5 Family-Friendly Holiday Movies You Might Have Missed

by | December 16, 2015 | Comments

While the holidays are certainly all about tradition – wearing the same sweaters, baking the same cookies, playing the same Andy Williams CD, washing your hands with the same fir-scented liquid soap – sometimes it makes Christmas better to throw a little something new into the rotation. As you spend time with the kids this month, or even just park them in front of a TV so you can get some decorating done, check out these family-friendly movies that might be new to you and/or the young’uns. (And for more seasonal film options, check out my book Have Yourself a Movie Little Christmas.)


Arthur Christmas (2011) 92%

Arthur

Released at the same time as the bigger-budgeted Hugo and Tintin, and saddled with both a terrible marketing campaign and a titular pun that doesn’t really work outside the UK, this import from Aardman fell between the cracks in its original Stateside release, although its cult among Yanks grows every December. Arthur (voiced by James McAvoy) is the son of the current Santa Claus (Jim Broadbent). Santa’s older son Steve (Hugh Laurie) has turned the gift-distribution functions of the North Pole into a ruthlessly well-oiled machine, but it’s Arthur who keeps the spirit of Christmas alive, especially when one final present needs to be delivered before the sun rises on December 25.


Lassie (2006) 93%

Lassie

This is not the “What’s that? Timmy’s trapped in Dead Rock Canyon?” Lassie that you’ve gotten to know from the American TV series; this sweeping (and tear-jerking) British movie faithfully adapts the original novel by Eric Knight. Director Charles Sturridge (the Brideshead Revisited miniseries) assembles a powerhouse cast that places talented newcomers alongside vets like Peter O’Toole, Peter Dinklage and Samantha Morton. The brave collie makes her way across Scotland and England to be reunited with her impoverished young master – but will she come home in time for Christmas?


Millions (2005) 88%

millions

With a filmography that ranges from Steve Jobs to Trainspotting to Slumdog Millionaire, director Danny Boyle generally defies categorization, although you might not necessarily apply “kid-friendly” to his work – unless you’ve seen this delightful 2004 comedy. Young Damian (Alex Etel) is reeling from the recent death of his mother when a satchel of money falls down from heaven (actually, a passing train). With the clock ticking toward the New Year, when the UK will convert from pounds to Euros – this is a fantasy, after all – Damian has to figure out what to do with the money while staying a step ahead of the gangsters who want it back.


Prancer (1989) 67%

prancer

The British don’t have a monopoly on the genre; this made-in-the-USA tale introduces us to Christmas-obsessed Jessica (Rebecca Harrell), who’s convinced that the ailing reindeer she’s nursing back to health is actually Prancer, who has somehow gotten separated from his brethren at the North Pole. With an ensemble that includes Sam Elliott, Cloris Leachman and Abe Vigoda, this disarming movie captures the magic and the power of childhood belief without ever overstating its case or getting too precious about it. And even adults might want to keep a hanky on hand.


Unaccompanied Minors (2006) 29%

minor

After Freaks and Geeks and before Bridesmaids, director Paul Feig crafted this energetic and clever farce about a group of kids stuck at a snowed-in airport on Christmas Eve. While it’s been unfairly lumped in with other post–Home Alone comedies about kids outsmarting adults, this one’s actually based on a story from All Things Considered, and Feig once again casts some amazing young actors (including Tyler James Williams of Everybody Hates Chris and Dear White People) alongside an army of comic greats, including Mindy Kaling, Jessica Walter, Lewis Black, Teri Garr, Rob Corddry and three of the Kids in the Hall, to name just a few.


Alonso Duralde is the author of the quintessential holiday film guide Have Yourself a Movie Little Christmas. Follow him on Twitter at @ADuralde.

  • KG

    So, the ratings on your site mean nothing then? Because you’ve just recommended a ‘rotten’ movie.

    • ReallyReallyBigMan

      And boy is it rotten.

  • Arabrabra

    Arthur Christmas is REALLY REALLY good

    • I was quite bummed that it underperformed at the box office.

  • Bob

    Okay, I’ve searched everywhere but came up empty. Somebody tell me: Arthur Christmas…what’s the pun? I didn’t know it was a pun and I can figure it out. Help me Brits!

    P.S. Great movie.

    • Alonso Duralde

      It’s kind of circuitous, but 1) British pronunciation turns “Arthur” and “Father” into nearly-rhyming words and 2) the British (or The Kinks, anyway) refer to Santa Claus as “Father Christmas.” So “Arthur Christmas,” if you’re British, sounds like “Father Christmas,” while Americans pronounce “Arthur” differently and don’t really say “Father Christmas,” which blows the joke of the title.

Tag Cloud

south america Walt Disney Pictures richard e. Grant teaser Fox News crime drama series foreign aliens Schedule Marvel San Diego Comic-Con elevated horror robots ghosts First Look Tomatazos zombie Freeform Amazon science fiction Pixar Food Network Mary Poppins Returns mutant Opinion Premiere Dates El Rey Pirates Trophy Talk Peacock sports Rocky unscripted Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Comic Book TLC E3 Valentine's Day Sundance Now TIFF disaster theme song Netflix biography YouTube Red Binge Guide Amazon Prime Video Christmas Biopics Star Trek BBC 24 frames Comics on TV game show diversity CBS romance Anna Paquin Cannes Pop historical drama Chernobyl Oscars IFC vampires doctor who Nickelodeon casting facebook DGA Western HBO Max NBC ABC tv talk Toys 2019 DC Comics RT21 AMC ITV DC streaming service Creative Arts Emmys Stephen King cops psycho TNT Arrowverse TCA Polls and Games Thanksgiving Mystery sequel BET Vudu crossover serial killer toy story Shondaland Sony Pictures History Tarantino Super Bowl dceu Sci-Fi Musicals APB Disney Channel transformers Lucasfilm VICE political drama Countdown Awards Acorn TV kids award winner GoT Paramount what to watch Emmys SDCC Columbia Pictures Rock anthology Elton John Animation Teen FX Captain marvel Apple justice league Television Academy ESPN YA Lifetime spy thriller Film Festival 71st Emmy Awards TruTV Film period drama Infographic NYCC 2016 Women's History Month Election zombies New York Comic Con Shudder Brie Larson SXSW Disney PBS movies travel Dark Horse Comics Grammys Warner Bros. discovery boxoffice The Witch Fall TV Awards Tour Ghostbusters stand-up comedy Action Bravo dramedy cars green book Superheroe 007 LGBTQ animated VH1 TV Land cooking Crackle natural history crime thriller Emmy Nominations miniseries psychological thriller President Showtime Pet Sematary finale book TBS E! Drama The CW OWN CNN dc television Paramount Network quibi 45 Photos Year in Review revenge Marathons Character Guide spain Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt harry potter video GIFs 2015 golden globes Nominations Reality Competition MCU BBC America Ovation Calendar Set visit Heroines MTV YouTube Premium Epix DirecTV GLAAD Rom-Com 2018 Mudbound festivals Adult Swim Trivia USA Network Sundance Masterpiece National Geographic Winners Music politics cats CW Seed Mary poppins USA Black Mirror Disney streaming service Watching Series Nat Geo TCM WGN Comedy Central Pride Month Interview See It Skip It Fantasy Star Wars CMT social media CBS All Access hispanic Amazon Prime Logo PaleyFest comiccon Sneak Peek Martial Arts war blaxploitation Mindy Kaling spanish language Musical zero dark thirty X-Men SundanceTV American Society of Cinematographers First Reviews Certified Fresh hist Summer Winter TV Trailer spider-man technology Starz spinoff Spike ratings Reality FOX FXX mockumentary cults Comedy thriller TV Writers Guild of America sitcom Kids & Family 21st Century Fox HBO Spectrum Originals Rocketman WarnerMedia RT History supernatural Best and Worst game of thrones anime Ellie Kemper Britbox 20th Century Fox Horror adaptation Mary Tyler Moore comic space Family IFC Films LGBT streaming witnail adventure composers 2017 Country latino Spring TV Cosplay Syfy talk show Box Office jamie lee curtis crime nature dragons ABC Family A&E MSNBC Video Games Esquire Holidays Lionsgate docudrama children's TV DC Universe binge Hulu Universal medical drama Podcast Tumblr Superheroes police drama cinemax Quiz Extras true crime Song of Ice and Fire singing competition based on movie strong female leads Cartoon Network TCA 2017 Red Carpet The Arrangement