The Top 10 Cheeriest and Most Heartwarming Holiday Movies
Plus, our own movie-snack pairing recommendations!
From the cooking to the shopping to the extra family time, December walks a fine line between being the most wonderful time of the year and the most stressful. Take a break with this watchlist of 10 feel-good seasonal staples and contemporary classics—paired with themed snacks!—or just stream them while you’re working in the kitchen. Either way, your holiday is bound to brighten.
Will Ferrell’s unexpectedly adorable family comedy is stocking-stuffed with whimsy, from Rankin/Bass-inspired stop-motion critters to Bob Newhart as Buddy’s adoptive elf dad to a climactic singalong in snowy Central Park.
The Snack: Something from one of the elves’ four main food groups: candy, candy canes, candy corns, and syrup
Where to Watch: Starz on Amazon
The Preacher’s Wife (1996)
Denzel Washington stars as a charming angel who’s sent down to Earth to help a reverend (Courtney B. Vance) and his wife (Whitney Houston) save their church and their marriage one Christmas season.
The Snack: Angel food cake
The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
There are at least two dozen filmed versions of the Charles Dickens novella, but only one stars a hybrid pig-frog family as the Cratchits—not to mention Michael Caine as Ebenezer Scrooge.
The Snack: A full turkey dinner like the one Scrooge brings the Cratchits on Christmas Day
Where to Watch: Disney+
Home Alone (1990)
When his family forgets him at home during a Christmas vacation to Paris, Kevin (Macaulay Culkin) takes up arms—actually paint cans, bricks, tar, a tarantula, etc.—to defend his home against two bumbling burglars (Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern).
The Snack: Delivery pizza, and keep the change, ya filthy animal
The Holiday (2006)
A Californian movie trailer producer (Cameron Diaz) and a British society columnist (Kate Winslet) swap homes for the holiday season, and fish-out-of-water romances ensue.
The Snack: Traditional English Christmas pudding
Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
When a department store Santa named Kris Kringle (played by Oscar winner Edmund Gwenn) claims to be the real thing, his sanity is put on trial in one of the few perennial holiday classics that also happens to be a legal thriller.
The Snack: Cookies and milk
Where to Watch: Disney+
A Christmas Story (1983)
This nostalgic cult classic—The Wonder Years with snow—has spawned a Broadway musical, a bed and breakfast in the house where it was filmed, and decades of leg lamp gag gifts.
The Snack: Peking duck, which the family orders at the Bo Ling Chop Suey Palace Co. after their neighbors’ dogs eat their turkey
Black Nativity (2013)
This modern-day retelling of the 1961 Langston Hughes play features a rafter-shaking gospel soundtrack performed by cast members including Jennifer Hudson, Mary J. Blige, and Tyrese Gibson that will definitely get you in the holiday spirit.
The Snack: Sweet potato pie, which Aretha (Angela Bassett) bakes for her family
Love Actually (2003)
With 10 interconnected storylines, this London-set ensemble rom-com can sometimes feel like an overstuffed goose, but just let the cheer and the melodrama and Bill Nighy singing “Christmas is All Around” wash over you.
The Snack: A glass of port to toast Aurélia (Lúcia Moniz), the Portuguese housekeeper and future wife of Jamie (Colin Firth)
A Christmas Prince (2017)
Set in the fictional kingdom of Aldovia, this Netflix royal romance makes some Hallmark Channel movies look like Citizen Kane. But at the end of a stressful year, sometimes snow-covered clichés are just what the doctor ordered—and judging from the two sequels, audiences agree.
The Snack: Jellied meat and black olives on a sliced baguette, the hors d'oeuvres served at the royal cocktail party.
Where to Watch: Netflix