We’re not gonna sugarcoat it: it’s been a rough year. Christmas can’t come any sooner. Given the fact that we can’t really celebrate in the way that we have in years past, it’s never been a better time to exclusively use movies to get in the Christmas spirit.
The upside is that there are more Christmas movies available than ever on streaming services, especially Amazon, which offers a wide selection over it’s Prime Video service. There’s any type of Christmas movie for your mood, whether you want something more dramatic, comedic, or even a holiday horror film, if you’re feeling adventurous.
Here at Complex, we’ve combed through the (frankly too big) selection on Amazon and have compiled the very best Christmas movies for you to stream this holiday season, because the nightmare that is 2020 shouldn’t stop you from feeling as warm and bright as the characters in these films. These are the best Christmas movies on Amazon Prime.
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)
Director: Jeremiah S. Chechik
Cast: Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo, Randy Quaid, Diane Ladd
Runtime: 1h 37m
Rotten Tomatoes: 68% (Critics) 86% (Audience)
Director: Richard Donner
Cast: Bill Murray, Karen Allen, John Forsythe, John Glover, Bobcat Goldthwait
Genre: Fantasy, Comedy
Runtime: 1h 41m
Rotten Tomatoes: 71% (Critics) 71% (Audience)
The Night Before (2015)
Director: Jonathan Levine
Cast: Seth Rogen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Anthony Mackie, Jillian Bell
Runtime: 1h 41m
Rotten Tomatoes: 68% (Critics) 61% (Audience)
Sorely underrated in the five years since its release, The Night Before aims to be a modern Christmas classic and does an admirable job, even if it remains underappreciated. Produced by Seth Rogen, the film follows three childhood friends (played by Rogen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Anthony Mackie) who, on the verge of becoming full-blown adults, decide to have one last night of debauchery as they attempt to find the Holy Grail of Christmas parties. As written by frequent Rogen collaborator Evan Goldberg, The Night Before is the gross-out, sensitive bro comedy variation on the Christmas movie that we somehow hadn’t received until 2015. The jokes fly fast and loose, there’s a lot of weed (it’s a Seth Rogen movie, of course), and there are plenty of celebrity cameos that make this unpredictable, surprisingly emotional action comedy a treat. The most valuable player of the movie has to be Michael Shannon, who, with his delightfully random presence, steals every single scene he’s in. The Night Before is an undersung millennial Christmas classic.
A Christmas Story (1983)
Director: Bob Clark
Cast: Peter Billingsley, Darren McGavin, Melinda Dillon
Runtime: 1h 33m
Rotten Tomatoes: 89% (Critics) 88% (Audience)
What else is there to even be said about A Christmas Story? It’s absolutely inescapable in most American households, largely thanks to its cable television ubiquity come Christmas Eve, but there’s a reason for its colossal popularity: it’s still incredibly fun. Adapted partially from humorist Jean Shepherd’s book In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash, the comedy centers on Ralphie (Peter Billingsley) and his experiences during the holiday season of 1940, including dealing with local bully Scut Farkus and begging his parents for a Red Ryder air rifle, despite their warning that he’ll “shoot [his] eye out.” A Christmas Story is nostalgia incarnate, the movie itself being nostalgic for the ’40s, and now to modern viewers, being nostalgic for the Christmases of the ’80s and ’90s, when the film was first a hit. What makes the movie popular to this day is how lived in it feels, and how relatable Ralphie’s family still feels after all these decades and technological advancements. A Christmas Story is an immortal Christmas classic that will always make you feel like a kid on Christmas morning.
The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
Director: Brian Henson
Cast: Michael Caine, Frank Oz, David Goelz, Steve Whitmire
Genre: Fantasy, Comedy
Runtime: 1h 25m
Rotten Tomatoes: 76% (Critics) 85% (Audience)
A Christmas Carol is an enduring literary classic that’s been adapted numerous times, from feature films to full plot references in Christmas episodes of your favorite TV shows. The best adaptation of it may just be the only one that prominently features the Muppets. Like the book it’s based on, The Muppet Christmas Carol tells the story of Ebeneezer Scrooge, an unrepentant miser, who finds his worldview changed when he’s visited by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future on Christmas Eve. The Muppet Christmas Carol boasts what is one of the very finest performances of Scrooge in film history by Michael Caine, who acts as seriously opposite Muppets as he would against human actors. The film is also especially faithful to the source material, and features great original songs that add some well-needed humor to the story. If The Muppet Christmas Carol doesn’t warm your heart this holiday season, you might be a Scrooge yourself.
The Kacey Musgraves Christmas Show (2019)
Director: Chris Howe
Cast: Kacey Musgraves, Dan Levy, Troye Sivan, Lana Del Ray, James Corden, Kendall Jenner, Fred Armisen, Leon Bridges
Rotten Tomatoes: 67% (Critics)
Director: Jon Favreau
Starring: Will Ferrell, James Caan, Zooey Deschanel, Leon Redbone
Runtime: 1h 37m
Rotten Tomatoes: 87% (Critics) 79% (Audience)
No matter how old we get, Elf will always be a staple holiday film. Between the backdrop of New York City, copious amounts of snow, and feel good Christmas plot, how could we not revel in the holiday with this classic?
The Holiday (2006)
Director: Nancy Meyers
Starring: Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Jack Black
Runtime: 2h 12m
Rotten Tomatoes: 50% Critics) 80% (Audience)
Raise your hand if you sometimes feel like dropping everything and living a life that is completely different from the one you've created for yourself. We love this movie because it shows us that although we are conditioned to believe that the grass isn't always greener on the other side, when we work to live the life we think we should be living, there may at least be fewer brown patches. This movie will remind you that even the most content of us may need to shake things up.
Home Alone (1990)
Director: Chris Columbus
Starring: Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern, Catherine O'Hara, John Heard
Runtime: 1h 42m
Rotten Tomatoes: 66% (Critics) 80% (Audience)
Pretty much everyone and their mother has seen this movie and will tell you that the whole Home Alone series is perfect to watch all year round. The sequels hold a special place in many moviegoers’ hearts, but there is something about the first one that cannot be topped.
It's A Wonderful Life (1946)
Director: Frank Capra
Starring: James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore, Thomas Mitchell
Runtime: 2h 9m
Rotten Tomatoes: 94% (Critics) 95% (Audience)
Considered one of the best American films ever made, It's A Wonderful Life is a holiday classic that reminds us just how much we can impact one another, a fact that's unfortunately easy to forget. 2018 also marks the first year that it's available on a major streaming platform, so now is the time to tune in. The film follows George Bailey (James Stewart), a man contemplating suicide after money from his family's business goes missing. Bailey is visited by a guardian angel, Clarence, who prevents him from committing suicide long enough to show him a timeline in which he had never been born, and all the people who would have been worse off without him. It's over two hours long, but it's a heartwarming tale about service, compassion, and notably, the evils of capitalism. Don't let the black and white fool you; It's A Wonderful Life is just as relevant today as it was 72 years ago.
Last Holiday (2006)
Director: Wayne Wang
Starring: Queen Latifah, LL Cool J, Timothy Hutton, Gérard Depardieu
Runtime: 1h 52m
Rotten Tomatoes: 56% (Critics) 67% (Audience)
Name a more iconic duo than Queen Latifah and LL Cool J. We’ll wait. Although this movie takes place during Christmas time, the premise and theme of the story is always relevant. If you have never seen this movie we don't want to spoil it for you, but that if you are feeling stuck with the way your life is going, or need a push to live out your dreams, this movie is for you.
Love Actually (2003)
Director: Richard Curtis
Runtime: 2h 15m
Rotten Tomatoes: 64% (Critics) 72% (Audience)
There are not that many movies that can flawlessly execute a multi-story arc, but Love Actually gets it right. Not only is it quintessentially British, but this cult classic makes you feel each and every character's plight to the fullest. Whether you're a fan of comedy, romance, heartbreak films, or redemption flicks, this movie has something for everyone.
Miracle On 34th St (1947)
Director: George Seaton
Starring: Maureen O'Hara, John Payne, Edmund Gwenn, Gene Lockhart
Runtime: 1h 36m
Rotten Tomatoes: 96% (Critics) 87% (Audience)
If you have younger children in your family who still believe in Santa, it’s fun to pretend for a while that he exists with them. Although the color version is good, the original black and white film adds a special touch of nostalgia.
The Polar Express (2004)
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Starring: Tom Hanks, Michael Jeter, Nona Gaye, Peter Scolari
Runtime: 1h 40m
Rotten Tomatoes: 56% (Critics) 63% (Audience)
There's something about The Polar Express that brings us back to our childhoods. As an adult, we sometimes get bogged down with work, relationships, bills, and more that we could all use a couple seconds to revel in the easier times. Between the soundtrack, the classic story, and magical visuals, this movie is the perfect comfort film.
The Santa Clause (1994)
Director: John Pasquin
Starring: Tim Allen, Judge Reinhold, Wendy Crewson, Eric Lloyd, David Krumholtz
Runtime: 1h 37m
Rotten Tomatoes: 72% (Critics) 65% (Audience)
Although we eventually grew out of believing in Santa Clause, the idea that he could actually exist brings out the kid in us. Don’t lie: We’ve all spent some time imagining what a North Pole would look like if Santa’s workshop elves actually lived there.