Lighting the menorah, playing dreidel, and plenty of latkes and sufganiyot to go around, Hanukkah is upon us and it’s the most wonderful time of the year to spend with loved ones (and stash in on as much gelt as you can). While Christmas movies have dominated Hollywood over the last decades, Hanukkah films have made a name for themselves too, and we’re here to encourage you to switch it up this year by finding the best Hanukkah films to cozy up to.
Hanukkah is the Jewish celebration known as “the festival of lights.” The word “Hanukkah,” also spelled “Chanukah,” means “dedication” in Hebrew. It’s one of the happiest holidays celebrated by the Jewish people, and signifies the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. Of course, many children won’t hesitate to tell you that it’s also the very best holiday of all — thanks to the traditional eight nights of gifts following the lighting of the menorah.
Holiday movies are iconically cheerful and make for a great way to bond with friends and family over the lighter things in life. Americans are even tuning into holiday films earlier than usual over past years, with two in five starting in October and 37 percent first indulging in September, according to a recent study.
“The predictability provides comfort; no matter how outlandish, unbelievable, or simplistic, the plot taps into real emotions. The predictability means we also enjoy re-watching favorite Holiday movies, because the familiarity feels good. We all want to feel connected and “home” for the holidays. These movies can trigger memories and shared experiences that make the holidays more meaningful,” Psychology Today writes.
Now, let’s get around to what you all came here for. StudyFinds searched the web for the consensus best Hanukkah movies, taking into account theme, plot, ratings and reviews by critics and fans alike. We should make a note that there is a lot of progress still to be made in the world of Hanukkah films, and religiously diverse films in general. But for now, we’ve compiled a list of the top five most-loved Hanukkah movies to get you in the holiday spirit.
The List: Best Hanukkah Movies, According To Experts
1. An American Tail
An American Tale tops the list as the best film for Hanukkah due to its heartwarming and family-friendly message, along with a very real focus on the Jewish immigration experience.
“This sweet animated classic opens on the first night of Hanukkah, when Fievel’s father gifts him his signature blue hat. The sweet young mouse is eventually separated from his family, who are fleeing cats (an allegory for pogroms) in Russia for a happier, safer new life in America,” Parade writes.
Critics call the tale adorable, heartwarming and exquisitely animated.
“While not strictly a Hanukkah story, Don Bluth’s animated classic ties perfectly to the Jewish experience — starting with the Russian-Jewish Mousekewitz family celebrating Hanukkah at the film’s beginning,” Looper writes.
2. The Night Before
Families beware, this one is not for the kids. But The Night Before is a phenomenally funny and wild ride through one of Seth Rogan’s most beloved films.
“Sure, these three childhood best friends want to crash a Christmas party on Christmas Eve in this film, but it’s packed with Jewish humor thanks to Seth Rogen, who also happens to rock a Hanukkah sweater all night long. It’s a fun film to watch when you want a break from the world (which is very needed right now),” Hello Giggles writes.
Critics call the film funny, moving, and never boring.
“While obviously ‘The Night Before’ isn’t Hanukkah, it does feature Seth Rogan rocking a sweet Hanukkah sweater. Directed by Jonathan Levine, this Christmas comedy has more than enough Jewish ties to land itself on the list of the best Hanukkah films,” Looper writes.
3. All I Want Is Christmas
While it seems counterintuitive that a Hanukkah movie could have Christmas in the title, All I Want Is Christmas tops the list of many recommended Hanukkah films for its lighthearted themes and quirkiness.
“Ira J. Finkelstein is obsessed with Christmas, even though his family is Jewish. He switches places with jaded gentile Mikey, and they each learn what the spirit of each of their winter holidays is all about: Spreading joy; sharing love; and embracing your family, faith, and roots,” Parade writes.
Critics call the film inclusive and fun.
“As you might have guessed from the title, All I Want Is Christmas plays on the notion that Jewish kids see Christmas as the superior holiday,” Pure Wow writes. “Needless to say, this one isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement of Hanukkah, but it’s a harmless and entertaining watch, nevertheless.”
4. The Hebrew Hammer
Another one for adults only, The Hebrew Hammer is among the most creative of the films that topped this list, following the story of an Orthodox Jew who’s determined to save Hanukkah.
“The Hebrew Hammer is completely silly and absurd, and the comedy is rather mature, so it’s not an entirely kid-friendly film. Still, the premise is likely to resonate with adults who are all too accustomed with having Hanukkah celebrations eclipsed by the fervor of Christmas. Plus, it’s just plain fun to watch,” Pure Wow writes.
Critics call the film outrageous and laugh-out-loud funny, even if at times not the most politically correct.
“The film parodies the blaxploitation genre, creating a highly caricatured Hasidic crime fighter dedicated to defending Jews. It’s the story of a boy who was made to feel like an outcast for not participating in Christmas — one who ends up trying to save the holiday, as well as all others, when Santa is assassinated by his own son,” Looper writes.
5. Eight Crazy Nights
You either love it or you hate it, but the fact is: it’s one of the most well-known and watched films on the list, so it’s worth trying if you’re looking for a Hanukkah film.
“A Hanukkah classic, this raunchy animated film stars Adam Sandler as a booze-loving troublemaker who’s forced to spend his holiday performing community service as a youth basketball referee in order to avoid prison time,” Cosmopolitan writes.
Word to the wise: don’t take yourself too seriously if you do decide to click this one on.
“For the outsider at the party who needs a crash course in latkes and dreidels, Eight Crazy Nights is a good start. Adam Sandler gives us his classic ‘The Hanukkah Song’ during the movie, which let the world know O.J. is in fact not a Jew. But David Lee Roth? Definitely,” The Wrap writes.
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Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations.