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%


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%


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%


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%


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%


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

award winner hist Infographic quibi elevated horror Film Universal worst Travel Channel discovery DC Universe FOX Sundance Amazon renewed TV shows Binge Guide VICE Walt Disney Pictures Cosplay directors WarnerMedia The CW television OneApp spinoff casting classics The Witch book Starz Disney+ Disney Plus supernatural movies sports Sony Pictures Schedule CBS All Access zombie animated news psycho docudrama Spectrum Originals Adult Swim Spike batman NYCC E3 slashers obituary Election Warner Bros. justice league Nat Geo facebook 45 4/20 Character Guide ESPN SDCC Superheroes 2018 YouTube HBO NBC Pop The Arrangement mutant child's play Horror strong female leads cooking MCU 2017 SundanceTV technology binge YouTube Premium ghosts transformers witnail Nominations Peacock dark Ellie Kemper cops children's TV Amazon Prime Video Trivia fast and furious Pirates IFC spanish language adventure Emmy Nominations Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Podcast joker BBC LGBTQ The Purge TLC biography Western versus nature Mary poppins Tubi singing competition Disney streaming service A24 Thanksgiving period drama Drama Certified Fresh IFC Films Marvel Awards Tour Oscars comics Ghostbusters Teen war Spring TV series BBC One comedies independent Amazon Studios Sundance TV crime drama harry potter 72 Emmy Awards name the review AMC Hallmark Funimation LGBT Turner Classic Movies TCA Awards documentaries Disney Plus YouTube Red parents streaming VOD crossover TruTV disaster Tumblr Musicals Brie Larson medical drama Tarantino sequel San Diego Comic-Con boxoffice Apple TV Plus Best and Worst indie PlayStation Country criterion Watching Series 2020 Food Network TCM RT21 unscripted canceled ABC Family 2019 mockumentary Polls and Games Mindy Kaling DC Comics doctor who Set visit Captain marvel DGA Rock Pop TV El Rey Red Carpet cancelled TV series screen actors guild Mary Poppins Returns Cartoon Network tv talk asian-american Opinion FX Fox News thriller Rocky sag awards CMT spain HBO Max laika stand-up comedy A&E ITV Winners RT History CNN National Geographic reboot HBO Go BET twilight chucky what to watch American Society of Cinematographers die hard Action New York Comic Con cats south america comic video on demand political drama Winter TV Anna Paquin cinemax crime Apple TV+ Classic Film ratings Calendar cars critics miniseries Superheroe TNT Music Interview Lucasfilm anime DirecTV History Comedy scary movies festivals Esquire Television Critics Association Video Games ABC politics finale stop motion Crackle hollywood See It Skip It TCA Winter 2020 BAFTA cancelled television Writers Guild of America Box Office Summer adaptation Paramount Network travel APB Holiday cancelled historical drama sitcom DC streaming service Women's History Month Kids & Family Arrowverse hispanic revenge Disney dragons VH1 documentary composers films 20th Century Fox game of thrones Turner free movies CW Seed Vudu GLAAD superhero Hear Us Out psychological thriller Photos USA Network Syfy BET Awards Comic Book Netflix mission: impossible Toys Creative Arts Emmys Awards Sundance Now anthology Baby Yoda comiccon YA Musical Discovery Channel Trailer Super Bowl aliens Trophy Talk Chernobyl police drama Logo robots President WGN Black Mirror Elton John Pixar The Walking Dead franchise MTV toy story Freeform Disney Channel a nightmare on elm street halloween PaleyFest concert Countdown Valentine's Day Bravo Holidays MSNBC Pride Month spider-man Shudder Family PBS 24 frames 71st Emmy Awards Mary Tyler Moore Showtime Marvel Studios dceu Academy Awards canceled TV shows theme song Hallmark Christmas movies Fall TV rotten green book serial killer Lifetime Christmas movies Shondaland latino 007 Emmys GIFs romance natural history TV Land TIFF Crunchyroll TCA kids based on movie 2015 Columbia Pictures werewolf Hulu Star Wars Television Academy reviews sequels Extras TCA 2017 Dark Horse Comics breaking bad Lifetime Star Trek Epix Quiz Sci-Fi Sneak Peek 21st Century Fox diversity Britbox Marathons rotten movies we love Endgame Rom-Com screenings Tomatazos Premiere Dates dogs Apple Mystery Film Festival Song of Ice and Fire science fiction Ovation Masterpiece Year in Review Netflix Christmas movies satire Marvel Television true crime spy thriller Lionsgate Nickelodeon Reality Heroines Comedy Central video Paramount FX on Hulu Biopics all-time richard e. Grant Martial Arts Comics on TV TV TV renewals christmas movies game show GoT dramedy Stephen King USA First Reviews nbcuniversal OWN emmy awards jamie lee curtis universal monsters First Look social media CBS TBS dc zombies blockbuster Christmas cancelled TV shows movie Animation blaxploitation FXX Rocketman SXSW space indiana jones 2016 vampires Cannes Grammys E! Reality Competition cults Pet Sematary zero dark thirty Chilling Adventures of Sabrina foreign BBC America Black History Month Acorn TV golden globes Mudbound cartoon stoner Avengers best X-Men romantic comedy teaser Amazon Prime crime thriller Fantasy talk show