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) 87%

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) 30%

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

Warner Bros. Toys CW Seed El Rey Shondaland adventure Super Bowl docudrama TCA discovery Thanksgiving singing competition CBS All Access Best and Worst Watching Series Syfy San Diego Comic-Con crime drama Walt Disney Pictures SDCC WGN dc Awards OWN See It Skip It Year in Review PaleyFest The CW Comic Book Food Network aliens harry potter Nominations Western cats Sony Pictures PBS Opinion Infographic 2017 technology biography Lionsgate Marathons Certified Fresh TBS unscripted FX Ellie Kemper Martial Arts zombies E! Valentine's Day Spike Sundance Acorn TV E3 LGBTQ Star Trek Podcast Ghostbusters Sneak Peek ABC psycho The Arrangement Trailer period drama Cosplay streaming festivals Winners MSNBC Christmas Spring TV NYCC American Society of Cinematographers Mindy Kaling Mystery war Horror supernatural Holidays Winter TV Cartoon Network President Calendar Hulu Fox News Grammys Marvel social media Kids & Family Lucasfilm TV Land Nickelodeon DC streaming service Rock Action Video Games dceu sports Animation 24 frames CBS MTV TNT Oscars Pixar BBC DC Universe political drama Extras Dark Horse Comics diversity Set visit Reality ABC Family Logo thriller A&E TLC BET serial killer Esquire BBC America Universal Election Fantasy blaxploitation Superheroe YouTube Red cops jamie lee curtis binge USA Network ESPN X-Men IFC Tumblr Writers Guild of America Sundance Now Song of Ice and Fire spy thriller VICE Photos TCA 2017 TCM vampires Amazon robots Mary Tyler Moore Epix dramedy anime Paramount Network Fall TV Countdown APB science fiction Rocky justice league ITV Netflix Tomatazos 45 Adult Swim hist composers Sci-Fi zombie TIFF based on movie Teen golden globes Nat Geo Pirates Superheroes Ovation Interview crossover HBO Music Premiere Dates comiccon Columbia Pictures YouTube Premium doctor who Schedule Freeform NBC Showtime finale Britbox Bravo 21st Century Fox sitcom talk show Crackle TruTV Disney Channel Musical cults romance Star Wars Polls and Games Rom-Com GoT FOX Lifetime crime thriller SundanceTV Apple politics Character Guide GIFs 2015 First Look IFC Films cooking GLAAD ratings DirecTV Masterpiece AMC VH1 Reality Competition Country CNN police drama Pop what to watch historical drama 007 cinemax mutant Emmys History Paramount boxoffice TV Disney Shudder DC Comics Red Carpet Starz RT History Comedy Central Musicals Trivia medical drama Creative Arts Emmys USA Comedy Box Office Drama transformers 20th Century Fox travel Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Summer FXX crime CMT SXSW YA 2016 National Geographic Biopics