Best Hanukkah Movies: Top 8 Films For Each Night, According To Experts

Growing up Jewish, it used to be hard to find a good Hanukkah movie. But times have changed, and while there aren’t a ton, there are more movies you can dive into during the holiday’s eight nights. The best Hanukkah movies are mixed with old-school gems and fresh new takes. We even discovered a brand new movie debuting on the Hallmark Channel! These films are not just about lighting the menorah; they dive into what it’s like being Jewish, with laughs, tears, and plenty of heart.

Why are holiday movies such a hit for that feel-good vibe? A recent study sheds light on this. Turns out, we love them because they assure us that everything’s going to be okay in the end. No major tragedies or heartaches. These holiday flicks pack in their fair share of drama, but the researchers point out that it’s the kind of drama that doesn’t weigh you down. The overall mood stays upbeat, so you’re not stressing over someone meeting a grim fate even when things get a bit tense. To sum it up, the experts say it’s this perfect blend of light drama, cheerful vibes, and the promise of a happy ending that makes holiday movies the go-to for that feel-good experience.

What is the story of Hanukkah?

Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights, is a significant eight-day Jewish holiday that commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem during the second century B.C. This festival stems from a tumultuous period in Jewish history, marked by the Jewish people’s struggle under the oppressive rule of the Seleucid Empire, led by King Antiochus IV Epiphanes. Antiochus IV imposed harsh policies against Jewish religious practices, notably desecrating the Second Temple by setting up an altar to Zeus and outlawing important Jewish rites.

The story of Hanukkah is intimately tied to the Maccabean Revolt, a heroic struggle initiated by a Jewish priest named Mattathias and spearheaded by his son, Judah Maccabee. Despite being outnumbered, the Maccabees bravely fought against the Seleucid forces, eventually reclaiming Jerusalem. Their victory was a significant moment, symbolizing the resilience and faith of the Jewish people.

Central to the Hanukkah narrative is the miracle of the oil. Upon reclaiming the Temple, the Maccabees found only a small amount of pure olive oil, sufficient to keep the menorah’s candles burning for a single day. Miraculously, this oil lasted for eight days, giving them enough time to prepare a new supply of kosher oil. This event is the heart of the Hanukkah celebration.

The traditions of Hanukkah revolve around commemorating this miracle. Each night of the holiday, Jews light candles on a special menorah called a “hanukkiah.” The lighting begins with one candle on the first night, increasing by one each subsequent night until eight candles are lit on the final night. Traditional foods such as latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts) are eaten, and games like dreidel are played. Hanukkah is a time for families and friends to come together to celebrate their faith, heritage, and the triumph of freedom.

Whether you’re Jewish or just love a good holiday flick, the best Hanukkah movies are sure to bring a smile to your face. We’ve ranked seven of them based on their popularity with reviewers. And, in a special nod to the eight nights of Hanukkah, we’ve included an eighth movie as a special bonus. So, light the menorah, and let’s dive in! Did we miss one you love to watch? Let us know in the comments below.

Hanukkah menorah with colorful candles.
Hanukkah menorah (Photo by Robert Thiemann on Unsplash)

The List: Best Hanukkah Movies for 8 Nights, According to Experts

1. “An American Tail” (1986)

The first on our list is about a certain beloved cartoon mouse. “This animated treasure from 1986 still holds up as one of the best family-friendly Hanukkah movies available, even though it’s not exactly a holiday film,” according to Katie Couric Media. “It tells the story of an adorable little animated mouse named Fievel Mousekewitz, and his journey to emigrate from Russia to the United States. During their travels, poor little Fievel gets separated from his family and must figure out how to reunite with them. If you’ve never heard of this movie, watch the short trailer and try not to well up, we dare you. When the film was first released it was a hit at the box office and became the highest-grossing non-Disney animated film at the time. 35 years later, we think it’s high time for another Fievel movie to hit theaters!”

"An American Tail" (1986)
“An American Tail” (1986)

According to Patheos, “This richly illustrated and creative film explores identity, family, Jewish persecution, American history, and faith. I highly recommend it to anyone this holiday season.”

“This classic film is sure to keep you warm this Hanukkah. Just don’t tell your cat about it,” writes The Wrap.

2. “Eight Crazy Nights” (2002)

This animated musical film was born out of Adam Sandler’s “Hanukkah Song” which became the stuff of SNL legend. According to Katie Couric Media, “The film came out in 2002 and some of the less politically correct content hasn’t exactly aged well, but if you can look past some of the more cringe-worthy scenes, this film has a lot of heart. Even though it’s animated, this is one where we definitely suggest putting the kiddos to bed before watching.”

"Eight Crazy Nights" (2002)
“Eight Crazy Nights” (2002)

Patheos also loves this PG-13 film saying, “Though this film has wacky elements and toilet humor, it serves as a surprisingly compelling and emotionally satisfying experience that serves as a refreshing look at redemption and grief. I recommend this film solely for its original story and because I love Sandler and his silly humor.”

According to The Wrap, “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 lets the world know O.J. is in fact not a Jew. But David Lee Roth? Definitely.”

3. “Full-Court Miracle” (2003)

Who doesn’t love a Disney Channel original? “In 2003, The Disney Channel was still gifting us with weekly original movies, and life was good. One of these movies was Full-Court Miracle, and almost 20 years later it’s still a must-watch for Hanukkah,” writes Katie Couric Media. “In the film, a star basketball player named Lamont is forced out of the game after a knee injury. In a twist of fate, he meets a young Jewish boy named Alex, who loves basketball and plays for his Yeshiva team. The only problem is that the team is absolutely awful. Alex persuades Lamont to be their coach, and the struggling team’s fortunes start to turn around.” You can find it now on Disney Plus.

The Wrap says this film is “a Hanukkah staple.” Adding, “The 2003 movie is a good old-fashioned sports movie with a side of latkes that is sure to make you cry.”

“Disney Channel based this original Hanukkah movie on the real story of Lamont Carr, the beloved basketball coach,” according to Good Housekeeping. “In the movie, a college basketball star is sidelined from the game because of a knee injury, so he becomes the head coach of a yeshiva’s hapless team in Philadelphia.”

4. “Hebrew Hammer” (2003)

This film isn’t for everyone and certainly isn’t for kids. The Wrap writes, “The 2003 film, directed by Jonathan Kesselman, has garnered a fierce cult following over the years. And if it seems like it packs every possible Jewish stereotype, it’s because it does.”

According to Good Housekeeping, “The Hebrew Hammer is an orthodox Jew (played by Adam Goldberg) who goes on a mission to save Hanukka from Santa’s evil son, Damian (Andy Dick), who wants to destroy it along with Kwanzaa.”

Parade adds, “This 2003 comedy focuses on the Jewish Mordechai Carver who is determined to save Hanukkah from the evil Damian Claus—the deviant son of Santa.”

5. “Menorah In the Middle” (2022)

“Lucy DeVito, Jonah Platt, and Sarah Silverman star in this movie that came out in 2022,” writes Good Housekeeping. “Sarah (played by Lucy) returns home for the holiday to introduce her family to her fiancé, but that becomes the least stressful event of her stay after she finds out her family is on the verge of losing its bakery … and her new love is the one who wants to take it over.”

According to Seventeen, “A woman named Sarah is excited to take a trip back home to share news of her engagement with her family during Hanukkah, but things take a turn once her dad has a heart attack.”

Insider writes, “The worst part of this deeply strange but ultimately pretty sweet movie is that there is absolutely no explanation for why Sarah would date Chad.”

6. “Hitched For The Holidays” (2012)

Schitt’s Creek’s Emily Hampshire stars alongside ‘90s heartthrob Joey Lawrence in this holiday rom-com that Katie Couric Media says is as sweet as gelt. “Lawrence plays a commitment phobe from a big Italian Catholic family, and Hampshire’s character comes from a close-knit Jewish family and has recently broken off an engagement. Both of them are under a lot of pressure from their families to get into a relationship, so after meeting on a dating website, they hatch a plan to pretend to be each other’s significant others to keep their families off their cases for the holidays.”

"Hitched For The Holidays" (2012)
“Hitched For The Holidays” (2012)

Parade writes, “The film’s theme of honoring family across generations proves that while a lot can change over the course of a century, love is a constant. While it’s not about Hanukkah, it’s got you covered if you’re looking to celebrate Jewish rituals and traditions.”

Good Housekeeping writes, “A commitmentphobic bachelor goes online in an attempt to fulfill his grandmother’s dying wish to see him find a partner. There, he meets another Jewish single New Yorker trying to appease her family by appearing to be coupled up. The pair agrees to pretend they’re together to get through Christmas and Hanukkah with their families. Spoiler: Romance ensues.”

7. “The Night Before” (2015)

This isn’t about Hanukkah but Seth Rogen does star as a Jewish character, which is why it makes the list. According to Good Housekeeping, “It’s Christmas Eve and a group of childhood guy friends (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, and Anthony Mackie) usually spend the night getting wild. But they’re adulting now, so the tradition is changing big time. Still, they set out to find the most major Christmas party ever, the Nutcracker Ball. As usual, Rogen brings the Jewish humor in this holiday flick.”

"The Night Before" (2015)
“The Night Before” (2015)

“Any movie starring Seth Rogen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Anthony Mackie is bound to be a wild ride, and The Night Before lives up to expectations,” according to Katie Couric Media. “In the film, the actors play ‘three dudes, three bros, three ride-or-die homies’ who always spend Christmas Eve together. This year though, Rogen’s character is about to be a father, and the pals realize it might be their last crazy night together. So, of course, they decide to go big and make it their mission to knock off as many holiday traditions as possible…all while under the influence of a bevy of substances. Needless to say, this one is probably best for adults only.”

The Wrap writes, “Seth Rogen dons a dorky Hanukkah sweater to join two childhood friends (Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Anthony Mackie) on one final Christmas Eve of debauchery in this R-rated comedy. ‘Made by Jews, is about Christmas, and opens on Thanksgiving,’ Rogen posted about the movie on Facebook ahead of its release in 2015.”

8. Bonus: “Round and Round” (2023)

Here’s a bonus movie that airs for the first time on the Hallmark Channel. No reviews yet, but Kvellar writes, “Actress and comedian Vic Michaelis, who appeared in my favorite underrated Amazon show, ‘Upload,’ will star in ‘Round and Round’ as Rachel, a woman who keeps reliving her parents’ Hanukkah party. (I mean, if you have to relive something over and over again, a party with fried noshes doesn’t sound that bad.)”

Let us know what you think about this one in the comments below!

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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.

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About the Author

Amy Chodroff

Amy Chodroff is a recovering Morning Radio Show Host and award-winning broadcaster who recently retired from DFW’s Morning News on KLIF in Dallas. Fondly known as the “Chief Googler” by her friends, it was a seamless transition for StudyFinds to enlist her expertise for their “Best of the Best” franchise. Amy has an innate curiosity and a penchant for thorough research before any purchase and she’s constantly on the hunt for top-notch products. Outside of her digital explorations, Amy loves to explore the world with her husband and is the proud mother of two adult daughters. You can also find Amy on the pickleball court, perfecting her dink and drop shots.

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  1. One thing that atheists/humanists lack, is the absolutely essential internal presence of the Holy Spirit of God the Creator/Redeemer. He guides those of us who trust in the one and only Lord, Jesus Christ. What do the atheists have for guidance, apart from others who are misguided?

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