A list of the Christmas movies, TV shows, and books our whole family has loved and enjoyed for years – these are the ones to watch and read year after year and start a new family tradition!
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One of our family’s most anticipated family traditions during the holidays is to read (and re-read) Christmas books and watch (and re-watch) movies and TV shows that are both fun and meaningful.
Curling up on the couch with cozy blankets, homemade peppermint mochas, and reading books out loud or watching movies is such a wonderful, quiet way to celebrate the season.
The other thing I like about these traditions is that they’re inexpensive, can happen on your schedule, and don’t seem to add to the bustle of the holidays like other activities can.
The bonus is that many of the best books and shows are great also conversation starters about what the true meaning of Christmas is and how we can help and serve others.
How did I come up with these lists?
I polled our kids and Brian about which of the many Christmas books, movies, and tv shows we’ve watched through the years that they remember and look forward to the most to create these favorites lists. We had to agree and zero in on the best to keep the lists manageable.
I hope you find a few to add to your own list! And please chime in and let me know some of your favorites in the comments- I’m always looking to add to our holiday traditions!
Update: there are some good additions in the comments, so be sure to check them out if you’d like more suggestions!
Favorite Christmas Movies for All Ages
2. It’s a Wonderful Life (stream here) Would it be Christmas without It’s a Wonderful Life? I don’t think so – and so we don’t even try. I still get teary at this one, which is amazing after so many years. (Plus, it was playing in the background of one of our dating stories we love to tell, so even more memories!)
3. White Christmas (stream here) The story of this doesn’t get old – friendship, love, family, and getting along – and neither do the songs. My favorite? “Sisters.” Plus, who can’t help but stare at Vera-Ellen’s super tiny waist?
4. Holiday Inn (stream here) Probably my favorite Bing Crosby movie of all! Even though there’s actually not much Christmas in this one, it’s still a holiday movie for us – and it has the original version of the “White Christmas” song. (Note: there is a black-face singing number in this which we use to talk about the history of it and how it’s not good. But it doesn’t negate the whole movie for us.)
5. Christmas in Connecticut (stream here) This movie isn’t as well-known, but it’s totally fun to watch Barbara Stanwyck pretend to be a Martha Stewart-type character for a holiday dinner when she’s really a city journalist that has been making up homemaking stories for a newspaper column. If you haven’t seen this, do put it on your list- you’ll love it!
6. A Christmas Carol, 1984 with George C. Scott (stream here) The best version, in our opinion. We just love the conversations we continue to have about life and choices from watching this classic tale.
8. Trains, Planes, and Automobiles (stream here) While this is a slapstick comedy, it has the sweetest sentiment ever at the end. Though I do need to say that the adults liked this more than the kids, though they thought it was good.
9. The Small One TV by Disney and the book it was based on by Alex Walsh (stream here) I loved, loved this story – even though I know it’s not accurate, the feelings and points it makes brings me to tears every time. And my son asked to have this read to him every year – and then we’d watch the video. So good.
10. Frosty the Snowman (stream here) The classic you have to watch and sing along with! (Fun Fact: our son went to elementary school with the daughter of a lady who voiced one of the kids in this show when she was little – we’ve never watched it the same since. Our claim to fame, ha!)
11. Santa Claus is Coming to Town (stream here) My daughter is still surprised that this is my favorite TV show, since I’ve always downplayed Santa in our house (to me he represents the ‘gimme-gimme’ part of Christmas…). But it is all bound up in my childhood – I loved this animation, the origins of so many Santa traditions- including how he got his name, his “Ho Ho” laugh, his flying reindeer and his stocking-stuffer habit. My favorite song is “Put one foot in front of the other…” which I sang as my kids learned to walk! We found Rudolph (this same animation) a little too sad and like this one much better.
12. Charlie Brown Christmas (stream here) Maybe the other show that it’s not Christmas without? Because everyone needs to know what a “Charlie Brown Christmas tree” looks like, right? Plus, that Christmas tune Linus plays.
3 More Christmas Movies to Add
13. The Thin Man (stream here) Our family adores the whole Thin Man series of movies, the depiction of the marriage of Myrna Loy and William Powell is fantastic – loving and funny equals. We only recently discovered that the first movie is set during the Christmas season, so now it gets to be one of our holiday movies – yay!
14. Holiday Affair (stream here) This 1949 movie set during the holidays centers around a widowed mom (Janet Leigh) and her son who wants a train set. This took us completely by surprise since we hadn’t heard of it and it’s so heartwarming, charming, and smart. It’s become a “new” favorite for us!
15 The Ride: A Christmas Eve Parable (stream here) This 2014 short film gripped us from the beginning. It starts out a bit dark and sad and you don’t know where it’s going, but hold on to the end – it’s one of those movies that will take you by surprise (and perhaps bring a few happy tears). We’ve talked about this a lot and have recommended it to many – I hope you will give this moving film a try!
Favorite Christmas Books for All Ages
1. The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, CS Lewis. “It would be sad if it was always winter and never Christmas.” Thankfully Aslan came and there is Christmas. A classic for ages 8 and up.
2. The Gift of the Magi, O. Henry. This is such a wonderful story about sacrificial love and how material things are not the important things. A story our family talked a lot about and continues to influence us. Highly recommend for 10 and up.
3. Christmas in the Big Woods, Laura Ingalls Wilder. I couldn’t wait to read The Little House on The Prairie books to my kids and this picture book wonderfully illustrates how different Christmas was in the past. I love history and think we can learn a lot from the past, but this also helped us talk about all we have now and to be grateful.
4. Robert Sabuda’s incredible pop-up books like The Christmas Story, Christmas Alphabet, and 12 Days of Christmas. They are simply the most amazingly detailed pop-ups you’ll ever see and are something we all look forward to opening every Christmas.
5. If You Take a Mouse to The Movies, Laura Numeroff. We started reading this when our daughter was small, but I think we read it every year into high school! It’s so fun anticipating what that cheeky mouse will do next.
6. The Christmas Story, Jane Werner Watson. We have a soft spot for classic Golden Books and the illustrations in this story are just perfect. Start this one as soon as the kids can listen to books.
7. The Jolly Christmas Postman, Janet & Allan Ahlberg. All the Jolly Postman books are super fun – for kids and for those who to read to them – since you get to pull out letters and cards to read. Plus the letters are from fairy tale characters, which is endlessly fascinating to children. My kids wanted to read these again and again.
Jan Brett and Christmas go hand-in-hand – we love so many of her books and amazing illustrations! Here are four of our top picks:
8. The Mitten, The book that started it all for us – seeing what happens to a lost mitten is pure magic.
9. Gingerbread Friends The boy from The Mitten returns with the Gingerbread Baby as he looks for friends and finds them where he started. The pop-out at the end is wonderful.
10. Gingerbread Baby Oh, that naughty Gingerbread Baby! Wonderful surprise ending that involves the boy from The Mitten as well.
11. The Night Before Christmas The classic poem told with Jan Brett’s detailed illustrations and fun “preview” sidebars. My son remembers this one especially.
Now it’s your turn – what are your favorite Christmas books or Christmas movies and shows?
This article is part of the 8 Weeks of Christmas Ideas series where you can find resources for cooking, gift ideas, time savers, recipes, traditions & more!
This article has been updated – it was originally published in December 2016.Disclosure: affiliate links in this article will earn commission based on sales, but it doesn’t change your price. Click here to read our full disclaimer and advertising disclosure.