Everyone has their own opinions on the best holiday movie of all time. The tricky part is finding fare that both kids and grownups will actually like… as in together. Listen, fellow parents, you’ve worked hard this year. You cannot sit through garbage. Here are 12 holiday movies — some contemporary, some classics — that’ll delight all members of the family. Grab your hot cocoa and favorite humans and settle in.
Meet Me in St. Louis (HBO Max, 1 hr 50 min)
All I want as a parent is for my kids to chew with their mouths closed and to one day have the attention span to sit through this movie. So perfect is Meet Me in St. Louis, in fact, that it could be considered required viewing for every holiday. Judy Garland stars in this musical that takes us through one year in the life of four sisters while they cope with their family’s impending move from their beloved St. Louis to New York City. From beginning to end, the costumes, the sets, the singing—my gosh, the singing—it’s absolute perfection. Fingers crossed this is the year for my kids to enjoy this movie as much as I do.
A Christmas Story (HBO Max, 1 hr 30 min)
This was the ultimate holiday movie in my house growing up, and you have to figure there’s a reason TBS shows it on a loop every year. Nine-year-old Ralphie is determined to get a Red Ryder air rifle for Christmas even though all the adults in his life warn him, “You’ll shoot your eye out.” We recently introduced this classic to our kids, who admittedly might be too young to get all the jokes. But it was a heartwarming way to show them what it was like in the 1940s before… all of this.
Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas (Netflix, 1 hr 45 min)
All kids need to know Jim Carrey, and the Grinch is a nice introduction to The Experience. Most kids are already familiar with the classic Dr. Seuss story of the crusty green revenge-seeking Grinch who plans to steal Christmas from the kind citizens of Whoville. And absolutely no one does this role better than thee Jim Carrey, who magically morphs into the ultimate grouch only to tug at everyone’s heart strings by the end of the movie. One fun bonus idea: go full-mom and host a “Grinch Party” where everyone dresses in green and eats green treats.
A Charlie Brown Christmas (Apple TV, 30 min)
No holiday list would be complete without everyone’s favorite little depressive! Honestly, this was at the top of the list when I asked my group chat for their favorite holiday movies. When Charlie Brown complains about the materialism surrounding Christmas, Lucy suggests he direct the school pageant to get into the holiday spirit. The entire Peanuts gang pitches in to teach Charlie Brown the meaning of Christmas. No matter how old your kids are, they’ll get behind the lo-fi charm and timeless message.
Klaus (Netflix, 1 hr 30 min)
Christmas, but make it arty. A selfish postman and a reclusive toymaker form an unlikely friendship, and deliver joy to a cold, dark town. Klaus features an all-star cast of voices, like Jason Schwartzman, J.K. Simmons, Rashida Jones, Norm Macdonald (RIP) and Joan Cusack. I love this movie for its silly, sometimes bleak, Roald Dahl-esque vibe and entrancing animation. Our kids love it because it’s goofy and has just the right amount of slapstick humor. Win-win.
Elf (HBO Max, 1 hr 30 min)
In case you live under a rock: Will Ferrell is delightfully over-the-top as Buddy, an oversized elf who travels from the North Pole to NYC to meet his biological father. So much of this holiday movie has become pop culture canon at this point, and its legendary status is well-deserved. If you happen to be fortunate enough, you might want to look up your local listings because I just found a local theater that’s showing Elf in December.
The Muppet Christmas Carol (DisneyPlus, 1 hr 25 min)
As a major book nerd, I’ll take any chance I can get to introduce my kids to classic literature, and what better introduction to Dickens than via the Muppets? All your kids’ favorite Muppet characters star in this zany retelling of the Charles Dickens masterpiece. Scrooge, played by Michael Caine, is irritable enough to be believable as a miser, but also sympathetic enough to be the star of this beloved film.
Santa Claus is Coming to Town (Amazon Prime, 50 min)
My favorite mom hack is to put old movies on in the background and wait patiently for them to pique my kids’ interest. It didn’t take more than 30 seconds with this movie. Featuring the voices of Fred Astaire and Mickey Rooney, this cute little flick uses stop motion animation to tell Santa’s origin story. A friendly mailman answers such pressing questions as why does Santa wear a red suit? And how does he travel to all those houses in a single night? Snuggle in there with your kids, a sleeve of cookies, and soak up the nostalgia.
Arthur Christmas (Amazon Prime, 1 hr 30 min)
All curious kids—which is to say, kids of every make and form—will delight in this cartoon that answers one of life’s greatest mysteries: How does Santa deliver so many presents on a single night? Santa’s mischievous son, Arthur, is on the case as he races against time to ensure that the children of the world receive their presents by Christmas morning. I’ll admit it’s as fun for me as it is for my kids to get a glimpse of the top secret technological operation that helps Santa create the millions of toys he needs each year. Kids who are obsessed with gadgets will be particularly enthralled.
The Princess Switch (Netflix, 1 hr 40 min)
I started this movie as a laundry-folding companion and quickly became hooked. Vanessa Hudgens stars as both a down-to-earth Chicago baker and a soon-to-be princess in the Kingdom of Belgravia. When the two women discover they look like twins, they hatch a Christmastime plan to trade places. So, yeah, it’s kinda like Parent Trap but for Christmas. I love that it’s family-friendly, with no cussing or violence, without being babyish. And you can’t help but be totally charmed by every single character. And there are sequels: The Princess Switch 2: Switched Again and The Princess Switch 3: Romancing the Star. Merry Christmas indeed.
White Christmas (Netflix, 2 hrs)
Sisters, sisters/There were never such devoted sisters… If you have a set of sisters in your family, you kind of have to play this classic at some point over winter break. Full disclosure, as of now, there’s no one in my household who will sit through this movie with me. Unless you count my husband if he’s trying to score some points. But I am hoping that those of you with tweens can together appreciate the majestic beauty of a dazzling Edith Head outfit? Anyway. Rejoice in the splendor of Bing Cosby and Rosemary Clooney as they rush to put together a yuletide musical in rural Vermont.
Christmas Chronicles (Netflix, 1 hr 45 min)
In case we needed another reason to adore Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn — separately and as the real-life couple they are — here they are as Mr. and Mrs. Claus. FYI this one starts out kinda dark, because the story kills off the dad with no explanation. But it didn’t seem to bother my crew, who were whisked away by the magic of a brother-sister duo becoming stowaways on Santa’s sled. I was charmed by Kurt, as I have been my entire life, and the kiddos were caught up in the magic of saving Christmas. Everyone was happy, so my job here is done.