Ah, the holidays! Many a childhood home will be descended upon by adult children and extended family, and many will find themselves cozied up to the TV (or computer screen) under a blanket with a variety of streaming holiday movies. And while some of the old standby favorites like It’s A Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th Street will surely be making their rounds — we’ve got a handy round-up of feel-good films that’ll keep your sleigh bells ringing.
The Best Streaming Holiday Movies: Updated for 2022
With everything from beloved classics to exclusive new movies on competing streaming platforms, there’s truly a film for everyone this holiday season. Here are some of our favorite holiday films.
Warning: Spoilers ahead!
1. Home Alone (1990)
Starring: Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern
Directed By: Chris Columbus
Synopsis: The night before he’s to join his family on vacation to Paris, Kevin McCallister (Culkin) is banished to his room after a fight with his brother, where he wishes his family would all disappear. He wakes up the next day only to discover that his wish has come true! It turns out his family had forgotten him in their mad dash out the door to vacation. But it’s not all peace and quiet: a pair of burglars (Pesci, Stern) have set their sights on the McCallister home. For the next 75 minutes, we follow Kevin as he fends off the goofy yet menacing duo, getting to know a lonely neighbor and helping him reconnect with his estranged son.
Why It Makes Us Feel Warm and Fuzzy: What’s cuter than Macauley Culkin in footed pajamas setting elaborate booby traps to a soundtrack of classic holiday tunes like Brenda Lee’s “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree”? And nothing says warm and fuzzy like John Candy as the “Polka King of The Midwest” cramped in the back of a crowded van reflecting on the meaning of family and relationships. This movie lays it on thick with nostalgia, all while reminding us all of what it was like being a kid. You’ll enjoy cozying up to this on your parents’ couch with some eggnog.
Available on: Disney+
Also Watch: Jingle All The Way (1996), The Christmas Chronicles (2018), Uncle Buck (1989)
2. Elf (2003)
Starring: Will Ferrell, James Caan, Zooey Deschanel, Mary Steenburgen
Directed by: NYFA Guest Speaker Jon Favreau
Synopsis: Will Ferrell is over-the-top-hilarious as the heartbreakingly naive elf who, upon learning of his true identity as a human, sets on a quest to find his biological parents while changing the hearts of hardened cynics along the way.
Why It Makes Us Feel Warm and Fuzzy: Buddy’s relentless optimism and good cheer bouncing off Faizon Glover’s deadpan makes for some hilarious and memorable scenes. And if Will Ferrel in an elf costume trying to hug a raccoon in Central Park doesn’t make your belly ache with laughs — you’ve got a heart of coal! This movie is packed with the kind of humor we’ve come to expect from Ferrell while still exploring the grand themes of belonging, family, and acceptance. It’s the kind of film that will deliver the magic you’re looking for, and you can watch it over and over again.
Available on: HBO Max, Amazon Prime
Also Watch: Miracle on 34th Street (1994), Fred Claus (2007), A Christmas Story (1983)
3. Last Holiday (2006)
Starring: Queen Latifah, LL Cool J
Directed By: Wayne Wang
Synopsis: When the perpetually cautious and predictable Georgia Byrd gets a diagnosis that says she has three weeks to live, she decides to go to the Czech Republic and blow her life savings to live opulently and seek out her hero, Chef Didier. Along the way, she meets high-profile individuals who mistake her for a wealthy, hence in their eyes, important individual.
Why It Makes Us Feel Warm and Fuzzy: Loosely based on a 1950 film of the same name, Last Holiday, is a wonderful reminder to live life to the fullest. Georgia learns how to live in the moment and pursue what she really wants in life instead of playing it safe.
Available on: Hulu, Amazon Prime
Also Watch: The Holiday (2006), Love Actually (2003)
4. Spirited (2022)
Starring: Will Ferrell, Ryan Reynolds, Octavia Spencer
Directed by: Sean Anders
Synopsis: In 2022, Will Ferrell gifted us with another to-be holiday classic, Spirited. A modernized, musical version of Charles Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol,” Spirited is the story of The Ghost of Christmas Present (Ferrell) trying to turn miser Chris Briggs (Reynolds) into a good person.
Why It Makes Us Feel Warm and Fuzzy: This film brings us back to the days of Elf when Ferrell played a character full of holiday spirit. His efforts to make Briggs see the good in himself and others is a great holiday reminder to be grateful and present. Octavia Spencer is a delightful addition to the film, playing a sweet co-worker to Briggs that Ferrell’s character “Present” also becomes quite sweet on.
Available on: Apple TV
Also Watch: The Family Man (2000), It’s A Wonderful Life (1946), The Santa Clause (1994), Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey (2020)
5. A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)
Starring: Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus, and Snoopy
Directed by: Bill Melendez
Synopsis: Looking for an iconic film to introduce to the nieces and nephews that’ll even Grandpa and Grandma near? Look no further than this old, reliable, based on Charles M Shulz’s comic strip, Peanuts. When Charlie Brown grows disenchanted with the over-commercialized version of Christmas, he embarks on a quest to discover its true meaning, facing ridicule and loneliness in the process. While everyone from Linus to Snoopy seems to be obsessed with their own interests, Charlie seeks counsel from Lucy, who recommends getting involved in a play as a cure for depression.
Why It Makes Us Feel Warm and Fuzzy: It’s animated, it’s set to an award-winning jazz soundtrack, and it includes a sobering moment where Linus delivers a monologue on the true meaning of Christmas, ending it with “And that’s the true meaning of Christmas, Charlie Brown,” that will really get you into the mood. Waterworks alert: if you’ve got a single sentimental bone in your body, it’s the kind of film that you can create new memories with every year.
Available on: Apple TV
Also Watch: The Muppet Christmas Carol (2002), The Polar Express (2004), How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000), The Nutcracker and the Four Realms (2018)
6. Happiest Season (2020)
Starring: Kristen Stewart, Mackenzie Davis, Mary Steenburgen, Allison Brie, Dan Levy, NYFA alum Aubrey Plaza
Directed by: Cleo DuVall
Synopsis: Kristen Stewart plays Abby, who is newly engaged to her long-time girlfriend Harper (Mackenzie Davis). She’s excited to meet Harper’s family for the first time when they go home for the holidays, only to discover that no one knows that her girlfriend is gay and that they are in a committed relationship.
Why It Makes Us Feel Warm and Fuzzy: This film joins other LGBTQ+ holiday films that touch on issues of identity, self, relationships, and trust, which can be especially prevalent around the holidays. We see Harper’s fears and insecurities through her actions and the pain it causes Abby, all with holiday traditions and typical family dynamics blended in. The movie shows us how this time of year can unite families, and at the end of the day, the most important thing is love and happiness.
Available on: Hulu
Also Watch: Just Friends (2005), The Family Stone (2005), Four Christmases (2008)
7. The Preacher’s Wife (1996)
Starring: Whitney Houston, Denzel Washington, Courtney B. Vance, Gregory Hines
Synopsis: A dedicated pastor (Vance) of a struggling church in a poverty-stricken neighborhood neglects his wife Julia (Houston) and son as he responds to the many needs of his parishioners. Pressured to sell the church property to a real estate developer (Hines), a desperate prayer for help is answered through Dudley (Washington), an angel sent by God to help the pastor.
Why It Makes Us Feel Warm and Fuzzy: If Whitney Houston’s angelic voice singing “Who Would Imagine A King” doesn’t make you sentimental, God rest your sorry soul. While the story of a struggling Baptist minister sets the stage for a divinely inspirational, gospel music-filled score led by the late Ms. Houston, it’s a dreamy and romantic film where you’ll find yourself willing a romance between Houston and Washington to happen. And don’t be surprised if you’re compelled to order the soundtrack. It will add a little something extra to the ambiance around the table this year.
Available on: Disney+Also Watch: Almost Christmas (2016), Last Christmas (2019), Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (1987)
8. Falling for Christmas (2022)
Starring: Lindsay Lohan, Chord Overstreet
Director: Janeen Damian
Synopsis: Glee and Mean Girls fans rejoiced when Falling for Christmas hit Netflix. Starring Lindsay Lohan and NYFA alum Chord Overstreet, the film features Lohan as a hotel heiress, Sierra, who gets amnesia during a skiing trip. Overstreet comes to her rescue as the dashing Jake Russell, a local inn owner and single dad who offers to put her up until she gets her memory back. Romance ensues.
Why It Makes Us Feel Warm and Fuzzy: Besides the return of Lohan, the film also features funny and charming characters such as Sierra’s pretentious yet goofy fiance, Tad Fairchild (George Young), and a local ice fisherman and outdoorsman Ralph (Sean Dillingham).
Available on: Netflix
Also Watch: Holidate (2020), The Noel Diary (2022)
Celebrating The Season With Streaming Holiday Movies
Whether you prefer to binge-watch holiday specials or hit up the Hallmark channel, there’s nothing better to celebrate the festive season than a great film. Here at NYFA, we wish you a fun and happy holiday and a wonderful new year!