Film & Television

Have Yourself a Streaming Little Christmas

Holiday Fare On Demand

Anyone who has ever had a young child, grandchild, niece, nephew, or neighbor will attest to the fact that very young people — not a patient bunch otherwise — will watch the same favorite program over and over … and over and over again. One holiday season, when my daughter was four years old, she received a VHS cassette of the animated movie Barbie in the Nutcracker. For what seemed like an interminable few months, she watched it day in, day out. (In fact, today, at age 23, she still defends it.) Despite snippets of Tchaikovsky’s gorgeous score and the magnificent Tim Curry voicing the evil Mouse King, it was truly the single worst thing I have ever seen. And, coming from a woman who suffered through at least a year of her child’s earlier fascination with Teletubbies, that’s saying something.

Almost everyone has a favorite Christmas special, as demonstrated by two recent informal research projects. WDIV Local 4 in Detroit received 75,000 votes in this year’s “Christmas Movie Bracket” promotion. The winning title was National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, the 1989 comedy starring Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo. Coming in at second, third, and fourth were Rudolph (1964), A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965), and Home Alone (1990).

House Beautiful recently ran a story naming the most popular Christmas movies by state, based on data from IMDB and Google Trends. Home Alone ranked highest in nine states. Most titles claimed just one or two states, while Polar Express came in with three. Oddly enough, Die Hard, which doesn’t seem so very holly jolly to me, won in three states as well. You can see how your own favorite stacks up against the rest of the country here.

With subscription cable networks, streaming services, and video on demand, there’s virtually no excuse for missing beloved holiday programs. And this year, with so many of us spending the season safe at home, it’s a great time to revisit childhood treasures, rewatch classic titles, or discover new ones.

Here’s a sampling of what you can find on Netflix and Amazon.


Available to stream on Netflix

Christmas on the Square
Dolly Parton is an angel (as if any of us ever doubted) in this uplifting musical. Her nemesis, Christine Baranski, is the arch villainess who threatens to evict an entire town. I think we can guess who wins.

The Christmas Chronicles I and II
These rather contemporary (and action-packed) tales about the North Pole’s most famous residents star real-life Hollywood sweethearts Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn. 

Jingle Jangle
A new musical starring Phylicia Rashad and Forest Whitaker follows a brave young heroine as she sets off to recover her toymaker grandfather’s stolen invention. Music is by Grammy-winner John Legend.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas
The 2000 live action adaptation of Dr. Seuss’s beloved story of the Whos down in Whoville and the real meaning of Christmas stars Jim Carrey as that “mean one, Mr. Grinch.”

This recent — and gorgeous — animated film features an unlikely hero who discovers a lonely old toymaker in the arctic. Heartwarming for children and sophisticated enough for adults.

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms
A rather silly reimagining of the classic ballet, this film wins props for its enchanting sets and costumes and star-studded cast including Dame Helen Mirren, Keira Knightley, and Morgan Freeman. 

Mariah Carey’s Merriest Christmas
Enjoy a glitzy holiday special created and performed by the woman responsible for “All I Want for Christmas is You,” one of the season’s most recorded hits (and most persistent earworms). 


Available to stream or rent on Amazon Prime

Miracle on 34th Street
There have been several remakes, but the most classic is the 1947 version, starring Maureen O’Hara, John Payne, Edmund Gwenn as “Kris Kringle,” and tiny Natalie Wood as skeptical Susan. You’ll believe! 

Home Alone and Home Alone II: Lost in New York
Macauley Culkin stars in these raucous comedies that reinforce how important family is during the holidays — even if they leave you to fend for yourself against two comical thugs and a snooty hotel concierge.

This ridiculously fun movie, which was turned into a hit stage musical, stars Will Ferrell as impossibly tall elf Buddy, along with Bob Newhart, James Caan, Mary Steenburgen, Edward Asner, and Zooey Deschanel.

It’s a Wonderful Life
The classic Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed story of generosity, despair, and redemption takes place in the little town of Bedford Falls. Corny? Yes. Sentimental? Yes. Just what we need in 2020? Absolutely, yes!

The Nightmare Before Christmas
We never quite know whether to watch Tim Burton’s masterpiece at Halloween or at Christmas. So, we tend to watch it twice. Alternative and brilliant, with a Broadway-caliber score by Danny Elfman.

A Christmas Story
Another holiday title that inspires passionate fans. Relive your youth as hapless Ralphie begs Santa Claus for a Red Ryder BB Gun (that may or may not “put somebody’s eye out” — no spoilers here).

The Man Who Invented Christmas
In another new addition to the holiday lineup, Downton Abbey’s Dan Stevens stars as Charles Dickens, writing his classic A Christmas Carol with help from imaginary friends … and with no time to spare.


This list should get you and yours through Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day, and all the way to New Year’s. And, if I’ve missed any of your favorites, you’ll most likely find them available to rent from Amazon, watch on Apple+TV or Disney+, or on demand through your cable provider. 

Even if you (or a small person you know) wants to find Barbie in the Nutcracker

Speaking of which … happily, my daughter did finally outgrow Barbie in the Nutcracker (or maybe it accidentally left the house in a bag bound for Goodwill; I plead the fifth). These days, she and I delight to the crazy quilt of holiday stories that make up Love, Actually

It’s available for rent or purchase on Amazon Prime.


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