10 Classic Christmas Movies to Watch with Your Kids

Written by Meredith Bland on December 13, 2015
family sitting together in front of a fireplace

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Christmas is a festive time of year, and nothing puts people in the holiday mood like a quality Christmas movie.

New movies are made every year. But when you want to sit down and watch a Christmas movie with your kids, you want a tried and true classic.

Here’s a list of 10 classic Christmas movies to watch with your kid this year.

1. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

No movie says Christmas to me more than the old 1964 movie, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” The stop-motion animation, the songs, and the doll-like characters all blend perfectly together for a healthy dose of Christmas nostalgia.

At some points, it is, perhaps, too much nostalgia: I watched the movie for the first time in a long time a few years ago with my children, and was taken aback by a few moments. One is the cover-up regarding Rudolph’s nose in the beginning, perpetrated by his parents and Santa Claus, which is really depressing. And then later in the movie, there’s this part:

Narrator: “Now you can bet old Donner felt pretty bad about the way he had treated Rudolph, and he knew that the only thing to do was to go out and look for his little buck. Mrs. Donner wanted to go along, naturally, but Donner said, ‘No, this is man’s work.’”

Pardon me, reindeer? What’s that? On the one hand, this is a good opportunity to talk with your kids about women’s rights. On the other hand, who wants to talk about the horrible history of sexism with their 3-year-old while drinking hot cocoa and celebrating Christmas?

Still, I do love this movie. As long as you know going in that there will be a few social issues that need to be addressed, I say grab some more marshmallows and get your “holly, jolly Christmas” on.

Get it from Amazon.

2. Frosty the Snowman

This TV special from 1969 is, of course, based on the song, “Frosty the Snowman.” The story is wonderful and familiar: Frosty is built by children, he comes to life, and then there is the threat of a horrible, melty death.

But in the show they throw in a bad guy (Mr. Hinkle, the magician who owned the hat on Frosty’s head) and bring Santa into the mix as the hero who revives Frosty and takes him home with him to the North Pole, where he lives between Christmases. Way to solve the resurrection of Frosty problem, TV guys! And then, of course, you get to sing that song.

And who doesn’t like singing that song? The answer is nobody.

Get it from Amazon.

3. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

When the kids are a little older, it would be criminal not to introduce them to the Griswold family.

Clark Griswold’s (the father, played by Chevy Chase) quest to have “a good old-fashioned Christmas” results in a citywide blackout, bickering family members, a year’s membership to the Jelly of the Month club in place of a company bonus, and a visit from the SWAT team.

This movie will have the whole family laughing.

Get it from Amazon.

4. Elf

“Saaanta! I know him! I know him!” That line, screamed by Will Ferrell as Buddy the Elf, sums up everything I love about this movie.

Buddy’s exuberance, naivety, and good-natured love of Christmas make this movie a joy to watch. It will also make you laugh until you can hardly stand all the laughing you’re doing. Kids love watching the trouble that Buddy gets into trying to defend the purity of Christmas.

As he says to the fake department store Santa, “You sit on a throne of lies.” You tell ‘em, Buddy.

Get it from Amazon.

5. The Nightmare Before Christmas

This Tim Burton classic may be a little dark for some children, but those that can handle singing skeletons and watching Santa get kidnapped will love this movie.

Underneath it all is a sweet message about being who you are and that the grass is always greener on the other side of the holiday portal. The delightful song, “What’s This?” will leave you giggling.

“There are children throwing snowballs instead of throwing heads!”

Get it from Amazon.

6. It’s a Wonderful Life

You can’t have a list of classic Christmas movies and not have “It’s a Wonderful Life” on it. No, really. It’s a rule. Look it up.

After all, you can’t go wrong with Clarence the inept angel and a man who learns that the beauty of life is found in love and family.

Get it from Amazon.

7. Home Alone

Poor Kevin McCallister gets left behind by his family when they leave town for Christmas. He’s sad about this for a minute, until he realizes that he is, in fact, living the dream.

Slide down the banisters? Sure. Watch TV while eating a heaping bowl of ice cream? Yes, please. Outwit two ridiculous burglars? Done.

My kids laughed till they fell off the couch.

Get it from Amazon.

8. White Christmas

A beautiful movie with Bing Crosby singing “White Christmas”? I’ll take a second helping of that, thank you.

This 1954 film stars Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, and Vera-Ellen. There’s beautiful music and a sweet story about performers who honor their former general while stranded at an inn in Vermont. There’s also a fake engagement.

It makes more sense when you watch the movie.

Get it from Amazon.

9. A Muppet Christmas Carol

This may be blasphemous, but this is my favorite version of “A Christmas Carol.” Kermit plays Bob Cratchit, Miss Piggy is Mrs. Cratchit, and Gonzo is Charles Dickens. The great Michael Caine plays Ebenezer Scrooge.

This movie teaches the lessons of “A Christmas Carol” in a format that children of all ages can enjoy. There are also rats in hula skirts, and that’s never a bad thing.

Get it from Amazon.

10. Miracle on 34th Street

Made in 1947, “Miracle on 34th Street” is the oldest film on this list, or, the most classic of the classics. When a department store Santa claims to be the real Santa (spoiler alert: He’s totally the real Santa), those around him declare him insane and take him to court to have him committed (it sounds worse than it really is, I promise). The result is a courtroom battle between the faith of children and the cynicism of adults that will leave a lump in your throat.

Get it from Amazon.

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