Christmas season is here and that means the extensive watchlists of films and shows you have been waiting to watch are already being prepared by your friends and family. With new variants of the coronavirus now putting countries on high alert, it is extremely likely that attending physical screenings of movies during this holiday season may not be a possibility.
If that is indeed the case, you can always rely on streaming platforms for your Christmas viewings because many of these services have been bolstering their content ahead of the holidays. Ranging from Christmas staples to cult classics, you can find your favourite holiday films for streaming as well as obscure foreign films that you haven’t seen yet.
For you, we have curated a special list of some of the finest Christmas films available for streaming on a variety of platforms like Amazon Prime and the Criterion Channel. Belonging to a diverse range of genres and with widely different artistic visions, this is a list of some of the masterpieces that should be considered essential viewing for all audiences.
Check out the full list below.
The 10 best Christmas films available for streaming:
10. The Nightmare Before Christmas (Henry Selick, 1993)
A stop-motion animation classic which comes from the truly bizarre mind of Tim Burton, The Nightmare Before Christmas tells the story of the skeleton king of Halloween Town who is facing a severe spiritual crisis due to the performative nature of his existence.
Tired of repeatedly scaring kids on Halloween, he decides to mix things up by terrifying them on Christmas instead. Although many people think Tim Burton directed this project as well, it is actually Henry Selick in the directorial chair and you can watch this one on Disney+.
9. Batman Returns (Tim Burton, 1992)
The best Batman film that Tim Burton ever made, this 1992 cult classic was dismissed when it first came out but is now celebrated as one of the greatest achievements of the genre. Set during Christmas, the film stars Michael Keaton as the titular crusader who comes up against unforgettable antagonists.
Despite the fact that the genre is definitely oversaturated with formulaic regurgitations now, a pioneering superhero film is always a good addition to the holiday lineup. Burton’s enigmatic gem Batman Returns is available for streaming right now on HBO Max.
8. My Uncle Antoine (Claude Jutra, 1971)
A lesser-known addition to this list but definitely one of the most artistically accomplished entries, Claude Jutra’s 1971 drama explores the sociopolitical climate of Canada through the life of a young boy who lives in a mining town where labour disputes are prevalent.
Often touted as the greatest Canadian film ever made, My Uncle Antoine is a tender coming-of-age drama whose subtext is made up of powerful political ideas about social realism. Claude Jutra’s masterpiece can be accessed by those interested via the Criterion Channel.
7. Black Christmas (Bob Clark, 1974)
Bob Clark’s seminal 1974 horror film might seem dated to a lot of younger viewers now. However, Black Christmas was the one that gave birth to an entire subgenre of slashers which took inspiration from what Clark managed to achieve in this classic thriller.
Based on real events and urban legends, the film revolves around a group of young girls who are traumatised and terrorised by a malicious deviant during Christmas season. Black Christmas is now streaming on the Criterion Channel, much to the delight of all horror fans.
6. Gremlins (Joe Dante, 1984)
The absolute apotheosis of the horror comedy genre, Joe Dante’s satirical masterpiece mocks the hyper-capitalist machinations of the Christmas season by deconstructing the superficial hypocrisies that are paraded in the name of conservative morality.
When a young man receives an odd little creature as a gift, he gets really excited but things take a turn for the worse when a whole army of little devils take over the holiday season to spread mischief. Gremlins is available for streaming on Netflix.
5. White Christmas (Michael Curtiz, 1954)
One of the Christmas classics that is admired by all demographics, Michael Curtiz’s 1954 musical was a true Christmas experience at the time of its release because it was the first one available in VistaVision. Definitely not one of Curtiz’s better works, White Christmas mostly works because of that old charm.
Highly conventional in its narrative with simple lineups of song-and-dance numbers presented through beautiful visuals, the Blu-Ray restoration of White Christmas will look fantastic on your home theatres. Michael Curtiz’s classic can be found in Netflix’s library.
4. It’s A Wonderful Life (Frank Capra, 1946)
Frank Capra built a reputation for making incredibly “inspirational” films which sometimes bordered on propaganda and often ended up right in that domain. It’s A Wonderful Life, however, is one of those rare classics which win over even the most cynical members of the audience.
James Stewart stars as a disillusioned man who let go of his own ambitions to serve others but unable to carry the burden of a wasted life anymore, he floats the idea of killing himself. Thanks to his guardian angel, he realises that there is more to life than he was capable of noticing before. Capra’s timeless gem is streaming on Amazon Prime.
3. My Night at Maud’s (Éric Rohmer, 1969)
The third instalment in Rohmer’s Six Moral Tales, My Night at Maud’s is a French New Wave essential which asks questions about faith and spirituality through the interactions of Catholics and atheists over Christmas break who have thoroughly thought-provoking discussions on a wide variety of subjects.
The director explained: “I always thought, even when I was a critic, that the brutal and simplistic reaction of the spectator is a good thing”. He insisted that there was a lot hidden in the subtextual commentary of the film but the reason why My Night at Maud’s can be a Christmas classic (now available on the Criterion Channel) is because even a superficial understanding of its messaging is revelatory.
2. The Night of the Hunter (Charles Laughton, 1955)
This American masterpiece is the perfect addition to any Christmas lineup, The Night of the Hunter is an enigmatic brick in the towering wall of the history of American cinema. The only feature that Charles Laughton ever directed, the film is a scathing indictment of religious hypocrisy.
Set during Christmas, The Night of the Hunter follows the corrupt adventures of a lecherous preacher who tries to con a widow into marrying him. It was lampooned when it was first release because it was way ahead of its time but Laughton’s opus is finally recognised as a brilliant work of art and thankfully, it has been picked up by Criterion.
1. Fanny and Alexander (Ingmar Bergman, 1982)
Ingmar Bergman’s works have had a definitive influence on European cinema and the larger landscape of global cinema, with many directors citing films such as Persona and The Seventh Seal as primary influences. However, this 1982 family drama might just be Bergman’s magnum opus.
Undoubtedly the greatest Christmas film ever made, Fanny and Alexander is a majestic psychological investigation of faith, family and fantasy. Drawing on his own childhood experiences, this Bergman masterpiece is even loved by those who hate all his other works. This Christmas season, round off your watchlist by immersing yourself in Fanny and Alexander via the Criterion Channel.