Stories & Features

2020 holiday streaming guide: movies, series and docs

Still image from the Netflix movie Jingle Jangle: A Christmas journey
The new Netflix movie Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey is a crowd-pleaser among those who like it light, with a few show-stopping musical segments thrown in.

Blockbusters blocked, but there's still a whole lot to watch at home

The pandemic put on hold the production of movies and series, and pushed back release dates on blockbuster films such as the unfortunately titled Bond film No Time to Die. But streaming services have stepped up their game, big time, with the likes of The Queen's Gambit (Netflix), The Baby-Sitters Club (Netflix), The Mandalorian (Disney+), the fourth season of The Crown (Netflix) and Normal People (CBC Gem).

Holiday favourites are more available than ever, and sports fans will also be able to watch the NFL and the NBA (starting December 22) over the holiday season, along with World Junior hockey. Look for the arrival of a reworked (and improved) Godfather III titled Mario Puzo's The Godfather, Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone to DVD on December 8, and Wonder Woman 1984 (on Crave) for Christmas Day.

While we can't help you and your family agree on what to watch, we can provide tips on how to do it efficiently.

Consider settling in with your laptop or tablet instead of sitting in front of the TV. You'll save on energy costs – particularly if your regular streaming device of choice is a game console. A year of streaming on a PS4 and a television can cost almost $30 – compared to less than $5 on a Surface Pro laptop. Besides, not everyone in your home may share a fascination with the Seattle Seahawks, A Christmas Prince, or Home Alone.

Oh, and if you tend to use your game console to stream content, consider this: A game console can use up to 40% more energy than other streaming devices.

One more reminder before we get going with the list. Don't miss out on our Holiday Countdown Calendar contest, where you can enter every day of December for a chance to win one of our weekly prizes, ranging from Instant Pots to Best Buy gift cards, as well as our grand prize package, valued at $1,200. 

Look through our guide below to find holiday titles and other gems available this month. And don't forget to unglue yourself from the couch now and again to get outside, even if it's cold.

Image of Reese Witherspoon in Election
Before she was Legally Blonde, and long before she was a busy-body mom on Big Little Lies, Reese Witherspoon broke into the spotlight as Tracy Flick, an ambitious class president wannabe in the comedy Election. Don't miss it on Prime Video.

Prime Video

Holiday fare

  • Elf: How do you beat a movie featuring Buddy and the multi-talented Zooey Deschanel? Certainly not in a snowball fight.
  • The Polar Express: Animated classic tells the story of a doubting boy hopping aboard a train to the North Pole.
  • A Christmas Story: This 1983 classic just made No. 3 on Esquire Magazine's list of the best  Christmas movies of all time.
  • Love Actually: It's an annual rite of many to view this sugar-sweet tale, featuring a star-studded cast including Hugh Grant, Keira Knightley and Emma Thompson, over the holidays. If this is you, test your knowledge of Love Actually Trivia.
  • Scrooged, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation: Two old faves. Take your pick: Bill Murray or Chevy Chase?
  • The Best Man Holiday: Definitely not for the kids. Flawed but fun.
  • Home Alone: All three in the franchise are on Prime, but the original's the best.
  • Happy Christmas: Anna Kendrick gets over a breakup by moving in with her brother's family. A sobering antidote to the usual featherlight holiday movie.
  • Get Santa: Jim Broadbent shines as a Santa who crashes his sleigh and needs to find a way to get his flatulent reindeer home.
  • Bad Santa: Old Saint Nick behaves badly (very badly), in the form of a hard-drinking Billy Bob Thornton. R-rated and oh-so-funny.

Other good stuff

  • Little Women: Greta Gerwig's 2019 version of the Louisa May Alcott novel is tremendous, thanks in part to Saoirse Ronan in the lead role.
  • Election: Almost two decades before her role as a mom on Big Little Lies, Reese Witherspoon wowed as the iconic Tracy Flick, an ambitious high schooler with her sights set on school president.
  • Terminator 2: Bummed that there's no blockbuster movie treat to look forward to this month? Revisit this sci-fi classic from 1991.
  • The Boys: Popular send-up of the superhero story, envisioning a world where supers use their powers for bad instead of good. Violent, with a Common Sense Media rating of age 17-plus.
Image of George Clooney in Midnight Sky
No, that's not Santa. It's George Clooney, starring in Midnight Sky, a sci-fi movie he also directed. The Netflix movie arrives December 23.

Netflix

Holiday fare

  • Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey: This just-released Netflix musical fantasy is getting lots of early buzz. It's the story of a legendary toymaker (Forest Whitaker) whose prize invention is stolen.
  • Dash & Lily: Just when you thought you'd seen every decent holiday season rom-com, along comes a new Netflix 8-episode series about a mismatched pair of young New Yorkers who trade dares, dreams and desires in a notebook they pass back and forth.
  • Captain Underpants: Mega Blissmas: Animated special has Harold and George go back in time with the intent to rewire Christmas.
  • A Christmas Prince: Netflix does Hallmark. Sweet and romantic, if that's your cup of tea.
  • The Holiday: Beautiful people (Jude Law, Kate Winslet, Cameron Diaz) in a romantic charmer in which Jack Black steals the show.
  • Last Holiday: Queen Latifah takes charge in a wish-fulfillment fantasy with heart to spare.
  • Die Hard: A Christmas movie? Sure. Officer John McClane's plans to reconnect with his estranged wife at a Christmas party go gloriously awry.
  • Angela's Christmas: Sweet animated short in which a young girl pursues her dream of keeping everybody warm at Christmas. Five stars and an age 6-plus rating from Common Sense Media.
  • The Holiday Movies That Made Us: Netflix documentary series looks at the making of Elf and The Nightmare Before Christmas. Earlier Movies That Made Us episodes also covered Home Alone and Die Hard.
  • Christmas Crossfire: And now for something completely different, a dark comedy from Germany about the fallout from a foiled murder in the woods.

Other good stuff

  • The Baby Sitters Club: Charming and funny 2020 Netflix series details the adventures of five Connecticut middle-schoolers who launch a babysitting business. Based on the popular children's book series by Ann M. Martin.
  • Mank: David Fincher fans get their fill in new Netflix drama about the life and career of Citizen Kane co-writer Herman J. Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman).
  • The films of Hayao Miyazaki: Kids and adults alike fall for Miyazaki's fantastic animated movies, and Netflix has a nice selection including Spirited Away, Kiki's Delivery Service, Arriety, My Neighbour Totoro, Princess Mononoke, Ponyo, and Howl's Moving Castle.
  • Hugo: An immersive, eye-popping fantasy that's great for tweens and beyond, and proof that Sacha Baron Cohen is a legitimate star beyond Borat.
  • Anne with an E: Fans still get over the fact that Netflix cancelled the series, based on Anne of Green Gables, after a third season. See for yourself what all the fuss is about.
  • The Prom: Due for Release on Netflix on December 11, The Prom features Meryl Streep and James Corden as New York City stage stars who, after an expensive flop on Broadway, turn to a more modest arena to try to resurrect their careers.
  • Midnight Sky: Due for release on December 23, this post-apocalyptic Netflix movie features George Clooney as a scientist racing to stop astronauts from returning home to a global catastrophe.
  • Juliet, Naked: Rose Byrne and Ethan Hawke star in a 2018 comedy produced by Judd Apatow.
  • They Shall Not Grow Old: Absorbing documentary from Peter Jackson of Lord of the Rings fame tells the story of World War 1 through the eyes of men who were there.
  • Alien Worlds: What's out there? Netflix sci-fi documentary series tries to answer the question in a series that speculates about alien life forms and ecosystems.
Image of Baby Yoda
Baby Yoda calls the shots in The Mandalorian, now in its second season on Disney+. Fantastic series, this is.

Disney+ Canada

Holiday fare

  • Miracle on 34th Street: You can watch either the 1947 or 1994 editions of this charming classic. The original is best.
  • The Muppet Christmas Carol: Solid entertainment (and an 86 Rotten Tomatoes audience rating) that features Michael Caine as the voice of Scrooge.
  • The Nightmare Before Christmas: Wildly inventive animation from the wonderfully warped mind of director Tim Burton, rated age 7-plus by Common Sense Media.
  • Home Alone:  All five in the franchise are available here, but only the first two star Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern, so pass on the sub-par third, fourth and fifth.
  • Ice Age: A Mammoth Christmas: Animated short lands Sid, Eddie and Crash on Santa's naughty list.

Other good stuff

  • The Mandalorian: Set after the fall of the Empire and before the emergence of the First Order, The Mandalorian delivers what the recent Star Wars movies lack.
  • Soul: The latest from Pixar arrives on Christmas Day, with Jamie Foxx voicing the role of a middle school music teacher who gets his chance to play at the best jazz club in town, but who takes a misstep into adventure. Getting rave reviews from critics in its theatrical release.
  • Big: A young Tom Hanks produces laughs and tears in a classic tale that should be on everyone's list.
  • Edward Scissorhands: Back when Johnny Depp was magic, he teamed up with director Tim Burton and Winona Ryder in one of the finest ever modern fairytales. Age-rated 13-plus by Common Sense Media.
Still image from Normal People
The two stars of Normal People are highly unusual and highly watchable (thanks to tremendous acting) in a series based on the bestselling Sally Rooney novel of the same name. A smash hit, available in Canada on CBC Gem.

CBC Gem

Holiday fare

  • The Curse of Clara: A Holiday Tale: Animated short about a girl accepted into the prestigious National Ballet School and selected to play Clara in the Nutcracker. Featuring the voices of Karen Kain, along with hockey's Phil Esposito and Bob Cole.
  • 22 Minutes Holiday Special (2018): Spoofs on Love Actually and Fairytale of New York, and shopping tips from Peter Mansbridge.
  • Travel Man: Not technically holiday themed, but this beloved UK travel series does feature a holiday season episode with Jon Hamm as guest on a trip to Hong Kong (foot massages, buying tailor-made pink and red velvet suits, practising tai chi).

Other good stuff

  • Anne with an E: Those who love this telling of the Anne of Green Gables story love it a lot. Netflix got on their bad side by cancelling it after a third season.
  • Normal People: Slow but deeply rewarding hit series follows the unexpected relationship between a pair of bright high schoolers in Ireland.
  • Funny Boy: Canadian Oscar-winning director Deepa Mehta brings to the screen author Shyam Selvadurai's story of growing up gay in troubled times.
  • The Fireflies Are Gone: 2018 Best Canadian film award winner at TIFF, about a restless teenager who finds salvation, thanks in part to an unusual relationship. 100% Rotten Tomatoes rating.
  • Sing Me a Lullaby: Documentary short (Taiwan-Canada) on the connections between generations.

An acquired taste

  • Kids in the Hall, Baroness von Sketch: Two cringe-inducing but often hilarious Canadian comedy series, one old, one that's in its last season. Chicken Lady, anyone?

BC Hydro report: How COVID-19 has changed habits, electricity use

A few months into the coronavirus pandemic last June, a BC Hydro report [PDF, 350 KB] found that about 90% of British Columbians had drastically changed their routines. The report also outlined the following advice for reducing electricity use:

  • Use a laptop instead of a desktop, which uses 80% less electricity.
  • Cooking with smaller appliances, such as multi-use pressure cookers, microwaves and toaster ovens that use up to 75% less energy than a large electric oven.
  • Stream movies or TV shows on a device like a smart TV instead of a game console, as it uses 40% less electricity.
  • Track electricity use with MyHydro to see how at-home activities impact a household's electricity use.