, Olivia just wants everyone to have a great Christmas, and you’ll follow her on heartwarming adventures that your kids can really relate to. Not rated 

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Gremlins (1984)

Gremlins (1984)

A small-town teen gets an adorable furry creature as a Christmas gift. But there’s a catch: don’t get him wet—and don’t feed him after midnight. Those with a wicked sense of yuletide cheer will love the subversive anarchy of this Steven Spielberg production, a gleefully black lump of coal that’s equal parts fantasy and horror. Rated PG

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Curious George: A Very Monkey Christmas (2009)

George and The Man with the Yellow Hat are so excited for Christmas to arrive; they’ve busied themselves with fun activities like picking out a Christmas Tree and making a Christmas list, but they’re having a little bit of trouble figuring out what to get for each other. The Man with the Yellow Hat can’t really understand what George has asked for, and George has trouble making his gift for The Man with the Yellow Hat. Will they figure things out by Christmas morning? Not rated 

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Jingle All the Way (1996)

Arnold Schwarzenegger faces his most harrowing enemy yet: the holiday shopping crowd. The Governator in his “family comedy” period is desperate to get the last remaining Turbo-Man action figure on Christmas Eve—even if it means fighting a Santa with candy-cane nunchucks. The contorted mix of action-hero hijinks and lowbrow jokes is just silly enough to make all the members of your family smile. Rated PG

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