Photograph: Courtesy Warner Bros.

The jolliest animated Christmas movies for kids

The best way to spread Christmas cheer? Animated Christmas movies for kids, of course! Check out what's on our lineup.

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


The most wonderful time of year is upon us, and the best animated Christmas movies are a perfect way to celebrate. 

Find your favorite blanket, snag some hot chocolate and kick back with one of many great options: From classics films to what's new on Netflix, this list will keep kiddos busy all season long.  

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to Christmas for kids in NYC

While you're at it, be sure to see what's on our December events calendar and check out the socially distanced Christmas events in NYC that are taking place this year. Things might not be what we're used to, but the holidays will go on. Wishing you a happy and healthy season, New Yorkers.

Animated Christmas movies

Klaus Courtesy Netflix
Klaus Courtesy Netflix
Courtesy Netflix

1. Klaus (2019)


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. Rated PG. 

2. 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. This year, it'll air exclusively on Apple TV+Rated TV-G.


3. Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer (1964)

Poor Rudolph! His bright red nose makes him the target of reindeer bullies who won't let him join in any of their fun. (Sounds like a recipe to get on the naughty list, if you ask us.) But when all is said and done, it seems that he's the one who gets the last laugh when Santa needs a little sleigh guidance on one foggy Christmas Eve. Rated TV-G.

nightmare before christmas
nightmare before christmas
Photograph: Courtesy Disney Enterprises Inc.

4. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

What happens when the Pumpkin King is totally over Halloween? If you're Jack Skellington, you tumble into Christmas Town and set your mind to making this the best Christmas ever—even if that means kidnapping Santa. He puts his plan into action to goofy and macabre results. It seems the residents of Halloween Town can’t exactly master the art of making toys most kids like (cue evil wooden ducks and carnivorous wreaths). The film is a little dark for younger kids, but it’s a visual delight, and it's full of over-the-top Halloween-themed songs that will get your toes tapping. Rated PG.


5. 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.

6. 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.

elf on the shelf movie
elf on the shelf movie
Courtesy CCA & B,LLC

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

Everyone has found a spot (likely several) for an Elf on the Shelf. The annual visitor is placed in unique situations and acts as a North Pole spy for Santa (hopefully ellicting good behavior, though that's not always a guarantee). Thanks to the newfound tradition's popularity, it has received the holiday movie treatment. In the animated story, we journey alongside Taylor. The young boy hasn't quite embraced the holiday spirit, so Chipey is sent from Santa's workshop to assess the situation. Although tricky at times, Taylor and his new buddy discover the importance of the season together. If you're looking for a little Elf on the Shelf creativity in your own home, check out these awesome ideas!

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

The famous holiday curmudgeon descends from solitude at Mount Crumpit in order to wreak havoc over the jolly residents of Whoville. However, it's going to take quite a bit to convince them to tone down their Christmas cheer. Think the mean-spirited grouch will change his ways? Rated G. 


9. 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.

polar express
polar express
Photograph: © Warner Brothers/ABC Family

10. 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.


11. 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.

12. 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.

Photograph: Courtesy ImageMovers Digital LLC

13. Disney's A Christmas Carol (2009)

Jim Carrey has a knack for landing the role of curmudgeonly holiday killjoy (hello, Grinch!). In this animated recreation of Charles Dickens' famed tale, Scrooge (voiced by the funnyman) gets a wake-up call from three Christmas spirits. Rated PG. 

14. 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.


15. 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

Photograph: Courtesy Warner Bros.

16.  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.  


17. 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 Disney

18. Olaf's Frozen Adventure (2017)

Did you really think we'd be able to pull off a Christmas list without the mention of Frozen? Join our snow queen Elsa and her sis Anna as they try to figure out how to establish new holiday tradtions—with the help of their snowman sidekick, of course. Rated G. 


19. 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. 


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