Baking Christmas cookies is fun. Opening up a toy advent calendar door every day is exciting. Queueing up the Christmas song playlist is joyful. But nothing — absolutely nothing — will get you in a festive mood faster than watching a good Christmas movie. (Or a whole marathon of them.) Gather the kids, pop the popcorn and play one of the best Christmas movies for kids every family movie night from now until the big day.
There are so many options: You can watch favorites from your childhood, like the Rankin/Bass specials, Peanuts and the Grinch. You can opt for an all-out classic, like It's a Wonderful Life or White Christmas. You can do some kind of Ebenezer Scrooge bracket, and see who makes the best Scrooge: Jim Carrey, Michael Cane or Scrooge McDuck. Or you can opt for a newer film, like Netflix's Klaus, which came close to winning an Oscar last year for Best Animated Feature. (Toy Story 4 took home the prize.) The great thing about Christmas movies for kids is that it's so much easier to find a good one than a bad one. Stumped? Take a look at our favorites here.
This Netflix original is a musical story about a toymaker (played by Forest Whitaker) whose prized creation is stolen by an apprentice (Keegan Michael-Key). His inventive granddaughter goes on an adventure to get it back. Original songs come courtesy of John Legend, Philip Lawrence and Davy Nathan, and one is performed by Usher. The movie premieres on Netflix November 13.
Netflix's big holiday movie last year was this beautifully animated feature about a postal worker who befriends a lonely toymaker. (Hmm ... wonder what happens next.) The movie was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.
This Netflix original movie follows two kids who accidentally crash Santa's sleigh, and then have to go on an adventure-filled mission to save Christmas. A sequel, The Christmas Chronicles 2, will come to Netflix on November 25.
For those who want to see more of the Grinch, this movie — from the studio that brought us the Minions — offers a feature-length glimpse of his life. Benedict Cumberbatch provides the voice of the Mean One.
When Anna and Elsa realize that they have no family holiday rituals, Olaf goes on a mission to find them some. As he visits the townspeople and asks them about their family customs, kids will be reminded of their own cherished traditions.
This isn't explicitly about Christmas: Feeling guilty that she took away the Bergens' only holiday, Poppy undertakes a mission to find a new yearly tradition for her friends. It's great for kids who got really into Trolls: World Tour this spring.
This international film, originally done in French, is about Santa's need to find someone to take over after he retires (which, by the way, he doesn't want to do). After this movie was released in its native France, it won the Annecy International Animation Festival's prestigious UNICEF award, which honors animators who focus on children's rights. If your kids find it charming, there's a sequel: The Magic Snowflake.
Similar to Arthur Christmas, this series of short, 22-minute adventures goes behind-the-scenes with an elite squadron of elves as they prepare for Santa's arrival and maintain the security of the North Pole. Created by Disney, they have a lot of the same snap and wit as the Disney shorts that are shown theatrically before movies.
Everybody knows Santa is a magical, all-powerful being, but nobody really thinks about what it actually takes to do his job. This movie, about a divorced dad who unexpectedly has to become the next Santa, is great for those with questions about the inner workings of the North Pole. The sequels, The Mrs. Clause and The Escape Clause, are also on Disney+.
For those who need a little dose of Halloween to cut through the Christmas treacle, this stop-motion movie from the mind of Tim Burton shows what happens when vampires, skeletons and witches take over the Christmas season. Songs by Danny Elfman, especially "What's This?" are good enough to earn a spot on your yearly holiday playlist.
Okay, the best parts of this movie are about how 8-year-old Kevin sets a series of booby traps to stop a pair of robbers from a home invasion, which isn't exactly in the Christmas spirit. But the experience does teach him to appreciate being with his family during the holidays, which is something we all need to be reminded of once in a while. Re-watch this one until the remake comes to Disney+.
Rudolph usually gets all the glory, so it's nice to see one of the other reindeer get the spotlight for a change. And since the movie is about an 8-year-old girl nursing a wounded Prancer back to health and returning the animal to Santa, it has a good message about being giving and caring during the holidays.
There have been film adaptations of A Christmas Carol going back as far as 1908, and there's something to recommend in pretty much all of them. But for kids, the best Ebenezer Scrooge is the Scrooge they already know — Scrooge McDuck — who does a fine job inhabiting the role of the famous miser in this kid-friendly abridged version of Dickens' tale.
This hourlong special combines some of the best things you can put into a holiday movie: Jim Henson puppets (including a Kermit narrator), a Gift of the Magi-like story and, of course, singing woodland creatures. The songs were written by Paul Williams, who has contributed some of the best Muppet songs (including "Rainbow Connection").
Fred Astaire narrates this hourlong Rankin/Bass story, which looks into the origins of many Christmas traditions. Watch out for the Winter Warlock!