It’s the Christmas holiday, which for many means more free time, lots of travel and the desire to curl up with hot chocolate and a good movie. There are hundreds of Christmas movies to choose from — but don’t fear, as the angels said. This list of 12 faith-based Christmas movies will be more than enough to get you through the holidays.
THE BISHOP’S WIFE
“The Bishop’s Wife,” a 1947 movie starring Cary Grant, tells the story of the angel Dudley who was sent to earth to provide spiritual guidance to a bishop hoping to build a new cathedral. Dudley is able to raise funds for the church, but he’s there for more important reasons — to restore the bishop’s family and community.
The most dramatic of the multiple obstacles is that Dudley falls in love with the bishop’s wife. Order is restored all the same, and the bishop and his congregation have a merry Christmas.
“The Bishop’s Wife” is streaming for free on Amazon Prime, Pluto TV and Tubi.
THE PREACHER’S WIFE
“The Preacher’s Wife” is a remake of the 1947 original, starring Denzel Washington as the angel Dudley and Whitney Houston as the preacher’s wife. Houston is the real star, both radiant as an actress and a singer. The accompanying gospel soundtrack is performed by Houston and features The Georgia Mass Choir, Monica, Faith Evans and more.
“The Preacher’s Wife” is available to stream free on Freeform with cable TV.
IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE
“It’s a Wonderful Life” is widely regarded as one of the best movies of all time. It follows banker George Bailey as he attempts to commit suicide, but his guardian angel intervenes. Bailey feels as though he’s wasted his life and is worth nothing because of the sacrifices he made to help his community.
His guardian angel shows him all the ways his community would have suffered if he’d never been born, highlighting his importance and kindness. The movie celebrates those who are generous and caring and emphasizes the importance of life, no matter how seemingly small.
“It’s a Wonderful Life” is available to stream for free on Amazon Prime, NBC and Tubi.
A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS
“A Charlie Brown Christmas” is a Christmas favorite that’s sweet, funny and nostalgic in one — a must watch for all ages. It begins with a rejection of consumerism at Christmas and culminates with the powerful recitation of a portion of the Christmas story at a pageant. It’s all about the true meaning of Christmas.
Clemente Lisi, a senior contributor at Religion Unplugged, has written about why this holiday special is still so important to Christians and non-Christians over 50 years after it was released. Give that a read, too!_
“A Charlie Brown Christmas” is available to stream on Apple TV+.
THE FARMER AND THE BELLE
“The Farmer and the Belle” is a genre crossover of sorts between a Hallmark Christmas movie and a faith-based film. Aging model Belle Winters returns to her childhood home in pursuit of true beauty. There, she kindles a romance with a childhood friend and finds beauty where she least expects it. The movie explores faith in the context of a sweet romance.
Culture writer Joseph Holmes spoke to Jenn Chandler, the star of the movie, about true inner beauty and the importance of showcasing that in a Christmas movie.
“The Farmer and the Belle” is available to stream for free on Amazon Prime and Tubi.
“Black Nativity” is based on the play of the same name by Langston Hughes. It’s a musical drama about family, beginning as teenager Langston is sent to spend Christmas with his grandmother and reverend grandfather in New York.
The movie features a star studded cast — Forest Whittaker, Jennifer Hudson and Mary J. Blige, to name a few — and it strengthens its family-focused message through the power of forgiveness.
“Black Nativity” is available to stream for free on Tubi or Freeform with cable.
THE LITTLE DRUMMER BOY
“The Little Drummer Boy,” a stop motion animation special, is based on the song by the same name. It’s short, simple and sweet, culminating in the boy Aaron witnessing the birth of Jesus and playing his drum. It’s also good for kids, emphasizing the beauty of innocence and reverence for Jesus.
“The Little Drummer Boy” is available to stream for free on Peacock.
THE NATIVITY STORY
This dramatic retelling of the Christmas story focuses on Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem. It’s a no-frills, straightforward adaptation to the screen, framed by King Herod’s Massacre of the Innocents and the family’s escape to Egypt after Jesus’s birth.
“The Nativity Story” is available to stream on HBO Max.
A HEAVENLY CHRISTMAS
This Hallmark Hall of Fame movie follows workaholic Eve as she becomes a Christmas angel after her early death. She quickly falls for musician Max, who she’s been tasked to help during the holiday season. Angels around Christmas are helpful spiritual guides for plenty of things — including finding true love. Expect a cheesy and fun romance, a great performance from Shirley MacLaine, and plenty of Christmas cheer.
“A Heavenly Christmas” is available to purchase on Amazon Prime, YouTube and Apple TV.
Animated movie “The Star” tells the nativity story from the perspective of a donkey, Bo, who takes refuge in the house of Mary and Joseph before they depart for Bethlehem and ends up helping the couple avoid the nefarious plans of King Herod.
The movie is good for kids and families, a comedic tale of redemption and the Christmas Story from an interesting point of view. Plus, it features an original song from Mariah Carey.
“The Star” is available to rent on Amazon Prime, YouTube and Apple TV.
THE CHRISTMAS CANDLE
This movie, based on the Max Lucado novel, takes place in a town that believes in miracles. In 17th century England, a couple who owns a candle shop is visited by an angel who blesses a candle. That candle gives miracles to whoever receives it.
In the year the story takes place, the town receives a new reverend who, at first, is something of a cynic. As the ceremony approaches, the village has to decide who most needs a miracle. The movie features performances from well-known singers Susan Boyle and Samantha Barks.
“The Christmas Candle” is free to stream on Amazon Prime, Pluto TV, Tubi and YouTube.
THE BELLS OF ST. MARY’S
Last in our 12 movies list is “The Bells of St. Mary’s,” in which a priest and a nun with a friendly rivalry fight to save their school from being shut down. Though not explicitly a Christmas movie, a Christmas pageant at the school serves as the setting for a hopeful turning point in the movie. Bing Crosby plays the central priest of the movie and includes a soundtrack he performs.
“The Bells of St. Mary’s” is available to stream on Tubi.
Jillian Cheney is a contributing culture writer for Religion Unplugged. She also writes on American Protestantism and evangelical Christianity and was Religion Unplugged’s 2020-21 Poynter-Koch fellow. You can find her on Twitter @_jilliancheney.