There is only one time of year when I am not entirely ashamed of watching talking clamation and puppet reindeers. As the in-house Christmas guru, I declare that Christmas specials and movies are just as part of the holiday celebration as the music and sweets. If you aren't watching ABC Family regularly during December, or typing "Christmas" into your Netflix search bar, then you are missing out on a treasure trove of seasonal delights.
But no fear, the Christmas guru is here! Below is my list of the greatest Christmas specials and movies of all time. Just as I said with the greatest Christmas songs' list, everyone has their own idea of greatness. Let me know what I left out!
9) "Jingle All the Way"
I know, I know. You're probably thinking, "how the hell did this make the list?" Well, Sinbad and Arnold Schwarzenegger's "Jingle All the Way" came out during a Christmas original drought. When everyone was still busy remaking the same old stories, this memorable Christmas comedy was bold enough to come up with an all new plot that made for a guarenteed laugh in 1996. The story surrounds Sinbad's and Schwarzenegger's battle to get the nation's most popular toy, Turbo Man, for their sons during the height of holiday shopping. Despite my praise, "Jingle All the Way" received mostly all negative reviews from every movie critic and their mama.
8) "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation"
Before there was an "Elf," this 1989 Chevy Chase classic was, and still is, the utlimate holiday comedy. The movie follows the Griswold's as Sparky (Chevy's character) attemps to give his family the best Christmas experience. But if you have ever seen a Chevy movie, you could probably guess how smoothly things turn out. From rabid squarels and broken windows to the most gross and obnoxious of uninvited family guest, Sparky struggles to keep his cool on one hectic Christmas vacation. The only thing that keeps him sane is the hope of a late Christmas bonus from his boss. By no surprise, "Christmas Vacation" topped the charts shortly after being released, beating out "Back to the Future 2" and grossing over $71 million.
7) "Frosty's Winter Wonderland"
Frosty, along with Rudolph, Charlie Brown, and the Grinch, claims the title as one of four of the longest running Christmas specials to date. This Christmas essential is based off a 1950 book and hit song that chronicles the life of a magical snowman who was bought to life by a magician's magical hat. In the short film special, the jolly snowman is constantly harrassed by a digruntled magician named Hinkle who envies the attention that his former audience of children give to the magical snowman. While the kids hustle to get Frosty to the North Pole so that he'll never have to worry about melting, Hinkle devotes his life to getting his magical hat back from Frosty so the joyful snowman can melt like the Campbell's commercial. But finally, good old St. Nick shows up and lays down the law. Hinkle is threatened, Frosty is praised, and the kids parade around town knowing he'll "be back again someday." Like most Christmas classics, Frosty was produced by Japan-based and now defunked Rankin/Bass in 1969. In a holiday world of stop-motion animation and clay, Frosty's animated story was something new.
6)"Rudlolph the Red Nosed Reinder"
Picking between Frosty and Rudolhp is almost like trying to pick your favorite child in front of the others. But there's something more intriguing and relatable about an outcast reindeer than a hyper snowman. Based off a 1939 poem and song that was writen by brother-in-laws to promote the sale of a store's new in-house coloring book, Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer's messege still permeates the American lexicon. Rudolph, the fawn of Donner, is destined to be bullied by his peers beause he was born with a glowing nose, an unsual birth defect. But, as the song indicates, on "one foggy Christmas Eve" Santa came to realize that the misfit reindeer's defect was perfect to "guide his sleigh" that night. Along the way, we all fall in love with beloved characters like misfit elf Hermey. The 1964 classic is one of four holiday specials that has aired annually and continues to be the single longest running special.
5) "The Year Without a Santa Claus"
"He's Mr. Heat Miser, he's Mr. Sun! He's Mr. Green Christmas, he's Mr. 101!" Every song in "The Year Without a Santa Claus" is catchy; every character is very well developed; and every line is sheer witty humor. With all things considered, "The Year Without a Santa Claus" is the greatest Christmas clamation ever created. Based off of Phyllis McGinley's 1957 Children's book, this stop motion animated special was also picked up by Rankin/Bass and aired in 1974. The plot invovles two elves, Jingle and Jangle, and their quest to galvinize the people of South Town to build their Christmas spirit and ultimately convince a sick Santa Claus that people still care enough about Christmas for him to bother bringing Christmas joy to the world. Along the way, Jingle and Jangle try everything to build Christmas spirit, including negotiating with the Heat Miser to let his brother Snow Miser bring snow to the south.
4) "Miracle on 34th Street"
Very few movies, let a lone a Christmas movie, boast an academy award for best supporting actor, best writing (original story), best writing (screenplay), a nomination for best picture of the year, and a ninth place ranking in the American Film Institute's Top 100 inspiring movies' list. In 1947, Valentine Davies' "Miracle on 34th Street" graced America with one of the best feel-good Santa stories of all time; a story that nearly had me convicned that the Santa at Macy's 34th street department store is the real Kris Kringle. The plot follows Kris Kringle through the trials, literally, of being the 34th street Santa. He is inspired to join the Macy's fleet after witnessing a drunken Saint Nick imposter on Thanksgiving. As Macy's Santa, customers are in awe of how accomidating Kris is, so much that he even directs them to rival stores to get a better deal on the gifts they want. As Kris continues to convince everyone that he is in fact the real Santa Claus, he runs into the greatest brick wall when the childhood deprived 8 year-old, Susan, remains unconvinced. The climax of the story is when Kris is taken to court after a disgruntled psychiatrist attempts to prove that he's dillusional. "Miracle on 34th Street" was remade four times, and every single version was a delight.
3) "A Christmas Story"
You don't get a 24-hour marathon on Christmas Eve for nothing. If you haven't seen "A Christmas Story" yet, then you must have shot your eye out. Based off a series of short semi-fictional stories by Jean Shepard from 1983, "A Christmas Story" chronicles 8-year-old Ralphies' mission to get a Red Ryder B.B. Gun for Christmas. But no matter how hard he tries, Santa, his mom, his dad, aunts, and uncles tell Ralphie the same thing: "You'll shoot your eye out!" Ralphie's swearing escapades and fight with a neighborhood bully also jeapordizes his chances of getting the Red Ryder B.B. Gun. Ralphie's quirkiness and a handful of comical subplots make this one for the ages.
2) "A Charlie Brown Christmas"
This really needs no introduction. The Emmy Award-winning "A Charlie Brown Christmas," which was the first time Peanut legend Charles Schulz's beloved comic strip would come to animated life, has been aired in the U.S. every year since it first debuted on CBS in 1965. The plot follows a depressed Charlie Brown on his quest to counteract the overbearing commercialization of Christmas with an epic nativity scene that would best convey the true meaning of a Christmas tree. But of course, if you know anything about Charlie, bad things always happen a long the way. From a tree dilemma to a Peanut gang that was all too focused on the same commercialization that he was fighting, Charlie suffers one big "grief" after another throughout the special. Believe it or not, CBS producers were extremely skeptical about the success of the special. Producers figured that the absence of a laugh track, the bold decision to use children for the voices of the characters, the older vibe of the jazz soundtrack to the special and Linus' religious soliloquy were all elements of a flop. Coincidentally, Schultz had his Linus moment when he defended his use of the Gospel of Luke for Linus' scene and reportedly exclaimed, "if we don't tell the true meaning of Christmas, who will?" Much to everyone at CBS' surprise, 50 percent of American televisions were tuned in for the entire show. History tells the rest.
1) "Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas"
It might be the first Christmas movie that most of us have ever seen. In 1966, director Chuck Jones brought Dr. Seuss' popular 1957 children's book to television screens across America. This is easily the only movie that I can spare you the summary. The cartooon version of the Grinch was once aired annually by CBS until the '80s, when it was purchased by ABC. Now, under the ownership of Turner Broadcasting, it airs sporadically between November and December. No matter how old it gets, it tops the Nielson Ratings every year.
Notable Mentions: "A Wonderful Life," "Home Alone I & II," "The Nightmare Before Christmas," "Pocket Full of Miracles," "The Christmas Gift," "Elf" and "Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol"