8 Popular Holiday Movies to Watch on Repeat

Holiday time is family time. And what better way to bond with the babes than by cuddling up close for a story … and a movie! Give your kids a double dose of holiday spirit with these fun books that are also movies. Scroll down to see our picks.


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Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Common Sense Media

No Christmas would be the same without this adorable holiday TV classic that follows the sweet cherry-nosed Rudolph and his misfit friends as they learn that they don’t need to fit in to be happy. The 1964 film—and subsequent books—will introduce kids to the fabulous principle that they can simply be themselves, no matter what’s “normal.” While whole herds of Rudolph books have graced the marketplace, we like this gorgeous hardcover 50th Anniversary Edition.

The film: Rated G; Recommended for kids ages 3 & up (though the abominable snowman may frighten sensitive kids).

The book: Recommended for kids ages 2 & up.

Buy it on Amazon, $12.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Barnes and Noble

Go ahead and try to find a Christmas-loving kid who doesn’t adore this classic Dr. Seuss tale about the Grinch who tries to ruin Christmas for the town of Whoville—it’s not going to happen. The Grinch is, after all, the curmudgeonly old scrooge we all love in the end. But what’s so genius about the story, which was first published in 1957, is that it sends a layered message to kids about the real meaning of the holiday: “Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas … perhaps … means a little bit more!” 

Both the book and the subsequent 1966 TV special are perfect for kids as young as 3 or 4 (skip the 2000 live-action version starring Jim Carrey and Dakota Fanning, which is fun but maybe a little scary for kids under 9).

The Film: Rated G; recommended for kids 4 & up.

The Book: Recommended for kids 4 & up.

Buy it on Amazon, $10

The Nutcracker

With minimal words and gorgeous illustrations, New York Times bestselling artist and Caldecott Honor winner, Susan Jeffer’s literary rendition of The Nutcracker is as close to going to the ballet as a book can be. But if you want to actually see the ballet performed—without actually going to the theater, that is—watch the 1993 film choreographed by the famed George Balanchine and starring the New York City Ballet and a young Macaulay Culkin (who adorably plays the Nutcracker Prince). Younger viewers may be bored or frightened by some of the dance scenes, but budding ballerinas will be happy as sugarplums.

The film: Rated G; recommended for kids 5 & up (some staged battle scenes may be scary for younger tots).

The book: Recommended for kids 3 & up.

Buy it at Barnes & Noble, $18.

The Polar Express

Amazon Video Screenshot

This award-winning children’s story, written and illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg, follows a young boy who discovers a mysterious train outside his window on Christmas Eve and hops aboard to go visit the Man in Red himself. The book was an instant bestseller when it was released in 1985 and has since spawned many a themed train ride (this one on the Grand Canyon Railway is the best we’ve seen!) as well as the Oscar-winning film of the same name starring Tom Hanks. Both the book and the movie are magical—though parts of the film, including an out-of-control train and a ghost story, may frighten younger kids. Directed by Robert Zemeckis, the dazzling 100-minute film was made using live-action motion capture animation, an effect that makes the on-screen characters look real enough to make the magic all the more palpable.

The film: Rated G, recommended for kids ages 6 & up.

The book: Recommended for kids ages 4 & up.

Buy it on Amazon, $12.

Frosty the Snowman

This cute little story about a jolly, happy snowman who comes to life when he puts on a magical hat, is based on a 1950 song by Gene Autry. It was made into a TV special in 1969 … and the books came soon after. No matter the medium, kids will love seeing Frosty exclaim “Happy birthday” as he pops to life and marches down the street with his young friends. But behind the catchy title song and the magical storyline, there’s an even more important message about friendship and loyalty. You can find a whole slew of Frosty books online; we recommend the Golden Book version. As for the film, stick with the original, charming-as-ever 1969 version. Just don’t expect the song to get out of your head anytime soon (sorry).

The film: Rated G; recommended for kids ages 3 & up.

The book: Recommended for kids ages 3 & up.

Buy it on Barnes & Noble.com, $10.

The Small One

Amazon Video Screenshot

This 1978 animated Disney short about a little boy who must sell his beloved donkey in the Biblical days of Nazareth is based a 1947 children’s book of the same name by Charles Tazewell (note: The book is geared toward older kids). Of course, the original inspiration for the story (as you’ll gather by the movie’s sweet, north star of an ending) is the Bible itself. At just 25 minutes long, this flick is just the right length for antsy little ones who want a good holiday story without the 2-hour run time.

Want to make a night of it? The film is included on the DVD Walt Disney Animation Collection: Classic Short Films: Volume 7: Mickey’s Christmas Carol, which also features Mickey’s Christmas Carol, Pluto’s Christmas Tree, and Santa’s Workshop.

The Film: Rated G (recommended for kids 5 & up).

The Book: Recommended for kids 6 & up (though there are Disney versions of the book available online that might be better for younger kids).

Buy it used on Amazon, $20.

A Christmas Carol

Common Sense Media

Help kids learn the importance of kindness in this classic tale of how not to be a Scrooge (or, at least, why you shouldn’t be one!). This timeless story based on the 19th century Charles Dickens novella has been told so many times that it’s hard to pick a version that won’t send shivers down your spine when Ebenezer gets his first ghostly visit. But if you want to keep things safe for the kiddos, Disney has two notable versions of the classic tale: Mickey’s Christmas Carol is as tame as it gets, and at 26 minutes, it’s an easy addition to the evening; meanwhile, older kids will like Robert Zemeckis’s (Polar Express, Forrest Gump) 2009 incarnation starring Jim Carrey, which is thrilling but has some genuinely creepy moments.

The film: The Mickey version is Rated G and recommended for kids 5 & up; Zemeckis’s film is rated PG and best for kids 9 & up.

The Book: The original Charles Dickens story isn’t for young kids (though middle-schoolers might be OK with it). For little ones, try Disney’s lighter literary version, Mickey’s Christmas Carol, available on Amazon and recommended for kids 5 & up.

Buy it on Amazon, $15

Which one of these is your favorite? Share with us in a comment below!

—Melissa Heckscher

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