The Best Animated Christmas Movies And How To Watch them

Film News

It’s that time of year again to watch the best animated Christmas movies, and we have you covered. 

You know that feeling. When the temperature starts to drop, and we’re finally settling after Thanksgiving dinner, and the hot cocoa is beginning to pour – that means it’s time for the best animated Christmas movies out there. While there are plenty of great Christmas movies for you to watch, today, we will be focusing specifically on the medium of animation – and trust me, you’ll love everything on this list. 

From classic claymation movies from the 1960s and ’70s to newer additions, here are the best animated Christmas movies and how to watch them. 

The young boy and the train conductor in The Polar Express.

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

The Polar Express (2004)

The first entry on this list is The Polar Express. Released in 2004 and directed by Robert Zemeckis, The Polar Express tells the story of a young boy who’s struggling to believe that anything to do with Santa is real, and suddenly finds himself on a magic train heading directly towards the North Pole.

Yes, many people online nowadays have come out and say they find the animation for The Polar Express a bit unsettling, and to an extent, I can understand. But now, almost twenty years after it was released, I still find it incredibly fun to watch. I enjoy the musical numbers, and I like the voice acting. And let me tell you, I always get a mug of hot chocolate to drink when the “Hot Chocolate” song comes on. 

I don’t know what it is about this movie that is so warming to my soul. Maybe it’s because it reminds me of my dad, who took me to see so many Christmas movies as a kid, but every time I watch this film, I smile – despite the strange animation of some of the characters. 

Stream The Polar Express on Max.
Rent/Buy The Polar Express on Amazon. 

The main cast of Rise of the Guardians.

(Image credit: DreamWorks)

Rise Of The Guardians (2012)

In this DreamWorks Animation movie, Rise of the Guardians tells the story of a group of holiday-centered figures, such as Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, Jack Frost, and more, who come together to fight the man that causes nightmares everywhere – Pitch Black. 

While Rise of the Guardians isn’t directly a Christmas movie like many of the others on this list, it is a perfect animated film to watch during the holidays. It has Santa Claus in it – and a badass one at that. But the animation itself is beautifully done, and the story is a lot of fun. Rise of the Guardians is criminally underrated, and I will stand by it. 

Rent/Buy Rise of the Guardians on Amazon.

Mickey and Minnie in Mickey's Once Upon a Christmas.

(Image credit: Disney)

Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas (1999)

Released in 1999, Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas is an anthology film that features three different shorts within an hour and a half, telling Christmas tales regarding everyone’s favorite Disney characters – Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy, and Goofy, among others. 

While I’ve never been a huge fan of Mickey animation movies (because there are so many Disney movies to watch), I will say that Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas is a sweet film with plenty to love. The short and sweet tales bring a light sense of holiday cheer. 

Stream Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas on Disney+.
Rent/Buy Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas on Amazon.

Santa at a table in The Year Without a Santa Claus

(Image credit: ABC)

The Year Without Santa Claus (1974)

The first stop-motion film on this list is The Year Without Santa Claus. Released in 1974, the TV movie tells how Santa was sick one year and was advised by his doctor not to do his yearly delivery, so it’s up to Mrs. Claus to get their elves and everyone else at the North Pole to get things done. 

I’ll say that you can barely count The Year Without Santa Claus as a movie because it’s almost an hour long, so it’s a good TV movie. But it’s certainly different, and the idea is original. 

Rent/Buy The Year Without Santa Claus on Amazon.

James McAvoy's character in Arthur Christmas.

(Image credit: Sony Pictures Releasing)

Arthur Christmas (2011)

Sony Pictures came out with a great Christmas film in the form of Arthur Christmas. This film mainly follows Arthur Claus, a son of Santa Claus, but when he finds out that one girl’s gift hasn’t been delivered on Christmas Eve, he takes it upon himself and a small crew of misfits to get the girl her present. 

Arthur Christmas is one of those movies that will lighten up your soul when you watch it because Arthur himself is such a sweet character to follow. He perfectly embodies what it means to be kindhearted during the holiday despite things not always going his way or working correctly. That, and James McAvoy’s voice performance, is great. 

Stream Arthur Christmas on Max.
Rent/Buy Arthur Christmas on Amazon.

Scrooge in Disney's A Christmas Carol.

(Image credit: Disney)

Disney’s A Christmas Carol (2009)

Directed by Robert Zemeckis, Disney’s A Christmas Carol stars Jim Carrey as Ebenezer Scrooge, a miserly businessman who is visited by three ghosts of Christmas, all of which warn him that if he doesn’t change the way he acts, he will end up facing a dark future. On Christmas Eve, they take him on a journey that will change his life forever. 

You can’t get more classic than A Christmas Carol. The movie uses the same motion-capture animation as The Polar Express, so it can be slightly off-putting sometimes, but it’s still a great adaptation. 

Something else I also really like about Disney’s A Christmas Carol is Jim Carrey’s performance. While plenty of significant Jim Carrey roles are out there that you can love, his part in A Christmas Carol is vastly underrated because he plays not only Scrooge but all three ghosts. That’s an impressive amount of range. 

Stream Disney’s A Christmas Carol on Disney+.
Rent/Buy Disney’s A Christmas Carol on Amazon.

Also Try: Mickey’s Christmas Carol – a more kid-friendly version of A Christmas Carol. 

Stream Mickey’s Christmas Carol on Disney+.
Rent/Buy Mickey’s Christmas Carol on Amazon.

The Grinch in The Grinch.

(Image credit: Illumination)

The Grinch (2018)

You know him, he’s the Grinch! The Grinch, released in 2018, is a film from Illumination that tells the classic Dr. Seuss story, How The Grinch Stole Christmas, with 3D animation and a great voice cast. 

There are numerous adaptations of How The Grinch Stole Christmas, and personally, one of my favorites has always been the Jim Carrey version. But because this list is about animated movies, I’ll say that The Grinch is a remarkable animated film that does bring the spirit of the original story. 

Stream The Grinch on Peacock.
Rent/Buy The Grinch on Amazon.

Also Try: Dr. Suess’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas – if you want a shorter adaptation, this one is only a half-hour. 

Stream Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas on Peacock.
Rent/Buy Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas on Amazon.

Kris Kringle

(Image credit: Rankin Bass)

Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town (1970)

Next up is Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town. The movie, narrated by Fred Astaire, tells the story of Santa Claus and how he and his traditions came to the world we live in today. 

This movie is another short one, but you can’t help but feel happy watching it. It perfectly captures the Christmas spirit in more ways than one, and now I can’t stop picturing Santa Claus as a redhead when he was younger, so it certainly impacted me as a child. Plus, the music is so much fun.

Rent/Buy Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town on Amazon.

Rudolph and Santa in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

(Image credit: NBC)

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964) 

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is a classic stop-motion film that everyone knows about. Rudolph was born with a red nose that shined bright, so much that it initially led to him being ousted by his reindeer classmates. But one Christmas night, his shining nose is what saves Christmas. 

I was obsessed with Rudolph as a kid. I was so obsessed that I got all the Rudolph Build-A-Bears I could handle. So, of course, I had to put Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer on this list. It would be a sin for me not to. The music is excellent, the stop-motion is great, and it fills you with cheer – even if there might be some disturbing truths about the Reindeer

Buy Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer on Amazon.

The main two characters of Klaus.

(Image credit: Netflix)

Klaus (2019)

This Netflix original film is certainly one that you have to watch. Klaus is an origin story of Santa Claus, taking place in the 19th century and telling the tale of a postman who befriends a toymaker. 

Klaus is one of those Christmas movies that changes your life, and I mean that in the best way. It’s an original tale filled with lore, and the animation is stunning. This film is an absolute must-watch, and I will tell anyone out there to check it out if they haven’t already. 

Stream Klaus on Netflix.

Catherine O'Hara as Sally in The Nightmare Before Christmas

(Image credit: Disney)

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

Last but not least is one of my all-time favorite stop-motion films, The Nightmare Before Christmas. This film tells the story of Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King, who stumbles upon Christmas Town while walking through his woods and finds that he wants to bring the holiday back home to where he lives – Halloween Town. 

There’s been a lot of debate about whether The Nightmare Before Christmas is a Christmas movie or a Halloween movie, but the movie is good for both, and I will gladly watch this from October to December. It’s the perfect mix of eerie and festive, everything my little Disney-loving heart wants for Christmas. Check it out if this is the first time you’ve seen it. 

Stream The Nightmare Before Christmas on Disney+.
Rent/Buy The Nightmare Before Christmas on Amazon.

Frosty the Snowman and A Charlie Brown Christmas are available online.

(Image credit: CBS)

Honorable Mentions: Frosty The Snowman and A Charlie Brown Christmas

Okay, so they’re not movies, but I can’t do a list like this without at least mentioning them. Frosty the Snowman is all about a snowman brought to life by magic one day thanks to a magic top hat.  A Charlie Brown Christmas follows the story of Charlie and the gang during the Christmas season. 

You can’t get better than these two during the Christmas season. The only reason I can’t put them as a movie is that they’re both TV specials and under a half hour if you can believe it. But, if you combine them, you can have a lovely movie-watching experience and a cozy night while wishing you had a magic snowman. 

Buy Frosty the Snowman on Amazon.
Stream A Charlie Brown Christmas on Apple TV+.

With so many incredible animated Christmas movies, it might be hard to figure out which ones are worth watching, but these are just some of my favorites that I had to share. Now I need to go and make some hot cocoa and prepare for my Christmas special marathon. 

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