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The best holiday movies, ranked (and where you can stream them)

All have a Rotten Tomatoes score of 50% or higher

Lily Rose – CBS News

If it seems like the holiday season gets a little earlier every year, you may not be wrong. In 2021, the Hallmark Channel, that bastion of cheer, launched its “Countdown to Christmas” holiday film lineup Oct. 22. The channel planned to air new holiday flicks every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, all the way through the yule.

All of these holiday movies have a Rotten Tomatoes score of 50% or higher. That means a handful of fan favourites didn’t make the cut. Despite being beloved among audiences, movie critics haven’t felt particularly jolly about “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York,” “Eight Crazy Nights,” “Hebrew Hammer” and “A Madea Christmas.” 

So while they won’t be making an appearance on this list of the best holiday movies, they are getting an honourable mention for adding some ha ha ha (or, dare we say, ho-ho-ho?) to your holidays.

Find out where festive film classics such as “Elf,” “Home Alone” and more rank on Santa’s cinematic “nice” list, and we’ll even fill you in on where you can stream each movie if it’s streaming.

Note: All scores and streaming outlets were accurate as of publication.

51. “The Holiday” (50%)

51. "The Holiday" (50%)

The 2006 Nancy Meyers romantic comedy stars Kate Winslet, Jack Black, Cameron Diaz and Jude Law. The Philadelphia Inquirer called the film “a fizzy champagne cocktail that provides a pleasant buzz, many smiles, and Jude Law with the role of his career.” 

This title is available on Amazon Prime Video and Hulu.

50. “What’s Cooking?” (52%)

50. "What's Cooking?" (52%)

“Like the meal itself, the movie’s both filling and familiar,” a review from Entertainment Weekly said of the 2000 Thanksgiving movie about four Los Angeles families. 

The film is streaming on Amazon Prime Video, and stars Alfre Woodard, Mercedes Ruehl, Kyra Sedgwick and Julianna Margulies.

49. “The Family Stone” (53%)

49. "The Family Stone" (53%)

This 2005 movie about the misadventures of bringing a new romantic partner home for the holidays stars Sarah Jessica Parker, Dermot Mulroney, Diane Keaton, Luke Wilson and Claire Danes. 

Stream this title on Amazon Prime Video.

48. “This Christmas” (55%)

48. "This Christmas" (55%)

“‘This Christmas’ is not your typical family holiday movie, and thank goodness for that,” San Francisco Chronicle critic G. Allen Johnson wrote. “It’s warm, witty and alive, with a fantastic cast and a belief in its characters that transcends its formulaic tendencies.” The 2007 film stars Laz Alonso, Regina King and Chris Brown. 

Stream this title on Amazon Prime Video.

(TIE) 46. “Last Holiday” (56%)

(TIE) 46. "Last Holiday" (56%)

Queen Latifah stars in this 2006 remake of the 1950 Alec Guinness film of the same name. The actress plays a saleswoman who quits her job to live her dreams after she is diagnosed with a terminal illness. 

The Chicago Sun-Times said the movie, which you can stream on Vudu or Amazon Prime Video, “plays like a hug.”

(TIE) 46. “The Polar Express” (56%)

(TIE) 46. "The Polar Express" (56%)

“Director Robert Zemeckis once again harnesses a new technology to an engaging fable in this digitally animated adaptation of Chris Van Allsburg’s holiday tale,” the Chicago Reader wrote of this 2004 Tom Hanks-led motion-capture holiday movie.

It’s streaming on HBO Max or Amazon Prime Video.

45. “Serendipity” (58%)

45. "Serendipity" (58%)

John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale star in this 2001 romantic comedy set in snowy New York in the days leading up to Christmas. The Los Angeles Times called the film a “spun-sugar confection that’s so light and airy it threatens to simply float away.”

This title is available on Paramount+, Netflix or Amazon Prime Video.

44. “The Grinch” (60%)

44. "The Grinch" (60%)

“The latest animated iteration of Christmas’ most famous nemesis might not be strictly necessary, but it’s still pretty fun – and revamped just enough to feel fresh,” Entertainment Weekly said of the 2018 movie remake of the classic Dr. Seuss Christmas tale. 

This title can be streamed on Vudu.

(TIE) 42. “The Oath” (63%)

(TIE) 42. "The Oath" (63%)

Director Ike Barinholtz stars alongside comedian Tiffany Haddish in this 2018 Thanksgiving satire movie. Chicago Sun-Times film critic Richard Roeper called the movie “worth the risk-reward ratio.” Stream it now on Amazon Prime Video.

(TIE) 42. “Home for the Holidays” (63%)

(TIE) 42. "Home for the Holidays" (63%)

“The movie, which is about the Thanksgiving family reunion from hell, is not exactly a comedy and yet not a drama, either. Like many family reunions, it has a little of both elements, and the strong sense that madness is being held just out of sight,” Roger Ebert wrote about this 1995 holiday movie directed by actress Jodie Foster. 

This title is available on Amazon Prime Video through Oct 31, 2021.

41. “Love Actually” (64%)

41. "Love Actually" (64%)

This 2003 rom-com has an all-star cast, including Bill Nighy, Hugh Grant, Keira Knightley, Emma Thompson, Colin Firth and Alan Rickman. An AV Club reviewer said the film, which follows various Brits during the holiday season, “provides enough happy endings to make the audience forget that romance and Christmas miracles don’t always work out.” 

It’s on Amazon Prime Video.

40. “Home Alone” (65%)

40. "Home Alone" (65%)

This Christmas movie stars Macaulay Culkin as a boy who must defend his family home from bandits after his parents leave him (you guessed it) home alone. The 1990 film was called “the first Christmas black comedy for children” by the New York Times

See it on Disney+.

39. “Krampus” (66%)

39. "Krampus" (66%)

Looking for a creepy Christmas movie? The Los Angeles Times said that this 2015 horror film “has enough personality and ambition that it could easily become an annual tradition for those who prefer ‘Silent Night, Deadly Night’ to ‘It’s a Wonderful Life.'” 

The film is available on Hulu or Amazon Prime Video.

(TIE) 35. “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” (67%)

(TIE) 35. "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" (67%)

This 1989 holiday comedy about the Griswold family’s (Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo, Juliette Lewis, Johnny Galecki) yuletide shenanigans was called “the only modern Christmas comedy which really stands up to repeat viewings” by Time Out

The film is available on HBO Max or Amazon Prime Video.

(TIE) 35. “The Christmas Chronicles” (67%)

(TIE) 35. "The Christmas Chronicles" (67%)

Kurt Russell plays Santa Claus in this 2018 holiday action movie. The Daily Times called the movie, where two kids must save Santa and ultimately Christmas, “cute.” “It’ll satisfy that hankering for a holiday movie, especially if you’re a Kurt Russell fan,” the review said. (And what holiday movie lover isn’t a Kurt Russell fan?) 

The title is available for streaming on Netflix.

(TIE) 35. “The Night Before” (68%)

(TIE) 35. "The Night Before" (68%)

The 2015 holiday film about three lifelong friends who celebrate their raunchy partying tradition for the last time stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen and Anthony Mackie. The Toronto Star says the film “strives to remind us what matters most isn’t how you spend the holidays but who you’re with. Or, if you prefer, what you’re on.” 

This title is available on Amazon Prime Video and iTunes.

(TIE) 35. “A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas” (68%)

(TIE) 35. "A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas" (68%)

“For all its pretensions to bad taste, this is surprisingly heartwarming festive fare,” Time Out wrote of this 2011 holiday stoner-comedy starring John Cho and Kal Penn. 

Stream it on Netflix or Amazon Prime Video.

34. “The Knight Before Christmas” (70%)

34. "The Knight Before Christmas" (70%)

The 2019 Netflix holiday rom-com is about a time-travelling knight who falls for a modern woman stars Vanessa Hudgens and Josh Whitehouse. Decider called the film “exactly the kind of holiday movie you want from Netflix.” 

The title is available for streaming on Netflix.

(TIE) 32. “The Santa Clause” (71%)

(TIE) 32. "The Santa Clause" (71%)

After spooking a man he assumes is an intruder, Scott Calvin (Tim Allen) must don Santa’s red suit and become the new St. Nick. 

This 1994 family film is streaming on Disney+ or Amazon Prime Video.

(TIE) 32. “The Best Man Holiday” (71%)

(TIE) 32. "The Best Man Holiday" (71%)

“‘The Best Man Holiday’ is an eggnog that’s sticky-sweet and heavy at the same time,” Entertainment Weekly wrote of this 2013 film about college friends reuniting as adults. 

The movie is available on Amazon Prime Video or Peacock.

(TIE) 30. “A Christmas Prince” (73%)

(TIE) 30. "A Christmas Prince" (73%)

The 2017 Netflix original about a journalist who goes undercover at Christmastime to get the story on an eligible prince was called “an instant classic” by Entertainment Weekly

The title is available for streaming on Netflix.

(TIE) 30. “Frosty the Snowman” (73%)

(TIE) 30. "Frosty the Snowman" (73%)

Jimmy Durante narrates the classic animated children’s tale about a snowman who comes to life in this 1969 TV special. IndieWire said watching this Rankin-Bass holiday treat “is like the warmth of listening to an old record.” 

This title is available on Vudu and on YouTube.

29. “The Princess Switch” (75%)

29. "The Princess Switch" (75%)

Vanessa Hudgens plays both main characters in this 2018 Netflix original about a baker who swaps places with a duchess a week before Christmas. Decider described the film as “sure to check all the boxes for anyone looking for a simple and sweet Christmas romance flick.” 

The title is available for streaming on Netflix.

(TIE) 27. “The Muppet Christmas Carol” (76%)

(TIE) 27. "The Muppet Christmas Carol" (76%)

This 1992 movie is the Muppet-ized version of Charles Dickens’ classic holiday tale. “There may be some people who can watch Kermit the Frog’s nephew Robin give his heart-wrenching performance as Tiny Tim in ‘The Muppet Christmas Carol’ without choking up. I am not among them,” Guardian critic Peter Bradshaw wrote. 

The title is streaming on Disney+.

(TIE) 27. “Happy Christmas” (76%)

(TIE) 27. "Happy Christmas" (76%)

The 2014 Joe Swanberg holiday movie starring Melanie Lynskey, Anna Kendrick and Lena Dunham was compared to Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree by one Los Angeles Times reviewer: “scraggly, [with] plenty of heart and much to enjoy, especially if you prefer your presents homemade.” 

The title is available on Paramount+.

(TIE) 25. “Anna and the Apocalypse” (77%)

(TIE) 25. "Anna and the Apocalypse" (77%)

The Washington Post described the 2018 holiday zombie musical from director John McPhail as having “more than enough good cheer to get viewers through another holiday season on this troubled planet.”

The title is streaming on Vudu.

(TIE) 25. “White Christmas” (77%)

(TIE) 25. "White Christmas" (77%)

Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen star in this holiday classic named for the Irving Berlin song from the movie “Holiday Inn” (on which this 1954 movie is loosely based). The Times of London called this musical comedy the “cinema equivalent of an inappropriate festive snog under the mistletoe — you know you probably shouldn’t enjoy it, but you just can’t help yourself.” 

This title is available on Netflix.

24. “Bad Santa” (79%)

24. "Bad Santa" (79%)

Billy Bob Thornton poses as a mall Santa to rip off stores on Christmas Eve in this 2003 dark comedy. The film was called “an antidote to forced holiday cheer” by Newsweek. The publication also warned, “This scabrously funny misanthropic comedy is not for the whole family.” 

The title is available on Vudu.

23. “While You Were Sleeping” (80%)

23. "While You Were Sleeping" (80%)

Lucy (Sandra Bullock), a Chicago transit worker, falls for Peter (Peter Gallagher), a wealthy businessman who frequents the train station where she works. After saving him from an oncoming train, a case of mistaken identity causes Lucy to pose as Peter’s fiancée. Things become even more complicated when she starts developing feelings for Peter’s brother, Jack. 

Stream the 1995 rom-com on Disney+. 

22. “Let It Snow” (81%)

22. "Let It Snow" (81%)

This 2019 holiday movie tells the interwoven tales of high schoolers in a small town. The Guardian called the Luke Snellin-directed Netflix movie “a film as festive as it is familiar – and also surprisingly hard to resist.” 

This title is available to stream on Netflix.

21. “Elf” (84%)

21. "Elf" (84%)

This beloved 2003 Christmas movie about an adopted elf (Will Ferrell) who leaves the North Pole for New York City to connect with his human father (James Caan) was called “a pleasantly old-fashioned, gee-whillikers Yuletide confection” by the New York Post

The film is available on Amazon Prime Video with a Starz subscription.

20. “Gremlins” (85%)

20. "Gremlins" (85%)

Time described the 1984 horror-comedy about cute little monsters who wreak havoc on a small town during Christmastime as “a wildly original roller-coaster ride of hilarious mischief.”

The film is available on Peacock.

19. “A Christmas Tale” (86%)

19. "A Christmas Tale" (86%)

Catherine Deneuve, Anne Consigny and Mathieu Amalric star in this 2008 French-language film about an emotionally tumultuous family gathering. The Toronto Star said the movie “will make anyone dreading the holidays with their family grateful for what strife they may face. It’s nothing compared to what [this family] gets up to.”

The film is available on Amazon Prime Video.

18. “Christmas in Connecticut” (88%)

18. "Christmas in Connecticut" (88%)

The 1945 Christmas comedy features a war hero (Dennis Morgan) who has arranged to have Christmas dinner with his favourite married columnist (Barbara Stanwyck). The flick was called “frolicsome in an artificially hearty sort of way” by the Chicago Reader

The film is available on Amazon Prime Video.

17. “A Christmas Story” (89%)

17. "A Christmas Story" (89%)

“If you’re a fan of Christmas movies or films that use nostalgia as a driver, ‘A Christmas Story’ cannot be missed. Then again, if you’re in either category, you have probably already seen it,” ReelViews wrote of the 1983 movie.

The film is available on Amazon Prime Video or HBO Max.

16. “The Year Without a Santa Claus” (90%)

16. "The Year Without A Santa Claus" (90%)

In this 1974 stop-motion Rankin-Bass classic, a sick Santa Claus attempts to cancel Christmas. Luckily, Mrs. Claus and a pair of elves, who Entertainment Weekly called “the best Christmas baddies since the Grinch,” attempt to save the holiday. Other notable characters include Heat Miser and Snow Miser. The New York Times says the Misers’ musical number “ranks among the catchiest original songs that a Rankin-Bass production ever yielded.” 

This title is available on Amazon Prime Video.

15. “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” (91%)

15. "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" (91%)

Steve Martin and John Candy take a long, slapstick-filled road trip home to Chicago for Thanksgiving in this 1987 John Hughes comedy. The Washington Post called the film “a riotously springy holiday knockabout.” 

The title is available on Hulu.

14. “Arthur Christmas” (92%)

14. "Arthur Christmas" (92%)

“This witty, handsomely appointed 3-D animated feature is the most delightful Santa biopic since Edmund Gwenn donned the fat suit,” the San Diego Reader wrote about the 2011 animated movie. 

This title is on Amazon Prime Video.

(TIE) 12. “About a Boy” (93%)

(TIE) 12. "About a Boy" (93%)

Hugh Grant and Nicholas Hoult star in the 2002 movie adaptation of the 1998 Nick Hornby novel. Grant plays the son of a singer with a hit Christmas single who strikes up an unlikely friendship with an unpopular little boy. “Even people who don’t usually like Hugh Grant will be charmed by him in the scrappy, slightly scandalous comedy,” the New York Daily News said. 

This title is streaming on Peacock.

(TIE) 12. “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town” (93%)

(TIE) 12. "Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town" (93%)

The 1970 Rankin-Bass holiday stop-motion animated feature “has all the elements that have made [Rankin-Bass] productions perennial favourites every holiday season,” The New York Times said. 

This film is available via Vudu.

(TIE) 9. “Klaus” (94%)

(TIE) 9. "Klaus" (94%)

Jason Schwartzman, J.K. Simmons and Rashida Jones lent their voices to this 2019 animated Netflix holiday movie. The Los Angeles Times called it a “sprightly mix of attitude and altruism that purports to explain how children every Christmas came to eagerly await the wrapped bounty from a kind, portly figure in a red suit.” 

This title is streaming on Netflix.

(TIE) 9. “It’s a Wonderful Life” (94%)

(TIE) 9. "It's a Wonderful Life" (94%)

“‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ is a wonderful title for a motion picture about which practically everyone who sees it will agree that it’s wonderful entertainment,” The Hollywood Reporter wrote of the 1946 Frank Capra holiday film.

The black-and-white holiday movie follows the journey of a man who wishes he was never born (Jimmy Stewart), and an angel (Henry Travers) who shows him how worse off the world would be without him.

This title can be streamed on Amazon Prime Video.

(TIE) 9. “Die Hard” (94%)

(TIE) 9. "Die Hard" (94%)

Because it takes place on Christmas Eve, audiences have argued whether this action movie is actually a Christmastime classic. (Spoiler: It is!) The 1988 Bruce Willis-led film was called “good, dumb fun” by the Washington Post

Stream this title on Amazon Prime Video.

(TIE) 7. “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” (95%)

(TIE) 7. "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" (95%)

The 1964 TV special about the tale of a misfit reindeer who becomes the most famous reindeer of all was called “the mother recipe of the American Christmas special” by Salon.com

(TIE) 7. “The Nightmare Before Christmas” (95%)

(TIE) 7. "The Nightmare Before Christmas" (95%)

The 1993 Tim Burton Halloween-meets-Christmas movie was called “a work of grand visual wit” by the Orlando Sentinel, which also called it “perhaps the greatest stop-motion animated film ever.” 

This title is streaming on Disney+.

6. “Miracle on 34th Street” (96%)

6. "Miracle on 34th Street" (96%)

The New York Daily News called this 1947 movie, which stars Natalie Wood, Maureen O’Hara, John Payne and Edmund Gwenn, “completely captivating.” 

It is available on Amazon Prime Video.

(TIE) 1. “Holiday Inn” (100%)

(TIE) 1. "Holiday Inn" (100%)

Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire and Irving Berlin star in this 1942 musical comedy that introduced the song “White Christmas” to the world — but it also suffers from its racially insensitive content. The film features actors in blackface during the song “Abraham.” 

The title is available on Amazon Prime Video.

(TIE) 1. “The Shop Around the Corner” (100%)

(TIE) 1. "The Shop Around the Corner" (100%)

This 1940 film by Ernst Lubitsch is based on the 1937 Hungarian play “Parfumerie.” It later inspired the movie “You’ve Got Mail” and the musical “She Loves Me.” The Chicago Reader called the Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullivan film “a romantic comedy of dazzling range.” 

This title is available on Amazon Prime Video or Vudu.

(TIE) 1. “Carol” (100%)

(TIE) 1. "Carol" (100%)

Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara play women who become romantically involved during the Christmas season in 1950s Manhattan. The 2015 film was called a “memorable romance gift-wrapped for the holiday” by USA Today. 

This title is on Amazon Prime Video.

(TIE) 1. “Meet Me in St. Louis” (100%)

(TIE) 1. "Meet Me in St. Louis" (100%)

The 1944 MGM musical is where the song “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” comes from. BBC News called the film, which stars Judy Garland, Margaret O’Brien and Lucille Bremer, one of “the best Hollywood musicals ever.” 

This title is available on Amazon Prime Video.

(TIE) 1. “How The Grinch Stole Christmas” (100%)

(TIE) 1. "How The Grinch Stole Christmas" (100%)

The 1967 animated feature about a green Scrooge-like character who attempts to ruin Christmas for a whole town is where the song “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” comes from. The movie and its music “always brings a surge of fuzzy nostalgia every Christmas season that never seems to get old,” IndieWire said. 

This title is available on Amazon Prime Video.

feature image: New Line Cinema via CBS