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The Best Christmas Movies to Watch on Netflix, HBO Max, Disney+, Amazon, and More

It is, as they say, the most wonderful time of the year

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Allison Picurro

I enjoy few things more than a good ol' Christmas movie, but there are so many to watch (and so many streaming services to watch them on) that figuring out your holiday viewing schedule could get overwhelming. We're here to help with our list that includes the classics you'll probably be rewatching for the millionth time, like Home Alone, Elf, and A Christmas Story, but we've also included some lesser-known movies we love to watch during the holiday season, like Tangerine and Black Christmas. Whether you subscribe to Netflix, HBO Max, Disney+, Hulu, or Peacock, we promise there's something here that'll help get you in the spirit.

In our list of the best holiday movies to watch this year, you'll find a mix of old and modern classics, some newer releases, and others we think you'll be looking for this season. Check out the list below. For more, check out our complete guide to every Christmas movie and special airing or streaming this year.

2021 Christmas and Holiday Movies and Specials: Ultimate Guide for How and When to Watch

Want more recommendations of what to watch next? We have a ton of them! And if you're looking for more hand-picked recommendations based on shows you love, we have those too.

Queen Latifah, Last Holiday

Queen Latifah, Last Holiday

Paramount Pictures

Last Holiday

There's no such thing as too many holiday rom-coms, and even if there was, this one would still make our list. Queen Latifah stars as a by-the-books single woman who, after learning she has only three weeks to live, decides to make the most of her last Christmas on Earth. She quits her boring department store job, takes a lavish European vacation, and, at some point, falls in love with LL Cool J. It's just silly enough to work.

Peter Gallagher and Sandra Bullock, While You Were Sleeping

Peter Gallagher and Sandra Bullock, While You Were Sleeping

Buena Vista Pictures

While You Were Sleeping

People will try to tell you this Sandra Bullock romantic comedy is insane, and those people will be correct, but make no mistake: It's one of those insane movies that just works. Bullock plays Lucy, a public transit worker who saves Peter (Peter Gallagher), a man she's been crushing on from afar, from getting hit by a train on Christmas Day. After he falls into a coma, Lucy becomes accidentally involved in an elaborate lie when Peter's family assumes she's his fiancée. She goes along with the ruse, further complicating things when she finds herself getting closer to his brother (Bill Pullman). [TRAILER

Anna Faris and Ryan Reynolds, Just Friends

Anna Faris and Ryan Reynolds, Just Friends

New Line Cinema

Just Friends

In all of its extremely mid-2000s comedy-ness, this movie's kind of hit or miss, but I am of the opinion that it is actually very good, made even better when you watch it during the Christmas season. A pre-Deadpool Ryan Reynolds stars as a formerly overweight high schooler who returns home for the holidays ten years later, reuniting with the high school crush (Amy Smart) who rejected him at their graduation party. Are there a lot of jokes that definitely would not fly today? Of course. Does Anna Faris also give a pitch-perfect performance as Reynolds' character's eccentric pop star girlfriend? She sure does. Sometimes that's all you need. [TRAILER]

Will Ferrell and Ed Asner, Elf

Will Ferrell and Ed Asner, Elf

New Line/Everett Collection

Elf

Will Ferrell stars as Buddy, a human raised by elves in the North Pole, who travels all the way to New York one Christmas to find his biological father. I defy you to find someone on this planet who hasn't at the very least seen a frame of this movie, which despite being released in 2003 feels like it's been around since the beginning of time. [TRAILER

Jim Carrey, How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Jim Carrey, How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Universal Pictures

How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Jim Carrey plays Dr. Seuss' classic Christmas-hating character, who emerges from his hovel one fateful year to ruin the holiday for the residents of Whoville. Carrey is at his Carrey-est here, hamming it up under all the green fur. [TRAILER

Macaulay Culkin, Home Alone

Macaulay Culkin, Home Alone

20th Century Fox

Home Alone

It doesn't get more quintessentially Christmas than Home Alone, the movie about Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin), a kid who gets accidentally left behind when the rest of his family goes on vacation for the holidays. I personally think of this movie most fondly for its bumbling villains: two burglars, played by Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern, known as the Wet Bandits, who end up involved in a dangerous feud with Kevin. [TRAILER

Home Alone 2: Lost in New York

Home Alone 2: Lost in New York

20th Century Fox

Home Alone 2: Lost in New York

When you're done watching Home Alone, why not check out its sequel? There's a convincing argument to be made that Lost in New York, which finds Kevin (Culkin) getting separated from his family at the airport and ending up on a plane to New York City, is even better than the original. [TRAILER

Bruce Willis, Die Hard

Bruce Willis, Die Hard

Getty Images, Archive

Die Hard

Every year, we're collectively burdened with many, many articles about how Die Hard is actually a Christmas movie (is anyone really disputing that at this point?), but even that doesn't take away from how great this film still is. Bruce Willis plays John McClane, a cop trying to save his wife and other hostages at a holiday party that gets taken over by German terrorists. [TRAILER

Beverly D'Angelo and Chevy Chase, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation

Beverly D'Angelo and Chevy Chase, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation

Hughes Entertainment/Warner Bros.

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation

Easily the most memorable of the Vacation film series, this is mostly a movie about a bunch of things going wrong for a family — but at Christmas! Chevy Chase plays the beleaguered patriarch who's determined to have a good holiday despite the presence of his wife's crazy cousin, his thankless job, and malfunctioning string lights. [TRAILER

The Polar Express

The Polar Express

Warner Bros. Pictures

The Polar Express

Since computer animation has advanced so much in the years since, the visual style of this movie is pretty outdated now, but at the time of its release, it was a huge deal that Tom Hanks, who plays the train conductor, did the motion capture for his character. The movie itself is still pretty sweet, following a young boy's journey on a train to the North Pole on Christmas Eve. [TRAILER

A Christmas Story

A Christmas Story

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

A Christmas Story

You could wait for the annual 24-hour TBS marathon of this classic on Christmas, or you could just stream it whenever you want. A Christmas Story is one of our culture's most inescapable movies, centering on a young boy who wants nothing more than to be gifted a BB gun. Do you own one of those leg lamps? If you don't, I'm sure you know someone who does. [TRAILER

Hugh Grant, Love Actually

Hugh Grant, Love Actually

Universal Pictures

Love Actually

Much like the annual Die Hard discourse, someone always tries to drudge up an annual Love Actually discourse too, and I have to be honest with you, I'm not interested in hearing about it! I love this insane rom-com, about a bunch of interconnected love stories during the Yuletide season, because of how insane it is. Every famous British person ever invented has a role in it, but the Bill Nighy story is secretly the most moving one. [TRAILER

Jack Frost

Jack Frost

Warner Bros.

Jack Frost

The premise of this movie is pretty silly — Michael Keaton plays a husband and father who dies in a car accident only to come back to life as a snowman — and it was a total flop when it was released in 1998, but it's become a holiday classic for plenty of people in the years since. [TRAILER

Cameron Diaz, The Holiday

Cameron Diaz, The Holiday

Universal Pictures

The Holiday

Nancy Meyers' rom-com is finally getting the cultural resurgence it deserves with the memeification of Jude Law's Mr. Napkin Head, but the whole movie, centering on two women who house-swap for the holidays in order to escape their unhappy lives, is worth watching. It's ridiculous and it rules. [TRAILER

The Muppets Christmas Carol

The Muppets Christmas Carol

Jim Henson Productions

The Muppet Christmas Carol

This is not only the greatest Christmas Carol adaptation ever made, but it's also one of the greatest Christmas movies ever made, period. You already know the story of Ebenezer Scrooge (played here by Michael Caine), but it's instantly made better by the presence of Kermit, Gonzo, and Miss Piggy. [TRAILER

A Charlie Brown Christmas

A Charlie Brown Christmas

Peanuts Worldwide

A Charlie Brown Christmas

A Charlie Brown Christmas is great because it's about being depressed during the most wonderful time of the year, which is something we as a society could use more of. There are so many reasons why this cartoon has been such a reliable classic for so many years, from the soundtrack to the dancing to Linus' sweet little speech about the true meaning of Christmas. It just never gets old. [TRAILER

Eight Crazy Nights

Eight Crazy Nights

Columbia Pictures

Eight Crazy Nights

Adam Sandler's animated musical is somehow still our culture's most mainstream Hanukkah movie, and while there are a lot of people who (justifiably) hate that, this film has its charms. Sandler voices Davey, an alcoholic sentenced to community service as the assistant referee for a youth basketball team during the holiday season. [TRAILER

White Christmas

White Christmas

Paramount Pictures

White Christmas

Two sisters with a song-and-dance act become involved with two singers, both professionally and romantically, and the four set out to save an inn from going out of business. This is just a nice, wholesome musical, if that's your thing. [TRAILER

Adam Scott, Krampus

Adam Scott, Krampus

Universal Pictures

Krampus

This is the ideal movie for anyone who can't stand all the holiday cheer and is already yearning for next Halloween. It's based on the German folklore about Krampus, a demonic beast who comes to kill bad kids, and centers on a dysfunctional family who have to band together to protect each other from the monster. This movie often verges on ridiculous — there's a scene where a bunch of gingerbread cookies come to life, for example — but that's part of the fun. [TRAILER

A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

A Christmas Carol (1938)

If you're really interested in the origins of A Christmas Carol, you can't get much more classic than this. Reginald Owen plays Scrooge in this one. [TRAILER

A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol

20th Century Fox/Everett Collection

A Christmas Carol (1984)

There's also this Christmas Carol! There are so many Christmas Carols. This is good if you prefer fewer Muppets and more genuinely spooky ghosts. George C. Scott plays Scrooge here. [TRAILER

Bad Santa

Bad Santa

Columbia Pictures

Bad Santa

What if Santa but bad? Billy Bob Thornton plays a conman posing as a mall Santa so he can rob the place with his partner, which gets complicated when he strikes up a friendship with a lonely little kid. Fun fact: Joel and Ethan Coen executive produced this movie. [TRAILER

Bill Murray, Scrooged

Bill Murray, Scrooged

Paramount Pictures

Scrooged

In case you needed another Christmas Carol adaptation, this is the one that stars Bill Murray as a disillusioned TV executive who is visited by a bunch of ghosts who try to help him regain his spirit. One of the ghosts is played by Carol Kane, which is fun. [TRAILER]

Vanessa Hudgens, The Princess Switch

Vanessa Hudgens, The Princess Switch

Netflix

The Princess Switch

Why settle for just one Vanessa Hudgens when you can have two? At this point, Netflix has so many Christmas movies it's kind of impossible to know where to start, but we recommend beginning your journey here. Hudgens plays a duchess who switches places with a baker from Chicago (also played by Hudgens), who just happens to be her exact doppelgänger, and then — you'll never believe it — things get complicated. If you're as delighted by the insanity of this movie as we are, there are two more in the series. [TRAILER

It's a Wonderful Life

It's a Wonderful Life

Paramount Pictures

It's a Wonderful Life

What did we say about Christmas movies about depressed people? This classic follows George Bailey (James Stewart), a man considering ending his life on Christmas Eve. He's visited by a guardian angel who shows him what life in his town would have been like had he not been there. This is a good one to watch if you want to feel good about humanity. [TRAILER]

The Santa Clause

The Santa Clause

Buena Vista Pictures

The Santa Clause

After accidentally causing the death of Santa Claus (can you believe that's how this movie starts?), a divorced dad (Tim Allen) is tasked with taking on the Santa mantle. [TRAILER

Ben Stiller and Robert De Niro, Little Fockers

Ben Stiller and Robert De Niro, Little Fockers

Universal Pictures

Little Fockers

Did you know Little Fockers — which is, somehow, the third movie in the Meet the Parents series — is technically a Christmas movie in that it takes place at Christmastime? It's true. The story picks up five years after Meet the Fockers, and is basically just a comedy of errors all about a man (Ben Stiller) trying way too hard to impress his father-in-law (Robert De Niro). It's easily the biggest dud in the trilogy, but if you're a fan, you're a fan. [TRAILER

Prancer

Prancer

Orion Pictures

Prancer

A young girl nurses a wounded reindeer back to health, believing it's one of Santa's and wanting to return it before Christmas. It's sweet! [TRAILER

Kristen Stewart and Mackenzie Davis, Happiest Season

Kristen Stewart and Mackenzie Davis, Happiest Season

Hulu

Happiest Season

Abby (Kristen Stewart) goes home to meet her girlfriend's (Mackenzie Davis) family for the holidays, only to learn that her partner isn't out, forcing them to hide their relationship. More gay Christmas movies, please. [TRAILER

Shazam

Shazam

Warner Bros.

Shazam

Shazam, which follows a 14-year-old foster kid who gains the ability to transform into a superhero, can totally be read as a Christmas movie since it takes place during the holidays and is all about family and love and togetherness. Well, it's also about trying to defeat an evil scientist, but mostly the gushy stuff. [TRAILER

Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, James Ransone, and Mya Taylor, Tangerine

Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, James Ransone, and Mya Taylor, Tangerine

Magnolia Pictures

Tangerine

When Tangerine came out in 2015, no one could stop talking about how it was shot entirely on an iPhone, which is definitely impressive and interesting, but certainly not the only thing worth noting about this film. Set on Christmas Eve, it centers on a sex worker who drags her friend all around Los Angeles to search for her pimp boyfriend after finding out he cheated on her while she was in prison. This movie is also notable for the fact that it features two transgender actresses — Kitana Kiki Rodriguez and Mya Taylor — in the main roles. [TRAILER

Black Christmas

Black Christmas

Warner Bros.

Black Christmas

If Krampus doesn't have enough scares for you, check out this horror film about a group of sorority sisters who are stalked by a killer during the holiday season. Its influence on the slasher genre can't be overstated, and its final scene will stick with you for a while. [TRAILER

Klaus

Klaus

Klaus

Klaus is so beautifully animated that you almost forget to pay attention to the story, which functions as a super sweet Santa Claus origin story: A lazy, underachieving postman (voiced by Jason Schwartzman) befriends a reclusive toymaker (voiced by J.K. Simmons), and the two set out to bring joy via handmade gifts to a dark, dreary town. [TRAILER