Best animated Christmas movies for families
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Polar Express (2004)
Chris Van Allsburg’s quietly charming picture book about a train headed for Santa’s workshop becomes an overstuffed animated extravaganza thanks to this Hollywood cacophony of Christmas cheer. The pioneering movie (a major showcase for motion-capture technology) admittedly has dead-eyed characters with creepy skin textures, but the overall experience has wondrous moments of computer-generated spectacle. Rated G.
Frosty the Snowman (1969)
The 1950 novelty song popularized by Gene Autry becomes an animated TV special that faithfully details every stanza, from the corn-cob pipe and button nose to the old silk hat that makes the title character dance around—as well as that pesky sunlight that always threatens to turn him into a puddle. Rated G.
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).
Mickey’s Christmas Carol (1983)
Mean old Scrooge has a lot to learn about the spirit of Christmas, and the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future, played by Mickey’s pals, have a lot to teach him, as they journey together on a heartwarming adventure of the true meaning of the holiday. Rated G.
Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer (2000)
Young Jake witnesses his spunky grandma get run over by Santa’s reindeer, but his teenage sister and parents don’t believe him since they don’t believe in Santa. Going on a quest that exposes his evil cousin’s cruel intentions, and even brings him all the way to the North Pole, Jake is determined to find his missing grandma and show everyone that Santa Claus was indeed at his house that fateful night. Rated TV–G.
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.