The Christmas season is in full swing, and with it, the annual feast of all things Christmas-themed and appropriately festive streaming. Christmas is a holiday that has inspired a multitude of enduring comedies about the value of family, community, love and selflessness during the darkest and coldest time of the year. There’s also no shortage of films that push the boundaries of these well-worn tropes, turning their upside-down holly cheerful exteriors into cerebral and sometimes macabre stories that explore the very darkness that the holidays are meant to push back.
In the spirit of the season and all of its incarnations, we’ve put together a list of treasured classics and eclectic quirks for audiences to watch before Christmas. Like Santa’s big toy bag, there’s something for everyone! Here are 10 of the best Christmas movies available to stream on Netflix, Amazon Prime, HBO Max, Disney Plus, and more!
A christmas prince
If you’re looking for 100% confectionery fluff (and you’re not pumping the Hallmark Christmas program straight through your veins), give this Netflix Original a whirl that is so much better than you think. Amber (iZombie‘s Rose McIver) plays a journalist sent to the invented country of Aldovia, the royal passing the torch to the unmarried bad boy, Prince Richard (Ben Lamb). Amber ends up sneaking into the castle to get all the scoops, but … she sinks too deep! The magic of the Christmas season makes everything too romantic, and awwww, you know the rest.
A christmas prince is available to stream on Netflix.
East Batman Returns a superhero movie that takes place around Christmas, or a gothic Christmas movie that features superheroes and villains? Either way, Tim Burton’s 1992 follow-up to the original Batman is an awesome film filled with cool visuals, thrilling action sequences, attempted murder, and a biting finale that centers on kidnapped babies, a ship in bat form and an army of kamikaze penguins with a rocket. It’s also the story of two strange people who find solace in each other’s strangeness, an orphan growing up seeking revenge on the parents and society that shunned him, and an infamous industrialist seeking to earn money at all costs. While this may test the limits of what you might consider a “Christmas movie”, Batman Returns is a fantastic seasonal watch and a weird, fun movie for the whole family.
Batman Returns is available to stream on HBO Max.
Better be careful
Better be careful looks like a reaction piece at 26 years old from the original Alone at home. The latter is a family comedy film whose premise could easily have been played out as a horror flick about a home invasion, had it not been for the brave charisma of Macaulay Culkin’s Ferris Bueller-esque and the dumb idiot of Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern. . Better be careful reverses that dynamic, introducing inventive twists that take the unspoken horror story at the heart of that aforementioned film and transform it into something much darker and disturbing. It’s a Christmas story that doesn’t feel right; it’s a psychological horror film that plays with the idea of whether the behaviors of a child like Kevin McCallister could be seen as a sign of latent sociopathy. Saying more could spoil the film, but rest assured: Better be careful is a gripping holiday horror drama if you’ve got the stomach for its sometimes bloody sensations.
Better be careful is available to stream on Amazon prime.
If you’re looking for a simple, garland-lined horror flick, you can’t beat Bob Clark’s Canadian slasher flick. (My apologies to Jack frost, the serial killer movie of the snowman – Black christmas is just better!) Originally released in the US as Silent night, evil night, the budget horror film crackles like a hot fire blown by a gust of freezing wind. Clark uses shadows and hidden horrors to turn a sorority house into something ripped from a Shirley Jackson paperback cover, and though the transgressions within don’t find too much inspiration in the iconography of Christmas there is a “wrapping job” that will leave you speechless.
Black christmas is available to stream on Criterion channel.
It’s a wonderful life
If you haven’t seen It’s a wonderful life or if it’s just been awhile, then you might not know how unapologetically weird and transgressive the movie is, from intro to credits. This whole Christmas Carol-esque thing in which an “angel” shows George Bailey (James Stewart) what his town would have been like if he had never existed is only a fraction of the movie. It is preceded by 30 years of Bailey’s life, punctuated by the Great Depression and World War II. And that helpful angel? He and his “boss” are presented as sentient cosmic dust. The movie is a holiday shoemaker stuffed with bits and pieces from Charles Dickens, Rod Serling, and Billy Wilder. Don’t let its reputation for sappy holiday junk keep you from enjoying an outstanding movie – Christmas or whatever.
It’s a wonderful life is available to stream on Amazon prime.
Jingle All the Way
What could be more Christmas than a story of a loving parent who does whatever is necessary to keep their child happy? ’80s action icon Arnold Schwarzenegger, in an obviously bizarre twist from reverse cast, stars in Jingle All the Way like Howard Langston, a mattress salesman whose workaholic attitude comes at the expense of his duties as father and father. Desperate to make his son’s Christmas wish come true, Howard sets out to find a Turbo Man action figure. Problem is, it’s Christmas Eve and they’re almost sold out. Myron (Sinbad), a postal worker and other careless father who shares the same goal, complicates his mission. Jingle All the Way is a Christmas comedy that centers on the exasperation and escalation of the stakes between Howard and Myron amid a gauntlet of ruthless holiday shoppers and a Jetpack-activated finale. If that doesn’t scream “Christmas” at you, I don’t know what does.
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
I never saw National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation until a few years ago when a friend of mine, aghast in utter disbelief at this fact, finally forced me to sit down and watch it with them. Now I understand why my friend was so shocked: it’s a hilarious comedy, so hilarious in fact that I’m surprised I hadn’t seen it sooner. Chevy Chase is perfect as Clark Griswold, a hard-working employee and father trying to throw the perfect family Christmas party. As each of his carefully crafted plans either run into a problem or crumble altogether, Clark’s disposition does the same; transforming from a mild-mannered father into a living powder keg of seething rage barely holding him under a facade of holiday cheer. At least he’s got a Christmas bonus coming up, right?
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is available to stream on HBO Max.
The nightmare before Christmas
Christmas movie? Halloween movie? Divide the Difference: The Macabre Holiday Musical from Tim Burton and stop-motion host Henry Selick is the perfect Thanksgiving movie. The story of Jack Skellington finding out how to stay in his vacation path is always an original sight to see, with many eerie details wrapped up in each frame. If you’ve seen this one too many times, fall into the YouTube rabbit hole of Danny Elfman performs live soundtrack.
The nightmare before Christmas is available to stream on Disney plus.
Santa is a classic Christmas comedy, which offers a whimsical (albeit slightly macabre) answer to how old Kris Kringle is such an enduring symbol of the holiday despite being seemingly a billion years old. Tim Allen plays Scott Calvin, a divorced father and toy salesman who in a mountain dweller-esque twist of fate, accidentally kills Santa Claus and subsequently becomes the next man in line to hold his title and responsibilities. Through the struggle to adjust to his new identity while trying to convince others of his new role, Scott grows both as a person and as a father; learn the true meaning of Christmas through the first-hand embodiment of one of its most central figures. It’s heartwarming and hilarious in a way that has stood the test of time and a great Christmas movie for the whole family.
Santa is available to stream on Disney plus.
White christmas deserves the biggest and best screen in your home. Director Michael Curtiz shot the 1954 musical in VistaVision, the high-resolution format of its day, and the impact of the decision is seen in modern restoration, a presentation as rich in color and detail as any modern action movie. A huge TV flatters classic sets and elaborate dance numbers and even though the audio is mono, cute headphones or speakers elevate its classic songs, belted by Christmas music legends Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney. A huge asterisk: the film removes the explicitly racist blackface number from its predecessor, Holiday Inn, however, it still includes an entire routine devoted to the joys of a minstrel performance. Be prepared to explain the horrific background to younger family members and fend off complaints of sensitivity from gruesome parents.
White christmas is available to stream on Netflix.