Reawaken Your Inner Child with these Classic Holiday Movies

Classic Holiday Movies

Few activities are as nostalgic as watching holiday movies, whether catching them by ourselves or viewing with loved ones. Many of us know the songs or dialogue by heart and we get magically transported back to our childhood when we watch our favorite holiday special. These flicks are ingrained in our culture so much that we just can’t imagine December without them.

Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanza are right around the corner and watching these classic movies is a great way to spend time with family and friends. A survey on Statista found that 60% of respondents watched at least one Christmas film with their family at some point during the holiday season. (1) Many holiday specials are entertaining and relatable for any age. Even if the target audience was initially meant for children, some specials can awaken your inner child as you reminisce about the magic and excitement you felt at Christmas when you were little. If you can’t decide what special to watch this season, here are some great suggestions.

Movies for Children and Children at Heart

1. Santa Claus Is Coming to Town

Did you ever wonder how Santa Claus came to be? In this lovable movie, a friendly postman answers all your questions about Santa, including why he brings toys to children, why he goes down the chimney, and why he leaves toys in stockings. We also get to see him overcome his struggles with the cantankerous Burgermeister Meisterburger so that he can bring joy to all the boys and girls of Sombertown.

2. A Year Without a Santa Claus

A year without a visit from the beloved Santa Claus could upset any child. When Santa catches a cold, Mrs. Claus and two supportive elves, Jingle and Jangle, try to save Christmas by proving to Santa that children do still believe in him. Unfortunately, Jingle and Jangle are struck down by the crossfire between the Miser Brothers who are simply “too much” to handle. Then Mrs. Claus must convince Snow Miser and Heat Miser to cooperate so she can bring back Christmas spirit and prove to Santa that people do care.

3. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

According to KICK FM, 'Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer' is the longest-running, highest-rated TV special (not just holiday) of all-time! (2) Almost everyone knows the story of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. You likely hear and sing the theme song every single season. This claymation special brings the song to life as we see Rudolph become an outcast for his bright red nose. Despite his hardships, he stays positive and eventually becomes head of Santa’s sleigh. If you can’t get enough of Rudolph, you can also watch Rudolph and the Island of Misfit Toys, Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July, or Rudolph’s Shiny New Year.

4. A Charlie Brown Christmas

This animated special truly captures the spirit of Christmas. When Charlie Brown is tasked with getting a tree for a pageant, he brings back a woeful looking sapling. His friends are disappointed at first, but eventually they come to accept it and use it in their play. This movie became so popular that it affected Christmas tree sales in the late 60’s. MeTV states, “Introduced in the late 1950s, aluminum trees hit peak popularity in the mid '60s around the time A Charlie Brown Christmas debuted. However, viewers took to heart Charlie Brown's message about the true meaning of Christmas, and artificial trees sales saw rapid declines in the latter half of the decade.” (3)

5. Frosty the Snowman

This lovable movie is yet another popular Christmas song come to life. With a “Happy Birthday!” the beloved snowman springs to life and parades around town having fun with the neighborhood children. However, when the temperature begins to rise, he and his friends must figure out a way to keep him from melting. If you enjoy this movie, you may also want to check out Frosty’s Winter Wonderland and Frosty Returns.

Movies For Teens

1. Elf

In this comical story about learning how to embrace your differences, Will Ferrell plays Buddy, a human who was raised by elves. When Santa tells him his real father is on the naughty list, Buddy travels to New York City to find him. However, he has some trouble adjusting to his new environment. Yet, with help from his family and his love interest, Jovie, Buddy learns to believe in himself and others while teaching some hardened New Yorkers about the spirit of Christmas.

2. Home Alone

Most people would be terrified if they were left home alone and some robbers showed up, but not Kevin McCallister. In Home Alone, Kevin protects his family domain by setting up a series of booby traps. According to Mental Floss, “In its opening weekend, Home Alone topped the box office, making $17,081,997 in 1202 theaters. The movie maintained its number one spot for a full 12 weeks and remained in the top 10 until June of the following year. It became the highest grossing film of 1990 and earned a Guinness World Record as the highest-grossing live-action comedy ever domestically.” (4)

3. The Santa Clause

What would you do if Santa fell off your roof, and you had to take his place? Those are big boots for anyone to fill. In The Santa Clause, Scott Calvin (played by Tim Allen) magically transforms into Santa complete with a beard and a big belly. Then he must learn how to fulfill Santa’s responsibilities. While delivering gifts on Christmas he gets mistaken as a stalker and goes to jail because no one believes he is Santa. Then his elves must help break him out.

4. Nightmare Before Christmas

If you are a fan of both Halloween and Christmas, then you will love the Nightmare Before Christmas. When the Pumpkin King, Jack Skellington, gets bored of Halloween festivities, he soon finds himself in Christmas Town and becomes inspired. “The plot was inspired by the recurring collision of holiday store decorations,” explains Mental Floss. (5) He even tries to take Santa’s place; however, his spooky ways just can’t seem to replicate the warmth and magic of Christmas.

5. How the Grinch Stole Christmas

There are multiple renditions of How the Grinch Stole Christmas to enjoy. This includes the original cartoon directed by Chuck Jones and Ben Washam (1966), the live-action re-make where the Grinch is played by Jim Carrey (2000), and a new animation produced by Illumination (2018). In this story based on a popular Dr. Suess book, the Grinch is annoyed at the commercialization of Christmas and tries to “steal it” by stealing all of the town of Whoville’s Christmas paraphernalia. However, he discovers his plan didn’t work when he hears the whole town singing and celebrating Christmas despite having no gifts or decorations. He comes to realize that Christmas means a whole lot more than the commodities associated with it, and his heart is changed forever.

Movies for Adults and Seniors

1. A Christmas Carol

Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol has many retellings. Based on one count, there are 135 productions in total. (6) In this classic story, a stingy, old, rich man named Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future. They help him put his life into perspective to teach him a lesson that prioritizing money leads to a life of loneliness and isolation. By the end of the movie, he comes to realize that caring for others, generosity, and gratitude produce a much more fulfilling life.

2. It’s a Wonderful Life

It’s a Wonderful Life reminds us all that even though it may sometimes seem like we don’t make a difference in this world, we often do without realizing it. George Bailey is thinking about ending it all by jumping off a bridge when his guardian angel intervenes. His angel shows him what his town would have looked like if it were not for all of his good deeds. He comes out of the vision a changed man and rejoices in being alive.

3. Miracle on 34th Street

When Kris Kringle meets a young, matter-of-fact child who has been taught that Santa isn’t real, he tries to teach her, her mother, and the world that Santa Claus does indeed exist and that he is the real Santa. After being taken to court and getting laughed at, he perseveres on his mission to show society that skepticism leads to sadness while faith leads to joy.

4. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

If you feel like you could use a good laugh, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is packed with silly antics. Patriarch Clark Griswold is determined to have the perfect Christmas with his family, complete with a house covered in 25,000 twinkling lights. Unfortunately, things go downhill quickly as he creates a city-wide power shortage and his wife’s redneck cousins come to visit and park their RV on his property.

5. A Christmas Story

Since 1997, TBS has been airing a 24 Hours of A Christmas Story marathon. In this film, Ralphie tries to convince his parents, Santa, and his teacher to buy him the perfect Christmas present-- a Red Ryder BB gun. He also puts up with the silly antics of those around him, including wearing pink bunny pajamas that his aunt buys him, his dad’s appreciation of a “major award” table lamp shaped like a woman’s leg, and this less than thrilling secret message from Little Orphan Annie: “Don’t Forget to Drink Your Ovaltine.” Interestingly enough, Fandango states that the movie’s narrator, Jean Shepherd, based the movie on his life. (7)

Don’t Miss the Nostalgic Fun of Holiday Movies

Even if your favorite film is not on this list, there are plenty of places you can catch your favorite holiday movies this year. If you have cable, you can watch many of them on channels such as Freeform, TBS, ABC, AMC, and Hallmark. You can also find many films on movie steaming apps such as Disney+, Hulu, Netflix, HBO Max, Vudu, Apple TV, and Prime Video. You may even be able to find some Christmas specials on YouTube.

Watching holiday specials is a fun activity that you can enjoy by yourself or with the entire family. Watching movies can reduce stress and anxiety, which is especially useful at this time of year. According to Do Your Remember?, “A psychologist confirmed that Christmas movies release “feel-good” hormones.” (8) Additionally, when you laugh at movies like Elf, your body releases endorphins that promote a positive mood. If you want to get in the holiday spirit and be of good cheer, perhaps a nice, seasonal movie is the perfect activity!


1 Navarro, Jose Gabriel. Aug. 2021. TV, Video, & Film. Statista. Families Who Watch at Least One Christmas Movie Together During the Holiday Season in the United States as of December 2018.

2 Parsons, Kurt. Nov. 2015. Rudolph, Frosty, and Santa – Interesting Facts About Classic Holiday TV Specials. KICK FM. Rudolph, Frosty, and Santa – Interesting Facts About Classic Holiday TV Specials.

3 MeTV staff. Dec. 2016. Stories. MeTV. 9 festive facts about 'A Charlie Brown Christmas'

4 Wood, Jennifer M. Dec. 2018. Entertainment. Mental Floss. 25 Facts About Home Alone On Its 30th Anniversary.

5 Puchko, Kristy. Oct. 2018. Entertainment. Mental Floss. 21 Facts About The Nightmare Before Christmas.

6 Just Jared Jr. staff. Dec. 2016. How Many Versions of 'A Christmas Carol' Are There? Just Jared Jr. How Many Versions of 'A Christmas Carol' Are There?

7 Christopher Campbell. Dec. 2019. Movie News. Fandango. 10 Amazing Fun Facts: ‘A Christmas Story.

8 Kenney, Jane. 2018. Stories. Do Your Remember? Studies Prove Major Health Benefits For People Who Watch Christmas Movies All Year.