Each year, Jews around the world celebrate the Festival of Lights and enjoy all of the merriment, singing, heartwarming food, and holiday cheer that comes with it. One thing Hanukkah doesn’t have, however, is great representation on screen. The Christmas movie market, like Christmas in general, is serious business, with new films released every year (and even during the summer months). Hanukkah doesn’t have quite the same commercialization, which is good for keeping the holiday rooted in tradition, but bad when you’re looking for a Hanukkah movie in a sea of Christmas films.
Of course, that's not to say there are no worthy viewing options out there. If you want to watch something festive every night of Hanukkah this year, this is the list for you. The following movies and TV episodes are the perfect way to get into the holiday spirit by revisiting the Hanukkah story, seeing other families’ traditions, having a laugh, or witnessing tales of resilience that embody the meaning of the holiday. These films and TV shows on major streaming services will fill you with so much holiday cheer that you’ll be wishing chag sameach (happy holidays) to every passerby.
8. 'The Best Chrismukkah Ever' — ‘The O.C.’ (2003 to 2007)
This spot on the list was a toss-up between “The O.C.” and “Friends” for its Season 7 episode, “The One With the Holiday Armadillo,” which deserves an honorable mention. However, as someone who comes from a mixed-faith family, “The Best Chrismukkah Ever” has the edge because it was a rare inclusive depiction of the holiday season that made me feel represented growing up.
This Season 1 episode introduced the world to the concept of “Chrismukkah,” a blend of Christmas and Hanukkah traditions for interfaith families like mine. Seth (Adam Brody) shares his holiday traditions as Ryan (Ben McKenzie) joins the Cohen family. With his Jewish father and Catholic mother, Seth explains he enjoys “eight days of presents followed by one day of many presents” (of course) and mixed decorations, like a menorah side by side with a Christmas tree. The episode’s other characters depict universal holiday themes, like dealing with complicated family issues, that remind us no matter what we celebrate, we’re more alike than we are different.
“The O.C.,” including “The Best Chrismukkah Ever” and additional Chrismukkah episodes in Seasons 2, 3, and 4, is available to watch on Hulu.
7. 'A Rugrats Chanukah' — ‘Rugrats’ (1991 to 2004)
While the Christian side of my family gave me “VeggieTales” to explain the story of Christmas, this episode of “Rugrats” does the same thing for Hanukkah pretty well. Still revisited year after year, it is beloved by kids and adults alike. As the Rugrats learn about Hanukkah from Grandpa Boris (Michael Bell), they imagine themselves as the characters of the historical story.
A brave Tommy Pickles (Elizabeth Daily) as Judah Maccabee leads Israelites Chuckie (Christine Cavanaugh), Phil (Kath Soucie), and Lil (also Soucie) in a revolt against the tyrannical King Antiochus’ wicked advisor, Angelica (Cheryl Chase). Meanwhile, Grandpa Boris has a hard time accepting his long-time rival, Shlomo (Fyvush Finkel), being cast as the “Meanie of Chanukah” in their synagogue's play, eventually learning his own Hanukkah lesson about conflict resolution. This is the perfect holiday special to teach the Hanukkah origin story to young kids and nostalgic viewing for adults.
Season 4 of “Rugrats,” which includes this episode, is available on Paramount Plus.
6. ‘Full-Court Miracle’ (2003)
Because I was a Disney Channel fan in my childhood, “Full-Court Miracle” definitely made me feel represented during the holiday season, as the movie connects to the Festival of Lights. Inspired by a true story, the film follows Alex Schlotsky (Alex D. Linz), a passionate member of the struggling basketball team at Philadelphia Hebrew Academy. At his local court, Alex meets Lamont Carr (Richard T. Jones), a former college basketball star now down on his luck, living out of his van, and estranged from his son. With some convincing, Lamont agrees to coach Alex's team, and they quickly begin to improve.
Alex sees his team’s story in parallel to the story of Hanukkah, with Lamont as a modern-day Judah Maccabee, leading his troops against seemingly insurmountable odds as together they learn the value of perseverance, faith, and teamwork. With a modern tale that makes the story of Hanukkah accessible for middle-aged kids and the movie's climactic final game coinciding with the first night of Hanukkah, this family-friendly classic will leave a smile on your face.
“Full-Court Miracle” is streaming on Disney Plus.
5. ‘Eight Crazy Nights’ (2002)
While you would think an animated musical about Hanukkah would be kid-friendly, Adam Sandler’s typical adult humor earns “Eight Crazy Nights” a PG-13 rating. On the first night of Hanukkah, Davey Stone (voiced by Sandler), a 33-year-old party animal, is arrested for his drunken, disorderly antics. As an alternative to jail time, he agrees to referee the local youth basketball league, which the kind and eccentric senior ref Whitey Duvall (also Sandler) hopes will turn his life around.
Throughout the eight nights of Hanukkah, Davey is confronted with various encounters that challenge his cynical worldview, forcing him to face the pain of his past, including his parents’ deaths. As he heals from long-buried wounds, Davey finds redemption through reconnecting with his community. With a blend of crude humor and heartfelt moments, “Eight Crazy Nights” has gained a cult following for its unorthodox approach to holiday themes like redemption and community spirit.
You can watch “Eight Crazy Nights” on Amazon Prime Video.
4. ‘An American Tail’ (1986)
Like many descendants of Jewish immigrants who came to the U.S. during World War II, one of my main connections to my heritage is through my Eastern European roots. “An American Tail,” an animated musical adventure, provides a poignant look at Jewish immigrant life through the story of Fievel Mousekewitz (Phillip Glasser), a Russian-Jewish mouse who, following a pogrom in his village, gets separated from his parents on the way to the U.S. — a place they believe is a promised land free from murderous cats. Once there, Fievel learns about the harsh realities of immigrant life when he comes across a villainous cat, Warren T. Rat (John Finnegan), who exploits the immigrant mice for profit.
Fievel searches for his family in a sprawling and dangerous city, reinforcing the importance of family and community in the face of prejudice. While the film doesn’t specifically depict Hanukkah rituals, the themes of community, perseverance, hope winning out against oppression, and Jewish cultural representation make this a great watch during the holiday season for those looking to connect with their Jewish heritage and values.
“An American Tail” is currently streaming on the Starz Apple TV Channel.
3. ‘The Hebrew Hammer’ (2003)
If you’ve ever thought the hero the Jewish people need wears a black fedora and a pimped-out gold Star of David necklace, uses gadgets like a “dreidel of doom,” and always comes prepared with an ample supply of Yiddish insults, The Hebrew Hammer is the champion you’ve been waiting for. We all know there’s nothing Jewish grandpas love more than a good Jewish joke, and in “The Hebrew Hammer,” badass private detective Mordechai (Adam Goldberg) is an entire Jewish joke of a character. When Santa Claus's evil son, Damian (Andy Dick), kills his father and takes over the North Pole, he hatches a diabolical plan to destroy Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, making everyone celebrate Christmas instead. Teaming up with Esther (Judy Greer), the daughter of the head of the Kwanzaa Liberation Front, Mordechai takes on Damian in a battle of wits, physical comedy, and deadly dreidels.
Deriving its humor from Blaxploitation films that often focused on overcoming oppression, racism, and social injustices, “The Hebrew Hammer” switches the spotlight to Jewish culture with a clever mix of satire, cultural commentary, and playful mockery of stereotypes, making the movie a Hanukkah cult classic.
Have a holiday giggle with “The Hebrew Hammer,” streaming on Peacock.
2. ‘Call Me By Your Name’ (2017)
Although a little less closely related to Hanukkah than other films on the list, “Call Me By Your Name” is nevertheless one of the best coming-of-age films to come out in recent years and has notable Jewish elements. Elio Perlman (Timothée Chalamet), a 17-year-old music prodigy, meets Oliver (Armie Hammer), a 24-year-old American grad student who comes to Italy to study with Elio's archaeologist father. The boys share a Jewish background, with the Star of David necklaces they both wear serving as a symbol of their shared heritage and a point of bonding between them. Their passionate love affair is made more poignant by Oliver's impending departure at the end of the summer, which complicates their relationship.
As summer turns to fall and then winter, the power of memory and the lasting impact of their brief relationship is made clear. The film's climactic emotional scene takes place during a snow-covered Northern Italian Hanukkah, providing a festive contrast to the heartbreak of young love and reflecting the melancholy many of us often feel during the holiday season.
Get your holiday romance fix with “Call Me By Your Name,” available on Netflix.
1. ‘Schindler's List’ (1993)
Named by iconic director Steven Spielberg as the film he’s most proud of, “Schindler’s List” is a viewing to save for the end of your Hanukkah celebrations, when the festive atmosphere is dying down and you want to reflect on the more serious themes behind your Jewish heritage and values. While Hanukkah isn’t specifically depicted in the film, the character of Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson) is a beautifully poignant representation of the Hanukkah theme of light triumphing over dark.
With the help of his Jewish accountant and right-hand man, Schindler, a German businessman initially seeking to profit during World War II, uses his influence to compile a roster of Jewish people deemed essential to the war effort, saving 1,200 Jews from concentration camps. “Schindler’s List,” which is based on a true story, reminds us of critical cultural values we should take forward into the New Year, like charity, justice, community, dignity, saving a life, and honoring the past. This Academy Award-winning film is more than deserving of the top spot on this list.
“Schindler’s List” is a beautiful reflection on what it means to be Jewish and is currently available to rent or buy on Amazon Prime Video.