There are, of course, many ways to enjoy the long nights of the fall and winter holiday season, not the least of which is the good old-fashioned family movie night.
With plenty of flicks out there reflecting the many celebrations of November and December, invite your crew to cuddle up with a bowl of chivda, a plate of latkes, or popcorn and hot chocolate – and indulge.
Here’s a list to get you started.
“Hum Aapke Haim Koun..!” (1994)
206 minutes, Rated TV-14; available to stream on Netflix.
The first Hindi film to gross over one billion Indian Rupees, “Hum Aapke Haim Koun..!” features a memorable on-screen Diwali celebration. The musical-romance-drama starring Madhuri Dixit and Salman Khan celebrates the relationship between families and the complications of falling in love. As one of the highest-earning Bollywood films ever, “Hum Aapke Haim Koun..!” is the perfect way to spend the long holiday commemorating love, family and, of course, light.
“Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham…” (2001)
210 minutes, Not Rated, available on Netflix.
“Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham…” is emotional, melodramatic and utterly ravishing with a commendable mixture of comedy and serious drama. The Diwali scene in this film is one that is largely considered iconic among Bollywood lovers and is sure to bring a festive feeling to any Diwali celebration.
“Fantastic Mr. Fox” (2009)
87 minutes, PG; available on Max.
The film’s hues of pumpkin, maroon and gold project all the fall vibes that make Thanksgiving such a vibrant holiday. “Fantastic Mr. Fox” focuses on a community coming together, an equitable division of resources and choosing the greater good over individual prosperity. Throw Wes Anderson into the mix, and this is the perfect Thanksgiving watch.
“Miracle on 34th Street” (1947)
96 minutes, Not Rated; available to stream on Disney+.
For many, Thanksgiving means the end of fall and the arrival of another holiday season: Christmas. The film opens with the long-held tradition of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade where the real-life Kris Kringle, auspiciously moving around New York City, is hired to portray himself on the Santa float. The black-and-white film eventually becomes a courtroom drama that reminds viewers of the magic in believing. “Miracle on 34th Street” is a timeless holiday watch that allows celebrating families to initiate the excitement of the upcoming season.
“Addams Family Values” (1993)
94 minutes, PG-13; available to stream on Paramount+.
The quirkiest Thanksgiving pick of the bunch, “Addams Family Values” is for the snarky pre-teen or the family who likes a satire comedy with macabre sensibilities and a hard, but honest take on the Thanksgiving holiday. There is sexual innuendo and feigned violence, but it never takes it too far. The titular family love each other fiercely. Wednesday Addams stars as Pocahontas in her camp’s staged retelling of the first Thanksgiving. Dancing turkeys sing a song about being eaten, and Wednesday organizes a coup, reimagining that infamous meal to see the indigenous people refusing the Pilgrims, terrorizing their hokey meeting and burning their settlement to the ground. It’s a wonderful bit of satire that is sure to delight older, informed viewers.
“A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” (1973)
25 minutes, TV-G; available to stream on Apple TV+.
If you have a younger audience at home, you can’t go wrong with Charlie Brown. The comic adaptation makes a couple appearances on this list because Snoopy and crew have been blessing television sets and delighting children for major holidays since the 1960s. A classic for many families over the decades, the Thanksgiving special shows the power of friendship, inclusion and gratitude when an impromptu gathering turns into a discussion about the origins of Thanksgiving and a reminder about the power of community.
Native American Heritage
“The Cherokee Word for Water” (2013)
92 minutes, PG; available on Kanopy.
Based on real-life events, “The Cherokee Word for Water” tells the riveting story of Wilma Mankiller, the first modern female Chief of the Cherokee Nation, who brought a 16-mile waterline system to an impoverished indigenous community in 1980s Oklahoma. In the process, Mankiller inspired many to embrace their long-held values and tight-knit community.
“Barking Water” (2013)
85 minutes, Not Rated; available to stream on Kanopy.
Universally relatable with its messages of love and forgiveness, “Barking Water” tells the story of one couple’s journey to resolution. Frankie is dying; Irene won’t forgive him. The ensuing road trip is a way to get home by confronting their past. Filmed in Oklahoma and featuring indegenous actors, “Barking Water” is a heartfelt story that is sure to cause families to hold one another closer and value the time allowed in this life.
102 minutes, PG, available on Disney+
“Frozen” is the ultimate Winter Solstice viewing. Yule is, after all, a Nordic tradition that celebrates the return of the sun. Arendelle is cursed to a perpetual winter until the spell is lifted. Based loosely on Hans Christian Andersen’s 1844 fairy tale, “Frozen” is a sure bet for thawing hearts of viewers during the longest day of night.
“Little Bear: Snowball Fight/Winter Solstice/Snowbound” (1996)
25 minutes, Rated TV-Y; available to stream on Noggin and Paramount+.
With its gentle storytelling and non-menacing animation, “Little Bear” was a popular children’s series from the 90s. This particular episode is the perfect way to introduce the Winter Solstice to very young viewers who may find the few chaotic fight sequences from “Frozen” too intimidating. The episode gives a simple, child-friendly portrayal of Winter Solstice. Little Bear and family commit to several traditions: they hang lanterns in the trees, sing songs and await the arrival of the Snow Angels of Winter.
“The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” (2005)
143 minutes, Rated PG; available to stream on Disney+.
While “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” does not explicitly discuss the Winter Solstice, there are plenty of arguments to be made that the Pevensie children find Narnia on this precise holiday. Described as “always winter but never Christmas”, the magical universe is stuck in perpetual winter, never able to break through to gradually longer days and the heralding of spring. The White Witch, comparable in appearance to Elsa though direct opposite in nature, may terrify some children, but could incite a thoughtful conversation about the lore of Winter Solstice which contends a witch goddess of the North kidnapped the sun and moon, causing the dark days of winter. This live-action adaptation is wonderfully magical and ideal for a cozy evening by the fire.
“An American Tail” (1986)
80 minutes, G, available on Starz.
The Mousekewitzes, a family of Russian-Jewish mice, are celebrating Hanukkah when anti-Semitic arsonists set their house ablaze. In search of a life free from persecution, the clan emigrates to America. Fievel is an adorable, innocent lead who can usher young viewers through an early introduction to Jewish traditions and the immigrant story.
“Full-Court Miracle” (2003)
90 minutes, TV-G, available on Disney+
Some may remember this early-aughts film as just another Disney Channel Original Movie. But what “Full-Court Miracle” does so well is to mix a modern, made-for-kids discussion of Hanukkah with an underdog sports saga. The script is smart, authentic, and sincere in its portrayal of coming-of-age kids searching for their own miracle.
“Fiddler on the Roof” (1971)
181 minutes, G; vailable to stream on MGM+.
The biggest deterrent for most young viewers will be the three-hour runtime. Spread it out over eight nights, and the musical epic set in pre-revolutionary Russia will mesmerize audiences at any age and of any religion. The film explains, with song, dance and immense charm, Jewish traditions and culture. The social and political issues it handles include gender roles, interfaith marriage, anti-Semitism and religious persecution and intolerance. A classic for over 50 years, “Fiddler” is your next Hanukkah watch with kids ready to experience its undeniable magic.
“The Muppet Christmas Carol” (1992)
85 minutes, G, available on Disney+.
A list of Christmas films would not be complete without at least one adaptation of the Charles Dickens’ classic, and “The Muppet Christmas Carol” is easily at the top of the list. The film will delight the entire family with its original music, comedic puppets and a heavy dose of good cheer. Merry Christmas, everyone!
“Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey” (2020)
120 minutes, PG, available on Netflix,
Gleefully extravagant and colorfully offbeat, “Jingle Jangle” is a highly original new entry into the Christmas canon and one into which elementary school kids can thoroughly indulge. The original musical extravaganza tells the holiday tale of an eccentric toymaker, his spunky granddaughter and a Christmas adventure with an uplifting message about family and following one’s dreams.
“The Snowy Day” (2016)
38 minutes, TV-Y; available to stream on Prime Video.
Short, sweet and accessible to most attention spans, “The Snowy Day” is sure to delight very young viewers of any age. Based on the iconic 1962 picture book of the same name by Ezra Jack Keats, the short film features timeless animation, an impressive cast of voice talents including Angela Bassett and Laurence Fishburne and even an original song performed by Boyz II Men. A timeless tale of exploration, friendship and community connectivity, “The Snowy Day” is a wonderful watch for the preschooler in your home.
96 minutes, Rated PG; available to stream on Prime Video.
There is nothing like a Christmas film with an alternative perspective. In “Klaus”, an enterprising post carrier initiates the tradition of children writing into a recluse woodsman and toymaker named Klaus in exchange for hand-made gifts. With winsome hand-drawn animation and a wholly original narrative, “Klaus” is sure to become a new Christmas-time favorite.
100 minutes, PG, available on Disney+.
Notably the first Pixar film to embrace African-American culture, “Soul” is a beautifully complex film that is sure to entertain viewers of all ages. Full of gorgeous imagery and breathtaking cmusic, “Soul” is a wonderful film about human connectivity that will charm the whole family.
“The Black Candle” (2008)
71 minutes, Not Rated, available on Shout! Factory TV.
Narrated by legendary writer, poet and activist Maya Angelou, the documentary explores the holiday’s development out of the Black Power Movement of the 1960s through its modern-day celebration as a pan-African holiday observed by over 40 million people worldwide.
“Snoopy Presents: For Auld Lang Syne” (2021)
38 minutes, TV-G, available on Apple TV+.
Charlie Brown, Snoopy and the whole Peanuts gang are back for this characteristically thoughtful and funny animated special. Like it’s “Great Pumpkin” predecessor, “For Auld Lang Syne” is destined to become a NYE favorite, one that the whole family can use as a celebratory countdown (without sacrificing an early bedtime).
“Pete the Cat: A Groovy New Year” (2017)
24 minutes, G; available to stream on Prime Video.
Young fans of the psychedelic, scat-singing feline will enjoy the debut episode of the television show adaptation. Pete struggles to come up a New Year’s Resolution. As he passes out invitations to a NYE party, Pete learns the colorful resolutions his friends around the neighborhood have made. Filled with original songs and an eclectic mix of animal characters, “A Groovy New Year” encourages individuality and goal-setting.
“Winnie the Pooh: A Very Merry Pooh Year” (2002)
65 minutes, G; available to stream on Disney+.
“A Very Merry Pooh Year” combines “Winnie the Pooh and Christmas Too” (1991) and “Happy Pooh Year” (2002), creating a hybrid film that oversees both holidays. Another entry with familiar and classic characters, “A Very Merry Pooh Year” encourages giving, thoughtfulness and silliness. Whimsy abounds with Pooh bear and friends, especially when their New Year’s resolutions cause them to trade personalities. Pooh becomes downcast. Tigger becomes panicky. Eeyore suddenly loves honey. The film is as gentle and goofy as we’ve come to expect from the lovable Pooh bear.
And if you want even more ideas, check out “The don’t-miss-these holiday flick list.”
More at Seattle’s Child: