12 Best Disney Christmas Classics

in Disney, Movies & TV

Jack Skellington in a Santa suit shaking a child's hand, Tim Allen as Santa Claus, Kermit and Robin as Bob Kratchitt and Tiny Tim

Credit: Disney, Jim Henson Company

It seems that no studio understands Christmas quite like Disney. So, let’s take a look at the best holiday specials the House of Mouse has to offer!

Christmas tree on Main Street, U.S.A.
Credit: Disney

There’s nothing quite like a Disney Christmas. All of the parks are pristinely decorated, from Main Street, U.S.A. at Disneyland Resort to the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort. It’s bright, colorful, and absolutely magical.

While the Disney Parks are a perfect space for holiday magic, they still don’t match the warmth and happiness that comes with a Disney Christmas Movie. The Walt Disney Company has countless shorts, specials, and feature films that capture the holiday spirit. However, all of these projects are not created equal. For every perfect Christmas gift, there seems to be a lump of coal following right behind.

Mickey and Minnie being pulled by Pluto on a sleigh in front of a house covered in snow and decorated for Christmas
Credit: Disney

Related: Holidays at Disney World: Where Magic Meets Celebration

For this list, we will celebrate the best of the best: the perfect Christmas movies to get your family feeling festive. The only rule is that Disney had somehow been involved in making the film. Even though Disney now owns the rights to undeniable classics like Home Alone (1990), Miracle on 34th Street (1947, 1994), and Die Hard (1988), they do not qualify for this ranking.

And that’s all of the preamble! So, without further ado, let’s take a look at the best Disney Christmas classics to make the most magical holidays on Earth.

Honorable Mention: A Muppet Family Christmas (1987)

Various muppets celebrating Christmas in a living room
Credit: Jim Henson Company

While this technically wasn’t under the Disney banner when it was first released, this still may be the only chance to talk about A Muppet Family Christmas, one of the most underrated television Christmas specials of all time with plenty of humor, music, and family goodness.

The special follows the Muppets as they all gather at Fozzie’s mother’s house for Christmas. However, this doesn’t just feature the standard gang. Also included are the Fraggles, just about everyone from Sesame Street, and even Jim Henson himself. While it’s a bit difficult to find this gem since it hasn’t seen a home release in quite some time, it is still absolutely worth it.

12. Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas (1997)

Beast and Belle dancing in front of a Christmas tree
Credit: Disney

Related: Disney Issues Abrasive New Content Warnings to Classic Films, Fans Cry Out

A sequel to the animated classic, Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas isn’t honestly that great compared to other Disney animations. It suffers the same problems that every direct-to-video Disney sequel had in the 90s: the animation isn’t quite as good, the humor seems a bit off, and the plot almost makes no sense.

An organ played by Tim Curry from the Disney film Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas
Credit: Disney

That being said, there are still some reasons it belongs on this list. The new characters, specifically Bernadette Peters and Tim Curry, are welcome additions. Seriously, putting either of them in any product is guaranteed to make it better. Just look at Annie (1982).

Finally, despite the animation not meeting the same standard as a Disney theatrical release, there are still some gorgeous visuals, like the organ and anything in the snow. While it is by no means perfect, it is a great holiday movie to put on in the background. Just don’t go in with particularly large expectations.

11. I’ll Be Home For Christmas (1998)

Jonathan Taylor Thomas on the front of the poster for the Disney "classic" I'll Be Home For Christmas
Credit: Disney

When it comes to Disney Christmas movies, people get a particular image of wholesome values, family, and togetherness. However, they seem to forget about another important part of the holiday season: greed.

I’ll Be Home For Christmas follows 90s teen heartthrob Jonathan Taylor Thomas as he tries to return home to his family to win his father’s Porsche. Also, to celebrate Christmas or something. Many antics follow, leading to Thomas winning back his girlfriend (Jennifer Biel) and learning the true meaning of family and Christmas.

Jessica Biel facing Jonathan Taylor Thomas at night in a sleigh
Credit: Disney

I’ll Be Home For Christmas is definitely a product of its time, with forced humor and plot twists that are fairly predictable. That being said, there is a place for that. It’s probably the closest Disney will get to a Hallmark Christmas movie. It’s the perfect Christmas film to watch with friends and have a boozy eggnog or two.

10. From All of Us To All of You (1958)

Santa Claus lecturing a doll in the Disney short Santa's Workshop
Credit: Disney

There’s nothing quite like classic Disney cartoons, especially when it comes to the holiday season. There have been numerous specials celebrating the holiday that feature numerous shorts, but the best is probably From All of Us to All of You.

Hosted by Jiminy Cricket, the compilation features two of the best Disney Christmas animations of all time: Santa’s Workshop (1932) and Toy Tinkers (1949). The former follows Santa and the elves as they prepare to take off to deliver toys, while the latter is a battle between Donald Duck and Chip & Dale using toys as weaponry/armies. Both are vibrant and a ton of fun.

Donald Duck dressed as Santa Claus in front of Chip and Dale in the Disney short Toy Tinkers
Credit: Disney

That being said, it would be higher on this list if it weren’t for the fact that most of the special is filled with segments from other Disney films that aren’t Christmas-related at all, like Peter Pan (1953) and Lady and the Tramp (1955). Still, it cannot take away from the joy of Santa’s Workshop and Toy Tinkers.

Fun fact: while this special hasn’t been regularly shown in the United States for a while, it is an annual tradition in Denmark, where it is broadcast every Christmas Eve at 4 p.m.

9. The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special (2022)

Drax (Dave Bautista) feels festive in 'The Guardians of the Galaxy: Holiday Special' (2022). Credit: Marvel Studios
Credit: Marvel Studios

Since acquiring Star Wars, Fox, and Marvel Studios, multiple holiday features have been created underneath the Disney umbrella, including the LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special (2020) and Home Sweet Home Alone (2022).

However, something about The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special makes it stand out. Equal parts heartwarming and ridiculous, the special follows Drax (Dave Bautista) and Mantis (Pom Clementeiff) as they try to cheer up Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) by bringing him the ultimate Christmas present (Kevin Bacon).

Nebula and Mantis dressed in holiday clothes on a planet decorated for Christmas
Credit: Marvel Studios

What follows is everything you’d expect to come from a James Gunn feature, including ridiculous humor, exciting action, and genuine emotional moments. It’s the only time you want to see a group of people succeed in kidnapping a beloved celebrity.

People who prefer a more traditional Christmas may not enjoy The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special because it is so off the wall. But for everyone else, you’ll have a great hour-long watch that is an absolute blast. On top of that, it functions as the only holiday special to be canon in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. That is unless you count Iron Man 3 (2013).

8. Disney’s A Christmas Carol (2009)

Scrooge looking back on a winter street in the Disney adaptation of A Christmas Carol
Credit: Disney

There are dozens if not hundreds of adaptations of the Charles Dickens classic A Christmas Carol. Originally published in 1843, this collection of short stories about the miser Ebenezer Scrooge has become one of the most popular to tell during the holiday season.

The first of three that will be featured on this list is Disney’s A Christmas Carol. While this is the most traditional telling of the story, it is also the strangest, with imagery that has never been seen in A Christmas Carol before, like Ebenezer Scrooge riding the top of a tower like a rocket.

Ebenezer Scrooge riding the top of a tower like a rocket
Credit: Disney

With its 3D animation, Disney’s A Christmas Carol stands out from the rest for being genuinely terrifying, although this isn’t always intentional. That being said, it actually works to the film’s advantage since it is a ghost story. On top of that, Jim Carrey‘s performance as Scrooge is just as memorable as his take on The Grinch.

7. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe (2005)

The main four children from the disney adaptation of The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe and Aslan
Credit: Disney

Related: “Woke Disney” Faces New Christian Challenger

While many movies are dubbed “Christmas Movies” even though they aren’t really made to focus on the holiday, one of the best arguments is for The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe not only for its heavy Christian imagery and multiple locations covered in snow but because it actually features a scene with Santa Claus.

Father Christmas Gifting a bow and arrow in the Disney adaptation of The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe
Credit: Disney

As Peter, Susan, and Lucy wander into the forest, they are eventually greeted by Father Christmas. After leaving his sleigh, he gifts each of them with weapons that represent who they are as a person. Ultimately, they all use these to defend themselves and save Narnia from the clutches of the White Witch.

It’s a brief moment in a long film, but it is enough to cement The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe as one of the best Christmas movies that isn’t truly a Christmas movie.

6. Babes In Toyland (1961)

Ed Wynn teaching multiple people how to make toys in Disney's Babes In Toyland
Credit: Disney

It’s now time to talk about the weirdest movie on this list: Babes In Toyland. A musical fantasy that takes place in Mother Goose Land, Babes in Toyland follows Tom Piper and Mary Contrary as they try to defeat the villainous Barnaby.

What follows are some of the strangest moments ever featured in a Disney film, including live-action adults being shrunk to miniature size, terrifying trees, bright colors, and the toy soldiers you would recognize from every Christmas parade held in a Disney Park. That’s right. This is where they come from.

Babes In Toyland won’t be to everyone’s taste. In fact, it might not even be good. That being said, it is definitely memorable. And this is definitely the best of all the adaptations of this story, and that includes the one from 1988 starring Drew Barrymore and Keanu Reeves.

5. Mickey’s Christmas Carol (1983)

Minnie grabbing children away from Scrooge McDuck carrying a sack in slippers
Credit: Disney

This particular adaptation of the classic Charles Dickens tale is the shortest. But in its 26-minute runtime, this short manages to tell the entire story perfectly without feeling too rushed.

Disney making a version of A Christmas Carol starring Mickey Mouse and Friends makes complete sense, especially since one of their characters is literally named after the protagonist. And honestly, seeing Scrooge McDuck as Ebenezer Scrooge is perfection. It takes no leaps to believe that he is this character.

Goofy as a ghost visitin Scrooge McDuck
Credit: Disney

The rest of the cast is also perfect, with Goofy as Jacob Marley, the giant from Jack and the Bean Stalk as the Ghost of Christmas Present, and even a surprise choice as the Ghost of Christmas Past. Honestly, it makes you think that more franchises with many stock characters should just make a version of A Christmas Carol. (More on that later)

There are tons of fun visual choices, moments of genuine hilarity, and even some heartbreak. If you ever need the perfect movie to put on in front of the kids and keep them engrossed for half an hour, then Mickey’s Christmas Carol is for you.

4. The Santa Clause (1994)

Tim Allen looking shocked in front of a red background wearing a santa hat, red long johns, and wrapped in Christmas lights
Credit: Disney

Whatever your opinion on Tim Allen is at this moment, one thing cannot be denied: he was everywhere in the 90s. Not only did he have Home Improvement (1991-1999), but he starred in two huge Disney films. The first was Pixar’s iconic first film, Toy Story (1995). The second was the holiday classic The Santa Clause.

After seeing a man dressed as Santa Claus fall to his death, Scott Calvin (Tim Allen) finds a business card and puts on the famous red suit. Suddenly, Calvin has to take on the role of Santa, much to his dismay and his son’s delight.

Scott Calvin flying in a sleigh with his son in Disney's The Santa Clause
Credit: Disney

The Santa Clause is just good family fun, with silly gags and genuine warmth between the family members. Unfortunately, the quality of the first film has been diluted by its sequels, The Santa Clause 2 (2002) and The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause (2006), and the new series The Santa Clauses (2022-present) on Disney+.

That being said, you cannot take away from the joy found in the original, especially with all the elves making things work in the North Pole. Seriously, David Krumholtz as Bernard is a treasure.

3. Pluto’s Christmas Tree (1952)

Mickey taking Christmas ornaments off of Pluto's tail
Credit: Disney

Disney has released many Christmas shorts throughout its lifetime, but none reach quite the same level as Pluto’s Christmas Tree. Not only is it one of the few cartoons that follows Mickey’s loyal canine companion, but it also features the best duo in the entire Disney roster: Chip and Dale.

Mickey needs a Christmas tree, so he and Pluto head out to chop one down. It turns out that the one they choose is also the home to everyone’s favorite chipmunks (take that, Alvin, Simon, and Theodore). What follows are hilarious antics and slapstick as Pluto tries to chase the rodents out of his home.

Chip and Dale exploring the inside of a decorated Christmas tree
Credit: Disney

Related: Your Ultimate Guide to Disney’s Heartwarming Holiday Movies

Of all the shorts based on the holiday, Pluto’s Christmas Tree is easily the standout, with gorgeous backgrounds and genuinely funny moments that hold up over 70 years later.

The short is only around seven minutes long and available on Disney+. If you don’t happen to have that streaming service, you can easily find it online. It’s a quick watch and absolutely worth it.

2. Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

Jack Skellington standing on top of the spiral hill
Credit: Touchstone Pictures/Disney

Arguably the most popular film on this list, The Nightmare Before Christmas has the advantage of being about two holidays: Halloween and Christmas. This means it attracts a wide range of fans who are unbelievably attached to this film. If you ever shop at a Hot Topic, you’d understand the popularity.

The Nightmare Before Christmas is filled with colorful characters, including Jack Skellington, Sally, Oogie-Boogie, Lock, Shock, and Barrel. On top of this, the film’s visual design is iconic, whether you’re looking at the spiral mountain, Halloween Town, or Christmas Town.

Jack Skellington looking at Christmas lightsCredit: Touchstone Pictures/Disney

Finally, there’s the incredible music from Danny Elfman. “This is Halloween,” “Kidnap the Sandy Claws,” and “What’s This?” are all fantastic, even if they aren’t the most Christmas-y tunes.

There are plenty of reasons to argue that The Nightmare Before Christmas should be in the top position on this list; it’s an undeniable classic. However, there is one more film that captures the Christmas spirit more than any other movie on this list.

1. The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)

The Great Gonzo AKA Charles Dickens in 'The Muppet Christmas Carol'
Credit: Walt Disney Pictures/Jim Henson Productions

As you can tell from this list, there are a ton of interpretations of the Charles Dickens classic. This often leads to debates regarding which is the best interpretation. While others may be closer to the source material or even feature better production value, nothing hits the heart quite like The Muppet Christmas Carol.

Produced by Disney, The Muppet Christmas Carol features all of your favorite characters gathered together to tell the story, with Gonzo as Charles Dickens narrating the story. Joined throughout the journey by Rizzo, the two make a perfect comedic pairing to ensure the pace moves along and that every moment has the appropriate weight.

Ebenezer Scrooge eating Christmas dinner with a bunch of Muppets
Credit: Walt Disney Pictures/Jim Henson Productions

Related: Op-Ed: Disneyland Needs a Muppets Ride

Then there are the songs. While some people aren’t sure about “When Love is Gone,” no one can deny that “Scrooge,” “One More Sleep ‘Til Christmas,” and “It Feels Like Christmas” are fantastic. And this isn’t even getting into the earworm that is “Marley and Marley.”

However, all of this wouldn’t mean anything if they didn’t have the right actor to play Ebenezer Scrooge, and this film finds the perfect actor: Michael Caine. While most actors may chew the scenery and go big with their negativity, Caine subtly plays Scrooge’s negativity, making him seem like an actual person instead of a caricature. All of this makes The Muppet Christmas Carol arguably the best Christmas movie ever made.

What’s your favorite movie to watch during the holidays? Let Inside the Magic know in the comments down below!

View Comment (1)