Here’s how to watch classic Christmas movies and TV specials for free

Don't bother with modern fare. The classics are where it's at.

Mar 1, 2020, 3:41 pm*

Streaming

 

Mike Fenn

The holiday season is upon us, and that means it is once again time to subject ourselves to the never-ending barrage of Christmas-themed TV specials and movies.

When they make their annual appearances on our TV screens, classics like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and A Christmas Story add yet another festive layer to a season full of family get-togethers, tree decorating, and rigging up exterior lights. Unfortunately, real life tends to get in the way, causing us to miss the network TV airings of our favorite programs.

However, all is not lost. Thanks largely to video-streaming sites like Dailymotion, Putlocker, and even YouTube itself, all of your favorite holiday entertainment is right at your fingertips, ready to be played on your schedule. Even better, these streaming videos don’t have interruptions every 15 minutes for repetitive commercials!

So grab another cup of eggnog, kick off your boots, and settle in with the gift of free streaming video.

TV specials

1) A Charlie Brown Christmas

Honestly, what would Christmas be without the classic 1965 Charlie Brown special? Relive everything from the peaceful “Christmas Time is Here” melody to the needle-shedding tree.

2) Frosty the Snowman

The Rankin-Bass animation team is the name in holiday entertainment. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, they produced a string of holiday specials that have entertained generation after generation of children and parents alike. Frosty the Snowman—narrated by the late, great Jimmy Durante—is one of their 2D animated staples. Sing along to the title song as young Karen helps her magical talking snowman escape the villainous Professor Hinkle while he makes his way to the North Pole.

3) Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Perhaps the Rankin-Bass team’s best achievement, the 1964 special Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer also shows off the team’s signature “Claymation” skills. Filled with original songs, the hour-long special made characters like Yukon Cornelius, Hermie the Elf, and of course the abominable snowman “the Bumble” timeless characters on par with Rudolph and Santa.

4) Twas The Night Before Christmas

This little-known entry in the Rankin-Bass Christmas universe sort of contradicts the message that the team tried to share in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. While Rudolph was all about embracing your individuality, Twas The Night Before Christmas goes in the opposite direction, seemingly stating that you can only share in holiday cheer if you conform. Nevertheless, the 2D animated tale gives enjoyable life to the classic poem, following the Trumble family as they try to make amends with an angry Santa Claus.

5) Santa Claus is Comin’ To Town

Rankin-Bass returned to their Claymation style with this upbeat 1970 special, starring singer and dancer extraordinaire Fred Astaire. Sing along with memorable tunes as mailman S.D. Kluger tells the story of how exactly Kris Kringle came to be.

6) The Year Without a Santa Claus

This 1974 Rankin-Bass special is loosely based on a short story of the same name that was released by Phyllis McGinley in 1956. Filled with classic songs like “Blue Christmas” and “Here Comes Santa Claus,” watch as a pair of bumbling elves try to convince a skeptical southern town that Santa Claus is indeed still the spirit of the season.

7) Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

Debuting almost 35 years before the Jim Carrey film of the same name, Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! is a timeless, surreal television special that made the furry green Grinch the best holiday antihero since Ebenezer Scrooge. Chant “Fahoo Fores” as you watch the lonely, mischievous creature (voiced by horror movie veteran Boris Karloff) attempt to rob the residents of nearby Whoville during the merriest of holidays.

8) The Hanukkah Song

Adam Sandler exploded in popularity on Saturday Night Live with his original tune “The Hanukkah Song,” which lists a cavalcade of Jewish celebrities with whom little Jewish boys and girls can celebrate the holiday while everyone else is focused on Christmas. Two updated versions of the song have followed, and one lyric, “Eight Crazy Nights,” was the title of an animated movie about the holiday starring Sandler.

9) Mr. Hanky the Christmas Poo

As popular as Sandler’s music is, he isn’t the only one celebrating a non-Christmas holiday each season. During South Park’s first season in 1997-1998, Trey and Matt introduced us to Mr. Hanky the Christmas Poo, who comes out of the toilet to cheer up Kyle Broflovski, the group’s resident Jewish member.

10) A Very Brady Christmas

This 1988 made-for-TV movie reunited almost the entire original cast of The Brady Bunch (minus Susan Olsen, who played Cindy Brady). Nearly-retired parents Mike and Carol Brady invite their six children and their spouses—and of course housekeeper Alice—back for a big holiday get-together. As the corny cheer rages on, everyone reveals, and eventually solves, their various life issues.

Movies

11) A Christmas Carol

Charles Dickens’ classic tale has been brought to life countless times by everyone from Patrick Stewart to Jim Carrey to the Muppets. 1984 saw the release of one of the best adaptations, starring classic actor George C. Scott (best known for his work in Patton) as the cranky Ebenezer Scrooge. Relive the classic tale as Scrooge learns the true meaning of the holiday with a little help from three spooky ghosts.

12) Miracle on 34th Street

While this beloved Christmas story has also been remade several times, nothing will ever hold a candle to the Oscar-winning 1947 original. When a department-store Santa confides in young Susan that he is indeed the real deal, she must convince an otherwise-skeptical community that the spirit of the holiday is not yet dead.

13) It’s a Wonderful Life

It’s a Wonderful Life goes hand-in-hand with Miracle on 34th Street and A Christmas Carol as a classic holiday favorite. Jimmy Stewart never fails to delight as the grumpy George Bailey, who is visited by angel-in-training Clarence to see exactly what life would be like had he never lived.

14) A Christmas Story

Are you too impatient to wait for the annual 24-hour Christmas Story marathon on TBS? If so, pop on over to Putlocker to check out Jean Shepard’s nostalgic 1983 holiday staple. Based on the humorist’s life in 1940s Ohio, A Christmas Story follows young Ralphie as he tries to navigate a rather unlikable cast of characters in his quest for a Red Rider BB Gun.

15) Scrooged

Groundhog Day isn’t the only calendar date that Bill Murray has cemented with a classic movie. Smack in the middle of Murray’s illustrious comedy film career in the 1980s sits Scroogedan updated version of A Christmas Carol. Murray is perfect as sarcastic TV executive Frank Cross, who is visited by three imperfect spirits that attempt to teach him the meaning of Christmas.

16) National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

Since its release 25 years ago, the third entry in the National Lampoon’s Vacation franchise has skyrocketed to “modern-day holiday classic” territory. In the comedy of errors, Chevy Chase’s Clark Griswold tries to survive insane in-laws, string up 25,000 lights, and earn the respect of his crotchety boss. Before you enjoy it, make sure your shitter isn’t full.

17) Home Alone

John Hughes’ 1990 blockbuster, which put Macaulay Culkin on the map, is a modern-day seasonal favorite. In the days leading up to Christmas, young Kevin McCallister finds himself unexpectedly left home alone by his vacationing family. His carefree fun is cut short once he realizes that he needs to prevents a pair of burglars from stealing his family’s valuables.

18) Bad Santa

Not everyone enjoys the Christmas season. Bad Santa is the ideal movie for modern-day Scrooges. If you hate Christmas, chances are you’ll see a bit of yourself in Billy Bob Thornton’s chain-smoking, alcoholic shopping-mall Santa, who aims to score one last heist from a department store in suburban Phoenix.

19) The Santa Clause

At the height of his popularity in the mid 1990s, Tim Allen’s star rose even higher in Disney’s modern-day Christmas classic The Santa Clause. Allen stars as Scott Calvin, a man who inadvertently becomes jolly Old St. Nick, aided the entire way by his young son’s strong belief. Avoid the mediocre sequels; the 1994 original is all you need.

20) Yule Log

While not technically a movie (though it does have more plot than most modern-day Hollywood fare), the 10-hour-long Yule Log provides the perfect backdrop for your otherwise cozy holiday home. Pop it on to enjoy the sights and sounds of a crackling fire without any of the cleanup or danger.

Photo via Matthew Paul Argall/Flickr (CC BY 2.0) | Remix by Jason Reed

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*First Published: Dec 3, 2014, 11:00 am