Deck the Halls

The 25 Must-See Christmas Movies With Houston Connections

The best holiday flicks with Houston ties, and where to watch them.

By Camilo Hannibal Smith and Shelby Stewart

Phylicia Rashad plays the Grandmother in the Netflix film, Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey.

Christmas movies are a meaningful part of the holiday season. In fact, there are so many festive movies out there that you might be looking for a way to narrow down your options. If you're reading this from somewhere in Houston, and we assume you might be, consider watching a movie with a connection to our fair city.

That’s right, H-Town is connected to some of the best holiday movies—from the cheesy Hallmark rom-coms to major motion pictures. And, to help you explore some of that holiday movie cheer we’ve compiled a list of some movies that feature Houstonians either in starring roles, as costars, or behind the scenes.

Fun to Watch for Everyone 

Christmas in Wonderland, 2007

Where to Watch: YouTube

This Lifetime channel movie stars the late, great Houstonian Patrick Swayze. He plays a dad whose kids fall into some counterfeit Canadian money during the holidays. The movie takes place in a Canadian mall and also stars Chris Kattan and the wonderful Tim Curry. 

Dolly Parton’s Christmas on the Square, 2020

Where to watch: Netflix

This holiday musical is set in a small Prairie View town, better known as Christmastown. The winter wonderland is getting sold by the town Scrooge to a land developer, putting the Christmas holiday at risk. Luckily, an angel played by Dolly Parton swoops in to save the day, plus a one-two step from Houston’s very own Debbie Allen. After many minutes of song and dance, all the problems are solved in the blink of an eye and Christmas is back on once again.

Golden Winter, 2012

Where to watch: PlutoTV

For anyone into dog movies, especially dog movies where the dogs’ mouths are animated when they talk (a very specialized genre, to be sure), then this movie won’t be a total waste of time. It’s a fun comedy for young kids that stars  Houston-born actors Shannon Elizabeth and Haylie Duff.

In Search of Santa, 2004 

Where to watch:  IMDB.TV

Houston-born Duff sisters Haylie and Hilary (just one of several famous pairs of sibs from Houston, mind you) do the voices for this straight-to-home-video animated movie. The CGI hasn’t aged well, but it’s a good way to keep little kids entertained. The story is about some penguin princesses and their journey to find old St. Nick.

Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey, 2020

Where to watch: Netflix

Houston’s own Phylicia Rashad plays the grandmother to the title character in this Netflix original with a diverse cast that actually looks like Houston, and also costars Forest Whitaker. “We are normalizing people of color in places that you wouldn’t normally see them, " director David Talbert told USA Today about this fantasy film. This is a family musical that’ll reach across the generations sitting on the couch watching movies for the holidays.

The Night They Saved Christmas, 1984

Where to watch: Tubi

Adults of a certain age know the Lamar High School graduate, Jacklyn Smith, from the TV show Charlie's Angels. In this film she plays a mom who flies a plane, and wants to separate from her husband who works in the oil and gas industry. It’s a movie that ties environmental issues with the yuletide season, and Art Carney as Santa is really something good. 

Kenny & Dolly: A Christmas to Remember, 1984

Where to Watch: Internet Archive

This might be a good choice if you’re really looking for a way to connect with grandma and grandpa. Technically, this was a TV special featuring music from the blockbuster holiday album Once Upon a Christmas, by best-friend singer/songwriters Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton. Rogers, a Houston native who graduated from high school in The Heights, plays Santa Claus in the special. And, his solo rendition of “Silent Night” is like a warm hug on Christmas Eve. 

The Preacher’s Wife, 1996

Where to watch: Roku

This movie was directed by the late Penny Marshall and features the late Whitney Houston. Loretta Devine, an Acres Home native and graduate of UH, is a costar of several big Christmas movies, with this being one of her first. Come for Denzel Washington as the angel, stay for Whitney’s singing. 

Holiday Horror 

Jack Frost, 1997

Where to watch: Tubi

This movie has holiday cheer mixed with gore. It’s about a killer snowman and it’s cheesy as hell, but worth it for fans of schlocky horror films. Houston-born Shannon Elizabeth has been in better movies, sure, but she nails the movie’s mood with this line, “You want me to have fun, don’t you? Or do you want me to sit around and get morbid.” If you get tired of the typical Christmas movie, this is anything but. 

Krampus, 2015

Where to watch: FX Networks

As far as classic holiday horror goes, this movie about a killer Christmastime spirit takes the crown. Sugar Land’s Allison Tolman (born in Houston) costars and plays an aunt who takes on a host of monsters attacking a family during the holiday. She reportedly did her own stunts in this film, too. 

Christmas Romance and Drama

A Chance of Snow, 1998

Where to watch:  Tubi

In the genre of love-lost-then-found-again-during-Christmas movies, this one holds its own a couple decades later. Jo Beth Williams, another Houston-born star, is best known for playing Poltergeist mom Diane Freeling. But in A Chance of Snow, she’s a woman whose flight gets canceled after a holiday snowstorm forces her to make up with the husband she wants to divorce. She says they’re done, he says they’re separated. 

A Miracle Before Christmas, 2022 

Where to watch: BET+

Who doesn’t love a “be careful what you wish for” theme in a Christmas flick? On December 8, BET’s A Miracle Before Christmas will offer just that. The movie stars Letoya Luckett, who plays Mercedes Wright, a fast-talking family therapist who believes she has all the answers to love—but now it’s time to apply that same advice for her own marriage, which takes an act of Old Saint Nick to fix.

Angels Sing, 2013

Where to watch: On various platforms

It’s a Hallmark movie about a guy who lost his holiday spirit and later rediscovers it and becomes a better dad with the help of a Texas singer everyone will recognize. The movie features Lyle Lovett who was born in Space City and grew up nearby. For fans of Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson, this movie won’t disappoint. 

Catch a Christmas Star, 2013

Where to watch:  Amazon Prime

This movie has Hallmark Channel written all over it. And well, it was created for that specific audience. It’s about lost love, and Shannon Elizabeth stars as a pop singer who is reunited with an ex-high school flame around the holidays. 

Christmas Harmony, 2018 

Where to watch:  Lifetime Movie Club

This movie with Chandra Wilson (not to be confused with Christmas in Harmony, with Loretta Devine and Michelle Williams), checks off two important holiday movie tropes: films about people singing Christmas songs, and films about jilted lovers going back home to find true love. If that’s your bag, and you like Lifetime musicals, then this movie will fit into your holiday viewing plans just fine. 

Ghosting: The Spirit of Christmas, 2019

Where to watch: Tubi

The clunky title aside, this Freeform movie stars Mo City’s Kendrick Sampson, who plays the love interest (You may know him from a recurring role on Insecure and a role in the Texas movie Miss Juneteenth), and Missi Pyle, who plays a clairvoyant (another repeat name on this list, and we didn’t even mention her role in Home Alone 4). A woman dies in a car crash and literally ghosts a guy she was starting to fall in love with. Part of this movie hopefully works as a warning against texting and driving, but probably not. 

Jingle Belle, 2018

Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video

The Fresh Prince of Bellaire’s Tatyana Ali has a string of Christmas movies for Lifetime channel. This one features Houston’s Loretta Devine, who may be the reigning queen of Christmas movies on this list. The movie is another one about lost, and reconnected holiday love, this time with a songwriter who goes back home and reconnects with a former boyfriend. 

Love Actually, 2003

Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video

It’s one of the O.G.’s of modern Christmas romantic comedies. This movie has Shannon Elizabeth’s character Harriet on screen for less than a minute (as one of the “American girls”), but that counts. 

Something From Tiffany's, 2022 

Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video

HBO’s Insecure star Kendrick Sampson will star as Ethan Greene, in this classic holiday switcheroo flick. Based on the book by Melissa Hill, the movie follows a woman (Zoey Deutch) during the holidays, and her life takes a quick turn, as an engagement ring meant for someone else, leads her into the arms of the man she’s supposed to be with. 

The Great Holiday Bake War, 2022

Where to watch: OWN

Holidays aren't the holidays without sweets, and you’ll witness things heat up in the kitchen between Finesse Mitchell and former Destiny’s Child member Letoya Luckett. The two play former pastry school rivals, who meet again in a television baking competition. The pair start off in a battle against each other to win the prize money, but in the end, the two put their heads together to create a recipe for success (and romance!)

This Christmas, 2007

Where to watch: On various platforms

Loretta Devine plays the matriarch Ma’ Dere to perfection in this movie that’s all about a family getting together for Christmas. The star-studded cast features Idris Elba, Regina King, Chris Brown and Lauren London, and has a little something for everyone. It was well received when it came out with critic Wesley Morris calling it a "double-extra-strength episode of ‘Soul Food.’" 

Christmas Comedy for the Grown Folks 

All I Didn’t Want for Christmas, 2022 

Where to watch: VH1

The hilarious film will be on air on December 7, and you'll get a good laugh. Gabourey Sidibe stars in this film as Emily Harris, who feels like Santa has never gotten her anything she wants for Christmas. In this comedy, Sidibe writes an angry letter to Santa, where all of her wishes begin to come true. The letter takes her on a journey of soul searching that differentiates Emily’s wants from her needs. Sidibe leads in the film alongside a cast that includes Kel Mitchell and Houston native Loretta Devine.

One Crazy Christmas, 2018

Where to watch: Tubi

This movie by Rice University graduate and veteran Houston filmmaker, Greg Carter opens with Fat Pat’s “Tops Drop.” The sequence starts with an animated Santa Clause riding a slab. This comedy about an H-town lawyer who has to marry off her daughter, and deal with her family and ex-husband during Christmas, was coproduced with BET and might count as the most Houston Christmas movie ever made. 

Uncle Nick, 2015

Where to watch: Tubi

If you like the raunchier Christmas comedy movies, this is it. Costarring Houston-born Missi Pyle as Uncle Nick’s sister. You'll be just as grossed out as you are entertained if you’re looking for dark comedy. 

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, 1989

Where to watch: On various platforms

Starring Chevy Chase, it’s probably safe to call Christmas Vacation a holiday comedy classic. The Houston connection is Randy Quaid, he and brother Dennis are from Bellaire, who does a great job playing the bumbling Cousin Eddie. 

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