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The Best Christmas Movies on HBO and HBO Max (December 2021)

From the traditional classics A Christmas Carol to newer favorites like The Polar Express

Julian Dossett

HBO Max has the best Christmas movies, if your definition of "best" equates with "classic." This is not an opinion, simply a statement of fact (and it's true of HBO Max's film selection overall, not just for holiday movies). The streaming service is stuffed like a stocking with Christmas movie goodies this year, with holiday classics across a variety of time periods, from the '30s to today. HBO Max is the streaming home for Elf, A Christmas Story, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, A Christmas Carol, and more. That's certainly better than getting a sweater for Christmas! And it's pretty much all killer, no filler, as HBO Max so far doesn't participate in the Hallmark vs. Netflix vs. Lifetime arms race of cranking out formulaic new Christmas movies. 

(P.S. – HBO Max also has the complete Harry Potter movie collection, which aren't technically Christmas movies, but are part of a lot of people's Christmastime traditions, because they feel so Christmas-y.) 

Below you'll find the best Christmas movies on HBO Max, but if you don't find what you're looking for here, check out our list of where to stream the best Christmas movies on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and more.

(Disclosure: Links to retailers may earn money to support our work.)

A Christmas Story

Thanks to TBS and TNT being part of the Warner Bros. family, the 1983 holiday classic lands at HBO Max this year after being pretty difficult to stream last December, so leg table lamps are just a few clicks away. You know the story, but I'll say it again anyway: Young Ralphie Parker (Peter Billingsley) wants a BB gun for Christmas, but his mother (and the mall Santa) thinks he'll shoot his eye out. This season, you can start your own 24-hour marathon of A Christmas Story whenever you want. -Tim Surette




Miracle on 34th Street

Though Miracle on 34th Street has been remade, there's nothing like the original black-and-white film from 1947. Taking place at the Macy's on 34th street in New York City, this true Christmas classic tells the story of a man, Kris Kringle, who takes the role of Santa in Macy's annual Thanksgiving Day parade when his predecessor is too intoxicated. Kris ends up being just what visitors to the department store need, and fills in regularly as Santa. When Kringle surprises customers and employees alike by claiming that he really is Santa Claus, it leads to a court case to determine his sanity and his authenticity. So, do you believe in Santa Claus? -Hana LaRock




National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation

It is said in some circles that the holiday season does not begin until you hear the gasp from Clark Griswold's (Chevy Chase) deflating, overcooked turkey. One of the best Christmas comedies out there follows the Griswolds as vacation comes to them when Clark's family visits for Christmas and nearly ruins it. But Aunt Bethany's rendition of "The Star- Spangled Banner" saves the day. Come to think of it, weird ending, right? -Tim Surette 




Four Christmases

What better way to drive home the idea that the holidays are about spending time with family than to make a rom-com about people who don't want to spend time with their families but are forced to? And better yet, make it FOUR FAMILIES. Brad (Vince Vaughn) and Kate (Reese Witherspoon), through comical circumstances, must spend Christmas with all four of their divorced parents' families when their getaway flight to Fiji is canceled. Holiday hilarity ensues. -Tim Surette




It Happened on 5th Avenue

This old-school Christmas romantic comedy from 1947 tells the story of an unlikely group of New Yorkers who have nowhere to sleep. Victor Moore stars as Aloysius T. McKeever, a wise hobo who winters in a wealthy tycoon's mansion while the tycoon is away for the holidays. McKeever is soon joined by an assortment of characters in his borrowed mansion, including a lovable veteran and a mysterious woman who is more than she appears. High jinks and romance ensue.




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. It's a classic '90s story about a dad learning to prioritize spending time with his family instead of working so much. It's like Liar Liar with a CGI snowman. -Allison Picurro




The Polar Express

Why not choo-choo-choose to watch this 2004 film about a boy who doubts the existence of Santa Claus but ends up on a magical train destined for the North Pole to see jolly Saint Nick on his turf? Tom Hanks plays multiple roles in this adaptation of the 1985 children's book, but you might not recognize him in all of them because of the motion-capture animation, which freaked me out the first time I saw it. -Tim Surette




Elf

Will Ferrell's Christmas classic must be seen at least twice from Thanksgiving to New Year's Day, as is mandated by Christmas law. Well, you can watch Buddy the Elf (Ferrell), a human who was raised by elves in the North Pole and knows Santa, say, "I'm a cotton-headed ninny muggins" as many times as you want on HBO Max. -Tim Surette 




A Christmas Carol

The 1938 screen adaption of Charles Dickens' seminal novella offers the ageless tale of hope during the holidays. Reginald Owen stars as the original Christmas curmudgeon: the one-and-only Ebenezer Scrooge. Set on Christmas Eve in Old London, Scrooge does his best to sour the holiday mood of everyone he meets. But when a certain trio of ghosts decides to pay Scrooge a visit in the early hours of Christmas morning, the miserly Scrooge views his life in a new light. There have been many retellings over the years, but this film still stands as a holiday essential everyone should see at least once. (Even if you force your kids to watch it.)




Meet Me in St. Louis

Filmed in fabulous "Technicolor," this whimsical holiday musical was a smash hit for MGM in 1944. Starring the great Judy Garland at the height of her fame, Meet Me in St. Louis takes audiences through a series of delightful vignettes set in the months leading up to the 1904 World's Fair. Garland plays Esther Smith, whose chance at true love is jeopardized by her family's impending move to New York City. This film also features an excellent ensemble cast, and anyone who's never watched the famous scene where Garland sings "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" should give this one a shot. 




My Gift: A Christmas Special from Carrie Underwood

Anyone looking for something on the contemporary side will appreciate the dazzle and high-value production of this holiday special from country music queen Carrie Underwood. It's an original special made just for HBO Max, with Underwood taking the stage with a stunning orchestra and choir. Viewers can expect a few all-star guests, including John Legend. It's the perfect holiday accompaniment to Underwood's album of Christmas songs released earlier this year.


These are just some of the Christmas and holiday movies on HBO and HBO Max you'll find if you browse around. If you're looking for even more streaming holiday and Christmas movies, check out our suggestions for HuluDisney+, Netflix, and Amazon Prime Video