There’s no time of year quite like the holiday season. In many parts of the country, the weather turns cold and keeps people inside. But the warmth of fireplaces, friends, and families brightens the dark days of December and turns this period into one of the most heartwarming times of the year.
Of course, if you live in California, Florida, Hawaii, or somewhere else that’s warm year-round, then December is kind of like any other month. But the spirit remains the same!
However, no matter where you’re from, people across the country share in the tradition of watching holiday movies. The lights, decorations, and efforts made to be with loved ones make for some great stories, and sitting around, sipping tea or hot cocoa, and watching one of these films with your family and friends is, in a word, happiness.
But with so many different ways to watch TV these days, actually finding your favorite movie to watch can be a huge chore. Streaming services are constantly changing their roster of titles, and it can be next to impossible to keep up.
To save you time and get you watching your favorite film as soon as the family gets there, here’s some information on where to stream your favorite holiday movies.
Before we dive into where you can stream your favorite movies, let’s quickly look at the various services that do exist and how much they cost. This will give you an idea of what you have to do to watch your favorite film this season.
In 2021, the ever-expanding list of streaming services includes:
On their own, none of these services are particularly expensive. But if you start combining lots of them, things can get pretty pricey.
This is why we made sure to include which ones have a free trial available. If all you want to do is stream your favorite holiday movie, then consider signing up for a free trial (they can last anywhere from a week to a month) and then if you don’t want to keep it, you can cancel the service.
The good thing about holiday movies is that you usually only need or want to watch them once per year. So, consider using this loophole to save yourself some cash.
Based on the list above, it’s clear that the streaming landscape has become crowded and quite messy. Therefore, finding where to stream your favorite holiday movies can be a real challenge.
To help you, we’ve put together this list of some of the classic holiday movies and included some information on where you can stream them. And in case you’re looking for some inspiration as to what to watch this year, we’ve also included some sort of synopses so that you can find your next holiday favorite.
Perhaps one of the most well-known Christmas movies of all time, A Christmas Story is the tale of young Ralphie and his quest to convince his parents to buy him a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas. Throughout the whole film, his mother rejects him time and time again, warning him that playing with toy guys will cause him to “shoot your eye out.”
Set in the 1940s, the film speaks to the childhood joy of Christmas, especially as it relates to presents. But there’s something here for the whole family, and it’s remained a classic despite being first released in the 1980s.
If you have access to regular television, it airs on TBS for 24 hours straight starting on Christmas Eve (December 24) until Christmas Day.
If you don’t have access to TBS, or if you want to watch it without commercials, you can stream it on HBO MAX, Hulu, or Sling TV.
First released in 1948, making it the oldest film on this list, It’s a Wonderful Life, starring James Stewart, is a timeless classic. It tells the story of George Bailey, a small-town boy with worldly ambitions who is forced to put his dreams on hold because of, well, life.
After some time, he becomes downtrodden and depressed; his life simply hadn’t gone the way he’d planned.
Then, when there’s a run on the banks, the evil Mr. Potter, who is buying up land and property in town and putting profit above people, tries to knock him out completely and make way for his money-first business endeavors.
Feeling like his entire life has been a failure, George begins to question if life is worth living at all.
As he ponders this, he receives some divine intervention that makes him realize just how important his life is, even if he doesn’t see it, just in time for the holidays.
Filmed in black and white, this movie will stir any heart and is worth a watch every year.
It usually airs on network television throughout the holiday season, but if you want to stream it, you can watch it for free on Amazon Prime, NBC.com, or USANetwor.com
If you’re looking to laugh your pants off while also sharing in some holiday cheer, look no further than Elf. Starring Will Ferrel, this film follows Buddy the Elf, a human orphan who was taken in by Santa Clause and raised by elves in the North Pole, as he travels to New York City to find his real dad.
There, he meets a girl, played by Zooey Deschanel, and starts to learn a lot about himself and the world. Both heartwarming and hilarious, Elf is a must-watch for many during the holidays.
Currently, however, it’s kind of hard to find on streaming services. It usually airs on TBS and other networks during the holiday season But if you want to stream it you will have to rent or buy it from Amazon Prime Video ($3.99/$14.99).
It’s also available on Starz and AMC+, which you can add to your Hulu or YouTube TV account if you’re not already a subscriber.
The winner of three Academy Awards, this 1947 film is another classic from the past that is still worth a watch today. The plot centers around Kris Kringle, a man who appears to be nothing more than just a helpful, friendly employee at the Macy’s department store. However, as the film progresses, it becomes clear he is something more.
For a hint, take a look at his name…
Eventually, Kringle claims he is indeed Santa, but this claim is disputed and he is brought to court to clear his name.
Throughout the film, Kringle performs miracle after miracle, but it takes a leap of faith from the rest of the main characters for them to finally believe he is who he says its.
It’s a magical and heartwarming tale that gives you the chance to experience the Hollywood of yesteryear. It can be streamed on HBO Max, Hulu, Disney Plus, and Amazon Prime.
HBO MAX, Hulu, Disney+, and Amazon Prime ($3.99)
A classic from the 1990s, The Santa Claus is the story of Scott Calvin, a regular guy who finds a man on his roof one Christmas Eve. A man who just so happens to be Santa Clause himself.
Unbeknownst to him, finding this guy means he has no other choice but to accept the world’s most desirable yet perhaps most difficult job: being Santa Clause.
Starring Tim Allen and featuring all his hijinx, this film will have you laughing from beginning to end and also feeling all warm and fuzzy inside; in other words, it’s a perfect holiday movie. You can stream it on DisneyPlus or you can rent it from Amazon Prime for $3.99.
Originally a children’s book written in the 1950s, Dr. Suess’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas is one of the more well-known Christmas films of all time. Based in the fictitious village of Whoville, where everyone loves Christmas, the Grinch is a furry green creature who lives up in the mountain, has a heart that’s three sizes too small, and hates Christmas.
So, he hatches a plan to steal Christmas away from the happy Whos. But when he encounters Cindy Lou Who, his heart changes a bit. Okay, more than a bit. It changes a lot!
The original version of this movie, which was animated and released in 1966, is available through TBS.com or TNT.com for those who have a cable subscription (login required). If you don’t, you can get it through Peacock, NBC’s streaming platform.
The live-action version, which came out in 2000 and stars Jim Carey, can be rented on Amazon Prime for $3.99, or you can also watch it if you have a subscription to Apple TV.
Although not specifically a Christmas film, this classic starring a young Macaulay Culkin is based around Christmas time. His family, the McCallisters, plans a trip to Paris. But the night before their departure, a misbehaving Kevin (Culkin) gets sent up to the attic as a punishment, only to be left there when his family oversleeps and is forced to rush to the airport.
He is, quite literally, left home alone. And then when a pair of cat burglars decide to target the house, things get messy, and hilarious, in a slapstick kind of way.
The movie was a blockbuster hit at the time and inspired several sequels. If you haven't seen it yet, or if you want to take a quick trip back to your past, you can stream Home Alone on Disney Plus or rent it for $3.99 on Amazon Prime.
An animated film designed for children, Rudolf the Rednosed Reindeer, a film based on one of the more well-known Christmas songs of all time, is a heartwarming classic about those who often get left out but who still have a lot to offer. It’s a perfect holiday film, one that reminds us how to love and how helping one another is what life is all about.
The movie is typically shown on network television in early December. But it can also be streamed on Paramount Plus (the former CBS All Access), as well as rented from Amazon Prime for, you guessed it, $3.99.
Another animated classic, A Charlie Brown Christmas, brings the classic Peanuts characters to life for a heartwarming tale of holiday cheer.
In this short TV special, the plot is simple: Charlie Brown is depressed during the holiday season, and so his friend, Lucy, encourages him to direct a play. It doesn’t go great, and he gets down on himself until the whole town bands together to cheer him up.
It’s a simple movie, but also a classic. If you miss the special, which airs every year on PBS, then you can stream it on Apple TV.
Batman is probably not the first movie you think of when the holiday season rolls around. And while it’s true Batman Returns is not exactly a “holiday movie,” it does take place during the holidays and they feature prominently in the plot.
This was the original Batman movie series, and although the more recent version starring Christian Bale has received more critical acclaim, this version has its merits.
Featuring an all-star cast of Michael Keaton as Batman, Danny Devito, Christopher Walken, and more, there’s no shortage of talent in this picture. And as Penguin (Devito) plots to kill all of Gotham’s firstborn sons, you will be on the edge of your seat.
You can stream this superhero classic on HBO MAX, or you can rent it on Amazon Prime for $3.99.
When you first start watching this movie, it’s normal to think of it as a Halloween movie, and many people choose to watch it on October 31st. But the reality is that it’s a Christmas movie.
In the film, which is a Tim Burton creation and is as every bit creepy and weird as his movies are, Jack Scary, who lives in Halloweentown, gets bored of the same old same old. When he discovers Christmas, he tries his very hardest to recreate the holiday in his town. At first, he misses the point, but he eventually learns what Christmas is all about (the hard way), and changes the town along the way.
It’s fun, it’s sad, it’s beautiful. It’s Christmas. Enjoy!
You can stream it with a Disney Plus subscription or you can rent it on Amazon Prime.
Another film that isn’t exactly about Christmas but that takes place during the season, Edward Scissorhands, does a pretty good job of capturing the spirit of Christmas.
Starring a young Johnny Depp as Edward, who, as the name suggests, has scissors for hands, it’s a story of being an outcast and learning to appreciate yourself. And, in the spirit of the holidays, it’s also about inclusiveness and coming together as a community to support one another.
It’s a strange film, sure. But it’s heartwarming and fun, and you should check it out this holiday season. You’ll find it on Hulu and Amazon Prime.
Based on the children’s book of the same name, The Polar Express is a computer-animated film that features the likeness of its primary star: Tom Hanks.
As for the story itself, it centers on a young boy who sees a mysterious train bound for the North Pole stop outside his window. Curious, he gets on board and goes on an adventure of a lifetime, meeting new friends and seeing for himself the wonders that go on at the North Pole.
It’s a short film that’s full of magic, and it can be streamed on Hulu, HBO Max, and Amazon Prime.
Lastly, let’s take one last blast to the past. Starring Bing Crosby, the famous crooner who popularized the Christmas carol of the same name, which he debuted in the film Holiday Inn (1942), this movie is both funny and heartwarming.
It takes place in Vermont in the years after World War II and is a story about the value we have in each other's lives.
The main characters, Captain Bob Wallace (Crosby) and Private Phil Davis (Danny Kaye) meet in the war and agree to become a duo singing act after returning home. They wind up in Vermont at a resort where their old general, who saved their lives during the war, is in charge.
The resort is struggling, and their general is denied his request to return to the army. To remind him of his value, and to help out his failing resort, Wallace and Davis put on a show for the ages. It’s a blast from the past, for sure, but also a fun movie that features one of the most well-known Christmas carols of all time.
If you want to check it out, you can stream White Christmas on Netflix, or you can rent it from Amazon Prime.
Tis the season! As the weather gets colder and the days get darker (for those living in the northern parts of the country), it’s time to grab some family and friends, pop some popcorn, and put your favorite holiday movie on. And since you now know where you can stream them, there’s nothing left to do but sit back and enjoy!