Movies Like 'Miracle on 34th Street' to Watch Next

Once you've watched this Christmas classic, check out these 10 movies that offer up some new ways to think about Saint Nicholas.
by Amy Amatangelo — 

'Miracle on 34th Street'

20th Century Fox

The lore of Santa Claus looms large this month, and perhaps no movie more convincingly assures children that Santa is real than Miracle on 34th Street

Although it is now a holiday staple, the movie was first released in the spring of 1947 and the studio even hid the fact that it was a Christmas movie in all the film's promotion. But once audience members walked into the theater, there was no escaping the festiveness of the season.

In the film, Kris Kringle (Edmund Gwenn) believes he is the actual Santa Claus (it even says so on his employment card) much to the dismay of Doris Walker (Maureen O'Hara), the Macy's employee who hired him to play Santa. Unlike most parents, Doris doesn't want her daughter Susan (Natalie Wood) to believe Santa is real. When Kris Kringle continues to insist he's the real deal, he gets committed to a mental hospital and eventually stands trial. Doris' neighbor Fred (John Payne) defends him, using the fact that the post office delivers all the mail addressed to Santa to him as proof that he is the one and only Santa. 

Miracle on 34th Street was nominated for four Academy Awards, winning three of them, including one for Gwenn for Best Supporting Actor. The movie was even remade in 1994 with Richard Attenborough playing Santa and Mara Wilson playing Susan.

Once you've watched this Christmas classic, check out these 10 movies, ranked by Metascore, that offer up some new ways to think about Saint Nicholas.


Maureen O'Hara in 'The Quiet Man'

Republic Pictures

The Quiet Man

Metascore: 85
Best for: Fans of O'Hara returning to her Irish roots
Where to watch:

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Runtime: 129 minutes

Five years after Miracle on 34th Street, O'Hara and John Wayne headlined this epic drama from director John Ford. It was the second of five films the duo made together. Retired boxer Sean Thornton (Wayne) travels to Ireland to reclaim his family farm and finds himself unexpectedly smitten with Mary Kate Danaher (O'Hara). Fans of Miracle on 34th Street will recognize a feisty O'Hara who has the courage of her convictions. The film received seven Academy Award nominations and won Best Director for Ford and Best Cinematography for Winton C. Hoch and Archie Stout.

"Let's face it. Mr. Ford is in love with Ireland, as is his cast, and they give us a fine, gay time while they're about it." — A.H. Weiler, The New York Times


Natalie Wood in 'Splendor in the Grass'

Warner Bros. Pictures

Splendor in the Grass

Metascore: 74
Best for: Those who want to see a grown up Wood
Where to watch:

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Runtime: 124 minutes

Splendor in the Grass is one of the films, along with Rebel Without a Cause and West Side Story, that marked Wood's transition from child to adult actress. Splendor in the Grass was released in 1961, the same year that West Side Story came out. But this movie, from director Elia Kazan, is the one that garnered her a Best Actress nomination at the Academy Awards. It also marked Warren Beatty's film debut and won an Oscar for playwright William Inge. The story is about two teenagers Deanie (Wood) and Bud (Beatty) who set aside their desires to appease their parents and society.

"Miss Wood has a beauty and radiance that carry her through a role of violent passions and depressions with unsullied purity and strength. There is poetry in her performance, and her eyes in the final scene bespeak the moral significance and emotional fulfillment of this film." — Bosley Crowther, The New York Times


'Arthur Christmas'

Sony Pictures

Arthur Christmas

Metascore: 69
Best for: Curious children
Where to watch: 

Runtime: 100 minutes

This animated 2011 movie from director Sarah Smith endeavors to answer the questions, "Just how does Santa deliver all those presents in such a short time frame? And what happens if he misses one delivery?" When Santa's son Arthur (James McAvoy) realizes that Gwen (Ramona Marquez) didn't get the bike she asked for, he's determined to make sure that her present gets delivered. Even as his older brother Steve (Hugh Laurie) thwarts his efforts. Arthur Christmas, from Aardman Animation, the studio behind Wallace & Gromit, received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Animated Feature.  

"There's nothing dark about Arthur: It's as bright and twinkling as a Christmas tree, decked with warmth and humor." — Amy Biancolli, San Francisco Chronicle


Forest Whitaker in 'Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey'


Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey

Metascore: 69
Best for: Those who want a little musical with their Christmas magic
Where to watchNetflix
Runtime: 122 minutes

Forest Whitaker stars as Jeronicus Jangle in this 2020 Netflix original movie. After he's betrayed by his apprentice Gustafson (Keegan-Michael Key), Jeronicus loses his passion for creating toys. That is, until his granddaughter Journey (Madalen Mills, in her film debut) shows up and helps her grandfather find his inventing spark once again. Phylicia Rashad co-stars as the adult Journey regaling her grandchildren with this new Christmas story. The movie received 10 NAACP Image Award nominations, including outstanding motion picture and outstanding actor.

"The film, featuring generous doses of enchanting stop-motion and CGI animation, has its heart in the right place, and certainly succeeds in its goal of infusing a traditional holiday tale with the sort of diversity that will help it appeal to a broader audience." —Frank Scheck, The Hollywood Reporter






Metascore: 65
Best for: Those looking for a different origin story for Santa
Where to watchNetflix
Runtime: 96 minutes

If you are looking for a unique perspective of how Santa came to be, this 2019 animated film from Sergio Pablos is for you. Set in Norway in the 1800s, Jason Schwartzman voices Jasper, a cranky postman who gets outcast to Smeerensburg. There he befriends Klaus (J.K. Simmons), a recluse with a gift for making handmade wooden toys. The movie was Netflix's first animated film to be nominated for Best Animated Feature at the Academy Awards.

"Sergio Pablos' Klaus invents its own unexpected and very enjoyable origin story for the big guy who gives out toys every Christmas eve."—John Defore,The Hollywood Reporter



Will Ferrell in 'Elf'

New Line Cinema


Metascore: 64
Best for: Those who KNOW Santa is real
Where to watch

Runtime: 97 minutes

Will Ferrell stars as the title character, an elf named Buddy, in this 2003 film from director Jon Favreau. Adopted by Santa's elves when he was an infant, Buddy doesn't quite realize he's human. Buddy travels to New York to reconnect with his birth father (played by James Caan) and the rest of his family. In the last 20 years, Elf has become a beloved Christmas classic and was turned into a Broadway musical in 2010. The touring version of the musical is traveling from Paducah, Ky. to Buffalo, N.Y. for the 2022 holiday season.

"The movie succeeds because it at once restrains its sticky, gooey good cheer and wildly overdoes it." — Dana Steven, The New York Times.


'The Polar Express'

Warner Bros. Pictures

The Polar Express

Metascore: 61
Best for: Those who want to still believe
Where to watch

Runtime: 100 minutes

Based on the beloved children's book by Chris Van Allsburg, this 2004 movie features Tom Hanks in five roles, including the pivotal one as the conductor of a magical train to the North Pole. As in Miracle on 34th Street, the world is full of those who doubt Santa's existence: Here, the ringing of the bell, which marks the first gift of Christmas, can only be heard by all those who believe. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the movie is the longest performance capture film — the actors' movements were recorded and then animated. Each holiday season, trains across the country offer Polar Express rides to recreate the magic of the film. 

"It's a kind, gentle and sweet holiday confection."—Shawn Levy, The Oregonian


Tim Allen in 'The Santa Clause'

Walt Disney Pictures

The Santa Clause

Metascore: 57
Best for: Fans of Santa who want to see how he becomes the magical myth we know and love
Where to watch:

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Runtime: 97 minutes

Tim Allen first played the big man in red in this 1994 movie directed by John Pasquin, but the comedian went on to play the unlikely Santa in two sequels in the early aughts and just reprised the role again in a 2022 limited series titled The Santa Clauses. In this movie, Scott Calvin (Allen) ends up taking over the gig as Santa when the current Santa falls off his roof and Scott puts on his coat. Due to a clause in the Santa contract (hence the title), that means Scott is the new Santa. But first he has to learn to believe Santa is even real. Then he can worry about bringing presents to millions of children each Christmas Eve. 

"Often a clever and amusing movie, and there's a lot of fresh invention in it." — Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun Times


The cast of 'The Christmas Chronicles'


The Christmas Chronicles

Metascore: 52
Best for: Siblings who want to reconnect over the holidays
Where to watch: Netflix
Runtime: 104 minutes

This 2018 film (the first of two) finds Kurt Russell playing Santa Claus in an unlikely adventure with two teens. On Christmas Eve, siblings Teddy (Judah Lewis) and Kate (Darby Camp) stow away in Santa's sleigh and now must help him make sure all the toys get delivered to the right children. Keep an eye out for Russell's real life love Goldie Hawn as Mrs. Claus and Hawn's son Oliver Hudson as Teddy and Kate's deceased dad. In 2020, Netflix released the sequel The Christmas Chronicles 2, which fared just about as well with critics.

"Russell's Saint Nick carries a lot of the film's charm on his fur-lined shoulders, and there are some delightful cameos from folks like Lamorne Morris and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend's Vella Lovell as cogs in Santa's gift-giving wheel of fate." — Clint Worthington, Consequence


Anna Kendrick in 'Noelle'



Metascore: 48
Best for: Fans of Bill Hader's sardonic charm and Anna Kendrick in general
Where to watch:

Runtime: 100 minutes

Kendrick is Noelle Kringle, the daughter of Kris Kringle who dreams of taking over the family business, in this 2019 movie from director Marc Lawrence. In this version of Santa Claus lore, the job of being Santa is passed down from generation to generation. The problem is that Noelle's brother Nick Kringle (Hader) does not want the job and he flees the North Pole, leaving his sister to chase him down to try to keep Christmas intact and on track.

"Noelle is Kendrick's movie, and it's a fitting reminder of why she's such a potent star in projects that require some degree of cheerful borderline sociopathy." — Emily St. James, Vox