2016 Cord-Cutter’s Guide to Family-Friendly Streaming Holiday Movies and TV Episodes

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

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?

Eureka

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!

Scrooged

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 KranksThe Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, Paddington, Ever After High Epic Winter, Tinker Bell Secret of the Wings, Fantasia

 

2016 Cord-Cutter's Guide to Family-Friendly Streaming Holiday Movies and TV Episodes

Amazon Prime

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The Year Without a Santa Claus

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.

The Snowy Day

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.

Gremlins

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.

Wallace and Gromit’s Cracking Contraptions

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 ClausMatilda, Annie (1982 version)

 

2016 Cord-Cutter's Guide to Family-Friendly Streaming Holiday Movies and TV Episodes

Hulu

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 AirThe 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?

*Part of Financially Savvy Saturdays on brokeGIRLrich, and Racing Towards Retirement*

22 thoughts on “2016 Cord-Cutter’s Guide to Family-Friendly Streaming Holiday Movies and TV Episodes

  1. Great post, we definitely needed this to help us get in the spirit more too. It is time to begin “teaching” our 2.5 year old Christmas and what is all about. We have Netflix and Prime, so thanks for the list above! We have been reading some Christmas books to help get in the spirit and just yesterday went to see Santa (thankfully we got a couple good pics!). We are really looking forward to Xmas with the little one this year!
    The Green Swan recently posted…Buying Solar Panels: Year 1 ReviewMy Profile

    • I was looking at old Christmas pictures and the year our daughter was 2 1/2 was a lot of fun, so I hope you and Lucy have a blast with your little guy this year. One thing I should have mentioned that may apply to you is that there are 7 different Thomas the Train Christmas specials on Netflix. (Little Bit adored Thomas when she was that age and while Prime has Thomas too but doesn’t seem to have the holiday ones.)

    • But it is a classic Christmas movie, Gary. It doesn’t look like it’s on any of the streaming services, but Amazon’s selling the digital copy for $6.99.

  2. We tend to watch the same movies over and over and over again so we started buying on Christmas movie each Christmas quite a few years ago and now we own all of our favorites! Many of them we picked up for just a few dollars after the holidays. Great post on what’s available where.
    Mother of 3 recently posted…20 Christmas Ornament Crafts For kidsMy Profile

    • Yes, picking up the DVDs or digital copies (that’s how we have the George C Scott Christmas Carol) are both solutions to making sure you have your favorites, especially as Netflix has greatly scaled back it’s offerings. And a lot of really good holiday movies are inexpensive to buy even during the holidays but, as you mentioned, especially after. If you have stuff you absolutely love, the DVD bins in second hand shops throughout the year will often yield what you want for next year.

  3. Hubby and I watched Scrooged (again) a few nights ago. It really is fun to watch, and we’re surprised by the things they were able to pull off before all of today’s technology.

  4. You’ve got an awesome list for us cord-cutters here Emily! The Year Without a Santa Claus is by far my favorite. I can sing that “I’m Mr. Heat Miser” song the whole way through – crazy! We’ve been too busy to catch too many shows but the next few weeks, we’ll use your guide to some of the great Christmas classics. Thanks Emily!
    Vicki@MakeSmarterDecisions recently posted…Giving Up My Goals To Focus On HabitsMy Profile

    • You’re welcome Vicki! That song really stuck with me through the years for some reason…the Miser brothers and their mini-mes were hilarious. For years, I blamed Heat Miser for our lack of white Christmases down here in NC.

    • Hope it helps, Jay!
      Gremlins is a ton of fun…probably too scary for my kid, but maybe I can watch it on my Kindle while she’s engrossed in Power Rangers or something.

  5. We never tire of watching the 1938 version of A Christmas Carol, which isn’t on any of the streaming sites but can be found on occasion on Youtube. We also watched the Patrick Stewart version on regular TV this week. You can’t beat a good holiday movie. 🙂

    • Everyone has their favorite version of that one. Our weakness it the George C Scott version…we bought the digital copy a few years ago and Jon watches it 4-5 times during the season each year. Little Bit and I caught the Muppet Christmas Carol on HBO at the in-laws house last weekend, and we may need to pick up a copy of that one.

    • Thanks! Introducing PeeWee to Little Bit was a ton of fun, even if she had no clue who all those “Guest Stars” were on the Christmas special. Dinah Shore and Charo!

  6. I love that Eureka was included on the list, it was great fun while it lasted. And I can’t believe I’ve never seen the Christmas episodes of Wallace and Gromit! I love Wallace and Gromit!

    I confess that I never understood how “It’s a Wonderful Life” was considered a hopeful movie. From what I remember, it seemed to be about a man who’s depressed, in an unhappy marriage, and is allowed by his wife, his friends, and colleagues, to get to the brink of self destruction before getting pulled back. And a dear friend who lives with a depressed husband also pointed out the very flawed perspective that the idea that not being born is the same as living a life, not being able to carry on, and ending that life.
    Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life recently posted…Real Estate Investing: reducing costsMy Profile

    • We watched the Aardman documentary on Netflix 3 times last week…we are big Wallace and Gromit fans.

      I guess the key to It’s a Wonderful Life is realizing that we don’t necessarily know all the good that we do for others, and we need to look for and appreciate what we have done, the relationships we have made, and the good things we do have in our lives. George Bailey goes out from despair to appreciation of his life, and that’s the hopeful part. It’s not a “must watch” part of my holidays (I don’t think I’ve watched it in 20 years) but I do see how it’s on par with A Christmas Carol for a redemption story.

  7. I wish I could say we have cut the cord as well, but I cannot. Since we are both in our 70’s now, TV is our prime source of entertainment. We also have an Amazon Fire Stick (like Roku), which provides loads of movies for free since we belong to Amazon Prime. Of couse we also get free 2 day shipping on almost everything we buy on Amazon. We just got Jim a recumbent bike for Christmas on Amazon and got free shipping (what was saved on it alone will pay for almost a year of Prime).
    We are football freaks and did get a Sports add-on during package from September thru January, a $50 splurge. We only missed one WVU football game his season (but got the audio) which is unheard of for Florida!
    All of my gifting (we do very little actually) is done on Amazon as well. They can beat Walmart almost every time and I don’t have to wrap and ship! They had Christmas DVD’s a day or two ago at very low prices and quick shipping.
    I cut corners everyway I can, as living on a fixed income is not easy. But the cable is our year-round present to us.

    • We have Prime as well, for the shipping, streaming movies/music and free books. I think it’s a great deal, but it would be difficult to have Prime as our only paid streaming service. We are doing 2 free weeks of Hulu right now (still probably not the best service for us) and keep a Netflix subscription and we tend to have plenty to watch…but I know that’s not true for everyone.

    • It seems like the streaming choices get skimpier each year. I do think it’s worth it to build a collection of your favorites, and i prefer having digital copies but DVDs are good too. If you know you’re going to watch it a couple of times a year, every year, paying Amazon $6.99 (or $7.99 for HD) one time isn’t too bad, and it’s a heck of a lot cheaper than cable. Alternately, I guess you could just sign up for Sling this week…get your free 7 days through Christmas Eve and get your Christmas Story on Christmas Eve! Looks like they are even giving away a free Roku stick right now if you sign up and pay for at least a month.

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