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The best Christmas movies on Max (December 2023)

This year’s selection of Christmas movies on Max is looking decidedly slender compared to last year’s variety. It seems that the streamer has whittled down the library of holiday hits that once had a home on the streamer formerly known as HBO Max. In their place are a lot of low-budget Lifetime made-for-TV Christmas movies, courtesy of David Zaslav’s Discovery networks.

Only half of our selections from 2022 remain on Max for this year’s Christmas season — but that doesn’t mean you can’t find some holiday merriment here. In our newly updated list of the best Christmas movies on Max, we’ve added Elf, A Hollywood Christmas, The Polar Express, Holiday Affair. Together with A Christmas Story, A Christmas Story Christmas, and more, you’ll be able to enjoy some heartwarming films on Max just in time for Christmas.

Looking for more holiday picks? We’ve also assembled guides to the best Christmas movies on Netflix and the best Christmas movies on Amazon Prime.

Elf (2003) new

64 %
pg 97m
Genre Comedy, Family, Fantasy
Stars Will Ferrell, James Caan, Bob Newhart
Directed by Jon Favreau

The 20th anniversary of Elf is too big to be contained by a single streaming service. Max and Hulu are both streaming the film this holiday season, which helped firmly establish former Saturday Night Live star Will Ferrell as a comedic leading man. Ferrell plays Buddy, a human who was raised by elves at the North Pole.

Since Buddy knows Santa and his elves are real, he takes offense to the way they are portrayed in New York City when he finally visits his biological father, Walter Hobbs (James Caan). The Hobbs family isn’t quite sure what to make of Buddy and his eccentricities, and neither is Jovie (New Girl‘s Zooey Deschanel), the beautiful young woman who catches Buddy’s eye.

The Polar Express (2004) new

The Polar Express
61 %
pg 100m
Genre Animation, Adventure, Family, Fantasy
Stars Tom Hanks, Leslie Zemeckis, Eddie Deezen
Directed by Robert Zemeckis

The Polar Express exists in the rare gray area of being both visually stunning and off-putting at the same time, because the human characters aren’t as convincing as the CG backgrounds. Those were the limitations of performance capture animation at the time, when animators just didn’t have all of the tricks and advancements that they do now.

Regardless, director Robert Zemeckis’ adaptation of Chris Van Allsburg’s children’s book The Polar Express has become a perennial favorite during the holiday season. Asteroid City‘s Tom Hanks lends his voice to several characters in the film, most notably the conductor of the Polar Express, a magical train heading directly for the North Pole that allows some lucky children to meet Santa Claus (Hanks) and have their Christmas wishes come true.

Holiday Affair (1949) new

Holiday Affair
Genre Comedy, Drama, Romance
Stars Robert Mitchum, Janet Leigh, Wendell Corey
Directed by Don Hartman

Holiday Affair is a 1949 Christmas romance that exists in the shadow of World War II. During Christmastime, salesman Steve Mason (Robert Mitchum) realizes that Connie Ennis (Janet Leigh) is a secret shopper from a rival store. When Connie explains that she’s a war widow with a child to support, Steve allows her to get a refund for her purchase at the cost of his job.

Fortunately for Steve, he’s able to reunite with Connie, and he even hits it off with her son, Timmy (Gordon Gebert). There’s only one person who Steve isn’t popular with: Carl Davis (Wendell Corey), the man that Connie is supposed to be marrying in just a few days.

A Hollywood Christmas (2022) new

A Hollywood Christmas
pg 91m
Genre Comedy, Romance
Stars Jessika Van, Josh Swickard, Missi Pyle
Directed by Alex Ranarivelo

You can really tell that A Hollywood Christmas has the Hollywood part down because the Christmas movie within the movie is being filmed during the hot California summer. Said film is being directed by Jessica (Jessika Van), a woman who is exceptionally talented at making Christmas romance movies. Unfortunately for Jessica, a network executive named Christopher (Josh Swickard) informs her that this one might be her last Christmas flick unless it performs exceptionally well.

Jessica’s assistant, Reena (Anissa Borrego), is the first to realize that Jessica’s predicament is almost exactly like the plot of her Christmas movies. And if Jessica can put her knowledge of Christmas films to good use, she may save her career and start a romance with Christopher.

A Christmas Story Christmas (2022)

A Christmas Story Christmas
Genre Family, Comedy
Stars Peter Billingsley, Erinn Hayes, Zack Ward
Directed by Clay Kaytis
Nearly 40 years after the original, A Christmas Story is getting a sequel! A now grown-up Ralphie (Peter Billingsley) returns to his old house on Cleveland Street to try to give his kids the kind of magical Christmas he experienced as a kid. But between reconnecting with childhood friends and reconciling the passing of his Old Man, things don’t go as smoothly as Ralphie hoped.

Four Christmases (2008)

Four Christmases
41 %
pg-13 88m
Genre Comedy, Romance, Drama
Stars Vince Vaughn, Reese Witherspoon, Robert Duvall
Directed by Seth Gordon
When you’re in a relationship, you have to spend Christmas with two different families. It’s stressful, right? Well, in Four Christmases, that idea is taken to its greatest extent as Brad (Vince Vaughn) and Kate (Reese Witherspoon) get caught red-handed in their annual ruse of avoiding their families during the holidays. Suddenly, each of their single parents knows Brad and Kate have been trying to get out of Christmas, and everybody wants a piece of them on Christmas Day.

Arthur Christmas (2011)

Arthur Christmas
69 %
pg 97m
Genre Drama, Animation, Family, Comedy
Stars James McAvoy, Hugh Laurie, Bill Nighy
Directed by Sarah Smith
Everybody knows that each Christmas, Santa and an army of dutiful elves manage to produce and distribute gifts to children all over the world. But how do they do it? Well, Arthur Christmas tells you through the lens of Santa’s misfit son, Arthur (James McAvoy). When one of the 600 million children to receive a gift from Santa gets mistakenly overlooked, Arthur takes it upon himself to execute an unauthorized mission to get the last present to the other side of the world before Christmas morning.

Christmas in Connecticut (1945)

Christmas in Connecticut
64 %
pg 102m
Genre Comedy, Romance
Stars Barbara Stanwyck, Dennis Morgan, Sydney Greenstreet
Directed by Peter Godfrey
Soak up some classic Christmas vibes with Christmas in Connecticut! Barbara Stanwyck stars as Elizabeth Lane, one of America’s most famous food writers, who adopts a persona as a hard-working farm woman and perfect housewife and mother. Unfortunately, it’s all a lie. In real life, she’s an unmarried New Yorker who can’t use a toaster — she’s just been taking recipes from her friend, Felix (S.Z. Sakall). So, when her magazine publisher decides to send a heroic sailor, Jefferson (Dennis Morgan), to spend Christmas with Elizabeth as a publicity stunt, she has to pull out all the stops to fake it until she makes it.

A Christmas Story (1983)

A Christmas Story
77 %
g 93m
Genre Comedy, Family
Stars Melinda Dillon, Darren McGavin, Peter Billingsley
Directed by Bob Clark
If you grew up in the ’80s, or heck, any decade after that, Bob Clark’s classic comedy of childhood Christmas obsession is about as good as it gets as far as Christmas movies goes. All young Ralphie Parker (Peter Billingsley) wants to find under the tree is an “official Red Ryder, carbine action, 200-shot, range model air rifle.” But, as he’s told over and over again by his over-protective parents: “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid.” But Ralphie’s dream won’t be crushed as he does whatever it takes to let Santa know what he wants. A Christmas Story is a hilarious glimpse into one family’s life in small-town Indiana in the 1940s, and all the foibles and magic the holidays bring.

8-Bit Christmas (2021)

8-Bit Christmas
66 %
pg 98m
Genre Family, Comedy
Stars Neil Patrick Harris, Winslow Fegley, Sophia Reid-Gantzert
Directed by Michael Dowse
This HBO Max Original takes place in suburban Chicago in the late 1980s. It’s something of a refresh of A Christmas Story as 10-year-old Jake Doyle (Winslow Fegley) makes it his life’s (or at least his Christmas) mission to get the latest 8-bit gaming system for Christmas.
8-Bit Christmas | Official Trailer | HBO Max

Editors' Recommendations

Movie images and data from:
Blair Marnell

Blair Marnell has been an entertainment journalist for over 15 years. His bylines have appeared in Wizard Magazine, Geek Monthly, SYFY Wire, Superhero Hype, Collider, DC Universe, and the official sites for Star Trek and Marvel. He also lends his pop culture expertise to Digital Trends on a variety of TV, movie, and streaming features.

Nick Perry

Nick Perry is a freelance writer who bounced from Hollywood to Silicon Beach to pajama pants. His work has been featured on Digital Trends, Good Morning America, Entrepreneur, Mashable, and more media outlets.

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