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

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