These are my 5 favorite Christmas movies I’ll be watching on Netflix, Prime Video, Max and more

How to watch A Christmas Story online
(Image credit: MGM)

Like a lot of you out there, one of the enduring Yuletide traditions in my household is snuggling up with loved ones by the fire and revisiting some of our favorite Christmas movies.

Granted, the criteria for what makes a Christmas movie is a source of frequent debate around this time of year (looking at you, Die Hard fans). And with a new slate of Christmas movies rolling out every year to bring cheer (and revenue) to all, it can be difficult to sort out which ones are actually worth your time. 

We've rounded up some of the best Christmas classics and newer festive fare that have made our annual Christmas movie watchlist. These films all deliver on the holiday cheer, though some are less conventional than others. From an entertaining exploration of Santa's more sinister side in Violent Night to the timeless coming-of-age tale of A Christmas Story, these are the best Christmas movies we can't help but revisit every year. 

You'll find the canon of classic Christmas films is spread wide across Max, Netflix, Prime Video and others. So no matter which of the best streaming services you subscribe to, you have some pretty good options of what to watch to get your holiday movie fix. 

So once you're done opening presents this Christmas, break out your slippers, pour some hot chocolate, and get cozy on the couch — it's Christmas movie season. 

Violent Night (Prime Video)

This is one Christmas movie I did not expect to like as much as I did. While its campy "What if John Wick, but with Santa?" premise isn't everyone's idea of holiday cheer, Violent Night is an entertaining and gory romp that never takes itself too seriously. It's the perfect palette cleanser for this time of year. 

Stranger Things' David Harbour feels made for the role of a washed-up ol' Kris Kringle with a bloody past. Centuries of delivering presents to snot-nosed kids and dealing with a world that increasingly doesn't believe he exists have turned him into a bit of a Scrooge. But he's forced to sober up and get his head in the game when he gets caught up in a home invasion on Christmas Eve. 

A troupe of mercenaries led by John Leguizamo bust in to steal a rich family's fortune, but get more than they bargained for when a hammer-wielding Santa starts hacking and slashing through their ranks, using the Christmas magic you'll remember from storybooks to some truly gruesome ends. (I, for one, will never look at chimneys the same way again). 

Watch it now on Prime Video

Klaus (Netflix)

The first animated film from Netflix to be nominated for an Academy Award, Klaus is a refreshingly original take on the whole Santa Claus origin story. Both critics and viewers alike have sung its praises, calling it an instant classic for its heartfelt storytelling and inventive spin on well-trodden ground. 

The reluctant postman at the center of it all, Jesper Johansen (Jason Schwartzman), gives me big Kuzco from The Emperor's New Groove vibes. The spoiled son of the Royal Postmaster General, he's kicked out to the remote, icy town of Smeerensburg with an ultimatum: deliver 6,000 letters before the end of the year or say goodbye to coasting off the family's fortune. 

But Smeerensburg is home to two feuding families who would rather trade blows than letters. With the odds stacked against him, Jesper finds an unlikely ally in the mysterious Klaus (voiced by J.K. Simmons in another A+ casting choice), a reclusive woodsman who lives alone in a house filled with handmade toys. Together, the two bring joy and a sense of community to the bitterly divided town, finding the true spirit of Christmas along the way. 

Watch it now on Netflix

Krampus (Peacock)

Santa isn't the only festive figure keeping tabs on who's been naughty or nice. There's also Krampus — a demonic, horned beast from European folklore said to punish non-believers and misbehaving children alike. 

Unfortunately for the dysfunctional family at the center of this holiday tale, Krampus is set to pay them a visit they won't soon forget. As if a major family feud, a raging blizzard outside, and a resulting power outage weren't enough to ruin Christmas Eve, the family finds themselves being picked off one by one by a monster unlike anything they've ever seen. And it's hungry for more than just milk and cookies. 

With a brilliant cast that includes Toni Collette, Adam Scott and David Koechner, this black comedy-tinged monster slasher flick is a delightfully devilish holiday treat for horror fans.

Watch it now on Peacock

A Christmas Story (Max)

I'm a fan of more unconventional Christmas movies, in case that wasn't already clear, but there are a few classics on my rolodex of holiday go-tos. I mean, is it even really Christmas if you don't watch A Christmas Story?

This holiday staple is iconic, with Peter Billingsley as Ralphie Parker, Melinda Dillon as his mother, Darren McGavin as his father, and Ian Petrella as his little brother Randy. Although it's set in the 1940s, A Christmas Story's timeless message resonates among audiences of every age. 

A precocious young Ralphie wants one thing and one thing only for Christmas: a Red Ryder Range 200 Shot BB gun. He tells Santa, his parents, his teacher, and just about anyone else who would listen. Along the way, he gets up to wintry hi-jinks, faces off with schoolyard bullies, and gets up to all the kinds of ill-thought-out exploits kids do. Meanwhile, the family's annual Christmas festivities keep ending in disaster, but they pull through to find the silver lining and celebrate what really matters. 

Watch it now on Max

It's A Wonderful Life (Prime Video)

Jimmy Stewart and cast members in It's a Wonderful Life

(Image credit: Alamy)

Another movie that's practically mandatory viewing around this time of year is It's A Wonderful Life. Frank Capra’s enduring classic film tells the story of George Bailey (James Stewart), a businessman with wanderlust in his eye and a generous heart who nonetheless encounters a crisis on Christmas Eve. 

When a series of unfortunate events ends in George losing a serious chunk of change and facing arrest, he begins to spiral. He believes he's a failure, worth more dead than alive, and contemplates suicide. 

That's when Henry Traver's Clarence, a guardian angel looking to earn his wings, shows up to take George down memory lane and see what the world would look like if he never existed. This movie has all the makings of a Christmas classic — the perfect blend of magic, courage, and heartwarming messages of gratitude and self-sacrifice that remain as poignant as ever. Just be warned: You'll want to watch this one with a tissue box.

Watch it now on Prime Video

More from Tom's Guide

Alyse Stanley
News Editor

Alyse Stanley is a news editor at Tom’s Guide overseeing weekend coverage and writing about the latest in tech, gaming and entertainment. Prior to joining Tom’s Guide, Alyse worked as an editor for the Washington Post’s sunsetted video game section, Launcher. She previously led Gizmodo’s weekend news desk, where she covered breaking tech news — everything from the latest spec rumors and gadget launches to social media policy and cybersecurity threats.  She has also written game reviews and features as a freelance reporter for outlets like Polygon, Unwinnable, and Rock, Paper, Shotgun. She’s a big fan of horror movies, cartoons, and miniature painting.

  • Wolfshadw
    This holiday staple is iconic, with Peter Billingsley as Ralphie Parker, Melinda Dillon as his father, Darren McGavin as his father, and Ian Petrella as his little brother Randy.

    Didn't know Ralphie had two dads, but after years of 24 hour "A Christmas Story" marathons, I'm a little burned out on that one.

    Also not sure how just about any version of A Christmas Carol/Scrooge(d) didn't make your list. My personal favorite would be the 1951 version of A Christmas Carol starring Alastair Sim (also available on Prime Video).

    -Wolf sends