What’s the winter holidays without holiday movies, right? When you need a brief escape from all of the hustle and bustle of the season, curling up on the couch with your partner or kids (or both) to watch a movie or two is a great way to spend an evening.
Grab the popcorn, the hot chocolate, and that plate full of gingerbread men, and let this be your guide to the six best holiday movies to watch with the kids – and four you should watch without.
6 Christmas Movies to Watch with the Kids
These are some of the best holiday movies for kids and kids of all ages:
Klaus – 2019, PG
If you haven’t seen this movie yet, you’re in for a real treat! Jesper, the spoiled son of the Postmaster-General, is forced to take up residence in an isolated town caught between two warring clans. What starts out as a scheme to get back in his father’s good graces (and back to civilization) becomes a source of miraculous change – for Jesper, a lonely woodsman named Klaus, and the whole community. This is a decidedly magical take on the origins of Santa Claus.
The Muppet Christmas Carol – 1992, G
This may be, hands down, the most delightful adaptation of the holiday tale by Charles Dickens. Michael Caine plays Ebenezer Scrooge completely straight – which makes the antics of his Muppet co-stars even more hilarious. Kermit the Frog co-stars as Bob Cratchit, but you’ll see all your favorite Muppets in important roles throughout the film as it takes Scrooge on that well-worn road to redemption and the entire cast to a happy ending.
Elf – 2003, PG
This is another movie that has something for the entire family. It’s a mix of silly and sentimental, physical humor and family drama – all set before the glittering backdrop of Christmas in New York. Buddy, a human who was raised by elves, leaves the familiarity of the North Pole to seek out his biological father, Walter. Unfortunately, Walter is on the Naughty List, and it takes a massive dose of Christmas cheer to get him on the right track.
The Santa Clause – 1994, PG
Divorced, somewhat embittered toy salesman Scott Calvin is having a rough Christmas Eve. His son, Charlie, doesn’t really want to be there for visitation, his ex-wife’s new husband makes him feel inferior, he burned the turkey dinner – and now Santa Claus just fell off his roof!? The next thing Scott knows, he’s the new Santa and his whole life is about to turn upside down forever.
A Christmas Story – 1983, PG
Poor little Ralphie: All he wants for Christmas is to impress his teacher, stay out of trouble, get a little respect at home from his father, have his mother recognize that he’s growing up and a Red Ryder BB Gun Daisy Model 1938. There are numerous hilarious subplots along the way to the charming ending of this film. (If you’ve ever wondered why those “leg lamps” appear everywhere this time of year, this movie will answer all your questions.)
The Grinch – 2018, PG
Okay, we’re going out on a limb here: While the 1966 television special will always be iconic, and the 2000 movie with Jim Carrey was amazing, this version of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” has become our favorite. The relationship between The Grinch, his dog Max and the Whos down in Whoville is beautiful and complex, and this story feels beautifully connected and complete. Again, there’s something in here for everyone in the family to love.
Watch These 4 Christmas Movies After the Kids Go to Bed
Definitely do not watch these ones with your kiddos! They’re funny, snarky, and somewhat bawdy in nature:
Holidate – 2020, Not Rated
Sick of being single on the holidays, two strangers turn a chance encounter at the mall into a beautiful friendship by agreeing to be each other’s “holiday dates.” Yes, there’s an eventual romance between the two, but the movie takes a less-than-saccharin view of dating, romance, and the holidays (all of them) that most adults will appreciate.
Bad Santa – 2003, R
This movie is not for everyone, but it does have Billy Bob Thornton at his best as Willie, a Mall Santa with a major drinking problem. This particular Santa couldn’t care less if you’re naughty or nice: He’s just hanging around long enough to pull off his annual holiday mall heist with his partner. When a chance encounter with a strange, lonely little boy triggers something softer in Willie, things don’t exactly follow a familiar path – even for a Christmas movie.
Krampus – 2015, R
Do you like your Christmas movies served up with a side of horror? This movie is not for the faint of heart! When tensions among his dysfunctional family cause Max to make a dangerous wish, the Krampus is released into the world. This “anti-Santa Claus” of European folklore comes to punish, not bring presents – and it’s ultimately up to Max to save his family or lose them forever.
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation – 1989, PG-13
You could probably let the older kids stay up for this one, but dark humor and profanity abound throughout this film as it follows the Griswold clan throughout their holiday misadventures. This is largely a slapstick romp that really plays up the stress that the holidays (and visits from extended family members) can bring – although it does end on a warmer note.
There are, of course, plenty of other holiday movies out there – whether you prefer classics like “A Year Without a Santa Claus” or off-beat favorites like “Die Hard.” Whatever you decide to watch, we wish you plenty of Yuletide blessings and cheer!