Christmas is a time to do a number of things, not least of which is watching our favorite holiday movies. Only this year, that’s been a problem.
We chopped cable down to the bare minimum last year, and between our DVD collection and streaming services, I haven’t really missed it much…until this month. While I’m used to watching a dozen different versions of A Christmas Carol, a bajillion showings of Elf and 24 straight hours of A Christmas Story on Christmas itself, the streaming selections for holiday movies are much less enticing.
Unless your idea of awesome holiday movies sticks pretty much to Lifetime movies, it can be hard to find good streaming holiday movies.
Sure, Netflix has Love Actually, but how many times can you watch it? Especially if you keep having to fast-forward through all of Martin Freeman’s scenes and half of the rest lest you have to answer uncomfortable kid questions?
But there are some great family-friendly options for cord-cutters this year, especially if you are willing to look beyond the obvious. Between Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu, you can find dozens of streaming holiday movies and TV episodes to keep your evenings by the fire merry and bright.
Netflix has a number of streaming holiday movies, but by far the better family choices seem to be found with their Christmas specials and TV episodes.
Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas and Twice Upon A Christmas
Mickey, Donald, and all the usual suspects star in a series of holiday-oriented shorts.
Disney Channel Series Episodes
We love the Octonauts and their underwater adventures, and they have not one but two Christmas specials. In season one, Professor Inking and his Octopus nephew are the focus of the Great Christmas Rescue. The strange Vegimals get a starring role in their season 2 Christmas Special, a Very Vegimal Christmas. While the show is aimed at younger kids, Jon and I find it pretty tolerable for adults.
You can also find numerous Christmas episodes for other Disney Channel series. Our favorites are Sofia the First‘s “Winter’s Gift” and Liv and Maddie‘s “Joy-to-a-Rooney.”
DreamWorks Holiday Classics
This 2011 special includes Shrek and Donkey, Hiccup and Toothless, and both the Madagascar critters and the Penguins. You can find Kung Fu Panda on his own holiday special.
Peewee’s Playhouse Christmas Special
Because your kids need to be exposed to Peewee’s demented brand of humor. Peewee’s Playhouse holds up well, even if your kids won’t recognize the all-star list of guest stars. Annette Funicello? Dinah Shore? Little Richard?
Okay, this science fiction show about a town of geniuses always on the brink of destruction may not be an obvious choice, but my daughter adores the Season 5 Christmas special Do You See What I See. So do I. Much of the episode is animated in traditional Rankin-Bass style, and it’s a ton of fun. Plus, Snow Ninjas!
While it might be a bit of a stretch to call it family-friendly, the Bill Murray classic is fine for teens and lots of fun for adults. Netflix also gave Bill his own Christmas special, A Very Murray Christmas. (You can watch it when the kids go to sleep.)
Other movies of note, either less kid-friendly or less holiday specific: Love Actually, White Christmas, The Last Holiday, Christmas with the Kranks, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, Paddington, Ever After High Epic Winter, Tinker Bell Secret of the Wings, Fantasia
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I’ve always wondered why Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer still gets shown every year, but this little Rankin-Bass classic sits mainly in my memories. I still sing “They call me Heatmiser…Whatever I touch/starts to melt in my clutch/I’m too much!” The Year Without a Santa Clause was by far my favorite Christmas special as a kid and remains a lot of fun.
Little Bit loves the book illustrated written and illustrated by Ezra Jack Keats. Amazon produced a video version, narrated by Laurence Fishburne, that expands the story and keeps the original’s aesthetic. Amazon’s also created a version of If You Give a Mouse a Christmas Cookie.
You probably forgot this was a Christmas movie, didn’t you? While not for the youngest viewers, this horror/comedy still works for tweens and teens (as well as those old enough to remember watching it in 1984.) You still get vicarious thrills watching the little monsters create mayhem on Christmas Eve.
Doctor Who Christmas Specials
Those with cable can watch Doctor Who’s annual Christmas episode on Christmas evening. For the rest of us, we’ll have to content ourselves with revisiting Christmas specials past (or spending the evening with friends who have BBC!). But that still gives you 11 Christmas specials with the Time Lord to choose, from The Christmas Invasion to The Husbands of River Song.
My Anglophile tendencies are showing, but what could be better for Christmas than Wallace and Gromit inventing a Christmas Cardomatic? Aardman Animation brings lots of laughs from both kids and adults, so this is an excellent choice no matter the age of the viewers. For the younger set, you can also check out the Timmy Time Christmas Special.
Other movies of note, either less kid-friendly or less holiday specific: An American Christmas Carol (with Fonzie), Mystery Science Theater 3000 Santa Claus, Matilda, Annie (1982 version)
Hulu was even more limited on the holiday movie front but had a plethora of recent TV shows and specials. It was much harder to find appealing kid-friendly holiday content than on the other services. To their benefit, they made it very easy to find holiday movies and TV episodes, at least on the website.
The Great Christmas Light Fight
Kids love outrageous Christmas light displays, and this reality show is a lot of fun for adults, too.
Kid Show Christmas Specials
Just as you can find a bunch Christmas themed episodes for kid shows on Netflix, you can also find your share on Hulu, including Doc McStuffins, Handy Manny, Curious George and Madeline
A Very Brady Christmas
You can remember why Florence Henderson was so great while watching this nostalgic 80s TV movie based on the 70s show. You can find Christmas episodes for the original show as well, plus Mary Tyler Moore Show, Happy Days, Twilight Zone and a host of other classics.
Other movies or specials of note, either less kid-friendly or less holiday specific: Up in the Air, The Office UK Christmas Special, Blackadder’s Christmas Special, Becoming Santa (documentary), Snoopy Come Home
A Streaming Christmas
One of our family’s guilty pleasure is the Yule Log. Every year, we’d find it and turn it on as background noise while we wrapped presents, baked cookies, and read in the evening. We missed it for the first week of December…until we realized that all three services had plenty of Yule Log videos.
And if there’s a holiday movie your family absolutely can’t do without, you can always pick up a digital copy or DVD. We bought a copy of Arthur Christmas for $4 on DVD this year, figuring that having our favorite holiday movie available was worth a bit extra.
So yes, Virginia, you can watch your favorite Christmas movies, even if you’ve cut the cord. And maybe you’ll find a few new favorite among the streaming holiday movies and TV shows as well. Merry Christmas specials!
Okay, fellow Cord Cutters! Have I left anything good off the list that I should have mentioned? Any other suggestions for watching your favorites?