The best family-friendly holiday movies to watch on Disney+

AV Club's best Disney+ holiday films: The Nightmare Before Christmas (screenshot), Miracle On 34th Street (screenshot), Home Alone (screenshot), The Muppet Christmas Carol (screenshot)
AV Club's best Disney+ holiday films: The Nightmare Before Christmas (screenshot), Miracle On 34th Street (screenshot), Home Alone (screenshot), The Muppet Christmas Carol (screenshot)
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(Clockwise from bottom left:) The Nightmare Before Christmas (screenshot), Miracle On 34th Street (screenshot), Home Alone (screenshot), The Muppet Christmas Carol (screenshot)

Hearts need warming this time of year, and there’s no better streaming source for heartwarming, family-friendly entertainment than Disney+. In terms of holiday films merry and bright, the House of Mouse platform hosts everything from popular franchises like the Home Alone series to beloved classics like Miracle On 34th Street and its remake. There are also Muppets, Skellingtons, Guardians, and Star Wars stars helping usher in the spirit of Christmas. Read on for Disney+’s best holiday movies and The A.V. Club’s thoughts on each. And if it’s the best Disney+ movies overall you want, click here.

This list was updated on December 16, 2023.

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Like [Enchanted], Godmothered features an optimistic fairy tale character forced to contend with the harsh realities of the real world—which, of course, supplies Disney with its umpteenth chance to subvert its regressive past. Here, though, [Isla] Fisher occupies the Patrick Dempsey role of the cynical single parent who no longer believes in love or happily ever afters. In a rare straight-woman turn, the ever-likable actor pulls off the trickier-than-it-looks task of playing a character who’s perpetually annoyed without being annoying to watch... [Caroline Siede]

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The Guardians Of The Galaxy Holiday Special

James Gunn is ready to rule over DC now, but first he’ll revisit the Guardians Of The Galaxy franchise in a special (as well as the third GOTG movie, which comes out next summer). In this holiday film, which also closes out the MCU’s Phase Four, the Guardians decide to celebrate Christmas by trying to find the perfect present on Earth for Peter Quill (Chris Pratt). For some reason, that process involves breaking into Kevin Bacon’s house, so Bacon is now officially part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Zoe Saldaña, Dave Bautista, Pom Klementieff, Karen Gillan, Sean Gunn, Michael Rooker, Bradley Cooper, and Vin Diesel will all reprise their roles, while Maria Bakalova debuts as Cosmo the Spacedog. [Saloni Gajjar]

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Home Alone

Home Alone
Home Alone

Joe Pesci showing up in Goodfellas and Home Alone in the same two-month span is something I never get tired of thinking about. It’s like if Robert Mitchum had gone straight from Night Of The Hunter to playing Elmer Fudd in a live-action Bugs Bunny movie, and then that Bugs Bunny movie had been the biggest thing since Gone With The Wind. It’s beautiful in its perversity. Even the people who made Home Alone had no idea that it could be anything other than a pretty decent Christmastime moneymaker. The movie’s star was a cute kid, but a total unknown. Its director was just coming off of a notorious bomb. Its tone was both treacly and deranged. Warner Bros., Home Alone’s original studio, had passed on the film when writer and producer John Hughes couldn’t keep the budget under $10 million. In short, Home Alone took everyone by surprise... [Tom Breihan]

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Home Alone 2: Lost In New York

Home Alone 2: Lost In New York isn’t as tightly constructed or as simply entertaining as its predecessor, but in just two years Culkin had matured a lot as a screen presence and gives a stronger performance overall, mixing preadolescent brattiness with an almost supernatural savvy. The plot’s more ridiculous. This time, Kevin’s Miami-bound parents don’t notice that their son has gotten on a plane to the Big Apple—where, in a strange coincidence, he runs into the same guys who tried to rob his house a couple of years ago… [Noel Murray]

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The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special

The Star Wars Lego Holiday Special, in all its warm and fuzzy glory, is a nice addition to the holiday season, but it cannot entirely redeem the dumpster fire that is the original. If anything, it only solidifies the original’s low-ranking place within the saga, acting as a cleaner, more put-together “sequel.” But the ridiculousness of the original holiday special lives on in the silliness of Lego mechanics, which makes the new Life Day re-telling all the more fun. The Lego Star Wars Holiday Special amps up that cheesiness in the best way possible, taking all the bad with the good, in a charming ode to the 1978 television special. [Angelica Cataldo]

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Miracle On 34th Street (1947)

Yes, Miracle On 34th Street is pure Hollywood hokum, a blatant piece of sub-Capra populism designed to advance the controversial proposition that Santa is real and children should be allowed to let their imaginations run free. (How did Fox keep the protestors at bay?) But the film is pretty savvy too, getting a jump on mounting anxieties about the post-war cult of consumerism, soon to be savaged by beatniks, cartoonists, and underground stand-up comics. The story of a real “Kris Kringle” (played by the inimitable Edmund Gwenn) earning the trust of upper management at Macy’s and teaching young Natalie Wood and her progressive mother Maureen O’Hara to believe in Christmas again is really an object lesson in how to put one over on the buying public. What does the Macy’s customer say when Santa sends her to another store to buy her son a fire truck? She congratulates Macy’s on “this wonderful new stunt you’re pullin’.” [Noel Murray]

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The Muppet Christmas Carol

The Muppet Christmas Carol
The Muppet Christmas Carol

Amid the endless adaptations of Charles Dickens’ novella A Christmas Carol, we at The A.V. Club remain adamant that the Muppets’ version is the gold standard. What separates this 1992 instant-classic from its ilk is the commitment to source material; Dave Goelz, Steve Whitmire, Jerry Nelson, and Frank Oz’s wacky puppets provide a surface-level twist, but using Dickens’ exact words and rendering his morality tale with genuine heart reminds viewers why Scrooge’s story still resonates. Thanks to, dare we say, career-best work from Michael Caine as the miserly grouch, there’s pathos aplenty amid the silliness, making this annual favorite perfect for the whole family. [Jack Smart]

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The Nightmare Before Christmas

The Nightmare Before Christmas
The Nightmare Before Christmas

What’s this? The Nightmare Before Christmas appearing on another A.V. Club list? Why, yes it is! How could we exclude it from a list of the best Christmas movies? It’s got “Christmas” right there in the title! And it’s ultimately Santa who saves the day, after Pumpkin King Jack Skellington’s semi-hostile takeover nearly ruins everyone’s holiday (as Sally could have told him, if he’d only listened). The themes in this stop-motion classic of being true to yourself and finding new inspiration to rekindle old passions are relevant all year round. It works for Christmas, Halloween, and everything in between. [Cindy White]

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While You Were Sleeping

Lucy Moderatz (Sandra Bullock) spends her days behind a glass window in a Chicago Transit Authority booth and her nights home alone with her cat. On the surface, it sounds like the setup for the worst kind of stereotypical rom-com heroine desperate for love. In practice, however, 1995’s While You Were Sleeping paints a refreshingly honest portrait of the painful reality of urban loneliness. Unlike rom-coms that center on romance for romance’s sake, While You Were Sleeping roots the idea of dating and marriage in what it actually is for many people: a way to start, join, or blend a family. That thoughtful emotional core is even more impressive considering it comes from a movie about a woman who pretends to be a coma patient’s fiancée... [Caroline Siede]

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