Christmas movies are a meaningful part of the holiday tradition. One thing to consider if you’re looking for some holiday fare to stream during the next few weeks, is to focus on movies with Houston connections.
That’s right, H-Town is connected to some of the best holiday movies in recent memory.
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 co-stars, or behind the camera.
Here are some suggested titles broken down by various movie-going tastes. When possible, we let you know where you can find them online.
Fun to Watch for Everyone
Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey, 2020
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 co-stars 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. On Netflix.
Christmas in Wonderland, 2007
This Lifetime channel movie stars the late 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. On YouTube (free).
Golden Winter, 2012
For anyone into dog movies, especially dog movies where the dogs’ mouths are animated when they talk, 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 (as the voice of a golden retriever pup). On PlutoTV (free).
In Search of Santa, 2004
The Houston-born sisters Duff, (just one of several famous pairs of sibs from Houston, mind you) do the voices for the stars of this straight-to-home-video animated movie. The CGI hasn’t aged well, but it’s a good way to keep the little kids entertained. The story is about some penguin princesses and their journey to find old St. Nick. On IMDB.TV (free).
The Night They Saved Christmas, 1984
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. On Tubi (free).
Kenny & Dolly: A Christmas to Remember, 1984
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. On the Internet.
The Preacher’s Wife, 1996
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 co-star of several big Christmas movies (She’s even in one that came out this year called Christmas Déjà vu), with this being one of her first. Come for Denzel Washington as the angel, stay for Whitney’s singing. On Roku (free).
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) co-stars 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. On FX Networks.
Jack Frost, 1997
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. On Tubi (free).
Christmas Romance and Drama
Ghosting: The Spirit of Christmas, 2019
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. On Tubi (free).
Christmas Harmony, 2018
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 a jilted lover 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. On Lifetime Movie Club.
Angels Sing, 2013
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. On various platforms.
This Christmas, 2007
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.’" On various platforms.
Jingle Belle, 2018
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. On Amazon Prime Video.
Love Actually, 2003
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. It’s airing on the Freeform channel this month. On Amazon Prime Video.
A Chance of Snow, 1998
This television movie that aired on Lifetime channel co-stars Jo Beth Williams. In the genre of love-lost-then-found-again-during-Christmas movies, this one holds its own a couple decades later. Williams, another Houston-born Hollywood star, is best-known for playing Poltergeist mom Diane Freeling. But in A Chance of Snow she’s a woman whose flight gets cancelled after a holiday snow storm forces her to make up with the husband she wants to divorce. She says they’re done, he says they’re separated. On Tubi (free).
Catch a Christmas Star, 2013
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. On Amazon Prime.
Christmas Comedy for the Grown Folks
One Crazy Christmas, 2018
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 co-produced with BET and might count as the most Houston Christmas movie ever made (we’re still waiting to see Screwed Up Christmas, though). On Tubi (free).
Uncle Nick, 2015
If you like the raunchier Christmas comedy movies, this is it. Co-starring Houston-born Missi Pyle as Uncle Nick’s sister. It’ll gross you out, and tickle you, if you’re looking for dark comedy while at home this holiday season. On Tubi (free).
National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation I, II 1989, 2003
Houston-area native Randy Quaid (he and brother Dennis are from Bellaire) does a great job playing the bumbling Cousin Eddie in these movies. Starring Chevy Chase, it’s probably safe to call the first Christmas Vacation movie a holiday comedy classic. On various platforms.