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The 23 best Christmas movies and where to watch them

Netflix, Prime Video and HBO Max have some stellar movies to watch this holiday season.

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1 of 23

Arthur Christmas (2011)

Arthur Christmas -- rent for $3 on Prime Video.

Arthur Christmas comes from Aardman Animations, aka the studio famous for Wallace and Gromit. It follows Arthur, the son of Santa, who discovers a single present that has failed to be delivered to a little girl. The wholesomeness levels are off the charts.

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2 of 23 Warner Bros.

The Polar Express (2004)

The Polar Express -- HBO Max.

A lot of people think The Polar Express looks creepy with its uncanny valley CGI characters. Other than that, this is a quintessential Christmas movie, nowhere near as creepy as your average Christmas party attendee named Uncle Geoffrey.

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3 of 23 Buena Vista Pictures

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

The Nightmare Before Christmas -- Disney Plus.

Tim Burton's stop-motion classic. What better way to celebrate Christmas, than with a Christmas-obsessed skeleton from Halloween Town?

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4 of 23 Screenshot Patrick Holland/CNET

How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)

How the Grinch Stole Christmas -- rent for $4 on Prime Video.

Jim Carrey is the Grinch in this movie adaption of the Dr. Seuss book.

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5 of 23 Screenshot Patrick Holland/CNET

Miracle On 34th Street (1947)

Miracle On 34th Street -- HBO Max.

What happens when the real Santa Claus becomes a Macy's store Santa? This sweet and comical classic stars a young Natalie Wood during Christmas in post-WWII New York. When no one believes Kris Kringle is the real deal, a holiday trial is held to prove his authenticity.

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6 of 23 Screenshot Patrick Holland/CNET

Home Alone (1990)

Home Alone -- Disney Plus.

When you're 8 years old, not much can spoil Christmas -- except maybe being left accidentally at home while your family goes on vacation. But don't worry, Kevin McCallister (‎Macaulay Culkin) can handle himself even against two nincompoop burglars played by Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern.

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7 of 23 Screenshot Patrick Holland/CNET

Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987)

Planes, Trains and Automobiles -- rent for $3-4 on iTunes, Google Play or Prime Video

Neal Page (Steve Martin) just wants to get home for Thanksgiving. But everything goes wrong -- especially when he meets Del Griffith (John Candy). Their epic and hilarious journey takes them from New York to Chicago and everything in-between -- including two pillows.

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8 of 23 Screenshot Patrick Holland/CNET

A Christmas Story (1983)

A Christmas Story -- HBO Max.

When it was released, A Christmas Story didn't do too well at the box office. But over time, it has become a true holiday favorite. The film centers around Ralphie and his desire to get a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas. So turn off your leg lamp and queue up this holiday film -- we triple dog dare you.

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9 of 23 Screenshot Patrick Holland/CNET

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989)

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation -- HBO Max and YouTube.

This is the holiday movie that keeps on giving all year long. It follows the Griswold family as they try to survive Christmas. The film stars Chevy Chase, Beverly D'Angelo, Randy Quaid, Brian Doyle Murray, Doris Roberts, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Juliette Lewis. And it's as funny as the day it was released.

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10 of 23 Screenshot Patrick Holland/CNET

The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)

The Muppet Christmas Carol -- Disney Plus

Michael Caine and the Muppets make this one of the best adaptations of the book A Christmas Carol. Kermit the Frog is Bob Cratchit with Caine as Scrooge and Gonzo as Charles Dickens -- obviously, it's funny.

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11 of 23 Screenshot Patrick Holland/CNET

It's A Wonderful Life (1946)

It's A Wonderful Life -- Prime Video or Tubi (with ads).

This is always one of the most iconic holiday films. It centers on George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart), who has decided to end it all. But his guardian angel Clarence tries to convince Bailey why his life's worth living.

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12 of 23 Screenshot Patrick Holland/CNET

Elf (2003)

Elf -- HBO Max.

When he was a toddler, Buddy (Will Ferrell) was accidentally taken to the North Pole and raised there alongside elves. As an adult, Buddy travels to New York to find his real father. This film provides as many laughs as it does touching moments.

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13 of 23 Screenshot Patrick Holland/CNET

White Christmas (1954)

White Christmas -- Netflix.

This 1954 musical features Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye and Rosemary Clooney -- you know, George Clooney's aunt. The most notable part is Crosby singing the title song White Christmas.

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14 of 23 Screenshot Patrick Holland/CNET

Love Actually (2003)

Love Actually -- rent for $4 on Prime Video

This romantic comedy is now 13 years old. But it still delights, in large part due to its great cast: Colin Firth, Emma Thompson, Liam Neeson, Martin Freeman, Keira Knightley and Hugh Grant, among others.

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15 of 23 Screenshot Patrick Holland/CNET

A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)

A Charlie Brown Christmas -- Apple TV Plus.

This Emmy and Peabody award-winning short features Charles Schultz's beloved characters as they try to put on a holiday play. Over the years, the wonderful score by Vince Guaraldi has become a holiday staple.

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16 of 23 Screenshot Patrick Holland/CNET

Scrooged (1988)

Scrooged -- rent for $3 on Prime Video

Bill Murray is an executive forced to learn the true meaning of Christmas. This is one of the wackiest and weirdest adaptations of the Charles Dickens' classic. But Murray manages to make it work.

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17 of 23 Screenshot Patrick Holland/CNET

Bad Santa (2003)

Bad Santa -- rent for $3 on Prime Video

Who doesn't love an inebriated mall Santa? And who doesn't love Billy Bob Thornton as the aforementioned inebriated mall Santa!? This movie is equal parts hilarious and redeeming. Definitely check it out before you see the sequel: Bad Santa 2.

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18 of 23 Screenshot Patrick Holland/CNET

How The Grinch Stole Christmas! (animated, 1966)

How The Grinch Stole Christmas -- watch on Peacock.

This classic animated short, based on the Dr. Seuss book of the same name, features a big nasty green Grinch who wants nothing more than to ruin Christmas for Whoville. This short features Boris Karloff's narration and the famous title song You're A Mean One Mr. Grinch, sung by Thurl Ravenscroft, aka Tony The Tiger.

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19 of 23 Screenshot Patrick Holland/CNET

A Very Murray Christmas (2015)

A Very Murray Christmas -- Netflix.

Sophia Coppola made an irreverent Christmas variety show centered on beloved actor Bill Murray. And that's why it's amazing. Guest stars include George Clooney, Miley Cyrus, Chris Rock, Rashida Jones, Jenny Lewis, Jason Schwartzman, Maya Rudolph and Amy Poehler.

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20 of 23 Screenshot Patrick Holland/CNET

Santa Claus Conquers The Martians (1964)

Santa Claus Conquers The Martians -- Prime Video.

If you are a Martian and there's no one to give your children gifts, what do you do? You kidnap Santa Claus. This 1964 sci-fi comedy might not be the first movie that comes to mind as a holiday classic, but it's one of the most unique holiday movies ever made.

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21 of 23 20th Century Fox

Die Hard (1988)

Die Hard -- Peacock with ads.

I don't want to talk about whether Die Hard is a Christmas movie. I don't want to argue about it. It's here, OK! Just leave me in peace. Thank you, and enjoy the holidays.

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22 of 23 Disney

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005)

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe -- Disney Plus.

The fantasy epic based on C.S. Lewis' book is an excellent adaptation and family film, featuring Tilda Swinton as the White Witch.

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23 of 23 Buena Vista Pictures

The Santa Clause (1994)

The Santa Clause -- Disney Plus

Don't think, just watch.

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