With Christmas right around the corner, there’s never a better time to cozy up with a cup of hot chocolate (or a festive cocktail) and enjoy a holiday film.
From classics stories to under-the-radar releases, these movies hit close to home.
The Santa Clause, The Santa Clause 2, and The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause
Raised in Birmingham, Tim Allen attended Central Michigan University before transferring to Western Michigan University where he received his degree in communications. Going on to voice the well-known Pure Michigan commercials, Allen has also starred in countless films including The Santa Clause trilogy. The popular films follow a single father and his journey to rebuilding his relationship with his son, all while taking on the high-stakes role of Santa Claus. Stream all three films on Disney+.
Miracle on Christmas
Miracle on Christmas was filmed entirely in the Brighton area. The faith-based film follows a small-town family and their struggles to come together for the holidays in light of personal hardships. After encountering a mysterious stranger, the group finds new hope and meaning in the holiday. Scenes are shot in a home in the Crooked Lakes neighborhood as well as at the Cornerstone Evangelical Presbyterian Church. Extras in the film are also Michigan natives. Stream on Amazon.
The Polar Express
This 2004 animated film is based on the children’s book by the same title. Author Chris Van Alsburg was born and raised in Grand Rapids and graduated from the University of Michigan. The Polar Express is set in the same town that the author grew up in, making it a staple of the community each holiday season. When creating the animated film, the crew found inspiration in Owosso, where they studied the Pere Marquette 1225, a massive steam locomotive that traveled through the area. The movie follows a group of children taking an enchanting train ride through the North Pole. Stream on Hulu, Max, and Amazon.
Filmed in Ludington and Grand Rapids, this 2013 film was made in partnership with the Salvation Army and created by Michigan native Harold Cronk. Showcasing the importance of giving back during the holiday season, Silver Bells follows a car salesman who must perform community service as a Salvation Army bell ringer, reminding him of the true meaning of Christmas. Stream on Amazon.
A Christmas Movie Christmas
As the name implies, this 2019 Christmas movie is all about, well, Christmas movies. It follows two sisters — one of whom can’t stand holiday films and one who loves them — who are transported to an idyllic Christmas village. Providing the backdrop for this film is none other than Frankenmuth. The Bavarian Inn and the Frankenmuth River Place Shops can be seen throughout the film and locals took part as extras as well. Stream on Hulu and YouTube.
The Christmas Bunny
Directed by another Grand Rapids native, Tom Seidman, The Christmas Bunny tells the story of an orphan who rescues an injured rabbit on Christmas Eve. The touching story was filmed entirely in Michigan towns including Wyoming and Alto. The home where most of the filming took place belonged to a long-time friend of Seidman’s. The bunny used in the 2010 film came from Critter Barn, a farm in Zeeland that helps introduce children to animals in a safe environment. Stream on Tubi.
This post has been updated for 2023.