‘Tis the Season for Streaming

Your guide to the best Christmas movies streaming this holiday season

By Brian Bowe

Christmas is the season of giving, so this holiday season give yourself the greatest gift of all – a well earned break. After your Christmas cards have been sent, tinsel thrown and your wallet well and truly gutted, sit back and tuck into some classic Christmas movies. There’s no need to flick through the stations or doom-scroll Netflix; we have you sorted. The top streaming platforms have so much to offer this festive season, here’s a look at some of the best.


Uncle Buck (1989)

Netflix’s Christmas lineup this year is the weakest of the lot, choosing Uncle Buck – which isn’t widely considered a Christmas movie – is a case in point. To its credit, though, the film ticks all the same boxes, just minus the decorations.

When Cindy and her husband have to leave town for a family emergency, there is only one person available to babysit for their three kids: Bob’s lazy, carefree brother, Buck (an unforgettable performance from John Candy). While he immediately gets along with the two younger children (Macaulay Culkin and Gaby Hoffman), Buck must change his bachelor lifestyle if he wants to be a responsible caregiver for the angst-filled teenager, Tia (Jean Louisa Kelly).

People don’t talk about John Candy anymore – and they should. Irish legend Maureen O’Hara once compared him to the great Charles Laughton; two big men with the stunning ability to flip from comic to dramatic so smoothly you’d hardly notice. Along with Planes, Trains And Automobiles (1987), Uncle Buck, directed by John Hughes, is Candy at his best.

The fish-out-of-water scenario of an oafish bachelor babysitter has great scope for hilarity and sweetness. And even though Christmas is never mentioned, this one became a winter must-watch around my house growing up, and long may it continue.

Jack Frost (1998)

Back when I was a child, I rented Jack Frost expecting a heartwarming tale about the importance of family and, most importantly, talking snowmen. What I got instead was a low-budget slasher of the same name that has haunted me ever since. And though there was a talking snowman, its dialogue usually amounted to crass one-liners after carrying out a gruesome murder: “Gosh. I only axed you for a smoke.”

You have been warned. Jack Frost, not the 1997 version, is thankfully more cheesy than bloody. It follows a flakey father (Michael Keaton) who tragically dies in a car accident only to return as a snowman, and tries to put things right with his son before he is gone forever.

Jack Frost may be corny as hell, but it’s got charismatic actors in Michael Keaton and Kelly Preston and (for the time) solid looking practical effects – including a puppet produced by the Jim Henson company. It’s a fine Christmas film that seemingly gets ripped apart by so many. Yes, it’s far-fetched and very sentimental, but isn’t that what we want from these films? “Snow dad is better than no dad.”

Amazon Prime

Love Actually (2003)
Mr Prime Minister, Hugh Grant

As if I have to remind you: Love Actually follows nine intertwined stories examining the complexities of the one emotion that connects us all: love. Among the characters explored are David (Hugh Grant), the newly elected British prime minister who falls for a young staffer (Martine McCutcheon); Sarah (Laura Linney), a graphic designer whose devotion to her mentally ill brother complicates her love life; and Harry (Alan Rickman), a married man tempted by his attractive new secretary.

Along with Will Ferrell’s Elf, released the same year, Love Actually has become a modern Christmas classic. Even if you don’t have Netflix, chances are you’ll encounter it half a dozen times out in the wild of terrestrial television. It has its critics, most of whom bemoan its shallow and glossy representation of London life. But I find its many charms hard to resist. The film boasts an irresistibly likeable large cast; if you don’t like Colin Firth, here’s Keira Knightley – not a Knightley fan? Have Emma Thompson, take Liam Neeson, a slice of Rowan Atkinson, Bill Nighy, a pre-fame Chiwetel Ejiofor. There’s somebody for everyone.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)

The highest grossing film of 2000, Ron Howard’s liveaction adaptation of the beloved children’s tale by Dr. Seuss stars Jim Carrey as the reclusive green Grinch who decides to ruin Christmas for the cheery citizens of Whoville. Reluctantly joined by his hapless dog, Max, the Grinch comes down from his mountaintop home and sneaks into town to swipe everything holiday-related from the Whos. However, the bitter grump finds a hitch in his plans when he encounters the endearing Cindy Lou Who (Taylor Momsen).

The jolly Grinch

Carrey described the makeup process as “being buried alive every day,” saying it took eight and a half hours in total. Well, it was worth it; the make-up prosthetics are spectacular, and even allow Carrey to retain his signature elastic expressions. And while Carrey is the main attraction here, Howard does bring a strange, heartwarming, nightmarish feel to the production – a quality rarely attributed to the director –
whether it was intended or not is hard to know. What is for certain, though, is that Max is the top dog when it comes to cinema canines.

A Christmas Story (1983)

Based on the humorous writings of author Jean Shepherd, this 80s Christmas classic follows the wintry exploits of youngster Ralphie Parker (Peter Billingsley), who spends most of his time dodging a bully and dreaming of his ideal Christmas gift, a “Red Ryder air rifle”. Frequently at odds with his cranky dad but comforted by his doting mother, Ralphie struggles to make it to Christmas Day with his glasses and his hopes intact.

Though largely considered the quintessential Chritsmas movie in the U.S. Bob Clark’s A Christmas Story didn’t live long in the Irish public’s imagination. It’s tender and quirky — most of that quirk coming from the infamous leg lamp, a piece of set dressing that has outlived the film in many respects. The strength of the movie is that it really shows that while Christmas might not always turn out exactly as you planned, it is those unique imperfect memories that you can look back on over the years and laugh about that are truly special. It blends the whimsy of Matilda with cynicism that would even give the Grinch a run for his money.


Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special (2022)
Starlord himself, Chris Pratt

You’ve no doubt seen the trailer for this kooky Marvel spin-off. Shot in tandem with Vol. 3 (due next spring), Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special finds the Guardians looking to raise Quill’s (Chris Pratt returning to his star-making role) low spirits. Their answer? A trip to Earth to kidnap Footloose star Kevin Bacon as a unique Hollywood-style Yuletide gift.

Fans have been dying to catch up with the Guardians. It’s been five years since their last stand-alone film, and their cameo in last summer’s Thor: Love and Thunder was disappointedly brief. Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special is set up to be a self aware throwback to the TV Christmas specials of yesteryear, most notably The Star Wars Holiday Special, a source of much amusement for fans and embarrassment for everyone involved.

Home Alone

The whole Home Alone franchise is up on Disney+ – yes, even the terrible 2021 reboot, Home Sweet Home Alone starring Aisling Bea. But you could hardly blame her for joining the Christmas fun, Home Alone is iconic.

You filthy animals know the drill: there’s a boy – yep, six movies in and they’ve never attempted to gender flip the premise – and he finds himself home alone and defending his humble abode against bumbling burglars with an array of increasingly complicated, and hilarious, booby traps.

I’ve always liked Home Alone 2: Lost in New York the most. There’s something about New York in the snow that feels more Christmassy than the usual suburban setting. It’s not perfect, though; look no further than Donald Trump’s cameo for proof. Thankfully Brenda Fricker is on hand, arguably stealing the show as the pigeon lady. All in all, no Christmas is complete without watching at least one Home Alone film. Can you truly celebrate the birth of Christ if you haven’t first stared into the wide eyes of Macauley Culkin?

The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
Scrooge and the gang

The Muppet characters tell their version of the classic tale of an old and bitter miser’s redemption on Christmas Eve. He is held accountable for his dastardly ways during night-time visitations by the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future. They show him the error of his self-serving ways, but the miserable old man seems to be past any hope of redemption and happiness.

It doesn’t get much better than this. The songs are great, it’s hilarious, sweet, technically stunning – and wow, Michael Caine is giving his all. He never hams it up or winks at the camera; Caine’s performance is so grounded, deathly serious and committed that I doubt it would change if there were living actors around him instead of felt-coated puppets. Not only a Christmas classic, The Muppet Christmas Carol is arguably the best Muppet film. It’s easily the most immersive Muppet “world” we’ve seen constructed onscreen. The effect is magical, something most Christmas movies strive for but never achieve.

Apple TV+

Spirited (2022)

Puppets not your thing but you still want your Dickens fix? Then keep your eyes peeled for Spirited. Starring Will Ferrell, Ryan Reynolds and Octavia Spencer, Spirited is a modern take on A Christmas Carol. How modern? Well, as the official synopsis reads: each Christmas Eve, the Ghost of Christmas Present (Ferrell) selects one dark soul to be reformed by a visit from three spirits. But this season, he picked thewrong Scrooge. Clint Briggs (Ryan Reynolds) turns the tables on his ghostly host until Present finds himself reexamining his own past, present and future.

Yep, for the first time, A Christmas Carol is told from the perspective of the ghosts in this musical twist on the classic Dickens tale. It’s been said that Spirited is one of the most expensive Christmas films ever made at $75 million. Let’s hope it’s money well spent, because if there’s one person who doesn’t like to see money go to waste, it’s Ebenezer Scrooge.