Though you’re busy baking cookies and trimming the tree, you may find yourself in need of a little downtime this season with your family. Why not use that time to curl up on the couch with the kids and watch some festive films? So here are our family’s 13 favorite holiday movies. With titles ranging from childhood classics to new animated features, this selection of my family’s favorite Christmas movies is sure to have a few selections we’re sure your entire family will enjoy!
A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965):
A perennial fave that addresses both conspicuous consumption and spiritual aspects of the holiday season. A Charlie Brown Christmas storyline follows the ups and downs of Charlie Brown, a young boy initially depressed by the commercialism of Christmas, but ultimately is persuaded to enjoy the season after directing the school pageant, received a pep talk from his friend Linus, garners strength from “a sad little fir tree,” and your kids will enjoy the timeless Vince Guaraldi’s iconic musical score.
Run time: 30 minutes; recommended for ages 3 and up.
It’s a Wonderful Life (1947):
This beloved classic is still ever as popular more than 60 years after its release and is our family’s go-to Christmas Eve family movie. This classic, directed by Frank Capra, stars Jimmy Stewart as a frustrated businessman, George Bailey, who has been tethered to his hometown of Bedford Falls for years, instead of living a life of adventure he longs for. When events take a turn for the worse, George considers ending his life, but his guardian angel, Clarence, intervenes and steps in to show him what life would be life without him and all of his good deeds would look like for his family and town. This movie is a must-see!
Run time: 130 minutes; recommended for ages 9 and up.
The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993):
This stop-motion animated classic, based on a poem by Tim Burton, features Jack Skellington, the pumpkin king of Halloweentown. Bored with life, Jack discovers Christmastown, and decides to try to bring a bit of the holiday season to Halloweentown, even kidnapping Santa Claus to make that happen. What happens next is a delightful combo of the two holidays.
Run time: 76 minutes; recommended for ages 7 and up.
Original Christmas Classics (1967-1972):
This collection includes most of my favorite childhood holiday movie favorites in one awesome box! With titles including the classic stop-motion animated Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Special, Frosty the Snowman, Frosty Returns, Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town, The Little Drummer Boy, and Cricket on the Hearth. This collection is a must-see for your little ones!
Run time: 275 minutes; recommended for ages 3 and up.
The Polar Express (2004):
As fans of Chris Van Allsburg’s Caldecott award-winning The Polar Express book, we love this animated version. Tom Hanks voices multiple roles in this tale about a train trip to the North Pole and the wonder of Christmas, as seen through the eyes of a fearless young boy.
Run time: 100 minutes; recommended for ages 6 and up.
Miracle on 34th Street (1947):
This classic story about a six-year-old girl, Susan (Natalie Wood), who has doubts about the existence of Santa Claus and a department store Santa (Edmund Gwenn) who attempts to convince Susan and her mother (Maureen O’Hara) that he’s the real deal, Holyfield.
Run time: 96 minutes; recommended for ages 6 and up.
Shrek the Halls (2008):
Fans of the Shrek movies will be delighted by this holiday-themed special. Starring the usual cast of characters, Shrek (voiced by Mike Myers) struggles to make his family’s first Christmas special, but doesn’t have any experience with the holiday. As he attempts to follow a Christmas for Village Idiots guidebook, the festivities go on around him and great lessons are learned.
Run time: 22 minutes; recommended for ages 6 and up.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966):
This animated version of Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1957) is a line-by-line reading by Boris Karloff of the classic children’s tale, and each year we enjoy seeing the Grinch in motion as he attempts to stop Christmas from coming and learns to follow his heart all on the Eve if Christmas!
Run time: 26 minutes; recommended for ages 4 and up.
The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992):
In this version of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, directed by Brian Henson (son of the late Jim Henson), Kermit plays the role of Bob Cratchit, with Miss Piggy as his wife and Michael Caine as his miserly employer, Ebenezer Scrooge. Gonzo appears as Charles Dickens, to help narrate the tale. This is one of our favorite versions of this classic tale!
Run time: 85 minutes; recommended for ages 5 and up.
When a single dad picks up the reins of Christmas Eve when he startles Santa off the roof—and accidentally kills him. With a lot of work, and weight, Tim Allen helps to again make the worldtakes a lot more jolly during the holiday season.
Run time: 85 minutes; recommended for ages 8 and up.
Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas tells the story of Emmet Otter and his Ma, a widow who scrapes by on the small amount of money she gets from doing laundry and that Emmet gets from doing odd jobs around their home in the town of Frogtown Hollow. This movie shows how compassion and the Christmas spirit can be worth more than gold!
Run time: 85 minutes; recommended for ages 8 and up.
The Snowman, a children’s picture book without words by English author Raymond Briggs, first published in 1978, is one of our favorite winter stories and it’s animated video version made in 1982, is equally amazing. The story centers on a one-night meeting between a young boy and his friend, a snowman. This is an animated tale that should not be missed!
Run time: 85 minutes; recommended for ages 4 and up.
In this animated tale, Garfield, Jon, and Odie go to Jon’s grandmother’s house for Christmas, where Garfield finds a present for Grandma. This tale is so touching and heartwarming, and is one of my own favorite holiday specials each year!
So that’s it everyone, my family’s 13 favroite holiday family movies. I encourage you all to take some time this season to let loose, curl up, and enjoy watching a few of these favorite movies with your loved ones at home. So now I have to ask, do you have any family favorite movies at Christmas? If so, I’d love to hear about them below!