Holidays with little kids are amazing. They’re so full of joy and wonder, and they want to participate in all the holiday traditions, from baking cookies to decorating the tree to watching sweet family Christmas movies. Tweens? That can be a little challenging. They still want to get into the holiday spirit, but family traditions are now competing with friends, schoolwork, cell phones, and of course, desperately trying to be cool. They may not be too interested in cartoons and claymation reindeer at this point. That’s why we’ve rounded up our favorite holiday movies to watch with tweens, because it’s time to start some new annual traditions.
Honestly, we’re not badmouthing our tweens. Tweens are great! They’re smart and funny and full of new ideas. But it can be hard. There are so many things we loved about them when they were littler, and watching that transition can be tough on parents and family members. But honestly, if you can reframe this period of change as providing new opportunities for bonding and fun, well, the work is half done. And it is exciting! There are so many holiday movies, especially comedies, that aren’t exactly appropriate for our little ones that we can thoroughly enjoy with our 9 to 12-year-olds.
It’s A Wonderful Life
George Bailey is a beloved member of his community of Bedford Falls from the time he was a little boy. But while he loves his family and neighbors he has big plans to travel the world. But as the years go on, life and a sense of duty keeps getting in the way of his dreams. One Christmas Eve, George encounters a crisis that even he might not find away around, and he is determined to end his own life. Fortunately, his friends and neighbors have been praying for him, and Clarence, his guardian angel, comes down to convince him that he really lives a rich and wonderful life.
This Christmas classic is a favorite of many, but hard to appreciate when you’re a little kid. Your tween might just be old enough to see the beauty in this heartwarming story.
Stream It’s A Wonderful Life, rated PG, on Amazon Prime.
Frank Cross is a ruthless television executive who is much more concerned with the network’s bottom line than holiday cheer, which is a must in the cut-throat corporate world he inhabits. That’s why his live airing of Scrooge, based on A Christmas Carol, must go perfectly. But on the night of the live-show, he is visited by three ghosts who will show him his past, present, and future to try to get him to change his ways. Can he become a better boss, brother, and boyfriend before it’s too late?
Hilariously funny and full of heart, this movie earns its PG-13 rating with some mild swearing, sexual innuendo, creepy (but not scary) imagery, and alcohol use, but is generally nothing a tween can’t handle.
In this Netflix original movie, Jeronicus Jangle is toymaker and eccentric inventor who believes his latest invention will change his family’s fortunes forever: Don Juan Diego, a sentient matador doll. But when the doll learns he is to be mass produced, he convinces Gustafson, Jangle’s assistant to swipe Jangle’s prize possession: his book of inventions. Soon Jangles, and his store, Jangles and things, fall into financial hardship, even as Gustafson starts his own factory. Thirty years later, Jangles has lost his creative spark and is struggling as a pawnbroker. That is until he meets Journey, his granddaughter, who shares her grandpa’s love of inventing. Can the family heal their bond and right past wrongs together?
This movie isn’t exclusively for tweens — younger kids could enjoy this too — but it’s a fun watch the whole family can enjoy.
Stream Jingle Jangle, rated PG, on Netflix.
It’s been almost 200 years since Jacob Marley, and the Ghosts of Christmases Past, Present, and Future had worked together saving a “perp” every Christmas. When they come across media consultant Clint Briggs, they believe they may have come across someone even they can’t redeem... except Present, who believes Clint’s redemption could make a big difference on the whole world.
Realizing that Clint’s case may be harder than he thought, Present takes a new approach: showing Clint his own past, including how he helped to save Ebenezer Scrooge! This snarky, musical retelling of A Christmas Carol starring Will Ferrell and Ryan Reynolds is the perfect holiday movie to watch with tweens.
Stream Spirited, rated PG-13, on Apple TV+.
Trapped In Paradise
Bill has always struggled staying on the straight and narrow path, a challenge not made easier by his older brothers, Dave and Alvin, who have recently been let out of prison on parole. When the convicts ask Bill to take them to Paradise, Pennsylvania to visit a fellow convict’s dying mother, he’s leery but ultimately agrees... only to discover that there’s no dying mother: Dave and Alvin want to rob a bank! Seeing how easy the job would be, Bill agrees and the three carry out their scheme.
Robbing the bank was easy, but getting out of Paradise? That is growing increasingly difficult, especially with the law on their tail, a big snowstorm making roads impassable, and old cellmates coming to get them. But the toughest obstacle is the warm-hearted folks of Paradise.
Stream Trapped in Paradise, rated PG-13, on Paramount+.
The Muppet Christmas Carol
We’ve put a lot of Christmas Carol retellings on this list, and they’re all good... but there’s one that’s the best. Surely, this brilliant rendition of Charles Dickens’ classic cannot be topped. And we know you’ve been watching this movie with your tween since they were little, but we wanted to pop it on here to make sure you keep watching it even though your kids are older: It’s a family movie not a kids’ movie. It can be enjoyed at all ages.
Stream The Muppet Christmas Carol, rated G, on Disney+.
While You Were Sleeping
Lucy lives a lonely life as transit worker in Chicago. Seeing her crush, Peter, take the train is the highlight of her day, though the two remain strangers. But after she saves him from being hit by an oncoming train, an incident that leaves Peter in a coma, she is mistaken for his fiancée and taken in by his family to celebrate the holiday. This inadvertent deception only gets more complicated as she starts building a relationship with his brother, Jack.
Stream While You Were Sleeping, rated PG, on Disney+.
Lego Star Wars Holiday Special
This is another one that’s not exclusively for tweens, but I can promise you that mine find it delightful.
It’s the first Life Day after the defeat of the First Order, and Rey is training Finn to be a Jedi. When she learns of a magic crystal that can help her efforts, she soon finds herself traveling back in time to crucial moments in Star Wars history. Unfortunately, the crystal keeps falling into different hands, bringing the carrier to other pivotal moments in the past. Fortunately for us it’s all very funny. It’s a must for any Star Wars or Lego Movie fan.
Stream Lego Star Wars Holiday Special, rated TV-Y7, on Disney+.
A Christmas Story
It’s Christmas in the midwest, 1940. As Ralphie and his family prepare for the holidays, he has one mission in mind: getting a Red Ryder BB Gun. It won’t be easy. All the adults in his life are wary of giving a firearm, even a low-powered one, to a 9-year-old. What if he shoots his eye out?
This charming collection of holiday vignettes is super-quotable and silly. While there’s not much in here that younger kids couldn’t watch, but in my experience kids don’t really get into this one until their tweens.
Stream A Christmas Story, rated PG, on Max.