Where to Watch Classic Christmas Movies
In the mood for some Christmas classics? We’ll show you where to stream 12 holiday must-sees right now.
Paring down a list of classic Christmas movies to just 12 is as daunting as escaping Nakatomi Tower armed with just a Red Ryder BB gun and an Irving Berlin playlist. Mangled movie metaphors aside, it wasn’t easy, but we pulled off a holiday miracle.
The criteria helped: Our Yuletide movies had to be available to watch, included free, right now on at least one major streaming service. This eliminated a few of our favorites (where are you, A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas?), but it’ll save you some extra rental fees. Merry Christmas, streaming box!
It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
The O.G. Christmas movie has been a holiday TV staple for longer than most of us have been alive—not bad for a flick that starts off with a man (Jimmy Stewart) considering suicide on Christmas Eve. It’s a Wonderful Life is schmaltzy for sure, which is part (OK, all) of its charm.
Where to stream It’s a Wonderful Life
Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
A Macy’s department store Santa (Edmund Gwenn) claims to be the real thing, convincing kiddies and adults alike that he’s the actual Kris Kringle. Besides being a holiday comedy, Miracle on 34th Street is also a legal and political thriller—fun for the whole family!
Where to stream Miracle on 34th Street
White Christmas (1954)
To save a struggling Vermont inn, a pair of song-and-dance men (Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye) team up with a sister act (Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen) to put on a Christmas musical spectacular. You know the title song, but the rest of the soundtrack slaps.
Where to stream White Christmas
A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)
The sad tree, the jazzy dance sequences, the rejection of crass commercialism—A Charlie Brown Christmas does it all in just 25 minutes. Chuck could use better seasonal depression treatment than Lucy and her psychiatric booth, but why let that get in the way of a good holiday party?
Where to stream A Charlie Brown Christmas
How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)
Some generations will be more familiar with Jim Carrey’s live-action 2000 remake, but the original How the Grinch Stole Christmas is far less obnoxious. The Grinch, a loner who hates Christmas, learns to love the season with the help of Whoville (and maybe spiked eggnog).
Where to stream How the Grinch Stole Christmas
A Christmas Story (1983)
“You’ll shoot your eye out!” That’s the parental reasoning for not gifting Ralphie (Peter Billingsley) his coveted air rifle for Christmas—how can you trust the judgment of a kid who gets his tongue stuck to a frozen flagpole? The 2022 sequel, A Christmas Story Christmas, is also worth a look.
Where to stream A Christmas Story
Die Hard (1988)
Die Hard is a Christmas movie. We will not be arguing this well-proven point here. Also, did you notice that we skipped right over the ’70s? Were there no decent Christmas movies between 1970 and 1979? There was Black Christmas in 1974, but that’s probably for another list.
Where to stream Die Hard
Bill Murray has had many an iconic role, but few can hold a cinnamon-scented candle to his Frank Cross, an a-hole TV exec stand-in for Ebeneezer Scrooge in this Christmas Carol riff. With a killer cast and snarky-sharp scripting, Scrooged is one of the all-time GOATs.
Where to stream Scrooged
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)
Another GOAT: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, which would more accurately be called Christmas Staycation, but it’s a minor quibble. Clark Griswold’s (Chevy Chase) ever-escalating mayhem during the family’s at-home Christmas still impresses to this day. Zippity-doo-dah!
Where to stream National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Bored with the same-old in Halloween Town, “Pumpkin King” Jack Skellington stumbles across the dazzling Christmas Town and decides to steal its whole vibe—with a few sinister tweaks. The Nightmare Before Christmas’ stunning stop-motion animation and catchy songs pair well with any holiday.
Where to stream The Nightmare Before Christmas
The Santa Clause (1994)
When toy salesman Scott (Tim Allen) accidentally kills Santa Claus, he’s legally obligated to take over the holly-jolly gig according to the “Santa clause.” That’s a dark intro for a family Christmas movie, but The Santa Clause is an annual must-see and Allen’s best work (sorry, Toolman).
Where to stream The Santa Clause
Until he makes the A Step Brothers Christmas movie demanded by the masses (all right, just me), Elf is the ultimate Will Ferrell holiday flick. As a super-sized North Pole elf named Buddy, Ferrell is at the gonzo peak of his powers, and the Peter Dinklage cameo tops any of his Game of Thrones scenes.
Where to stream Elf
Bonus stocking stuffer: Santa with Muscles (1996)
Not a classic, but a bizarre ’90s obscurity that’s only recently made its way to streaming. A bodybuilder (pro wrestler Hulk Hogan) is struck with amnesia while wearing a mall Santa suit and now believes he really is Claus. Meanwhile, an evil scientist (Ed Begley Jr.) plans to destroy an orphanage(!) to get to the magic crystals(!!) buried underneath it. Santa with Muscles is extra.