Christmas is nearly here, so now its perfectly acceptable to binge all of your favourite festive films. We’ve pulled together twenty of the best, from heartwarming romcoms to family-friendly animations.
The majority of these films are available to watch on at least one of the major UK streaming platforms. This includes Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney Plus and Now TV. Prime Video and Now TV offer free trials for new users as well, so you can in theory watch the movie you want and cancel your subscription without having to pay anything at all.
You can also rent or buy digital copies of the films via Amazon, or even rent physical DVDs through Cinema Paradiso, which offers a generous 30-day trial. The entries in this list all link out to the options available to watch each film, including ways to watch them for free.
Without further ado, here’s our top picks of the best Christmas films of all time. You can also check out the best Christmas TV this year, the best Christmas adverts and the best festive films to stream.
The Muppet Christmas Carol
There’s been many version of the Dicken’s tale ‘Christmas Carol’, but The Muppet variant without a doubt trumps them all. Michael Cain stars as Scrooge, a cruel man who despises Christmas. However, the arrival of three spirits – and a whole host of of Muppets – changes his views on the holiday. Best of all, this film is a cheery musical and hilarious to boot. You’d be crazy to miss out.
Find out how to watch The Muppet Christmas Carol here.
Die Hard is not your typical Christmas film by any means, but regardless its an incredibly good action classic that will have you hooked. John McClane (Bruce Willis) has to save a group of hostages from a group of terrorists, led by mastermind Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman).
Find out how to watch Die Hard here.
How The Grinch Stole Christmas
What better way to celebrate our love of Christmas than with a green and hairy bad guy who hates festive cheer? Based in Whoville, the Grinch plans to ruin Christmas by stealing all the presents and decorations – but watching Jim Carrey’s hilarious representation of him certainly won’t ruin ours.
Find out how to watch The Grinch here.
Arthur Christmas is a 2011 animated movie from Sony Pictures Animation and Aardman Animations, with the voices of James McAvoy, Hugh Laurie, Bill Nighy, Jim Broadbent, Imelda Staunton and Ashley Jenson. It follows Santa Claus’ clumsy son Arthur as he goes on a mission to save one little girl’s Christmas after her present isn’t delivered.
Find out how to watch Arthur Christmas here.
The Polar Express
The Polar Express is a 2004 film starring Tom Hanks, based on the 1985 children’s book. It sees a young boy embark on an adventure to the North Pole onboard The Polar Express train, which concludes in the restoration of his faith in Santa Claus.
Find out how to watch The Polar Express here.
The 2003 Christmas movie Elf starring Will Ferrell is a great choice for getting into that festive spirit. Raised as an elf but actually human, Buddy leaves the North Pole to go to the US in search of his true identity.
Find out how to watch Elf here.
Christmas isn’t Christmas without The Snowman. This wonderful animation is the perfect way to build the Christmassy feeling in your home – especially if you have kids. But be warned, you’ll probably be left in tears by the end.
Find out how to watch The Snowman, and The Snowman and the Snowdog here.
A Christmas Carol
There have been numerous versions of A Christmas Carol made over the years, all based on Charles Dicken’s novel in which old meany Ebeneezer Scrooge is visited by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come. Each shows him his the effect of his mean spirit on the people around him and eventually convince him to have a little Christmas cheer.
Find out how to watch A Christmas Carol here.
Miracle On 34th Street
Originally released in 1947, Miracle on 34th Street was re-made in 1994 starring Richard Attenborough, Mara Wilson, Elizabeth Perkins and Dylan McDermott. Based in a department store, Kris Kringle is asked to take over from the centre’s acting Santa when he gets drunk before the Thanksgiving parade. All but one child believe he is the real Santa, but it all goes wrong when he is thrown into jail for assault. There’s a warm, happy ending though, as Kris Kingle comes good and brings all the child’s wishes true.
Find out how to watch A Miracle on 34th Street here.
The ultimate Christmas romcom, 2003 film Love Actually has a star-studded cast that includes Hugh Grant, Keira Knightley, Andrew Lincoln, Alan Rickman, Emma Thompson, Liam Neeson and Rowan Atkinson. It follows the lives of eight loved-up wannabe couples in London in the last few weeks before Christmas, bringing you multiple happy endings.
Find out how to watch Love Actually here.
When Bad Santa came out in 2003 it quickly became something of a cult classic. As an antidote to the feel-good nature of most Christmas movies it is hard to fault. Bad Santa casts Billy Bob Thornton as the world’s department store Santa, being mean to kids in order to rob his employers. It’s scabrous, quotable and funny, and a must-see for many each festive season.
Find out how to watch Bad Santa and Bad Santa 2 here.
The Nightmare Before Christmas
The Nightmare Before Christmas is a 1993 animated movie in which a resident of Halloween Town falls through a portal into Christmas Town and is instantly impressed. Obsessed with the idea of Christmas, he tries to explain what he has seen to his fellow residents to no avail. Eventually he decides it’s not fair for Christmas Town to have all the fun, so decides to kidnap Santa and that he and Halloween Town will take over the festivities.
Find out how to watch The Nightmare Before Christmas here.
Home Alone tells the story of a young boy who is accidentally left home alone while his family is on a Christmas holiday and goes about setting up a series of traps for two burglars intent on raiding his home. The result is an awful lot of laughs, and a warm, fuzzy feeling when young Kevin is finally reunited with his mum.
Find out how to watch Home Alone here.
Gremlins was released back in 1984 and followed by Gremlins 2 in 1990. A comedy horror, Gremlins sees Randall Peltzer buy his son Billy a mogwai called Gizmo for Christmas, but under the strict instruction that he never get it wet, feed it after midnight or expose it to bright light. One mogwai ends up six when a glass of water is accidentally spilled on Gizmo, and are intent on causing trouble. Or, rather, murder.
Find out how to watch Gremlins here.
Santa Claus: The Movie
Santa Claus: The Movie is more than 30 years old, released back in 1985 and starring Dudley Moore, John Lithgow and David Huddleston. It was a flop at launch, but is now one of our favourite films for the festive season.
Santa Claus: The Movie chronicles the origins of Santa Claus and his wife Anya, and explains the mysteries of Father Christmas – such as how reindeer fly – to curious kids. It also sees Santa Claus take on one of his elves who is scheming to take over the toy-making.
Find out how to watch Santa Claus: The Movie here.
Jingle All The Way
We totally feel Arnie’s pain: your kid wants that one present more than anything in the world and it’s sold out everywhere. Jingle All The Way sees Arnold Schwarzenegger and a rival dad played by Sinbad desperate to get their hands on a Turbo-Man action figure in time for Christmas, and hilarity ensues.
Find out how to watch Jingle All The Way here.
It’s A Wonderful Life
Based on the short story The Greatest Gift, It’s A Wonderful Life was produced and directed by Frank Capra in 1946 and was nominated for five Academy Awards. It’s one of the better-known Christmas films, focusing on a frustrated businessman (James Stewart) who is contemplating suicide on Christmas Eve when he is intercepted by his guardian angel (Henry Travers) who shows him what life would be like without him in it.
Find out how to watch It’s A Wonderful Life here.
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
Just about everything you could imagine that could possibly go wrong goes wrong for the Griswolds one Christmas in this 1989 film. To top it all off, dad Clark learns he hasn’t been paid the Christmas bonus he was depending on and finally loses the plot. It’s okay, though, because not only does Clark end up with his bonus but a 20 percent pay rise. If only that could happen in real life.
Find out how to watch National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation here.
We all know the song, and this is the movie that made it famous. Bing Crosby co-stars in this 1954 Christmas musical romcom with Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen. Beginning Christmas Eve 1944, two US Army soldiers, a broadway entertainer and another aspiring entertainer perform for the 151st Division. They go on to make it big, and decide to help out a friend in need as they learn that their old commanding officer General Wavely is running a failing inn.
Find out how to watch White Christmas here.
E.T. The Extra Terrestrial
Steven Spielberg’s E.T. The Extra Terrestrial is played every Christmas and has been for as long as we can remember – well, ever since its release in 1982 in any case. It stars a very young Drew Barrymore (Gertie) alongside Henry Thomas (Elliott) and Robert MacNaughton (Michael) who befriend an alien creature who has been left stranded on Earth. Between the three of them they manage to feed it, look after it and mostly keep it hidden as they figure out a way to eventually return it home, which is heartbreaking for all involved.
Find out how to watch E.T. here.
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