Photograph: Courtesy Warner Bros.

Watch the best animated Christmas movies for kids and families

Snuggle up while you stream the best animated Christmas movies. Don't forget the cocoa and popcorn!

By Oliver Strand, Danielle Valente, Allie Early and Yvette Berland

The most wonderful time of the year is upon us, and this is the season to kick back and get cozy with the best animated Christmas movies for kids and families.

Our list covers everything from classic cartoons to the newest computer-generated favorites. Whether you're a sucker for those Peanuts tunes (Vince Guaraldi's score is the soundtrack of Christmas) or you go for the dry humor of Arthur Christmas, there's something on this list for everyone in your brood. After all, a movie night is one of the best winter activities for kids and families. 

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to Christmas for kids in NYC

When you're done with your movie marathon, make sure to check out the best hot chocolate in NYC, then lace up for a loop around NYC's greatest kids' ice skating rinks. It's beginning to look a lot like you-know-what!

Best animated Christmas movies

1. 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. It's a heartfelt celebration of holiday holiness set to Vince Guaraldi’s iconic jazz score (which you should pay on repeat for the entire season). Plus: the most pathetic Christmas tree ever. Rated TV-G.

2. 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. The barritoned 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.

Klaus Courtesy Netflix
Courtesy Netflix

3. Klaus (2019)

Movies Animation

This oddball origin story of Santa Klaus is the first animated feature from Netflix, and features Klaus (Oscar-winner J. K. Simmons), a large, bearded man with a knack for toymaking but who doesn't have much interest in children, Jesper (Jason Schwartzman), the worst postal carrier ever and Alva (Rashida Jones), a cynical teacher. They live in Smeerensburg, the unhappiest place on Earth. If it sounds like a grump-fest, well yes, that's the setup. But don't worry: Icy hearts melt, and even Smeerensburg can find joy.

4. Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer (1964)

You know the story: A young reindeer named Rudolph is bullied and banished from the reindeer games because of his bright red nose. He befriends a prospector (because why not?) and an elf who wants to be a dentist. The group happens upon a whole island of misfit toys, and Rudolph makes it his mission to see if he can help them. When he returns to the North Pole on Christmas Eve it seems like it may be too foggy to fly. What will happen next?!? The only way to find out is to watch. Rated TV-G.

Photograph: Courtesy Disney Enterprises Inc.

5. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

The king of the pumpkin patch is changing his ways. Once enamored with all-things spooky, Jack Skellington has now turned his attention toward Christmas. His newfound appreciation for the December holiday definitely puts Jolly 'Ol Saint Nick in a pickle, but this Halloween-Christmas hybrid is loveable regardless thanks to Tim Burton's classic quirkiness, festive tunes and of course, Jack and Sally. We wouldn't blame you for having this on cued up for movie nights in October and December. Rated PG. 

6. Arthur Christmas (2011)

This smart and oh-so British 3D animation 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, SWAT-style, from a silent spaceship disguised as a cluster of stars. It wasn't always like this, but 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 grumpy Grandsanta (Bill Nighy) to deliver the package using old-school reindeer and sleigh. All of which inspires a frenzied inter-continental dash and one too many padded-out mishaps. Rated PG.


7. The Elf On The Shelf Presents: An Elf's Story (2011)

First, grab your family's elf on a shelf. (JK! You know the rules.) Seriously: Kick back for a new holiday favorite. In this classic-to-be,  young Taylor isn't quite sure how to find in the Christmas spirit. A novice elf named Chippey is sent to restore the little boy's faith in the holiday. There are ups and downs along the way, but overall the duo realizes what's most iportant during this time of year. Not rated.

8. Smallfoot (2018)

Movies Animation

An animated adventure for all ages, with original music and an all-star cast, Smallfoot turns the Bigfoot legend upside down when a bright young Yeti finds something he thought didn't exist - a human. News of this Smallfoot throws the Yeti community into an uproar over what else might be out there in the big world beyond their snowy village. Is it a Christmas story? Well, not exactly, but it's snowy, and fun, and teaches an important lesson. Rated PG.

Photograph: Courtesy Warner Bros.

9.  Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town (1970)

December is a highly anticipated month, largely thanks to Saint Nick's Christmas Eve pilgrimage. In this '70s film—narrated by none other than Fred Astaire—families get a taste of how the Christmas magic comes to be. Expect to learn how reindeers fly, how exactly Santa makes his way down the chimney and even how Mr. and Mrs. Claus were first introduced. D'aww! Despite some scrooges along the way, this sweet story prevails and makes this time of year all the more jolly and bright. Not rated.  

10. 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.


11. Thomas and Friends: The Christmas Engines (2014)

Either you're a Thomas the Tank Engine family, or you're not. This hour-long movie is for those of you in the train community—your little engineer will be riveted by these five short stories linked by a Christmas theme. Not rated.

12. Kung Fu Panda Holiday (2010)

Po (Jack Black) sets out to restore honor to his village and save the winter festival: What can possibly go wrong? This animated short also features the purring voices of Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman and Seth Rogan. Not rated.


13. 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.

14. 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


15. A Garfield Christmas (1987)

Oh, Garfield. A typical day consists of snacking, giving Odie a hard time and more snacking, but things change during the holidays. When his owner brings the crew to his visit his parents for a Christmas celebration no one can seem to agree on how to spend their time—a classic predicament during the busiest time of the year. Despite his typical mischevious ways, Garfield manages to get everyone to cooperate and appreciate what December 25 is all about. Not rated.

Photograph: Courtesy ImageMovers Digital LLC

16. Disney's A Christmas Carol (2009)

Jim Carrey voices the curmudgeonly Ebenezer Scrooge in Disney's animated take on the Charles Dickens classic. The Christmas killjoy goes on a journey through his past, present and future via three spirits in order to make him see the beauty in this time of year. Rated PG. 


17. Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July (1979)

The wicked Winterbolt—who is certainly on Santa's naughty list, —awoke from a spell. Now that's he's up, he's ready to put the light out on Rudolph's shiny red nose, which is already getting dimmer. Will Christmas go on with our star reindeer's most beloved feature? Not rated. 

18. 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 was a major showcase for motion-capture technology, but has admittedly has dead-eyed characters with creepy skin textures. Still, you take the bad with the good: the overall experience has wondrous moments of computer-generated spectacle. Rated G.


    You may also like