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Best Christmas movies to stream now: Netflix, Disney Plus, Hulu and more

Best Christmas movies online
(Image credit: Gareth Gatrell:NETFLIX; Silver Screen Collection and Archive Photos : Getty Images)

‘Tis the season to watch the best Christmas movies! Thanks to Netflix, Disney Plus and other streaming services, it’s easier than ever to enjoy holiday classics from A Christmas Story to Love Actually to Home Alone. 

Truly, streaming is a gift. Before, we might’ve hunted down these Christmas movies when they aired on cable. Now, we can play them on-demand whenever – and however many times — we want! Oh, and a heads up, some of your favorites aren't on the big streaming services, so you may have to pay extra.

The term “Christmas movie” encompasses quite a variety of offerings. Of course, there are the beloved classics both old and new, like Miracle on 34th Street and Elf. But we also count movies that are set around Christmas time and incorporate the holiday, so yes, Die Hard is a Christmas movie. Take it up with John McClane if you disagree.

Here’s our guide to the best Christmas movies streaming online and where to find them.

Best Christmas movies on Netflix

Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey

best Christmas movies - jingle jangle a christmas journey

(Image credit: Gareth Gatrell/NETFLIX)

A new modern classic, Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey packs musical exuberance with an all-star cast. So, come for the likes of Forest Whitaker, Phylicia Rashad, Keegan-Michael Key and Hugh Bonneville, and stay for the story of Jeronicus, a toymaker (Whitaker) who's lost his smile. When his whip-smart granddaughter (Madalen Mills) winds up on his doorstep, the two work together to get some measure of justice on Gustofson (Key), a former apprentice who stole his Jernonicus’ work and passed it off as his own.  — Henry T. Casey

Watch it on Netflix

White Christmas

White Christmas is one of two Christmas classics where Bing Crosby sings and dances at a snowy country inn (the other is 1942’s Holiday Inn). Crosby and co-star Danny Kaye ooze charm as two WWII soldiers who team up with a sister act (Rosemary Clooney, Vera-Ellen) to save their favorite country inn. Mostly, White Christmas is a vehicle for the eponymous hit song, plus several other Irving Berlin ditties. Which is fine, since it gives us an excuse to sing along as we enjoy the merry and Technicolor-bright scenery. — Kelly Woo 

Watch it on Netflix

How The Grinch Stole Christmas

Best Christmas movies: How The Grinch Stole Christmas

(Image credit: Archive Photos : Getty Images)

While The Grinch was made famous in the story book and the 1966 Chuck Jones animated feature, Jim Carrey made the character his own. That's either a good or bad thing, depending on your point of view. Around the Tom's Guide work-from-home offices, his performance is divisive, but the rest of the cast is properly stocked with stars, including Molly Shannon as Betty Lou Who and Christine Baranski as Martha May Whovier, plus a very young Taylor Momsen as Cindy Lou Who. This one is probably best for the younger crowd who may not have seen it yet — as their elders will probably wonder if the original is available for streaming (it's not in any service, but available for rental on Amazon). — Henry T. Casey

Watch it on Netflix

Fargo

Best Christmas movies: Fargo

(Image credit: Archive Photos : Getty Images)

Some of us prefer our holiday movies to be a little darker, and that's why I watch Fargo during the holiday season. Just like Die Hard, Fargo can be seen (or argued to be regarded) as a Christmas movie, as it takes place during winter. And it's a cold, cold winter for Jerry Lundegaard (William H. Macy), a manager at a Minneapolis car dealership who's got some bad money problems. So, he does what no man in a holiday movie has ever done: Hire two goons to kidnap his wife — so that he can get ransom money from her well-off father. Fortunately, Brainerd police chief Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand) is on the case, and steals every scene she's in. Not exactly a holly-jolly story, but certainly has as much action as any of Ol' Saint Nick's adventures.  — Henry T. Casey

Watch it on Netflix

Best Christmas movies on Disney Plus

Home Alone

Home Alone will resonate deeply for many people this year, as they spend the holidays away from their families due to the pandemic. But the 1990 slapstick comedy is also perfect if you need a bit of cheering up. The first part of the film is all about 8-year-old Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin) enjoying a bit of “me time.” Then, enjoy watching him foil a pair of bumbling thieves. And the ending can be a hopeful reminder that your own reunions are coming soon. — Kelly Woo

Watch it on Disney Plus

Miracle on 34th Street

Best Christmas movies: Miracle on 34th Street

(Image credit: Silver Screen Collection : Getty Image)

The court of Christmas is now in session! The 1947 original is still a must-see staple during the holidays (though the 1994 remake with Mara Wilson is also pretty good). When a department store Santa Claus gets too drunk to do the job, the real Kris Kringle (Edmund Gwenn) takes over. But his insistence that he’s actually, really Santa puts him on trial to determine if he should be committed. Through it all, a little girl named Susan (Natalie Wood) learns to believe that good things can happen. It’s a poignant, heartwarming tale that castigates commercialism and celebrates the power of imagination. — Kelly Woo

Watch it on Netflix

The Nightmare Before Christmas

The Nightmare Before Christmas

(Image credit: Disney)

One of the darker and weirder Christmas movies for kids, Henry Selick and Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas combines Halloween scares with Christmas cheer. Jack Skellington (Chris Sarandon) has grown tired of his duties as the frightening Pumpkin King, and dreams of filling Santa Claus's boots instead. Naturally, this doesn't sit well with "Sandy Claws" (Edward Ivory) — or with Jack's nemesis, the terrifying Oogie Boogie (Ken Page). In addition to a solid story, the movie features absolutely gorgeous stop-motion animation. With a stellar cast, memorable songs and an unforgettable art style, The Nightmare Before Christmas is a joy to rewatch year after year. — Marshall Honorof

Watch it on Disney Plus

The Santa Clause trilogy

Best Christmas movies: The Santa Clause

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The Santa Clause trilogy starts strong and ends with a whimper, but the first two films, at least, provide a lot of laughs along the way. Tim Allen stars as Scott Calvin, an executive at a toy company who — within the first 20 minutes of the film — knocks Santa Claus off a roof and kills the Jolly Old Elf dead. Before things can get too dark, though, Scott dons the big red suit and discovers that he's now contractually obligated to be the new Santa Claus. There are a lot of Christmas-y hijinks, and some sincere family drama beats along the way. The second film is an agreeable romp as Scott tries to find a Mrs. Claus, but the third, which pits Scott against a villainous Jack Frost (Martin Short) falls flat. — Marshall Honorof

Watch it on Disney Plus

Iron Man 3

The best Iron Man movie (that's just half of why we're ready to rewatch) is set at Christmas time and sees Tony Stark in his own holiday fable. Faced with two foes — Aldrich Killian, who's got a weaponized Extremis virus that he wants to spread around the world, and the farcical Mandarin — Stark isn't going to come out victorious on his own. Instead, much like Scrooge himself, Mr. Stark triumphs thanks to the help and love of those around him. And it's not just Pepper Potts and Rhodey: Stark meets a young kid named Harley, who teaches him emotional lessons that mirror his own life story. Oh, and the other reason why we're excited to hit play? This is going to age really well in the light of Tony Stark's heroism in Avengers: Endgame. — Henry T. Casey 

Watch it on Disney Plus

While You Were Sleeping 

Sandra Bullock is endlessly endearing in this romantic comedy that kicks off on Christmas Day, when she saves her handsome crush (Peter Gallagher) on a subway track. While Peter’s in a coma, Lucy is inadvertently identified as his fiancée, which causes his large and noisy family to embrace her as one of their own. The lonely Lucy lets herself get drawn into their holiday festivities, but things get complicated when she falls for Peter’s brother Jack (Bill Pullman) … and Peter wakes up. Lucy’s longing for a big, messy family Christmas is echoed by a lot of people this year, but the beauty of While You Were Sleeping is that it shows life can change on a dime (or subway token).  — Kelly Woo

Watch it on Disney Plus

Best Christmas movies on Amazon Prime

It’s a Wonderful Life

The best Christmas movies have a dark side — it’s what makes the eventual joy so affecting and wonderful, as it does in Frank Capra’s enduring classic film. Before Tom Hanks, Jimmy Stewart was the decent, upstanding leading man everyone loved. In It’s a Wonderful Life, he teeters on the edge of suicide until an angelic intervention shows him how much he truly matters to those around him. And in such a bleak year as 2020, the movie’s messages of gratitude and neighborly care are especially poignant. — Kelly Woo

Watch it on Amazon Prime Video

Best Christmas movies on Hulu

Happiest Season

Happiest Season is the quintessential holiday rom-com: charming, cheesy, funny and heartwarming. But it stands out in the genre by focusing on a queer couple, played by the transcendant Kristen Stewart and Mackenzie Davis. LGBTQ relationships are often overlooked or sidelined in holiday romances, so Happiest Season is a refreshing gift and one that’s sure to become an annual rewatch for many. — Kelly Woo 

Watch it on Hulu

Best Christmas movies on HBO Max

Die Hard

"Is Die Hard a Christmas movie?" is a debate that surfaces every year, and I think it's time to put it behind us. It's a movie, and it takes place during Christmas; therefore, it's a Christmas movie. Add it to your yearly rotation, and give your family a break from heartwarming pablum. On the off chance that you've never seen it, Die Hard stars Bruce Willis as John McClane: an NYPD cop who finds himself in a Los Angeles office building overrun with terrorists on Christmas Eve. McClane becomes a reluctant one-man army, going so far as to walk over broken glass for a chance to save the hostages — including his ex-wife. The late, great Alan Rickman co-stars as the charismatic villain Hans Gruber. — Marshall Honorof

Watch it on HBO Max

Best Christmas movies to rent or buy

A Christmas Story

Is it really Christmas if you don’t want A Christmas Story? The 1983 classic is a pure dose of nostalgia for the days when you were just a kid who desperately wished for a particular Christmas present, like Ralphie does with the Red Ryder air rifle. The movie captures other slice-of-childhood life details, from neighborhood bullies to embarrassing outfits to a scene-stealing younger sibling. And when dinner turns into a disaster and the family ends up at a Chinese restaurant, there really could be nothing more Christmas than that. – Kelly Woo

Rent/buy on Amazon Prime Video or Apple

Elf

The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear — and watching Elf. The goofy, sweet comedy will make you smile, which is Buddy the Elf’s favorite activity. Will Ferrell stars as a man raised alongside elves in the North Pole. When his toy-making skills prove woeful, he embarks on a quest to find his biological father in New York City. At first, his childlike wonder and positivity stick out like a sore thumb but soon prove to be irresistible, especially to cynical department store co-worker Zooey Deschanel. — Kelly Woo

Rent/buy on Amazon Prime Video or Apple

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

"This is a full-blown, four-alarm holiday emergency here," declares Clark Griswold, Jr. (Chevy Chase) as his traditional family Christmas descends into absolute madness. "We're gonna press on, and we're gonna have the hap, hap, happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap-danced with Danny [REDACTED] Kaye." National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation is perhaps one of the more realistic Christmas movies out there, showing just how chaotic and bizarre the holiday can get, especially when you're playing host to an entire family of oddballs. Full of property destruction, kidnappings and explosions, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation is still a surprisingly heartwarming film, as it reassures viewers that, yes, the holidays really are worth celebrating, warts and all. — Marshall Honorof

Rent/buy on Amazon Prime Video or Apple

Love Actually

Love Actually is quite a controversial Christmas movie. Many people love it and rewatch it repeatedly through the holidays; others loathe it. The movie is (rightly) knocked for problematic depictions of unbalanced relationships and women in general. But damn it, the emotional arcs, nuanced performances and genuinely funny moments get me every time. When Emma Thompson cries, I cry. When Hugh Grant shimmies, I dance, too. And when Rowan Atkinson sloooooowly wraps a gift, I laugh. – Kelly Woo 

Rent/buy on Amazon Prime Video or Apple

The Family Stone

To crib from Marie Kondo: I’m so excited to watch The Family Stone because I love mess. The dramedy features an all-star cast led by Diane Keaton, Sarah Jessica Parker and Rachel McAdams. Keaton is the matriarch of a sprawling brood who are very unwelcoming when eldest son Everett (Dylan McDermott) brings home his girlfriend (Parker) for Christmas. Tense meals, misunderstandings, passive-aggressive bullying and slapstick hijinks ensue. Oh, and partner swapping. The funny moments give way to a serious revelation that will leave you in tears and serve as a reminder to cherish your loved ones while you can. — Kelly Woo

Rent/buy on Amazon Prime Video or Apple

Best free Christmas movies online

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang 

Another not-quite-Christmas movie set in the holiday season, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is more than worth it — since Hoopla has it for free. All you need is a library card (and if you don’t have one, it's worth the $4 to rent from Amazon). Filmed right before Robert Downey Jr.'s career renaissance, it's the kind of funny crime movie that has a proper amount of nostalgia too. Harry Lockhart (Downey Jr.) is a thief who's out trying to get his kid the perfect Christmas gift — the store's closed, but let's not dwell on that — when he runs right from the cops to an audition for a movie. In a bit of pulp noir storytelling that director and writer Shane Black excels at, Harry soon finds himself trying to extricate himself from a murder mystery while sweet-talking his childhood crush Harmony Lane (Michelle Monaghan). -- Henry T. Casey

Watch it on Hoopla