One of the hardest parts of the holiday season, especially for those with kids, is the moment when you’re just… out of ideas. You’ve played all the board games, seen all the lights, and now you’re wondering what to do next.
Well, we’re here to help! We’ve gathered a list of ten family Christmas movies that will make for great viewing this holiday season. Our choices stretch from the classics to the obscure, from feature-length to short films, and from overtly Christian to completely silly. The one uniting factor: All these movies will keep the kids and parents entertained.
Here are 10 Family Christmas Movies to Watch Over Christmas Break
1. Toy Story 4
Pixar coming back for a fourth Toy Story movie seemed like a bad idea, but somehow the creative team once again knocked it out of the park. While this film might be a bit too intense for some younger viewers, it’s a perfect film for the rest of the family. Your kids will enjoy spending more time with Buzz, Woody, and their favorite toys, while the parents will fight back tears as they realize what Toy Story 4 is actually about: realizing your kids are growing up, and when the time comes it’s okay to let go. You can rent Toy Story 4 on iTunes, YouTube, Amazon, or several other streaming services.
2. The Snowy Day
Based on the classic 1960s children’s book by Ezra Jack Keats, The Snowy Day is a simple story about an African American boy who goes exploring his neighborhood the day after the season’s first snowfall. This simple, heartwarming, Christmas-themed story captures the childhood magic of a world blanketed in snow. Narrated by Laurence Fisburne, this family Christmas movie has a pleasant earworm of a theme song written and performed by Boyz II Men. The Snowy Day is free with Amazon Prime.
3. The Small One
The Small One is a cartoon so anonymous, even Disney may have forgotten they own it. And yet this 1978 animated featurette is a heartwarming story about a Galilean child in first-century Palestine forced to find a new owner for his old, beloved, but fairly useless donkey. The home this donkey ultimately finds, and the movie’s message about how “there’s a place for each small one, God planned it that way” is as Christian-centric, and Christmas-themed as it gets. This short, 26-minute film isn’t available on Disney+, but you can rent it on YouTube, iTunes, Google Play, or Vudu.
4. I Can Only Imagine
Based on the life of Mercy Me frontman Bart Millard, I Can Only Imagine is the story of a band, a song, and the shattered and healed relationship between a father and son. Starring J. Michael Finley as Millard and Dennis Quaid as his father, the film is a moving look at the forgiveness, healing, and redemption possible with Jesus. You can rent the film on Amazon Prime, YouTube, and Google Play, or it is free for Hulu subscribers. Bart Millard is also an executive producer on I Still Believe, the upcoming biopic movie featuring musical artist Jeremy Camp (in theaters 3.13.20).
One of our favorite family Christmas movies of all time has to be Elf. The modern Christmas classic tells the story of Buddy (Will Ferrell), a boy who grows up living amongst Santa and the elves in the North Pole and goes on a quest to New York City to find his real father (James Caan). Is this movie silly and shallow and a bit cheesy at times? Yes. Is it also a hilarious flick that both kids and parents can appreciate? Absolutely! You can rent Elf on YouTube, Amazon Prime, Google Play, iTunes, or Vudu.
6. A Muppet Christmas Carol
A retelling of the classic Charles Dickens story featuring Kermit the Frog as Bob Cratchit, Miss Piggy as his wife (naturally), Michael Caine (looking slightly embarrassed throughout), Gonzo and Rizzo as the narrators (not looking embarrassed at all). This movie has catchy songs, some classic Muppet visual gags, and an ending that’s more than a bit spooky, and all of it in service to the tale’s classic reminder: Christmas, properly understood, calls us to care for the poor, the forgotten, and the needy. You can stream A Muppet Christmas Carol through Disney+ or rent it on YouTube, Amazon Prime, iTunes, or several other options.
7. The Nativity Story
It’s helpful to remember every so often that the birth of Jesus really did involve a young woman, a very real birth, and a lot of hardships along the way. The Nativity Story strips away the overly-sentimental retellings of the Christmas story and grounds the arrival of the Messiah in a world full of people who were poor and searching and desperate for a savior. This movie is a beautiful conversation starter for kids 10 and up about why the story of Christmas mattered then … and today. The Nativity Story is available to rent on YouTube, Amazon Prime, iTunes, Vudu, or multiple other streaming platforms.
8. The Peanuts Movie
We’re just going to assume you know A Charlie Brown Christmas both exists, and is essential holiday viewing and instead point you to 2015’s feature length The Peanuts Movie. It seemed like a cynical cash grab—it’s in CGI! It’s filled with “of the moment” pop song tie-ins!—is actually an extremely sweet, gently moving, sneakily-Christian look at the simple power of simply being good for goodness’ sake. You can rent The Peanuts Movie on Amazon Prime, iTunes, or YouTube.
9. It’s a Wonderful Life
It’s easy to forget how dark a place this movie goes toward the end. In one haunting, close-up shot of George Bailey’s (Jimmy Stewart) terrified eyes, we see a man who has had everything he’s built his identity on, taken away from him, slowly losing his mind. But It’s a Wonderful Life is a Christmas movie in the best of ways: It recognizes that living in this world isn’t easy, and that we’ll never make our way through it without the help of other people and some well-timed divine intervention. It’s a Wonderful Life is available on a variety of streaming platforms including Amazon Prime, YouTube, and iTunes, but there’s a chance a local theater might be showing it the way that was intended: in black and white on the big screen
10. The Star
This is a MUST-see on our list of family Christmas movies because there’s nothing else quite like it! The Star is remarkable because it’s told from the point of view of the animals involved in the nativity story. There’s Bo the donkey, whose back carried Mary and the unborn Christ child to Bethlehem. There are the wise men’s three hilarious camels (one of whom is voiced by Tracy Morgan of SNL/30 Rock and nearly steals the show, he is SO funny!), and Edith the cow, voiced by Patricia Heaton. There are the animals in the stable where Jesus came to be born: inhuman witnesses to the most glorious mishmash of human and holy that has ever occurred.
There you have it, folks! Ten of the best family Christmas movies for you and yours to watch over Christmas break. Curl up by the fire, pop some popcorn and enjoy the hours of entertainment you’ll find in these family-friendly flicks.