Oh the weather outside is frightful, but curling up on the couch with your family to watch a movie is so delightful! It’s always nice to find a
movie that matches the seasonal mood, but when it comes to winter movies, very often that means “holiday movie,” which may not always be what you’re going for. So we’ve come up with a list of the best winter movies for kids and families, for when you want snow without Santa and hail without Hanukkah. (Because, believe it or not, there’s actually an entire winter season that extends beyond the month of December, folks!)
All of these movies take place, at least partially, in evocative, frosty settings. From the gleaming snows of Saint Petersburg to the wilds of Alaska, from the Antarctic tundra to
fantastical winter wonderlands, they all capture that chilly, pristine, wintry vibe. They may not be exclusively set in the snow, but we can guarantee that any of these movies will scratch your non-holiday-themed-snowy day itch!
While we certainly have modern classics included, we’ve loaded our list with lots of throwback favorites, because nothing pairs better with a wintry movie like a blanket, your kiddos, and a heaping helping of nostalgia.
Growing up in the Scandinavian country of Arendelle, Elsa and Anna couldn’t be closer. The princesses love playing together through the palace halls, Elsa using her magical powers to conjure up to conjure up ice sculptures and snowy wonderlands. But when Elsa’s powers accidentally hurt her Anna in a childhood accident, the elder girl becomes reclusive and the two grow apart. Elsa lives in fear of the day she will one day rule Arenelle as queen – how will she keep her powers secret in such a public role? And shortly after her coronation, things go as badly as she feared, causing her to flee into the mountains, where she inadvertently sends her kingdom into a deep freeze. It’s up to Anna to save the day.
Stream Frozen, rated PG, on Disney+ Little Women
Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy March are sisters living in Massachusetts during the Civil War. As their father serves the Union Army as a chaplain, they and their formidable mother, Marmee, run the household on a shoestring budget but still find time to extend help and charity to others. While the premise sounds like a bit of a bummer, the love within the family – and the fun they all have with the wealthy next door neighbor, Laurie – is heartwarming and joyful. Over the course of the film, the girls grow into young women, finding their way in the world and living the lives they’ve always dreamed of.
Most of this movie does not take place in the winter, but the scenes that do are so evocative of “Old Timey New England winters” that it is often associated with season.
Stream Little Women, rated PG, on Starz. Balto
Balto is a bit of an outcast in Nome, Alaska. Half dog and half wolf, he is shunned by humans and dogs alike, but has found an unconventional family with a goose named Boris and two polar bears. One day, a deadly diphtheria epidemic strikes the city’s children, including little Rosy, the only child in town who shows him kindness. The citizens’ only hope is medicine hundreds of miles away. When the sled team tasked with retrieving the medicine, led by the vicious Malamute Steele, is lost in a snowstorm, it’s up to Balto to save the day.
Stream Balto, rated G, on Peacock. Happy Feet
Mumble to emperor penguin can’t sing, which is a real problem because song is how penguins attract mates. As he grows up, Mumble is shunned by the elders of his flock, but he has some friends of his own. Aptly named “the Amigos,” the group of Adelie penguins encourage Mumble to try to win the heart of Gloria, the penguin of his dreams. Because while he can’t sing, he can do something none of the other birds can: dance!
The lively characters and snow-filled Antarctic landscape make this the perfect winter movie for kids.
Stream Happy Feet, rated PG, on Hulu. 101 Dalmatians
Pongo and Perdita, a pair of Dalmatians, are over the moon when they have 15 puppies, and their human owners, Roger and Anita, are pretty please too. And when Anita’s friend from her school days, Cruella De Vil, stops by to visit, she too is delighted to see so many puppies... but not for the right reasons. Cruella is determined to kidnap the puppies to turn them into a luxurious fur coat! It’s up to the puppies’ parents, with the help of some other dogs, cats, and other animals along the way, to foil her plan and bring the puppies (plus 1 or 86 more) home.
specifically a winter movie, but many scenes take place in a snowy landscape. Stream 101 Dalmatians , rated G, on Disney+. Abominable
When teenage Yi discovers a Yeti living on the roof of her Shanghai apartment building, she is (understandably) shocked. Eventually she wins him over with dumplings and discovers this friendly, magical creature, whom she names Everest, wishes to reunite with his family in the Himalayas... which actually works out great since Yi has always dreamed of going off to see the world (a dream her late father had for her). The pair, along with friends Peng and Jin, set off, but a wealthy businessman, determined to prove the existence of yetis, is on their heels every step of the way.
Stream Abominable, rated PG, on Amazon Prime. Penguins of Madagascar
Skipper, Rico, Kowalski, and Private (aka the penguins from the Madagascar movies) are back in their very own adventure. After breaking into Fort Knox to thieve some Cheesy Dibbles from the vending machine there, the pegnuins are kidnapped by an Octopus named Dave. Dave, a fellow zoo escapee, loathes penguins, who are seen as cute and cuddly while he was ignored in his habitat for years. Tired of being upstaged, he has invented The Medusa Serum, which turns cute and cuddly penguins into hideous monsters! The team knows it’s up to them to stop Dave... except that a well-meaning but pushy special ops team calling themselves “The North Wind,” made up of Arctic animals, keeps getting in their way.
Stream Penguins of Madagascar: The Movie, rated PG, on Netflix. Johnny Tsunami
Johnny Kapahaala’s grandfather – Johnny Bartholomew Tsunamia – is a living legend known all over Hawaii for his incredibly surfing abilities. Young Johnny is keen to follow in his footsteps, but when his dad gets transferred, they move all the way to landlocked Vermont! Everyone there is far more interested in skiing and snowboarding than surfing... but wait a minute! Surfing and snowboarding are pretty similar, right? Maybe Vermont won’t be so bad after all! But unfortunately for Johnny, the skiers and snowboarders in this town just can’t seem to get along, and before he knows it, they must compete for who gets to be king of the mountain.
Stream Johnny Tsunami, rated TV-G, on Disney+. Snow Day
When a massive, unexpected blizzard hits a town in upstate New York, the students enjoy a magical snow day. Of course they all know that when the Snowplow Man comes through and clears all the roads it’ll be back to the classroom... but what if the plow couldn’t do its job? That’s what elementary schooler Natalie is trying to do! If everyone works together, it just might be enough to have another day of wintry fun, and give her big brother Hal the chance to win the heart of Claire, the most popular girl in school!
Stream Snow Day, rated PG, on Amazon Prime. Cool Runnings
Jamaican sprinters Derice, Junior, and Yul are training for the most important race of their lives so far: the 100 meter dash that will qualify them for the 1988 Olympics. But when Junior stumbles, all three are knocked down... and out of the running.
The men are heartbroken, but see another way to the Olympics: Derice’s father knew an Olympic gold medal winner named Irving Blitzer, who can help them form a bobsled team. (OK, so it wasn’t their
first choice event, but still...)
Aided by Blitzer and a fourth friend, pushcart derby champion Sanka, this unlikely crew heads to the games in Calgary, where their inexperience makes them targets of ridicule, but their determination win them the respect of the Olympic committee and their fellow athletes.
Stream Cool Runnings, rated PG, on Disney+. The Lion The Witch And The Wardrobe
As World War II rages, the Penvesie children – Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy – are sent from their home in London to live with their uncle in the country. During a game of hide and seek, Lucy climbs inside an old wardrobe, only to discover that it leads to a magical, wintry land called Narnia. There she meets a faun named Tumnus, who explains that the world has been cursed by the White Witch to an eternal winter, and sends her back home.
But how can you stay away from a place with magic and fauns? And how do you not bring your siblings back (especially when they don’t believe you)? What ensues is a whimsical story of the powers of good and evil.
Stream Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe, rated PG, on Disney+. Mr. Popper’s Penguins
Thomas Popper is a divorced real estate lawyer. When Popper’s globetrotting father dies, his inheritance is a souvenir from his dad’s last Antarctic adventure: penguins! Captain, Loudy, Bitey, Stinky, Lovey, and Nimrod wreak havoc on Popper’s posh apartment. While initially annoyed at this “gift,” Popper soon discovers that the feathered friends enable him to grow closer to his son, Billy (who thinks the penguins are his birthday gift), teenage daughter Janie, and ex-wife. But with the co-op board getting suspicious and the sale of his life hanging in the balance, will Popper be able to juggle it all?
Stream Mr. Popper’s Penguins, rated PG, on Amazon Prime. Snow Dogs
Ted Brooks loves his life as a celebrity dentist in Miami. He’s well known, wealthy, and living it up in the tropical city. But when he discovers that he is the only heir of Lucy Watkins, a woman who lived in the wilds of Alaska, his mother reveals that he is adopted and Lucy was his biological mother. So Ted travels to the snowy woods of Tolketna only to discover that his inheritance is seven Siberian Huskies! It’s a classic fish out of water story as Ted braves the elements and tries to discover the identity of his biological father.
Stream Snow Dogs, rated PG, on HBO Max. The Empire Strikes Back
The Death Star has been destroyed, but the Rebel Alliance cannot rest on the laurels. The rag-tag band of freedom fighters have been operating out of their secret base on the frozen planet of Hoth. While out on patrol, Luke Skywalker receives a vision from his deceased mentor, Obi-Wan Kenobi, urging him to go to the Dagobah system to train as a Jedi with Master Yoda. The vision comes only days before the Empire discovers their base and the entire force must flee.
While the movie does not take place entirely on Hoth, the scenes are incredibly memorable and will absolutely make you want to get cozy and curl up inside a dead tauntaun. Remember: “It may smell bad, kid, but it’ll keep you warm!”
Stream The Empire Strikes Back, rated PG, on Disney+. Anastasia
Anya has aged out of the orphanage, and now she’s off to St. Petersburg to find her future (and also her past, since she has absolutely no memory of her life before the orphanage). There she stumbles into broken down Winter Palace of the now dead Romanov czars, where conmen Dmitri and Vlad believe they can pass Anya off as the long-missing-and-believed-dead Grand Duchess Anastasia to the girl’s desperate grandmother. But – what a twist! – she
is Anastasia, and her re-entry into the world has awakened the soul of Rasputin, the evil wizard who cursed her family to begin with!
It’s a... let’s go with “generous” interpretation of the Russian Revolution, at least in terms of how it depicts the Romanovs, but for a movie this good we’ll let it slide.
Stream Anastasia, rated G, on Disney+.