Amazon Prime Video has a film library full of everything from classics to low-budget obscurities, and the same goes for the service’s holiday offerings. Here are the 10 best Christmas movies to stream on Amazon Prime Video.
Aardman, the animation studio behind the Wallace and Gromit movies, brings its charming, homespun style to the holidays with Arthur Christmas. Unlike most other Aardman productions, Arthur Christmas is computer-animated rather than stop-motion, but it retains the studio’s distinctive warmth and attention to detail.
The title character is the younger son of Santa Claus, who dreams of taking over the family business. He gets the chance to prove himself by delivering a missed present on Christmas Eve. It’s a sweet, simple story told with sharp humor and endearing characters.
A charming if somewhat smug angel (played by Cary Grant) attempts to help a harried bishop (played by David Niven) get his priorities straight in the playful romantic comedy The Bishop’s Wife. The movie’s unlikely romance develops between the angel and the title character (played by Loretta Young), although it’s mainly a vehicle for the bishop himself to realize what’s important in life. The bishop wants money for a new cathedral, but he really needs to focus on helping the less fortunate at Christmastime—and, of course, on appreciating his dutiful but neglected wife.
Thanks to its presence in the public domain, allowing it to be freely broadcast and distributed, Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life has gone from initial failure to enduring success as a holiday classic. James Stewart stars as despondent banker George Bailey, whose guardian angel shows him an alternate world without him in it, as George considers ending his own life on Christmas Eve.
The seemingly morbid premise provides for an uplifting message while remaining grounded and honest, as the angel Clarence proves to George that he’s loved and valued by his friends and family.
A serial killer dies in a freak accident and comes back to life as a snowman in the ridiculous horror comedy Jack Frost. The title character proceeds to terrorize the small town of Snowmonton at Christmastime, killing residents in increasingly absurd ways, while the local sheriff attempts to stop him. Filmmaker Michael Cooney is well-aware of how dumb his movie is, and he fills it with silly one-liners and deliberately terrible special effects. Jack himself is a mostly inert puppet who’s never scary, but like the movie he’s in, he has an undeniable scrappy charm.
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The 1994 adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel Little Women is perhaps the coziest, with a wintry atmosphere and multiple pivotal scenes set at Christmastime. The four March sisters experience tragedy and solidarity while growing up in Civil War-era Massachusetts, always returning to family togetherness.
Winona Ryder leads the cast as the smart, headstrong Jo, a budding writer who longs for a future beyond the comfortable March home. When the sisters’ father returns home from the war just in time to celebrate Christmas, it’s impossible not to shed tears of holiday joy.
Sibling filmmakers Michael Kerry Matthews and Thomas Matthews bring a lo-fi indie aesthetic to their Christmas dramedy Lost Holiday. Kate Lyn Sheil stars as a grad student spending winter break in her Maryland hometown, where she pines over her ex-boyfriend and possibly solves a kidnapping. It’s a shaggy story about an aimless millennial hipster trying to figure out her life, with her anxieties amplified by the holiday season. The ramshackle Christmas decorations in the characters’ homes and hangouts reflect the chaos and clutter of their lives.
Often considered one of the worst movies ever made, the bizarre Santa Claus Conquers the Martians is also one of the most entertaining to watch. The low-budget oddity features Martians capturing Santa Claus so that they can bring Christmas to jealous Martian children. The plot makes little sense, and the flimsy sets and costumes look like they could have been borrowed from a community theater production, but the movie is so fascinatingly weird that it’s tough to look away.
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The creators of Santa Jaws are completely aware of how idiotic the idea of a Christmas-themed shark attack movie is. Rather than come up with some belabored and unbelievable reason for sharks to attack a small town at Christmastime, the filmmakers go for complete fantasy, as teenage protagonist Cody (Reid Miller) acquires a magical pen that brings his comic-book creations to life.
Unfortunately, his greatest creation is Santa Jaws, a deadly shark in a Santa hat, who materializes and proceeds to tear through Jake’s friends and family. The micro-budget production is full of goofy quips and outlandish holiday-themed kills, never taking itself or its premise seriously.
Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol has been adapted numerous times since essentially the beginning of cinema, and 1935’s Scrooge is the first sound film based on the beloved holiday classic. Star Seymour Hicks had already played miserly Ebenezer Scrooge in stage productions and in a 1913 silent film, and he brings equal parts nastiness and despair to the role. The costumes and set design evoke the grit and grime of 19th-century London, and the simple but effective visual techniques convey the eerie otherworldliness of the three ghosts that visit Scrooge on Christmas Eve.
Bill Murray makes for a very different kind of Ebenezer Scrooge in the comedy Scrooged. He plays greedy TV network executive Frank Cross, who experiences the traditional visitations from three ghosts in this take on A Christmas Carol. Of course Frank learns the true meaning of Christmas and becomes a better person, but there are plenty of snarky jokes along the way, and Murray’s deadpan delivery cuts through the sentimentality.