Christmas Classics All Children Should See Each Year

A Collection Everyone Should Have

Christmas is a wonderful time of year, the cities bring out as much Christmas looking objects as they are allowed to in this politically correct "got to include everyone" world. Children are busy wondering if they are going to get the latest toy or video game from Santa. Parents are waiting for that wonderful moment where they get to drink so much Egg Nog that they pass out on the couch for a day. Workers are busy doing everything possible to get their work done before the Christmas break. And last but not least, all those TV channels light up with some of the most magical Christmas movies ever... Or not.

Yeah we all know there is a channel out there where A Christmas Story is played 24 hours a day 7 days a week or something along those lines. However, as the world has grown and changed, a lot of more heartfelt and classic movies have been removed from our TV stations and are relegated to DVD or VHS where it is up to you to find them in the back of some long forgotten collection of media you never use anymore. Hell, what we do get is less Christmas based movies and more movies that use Christmas as a framing device or some crap made after the year 2000 which is usually some dumb comedy that isn't even that funny (I'm looking at you Elf & The Santa Clause series).

Growing up in the 1980s and 1990s, we would spend many weekends leading up to Christmas watching REAL Christmas movies; movies that went into the lore of Christmas and was not afraid to go into the Christian religious roots of the holiday. You think TV stations would get away with playing things like 'The Christmas Star' or 'Little Drummer Boy' today? Hell no! Heck, even things like 'A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving' and 'Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer' are considered "problematic" and probably won't be seen much anymore. Well I'm going to change that! I'm going to give to you, as a CHRISTMAS gift, an unordered listing of a batch of Christmas Holiday Movies that every kid and adult in this world needs to see and enjoy...

And I'm also going to piss people off right away. There is NO DIE HARD, GERMLINS, HOME ALONE, OR ANY OTHER MOVIES THAT USE CHRISTMAS AS A TIME PERIOD FOR ANOTHER STYLE OF FILM! There, I said it, don't @ me bro.

Christmas Special

The He-Man & She-Ra Christmas Special

Christmas SpecialFirst Released: 25 December 1985
Producer: Lou Scheimer
Running time: 51 minutes
Distributor: Filmation, Mattel, DreamWorks Classics (through Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)
Available From: Free on Youtube on the Official He-Man Channel

Yeah, I think some people would have figured I would start with something silly like this. But there is something about the weird and wonderful He-Man & She-Ra Christmas Special that holds a dear place in my heart. Sure the story is all over the place and He-Man has become nothing more than a walking gay meme over the years, and the less said about the TERRIBLE She-Ra Netflix reboot the better, yet when it comes to this 45 minute special I just love watching it each year around Christmas time. Maybe it has something to do with the one day redemption of Skeletor from evil wizard to some-what nice guy, or the way Hordak just goes around being a complete douchebag, or maybe it's the man-chine puppy that is just so freaking adorable that I could die. I'm not too sure what it is, but somehow this one off special from one of my favorite cartoons growing up just keeps making it's way into the yearly Christmas movie marathon rotation.

The Nightmare Before Christmas

First Released: October 29, 1993
Producer: Tim Burton & Denise Di Novi
Running time: 76 minutes
Distributor: Buena Vista Distribution
Available From: Amazon on Bluray & DVD

To be honest, this is where Christmas viewing begins with me. The crossover period known as November is the prefect time to bring The Nightmare Before Christmas out and give it a watch. Though I live in Australia, Halloween is a big thing for me and my fiancé and we do celebrate it. While Halloween is about watching things like Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, and of course Halloween; afterwards we would put this on and have a good movie evening. Jack Skelington's obsession with the new idea of Christmas following his own depression about being the King of Halloween for so many years is a wonderful yet sad story as we see our hero character go from obsession for knowledge to trying to takeover the Christmas holiday for himself and make it more scary. Sitting at 25 years old, the stop motion animation brings back memories of something that dominates this list: The Rankin/Bass films. Always a good watch and a great way to begin the Christmas season... or just for something to watch between Halloween and Christmas.

Mickey's Christmas Carol

ChristmasFirst Released: December 16, 1983
Producer: Burny Mattinson
Running time: 26 minutes
Distributor: Buena Vista Distribution
Available From: Amazon on Bluray & DVD

One of the few repeats in this article is the Christmas Carol story. Centering around an old miser called Scrooge who has no Christmas spirit and is lead on a journey of redemption to find that which all of us should have during the holiday season, the story has been done so many times that it's going to show up more than once in any list. This version, told very well by using Scrooge McDuck as Scrooge and Mickey Mouse and family as the Cratchets, is one of the more heart-warming versions of the story to be done. Growing up, this was the one that would begin the Christmas lunch movie block. However it was the one that would scare the crap out of me as a kid too. Seeing Pete as Death didn't soften the blow that is his scene, but it in fact made it worse. The use of the cigar and the smoke really made this classic Disney villain look even more scary than anything before or after... And that includes Goof Troop.

It's A Wonderful Life

First Released: December 20, 1946
Producer: Frank Capra
Running time: 130 minutes
Distributor: RKO Radio Pictures
Available From: Amazon on Bluray & DVD

It's A Wonderful Life is a departure from the more traditional retelling of Christmas tales and a move to a more relatable, down to home style of movie. The story of a man who doesn't think he should exist anymore and wants to end his life is met by an Angel in training and shown a world where he didn't exist and how one life can change the lives of so many others. This story is more a tale about the interaction between humans and how we all are able to change the lives of ourselves and those around us than it is a Christmas story, but the message does add to the spirit of the season; using a wish and having that wish come true. It's a Wonderful Life has been one of those movies that should be seen more often in this world, but since it's in black and white for most viewings, it doesn't get as much air play as it should. Sure, there is a colorized version out there, but it looks like trash... Thanks Ted Turner.

Miracle on 34th Street

First Released: June 4, 1947
Producer: William Perlberg
Running time: 96 minutes
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
Available From: Amazon on DVD

Miracle on 34th Street is one of those movies that just can't help but make you believe in Santa and the magic of Christmas. The story centers around a man named Kris Kringle, who is hired by then-retail giant Macy's to play Santa. Kris doesn't believe in the Macy's/Gimble's feud (which was a real retail feud back in those days) and sends customers to where they need to go instead of to Macy's, his employer. Through all of this, Kris is able to bridge the gap between both retail giants, speak Dutch to a girl who doesn't speak English, make believers out of every doubter; all of which leads to a trial to see if Kris is the real Santa Claus. The ending is so well done that you would think that any court of law, even to this day, would have to abide to the decision from this movie. Miracle on 34th Street is a true classic that shows and no matter who we are, how old we are, or what we believe, we can still believe in the magic of Christmas and Santa Claus. This version is usually missing from screens these days because most people won't watch black and white films, which led to an inferior 1994 remake getting more airtime in recent decades, but this is the one you should be watching.

Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer

First Released: December 6, 1964
Producer: Arthur Rankin, Jr. & Jules Bass
Running time: 55 minutes
Distributor: NBC/Universal Television Distribution
Available From: Amazon on Bluray & DVD

Here we go, the first of seven entries of Rankin/Bass Produtions films to make it into this list, and probably one of the more well known. Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer retells the classic song about the mutant Reindeer with a glowing nose that is shunned from his group before eventually becoming needed by Santa to lead those who shunned him. There is a big side story that fills in the gaps while Rudolph is growing up thanks to an Elf who no longer wants to make toys, leading the two to eventually end up at the Land of Misfit Toys, an island where broken or mis-made toys are left alone and unloved. Showing that there is more to the character than just a glowing nose, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer is a good story about how no matter what you look like, it's what's inside that counts most. This movie does still get some air time every couple of years, but it seems that the story is now "problematic" we shouldn't be seeing this masterpiece on TV much longer.

How The Grinch Stole Christmas

First Released: December 18, 1966
Producer: Chuck Jones & Ted Geisel
Running time: 26 minutes
Distributor: Warner Bros. Television Distribution
Available From: Amazon on Bluray & DVD

When you talk about classic Christmas specials or movies, you really cannot go past this Dr. Seuss story. The songs are classic, the animation is classic, the story about an outcast who starts out by screwing over everyone's Christmas to helping them celebrate it thanks to the passion and understanding of one small girl is well known by just about everyone on the planet. Heck, even the main song "You're a mean one, Mr Grinch" even gets played in malls all over the world alongside all the usual annoying Christmas songs, which shows how good the song and the production of this special really is. The unfortunate side is that this version has been pushed aside for the live action remake starring Jim Carrey; which is ok but doesn't hold a candle to the original. Not to mention the version in Cinemas this year starring flavor-of-the-month Benedict Cumberbatch in a CGI remake of the same name. It's a shame that older versions are getting pushed aside for newer remakes that really shouldn't have the time of day.

The Little Drummer Boy

First Released: December 19, 1968
Producer: Jules Bass & Arthur Rankin Jr.
Running time: 25 minutes
Distributor: NBC/Universal Television Distribution
Available From: Amazon on DVD

Another stop-motion film that is more of a side story to the bitch of Jesus than anything else. A young Jewish boy named Aaron plays his drum for his animal friends and gets mixed up with a selfish Preforming Troupe promoter who uses Aaron and his animals, even trying to trade them off for gold that one of the three wise magi that are on the way to visiting Jesus are carrying. Through unfortunate situation after situation, Aaron is removed from his animal friends, before rejoining them, then almost losing one of them in an accident. Learning of a baby that could heal his lamb friend, Aaron finds and becomes a small part of the story of the birth of Jesus, giving the newborn the gift of his music from his drum. A nice little film with a lot of heart, but unfortunately gets no more air time since it does have very high Christian religious overtones to it. Even the DVD's are getting harder and harder to find as the inclusion nut-bags destroy more and more media to eliminate religion.

Frosty The Snowman

First Released: December 7, 1969
Producer: Jules Bass & Arthur Rankin, Jr.
Running time: 25 minutes
Distributor: NBC/Universal Television Distribution
Available From: Amazon on Bluray & DVD

While we mostly knew Rankin/Bass Productions for their stop-motion animation style, they also had a really good traditional animation department too. This department created a couple of features and shorts that will be talked about on this list. The first is this one, a telling of the classic song Frosty The Snowman. Jackie Vernon as Frosty is probably one of the most iconic voices ever put to animation. Years later I can still remember his deadpan voice in my head singing that classic song near the end of the film. Not much more to say about a Magic pile of snow that is given life through a magic hat. Simple yet effective. As this is a more neutral style of Christmas film I think I've seen this show up a lot more than most films on this list in the modern age.

Santa Claus Is Coming To Town

First Released: December 13, 1970
Producer: Jules Bass & Arthur Rankin Jr.
Running time: 51 minutes
Distributor: Rankin/Bass Productions
Available From: Amazon on Bluray & DVD

Probably one of the more interesting stories to be added to this list. Sure we know all about Santa and all the good things he has done through time, but do we really know where he came from? Where he was born? And what about the life he had growing up? In Santa Claus Is Coming To Town we learn what the origin to this jolly fat man is and how he became the delivery guy for the world's Christmas wishes. Starting out dark with a child being abandoned, Kris grows up with the ambition to become the world's best toymaker in a world where toys are banned. Painting Kris as an underdog who eventually becomes a criminal in his own land is an interesting take on the character, but it does explain why he does what he does when he does. A very good and original tale that needs to be looked at in more depth, Santa Claus Is Coming To Town is one of the few original ideas that makes it into the yearly viewing.

The Year Without A Santa Claus

First Released: December 10, 1974
Producer: Jules Bass & Arthur Rankin, Jr.
Running time: 48 minutes
Distributor: Warner Bros. Television Distribution
Available From: Amazon on DVD

What happens when Santa gets a cold and decides he needs to take a year off from delivering presents all over the world? Well people stop believing in him and stop believing in Christmas itself. This leads Vixen, one of the Reindeer, and two elves to travel out from the North Pole to find some way to return faith in Santa and Christmas itself. Though the two get into trouble and mischief, they end up helping the people of Southtown to actually have a white Christmas by getting the Meister's of hot and cold to allow snow in Southtown (After some intervention from Mother Nature herself) before the people are able to help Santa. This is probably one of my favorite Christmas movies mainly for the songs from the Brothers Meister (I'm Mr Snow/Heat Meiser) but also that it expands on the world around Santa more than just doing like other movies where they state the Easter Bunny is real or that stuff. This brings believable character into the world and gives them purpose. I think this one also gets the odd showing on TV, but not as much as it once did.

Twas The Night Before Christmas

First Released: December 8, 1974
Producer: Arthur Rankin, Jr. & Jules Bass
Running time: 25 minutes
Distributor: Warner Bros. Television
Available From: Amazon on Bluray

Twas The Night Before Christmas is a classic poem that gets a nicely animated version to go along with it thanks to Rankin/Bass Productions. Not really much to say about this one, it literally tells the poem with a few small additions of dialogue to the story that don't change anything at all. This is just a wonderful version of the classic poem that should be seen, preferably before sending the kids to bed on Christmas Eve.

Jack Frost

First Released: December 13, 1979
Producer: Jules Bass & Arthur Rankin Jr.
Running time: 48 minutes
Distributor: Warner Bros. Television Distribution
Available From: Amazon on DVD

The adventure of the little sprite that could bring winter to the world is wanting to give up his immortality and powers in order to have his love with a human woman. Jack goes through a lot as a human only to lose out in the end and return to his sprite state. Nothing really story wise except it contains all the usual tropes such as kidnapping and all that jazz. No life lesson here, just a fun and entertaining adventure story. I think this is more one of the "lost classics" of the Rankin/Bass library as I don't think I've seen this on TV since about the mid to late 1990s. Maybe it's too mythical for today's minds or it's just too generic a story to tell. Who knows.

A Christmas Story

First Released: November 18, 1983
Producer: Rene Dupont & Bob Clark
Running time: 93 minutes
Distributor: MGM/UA Entertainment Co.
Available From: Amazon on DVD

I'm not going to say much about this one as everyone already knows about it. The anthology of stories based around Christmas, a kid named Ralphie and even a children's rifle (Remember when kids had smaller versions of guns with pellets that they could use freely?) is something that somehow holds a large place in Christmas tradition. Played so much that there's a channel dedicated to playing it all season long, you can't escape this one at all.

Scrooged

First Released: November 23, 1988
Producer: Richard Donner & Art Linson
Running time: 97 minutes
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Available From: Amazon on Bluray

You know how I mentioned that there would be more than one version of A Christmas Carol on this list, well here is the second one. Taking place in a TV studio rather than a Tax Accountant Office, we see this latest "Scrooge" (Played by Bill Murray) who is wanting to get ratings by making a new and unexpected version of the classic Christmas Carol live on TV at the expense of people who would rather be at home with their families, leaves this version with a more modern take than most. The comedy at play here is really well done and makes it more relatable for most than other version, but it's still not as good as others. It's an 1980's comedy, so seeing this on TV since the jokes are dated, sexist and close to racist at times. You don't see this one much anymore except maybe one viewing every 3 years late at night.

The Muppet Christmas Carol

First Released: December 11, 1992
Producer: Brian Henson & Martin G. Baker
Running time: 86 minutes
Distributor: Buena Vista Distribution
Available From: Amazon on DVD

There are many, many versions of A Christmas Carol out there to watch, starting from 1951 through to modern times. However I don't think any version does the story justice more than this version by The Muppets. Starting Michael Crane as Scrooge and a mostly Muppet cast for a majority of the characters, you find that you just capture more with the puppets than you do with live action people or cartoon characters. The highlight is the Ghost of Christmas Present, who grows older as the day goes on, and the funny duo of Stantler and Woldorf (aka the grumpy old men in the balcony) playing The Marley Brothers just show how well this movie does. Sure there are a lot of new songs added to the mix since it wouldn't be a Muppet film without songs, but it still keeps the spirit of the original story alive while adding something new. This version is the must watch movie of the season.

Christmas Holiday Movies
Merry Christmas To All... And To All Good Viewing

First of all, I would like to apologize for the amount of Rankin/Bass Production movies on the list. I didn't know how many made it in here till I was halfway through writing up all the write ups. I'm not sure if these films are on there because of their stories, techniques, animation and other factors that make them technically great, or if it was just the amount of times I saw these as a kid that makes them the more memorable ones on the list. But they are on there and that's that.

You also might notice that I do not include anything made after 2000. That's because this is where I found that there was a shift from more traditional stories about Christmas, Santa and the mythology around the season to a more generic, using Christmas as a framing device, Santa is a gimmick and more middle ground style of Christmas movie. Not to mention the loads of remakes that came out that aren't anywhere near as good as the ones I grew up with.

But at the end of the day, you make your own viewing lists and share them as you would. This season is about the magic you feel with the people you love while doing what you enjoy. If that is doing something like sitting through the Santa Clause trilogy, or even watching Die Hard, then go for it... and enjoy.

About The Author

Karl Smart
Senior Editor / Reviewer

The main "Australian arm" of The Outerhaven. Karl primarily spends time playing and reviewing video games while taking time to occasionally review the latest movie or piece of gaming technology.

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