The Christmas Hit List


Now that Thanksgiving is in the rearview mirror, Christmahannukwanzaka is upon us. And of course, stores all around us have been prepping for it since the day after Halloween. That means it’s officially the time of year where TV and theaters will inundate the public with Christmas-themed entertainment, insuring that we’ll all have the hap-hap-happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap-danced with Danny fuckin’ Kaye. If you’re like me, you’re more than happy to partake. Here’s the hit list of Christmas movies and TV specials I watch each December.


My heart grows three sizes every time, which is probably a major health risk.

Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1966)
If you were going to tell a tale about a character whose soul is an apalling dump heap overflowing with the most disgraceful assortment of deplorable rubbish imaginable, mangled up in tangled up knots, you could not possibly find a better person to narrate that story than Boris Karloff. Halloween may have ended a month ago but you can still get your Karloff fix at Christmastime with everyone’s favorite pants-free Christmas villain.

A Christmas Carol (1951)
There are an awful lot of adaptations of Charles Dickens’ novel. Some are good, a few are bad, and a few are downright weird (I’m looking at you, 1979s An American Christmas Carol starring the Fonz). For my money that I’m holding on to like a British miser, none are better than the 1951 version starring Alistair Sim. Honorable mention goes to the 1984 version starring George C. Scott, which is the version I was weaned on.

Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964)
You know what’s better than a fat, jolly guy who brings gifts to the whole planet every year? A fat, jolly guy who brings gifts to TWO whole planets every year. Also, Jamie Farr in green makeup and a dude in a polar bear outfit.

A Christmas Story (1983)
It just wouldn’t be Christmas without TWENTY-FOUR FREAKING HOURS of Red Rider b.b. guns, Ralphie in a bunny costume, and a jackass Santa who kicks little kids down slides. The next time you watch it, be sure to keep an eye out for my favorite scene. When Ralphie locks himself in the bathroom to decode his special message, his brother is desperate to get inside. Ralphie finally relinquishes the bathroom, his brother sprints in presumably to take a dookie, and the film transitions to the next scene by showing a big boiling pot of thick, brown soup. It’s really subtle, really gross, and absolutely hilarious.


Work hard, and you can avoid having your nose stuck in another reindeer’s butt.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964)
There’s something magical about the Rankin-Bass claymation reindeer and his unruly band of misfit toys. There’s even an elf who wants to be a dentist. Also, other than horror films and drunk degenerate mall Santas, this is the most evil you will ever see Santa Claus behave.

Frosty the Snowman (1969)
Say what you will about quality. There’s no amount of bad quality that can undermine nostalgia. Frosty was annual viewing when I was growing up and it’s not any different now. I wouldn’t feel fully prepared for the holiday season if I didn’t watch Frosty.


The real lesson of It’s a Wonderful Life: If you drink hard enough, eventually all your troubles will go away and everything will work out for the best.

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
Every family has that one movie that they watch every year for Christmas. Sometimes, it’s White Christmas. Sometimes, it’s the billion versions of A Christmas Carol. Still others will show something more off-the-wall like Scrooged or Gremlins to their spouse and children. In my home as a child, it was It’s a Wonderful Life. The irony is that I still struggle with Frank Capra’s hokey feel-good movies. But I’ll always forgive It’s a Wonderful Life, a movie that speaks to everything the holidays should be about- drinking yourself into a stupor, a willingness to jump off a bridge to get away from jolly people, rampant greed, and just enough love from family and friends to keep you going for another twelve months.

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)
The best part about the Griswold family Christmas is that it’s something of a new classic. Hell, it was a new release that I saw in theaters when I was still learning to love everything else on this list. There are elements of the film that hit home with most viewers. Personally, the first time I saw it, I was approximately Rusty’s age, I lived in the snowy upper-midwest, I had family from more “eclectic” (southern) parts of the country, I had older relatives were liable to wrap up jello as a gift, and our household took Christmas pretty seriously. In other words, I got it when it came to the Griswold Christmas. I still do. And I love it.

A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)
Sure, it’s full of cheesy moralism and slightly outdated religious values. But I dare you not to tear up when the smooth stylings of Vince Guaraldi evoke every perfect Christmas you’ve ever had.


Hoooo hooooo (hiccup) hooooo

Saturday Night Live’s Santi-Wrap Sketch (1976)
John Belushi was a comic genius because he didn’t need to actually say anything to elicit laughter. His work in the Santi-Wrap sketch is the perfect proof. Armed only with a drunk’s wobble and slur, and the barely intelligible words “ho ho ho”, he crafted one of the best SNL sketches ever. As much as I love it, I only watch it once a year, in December.

What’s on your Christmas hit list?


Filed under Humor, Movies, Television, TV Shows

35 responses to “The Christmas Hit List

  1. aleksa

    I always watch “The Ref”. I’m not sure what that says about me.

  2. Elf. Every time the sleigh flies powered by Christmas cheer, I mist up. It is even worse now that my 2 year old LOVES the movie and when the sleigh flies? He does the touchdown arms, yells “Yaaaaaaay!”, then claps while Buddy and Santa fly through the New York skyline. Thankfully, he is so enthralled with the movie, he can’t tear himself away from the T.V. to see Dad crying behind him. Otherwise, I would have to tell him I stubbed my toe…

  3. Original Miracle on 34th Street makes my list every year. Also, the Night of the Meek episode of The Twilight Zone always gets at least one viewing this time of year

    And of course, Die Hard.

  4. Christmas freakin Vacation is my fav. I quote it all year long with my best friend. Actually, when we answer the phone we say: Allô Clark! and Salut Eddie!
    And I just bought the original soundtrack to the Charlie Brown Special!!! A classic I wanted since so many years!

  5. Phil

    I’m going to watch The Thin Man as my alternative Christmas classic film this year.

  6. Vladdy

    Holiday Inn. Of course mine is a musical. (Don’t really like White Christmas, though. The movie, not the song.)

  7. I read “Wired” and it indicated that John’s “silent” humor originated from trying to entertain his Armenian grandmother, who didn’t speak english. John all the way.

  8. Max

    Surprised no one has mentioned it but my number one favorite is The Muppets Christmas Carol. Had to upgrade to Blu-ray this year.

    • I just saw a fun one the other night- A Muppet Family Christmas. It featured some of the Sesame Street characters, Fozzy’s mom (Emily the Bear), and the Swedish Chef tried to cook Big Bird for Christmas dinner.

  9. Y’know, I actually don’t have a Christmas hit list. Maybe it’s because I didn’t grow up in the US so there’s no Christmas movie shown year after year. But I do love It’s a Wonderful Life so if it’s on TV I’ll definitely watch it!

    • It just doesn’t feel like Christmas unless I’ve seen at least a few minutes of It’s a Wonderful Life.

      “Buffalo gal, won’t you come out tonight, come out tonight…”

  10. My must see Christmas movies are it’s a wonderful life, elf and die hard. This year I’m hoping to add magical mystery tour to that list as I watched it in 1967 having been given the double ep set the day before. Magic was right

    • I keep hearing a lot of Elf votes, which means I pretty much need to re-watch it. I’m not even sure I’ve sat down and watched it start to finish. I know that it’s one of my brother’s favorites.

  11. goregirl

    Kolchak and his leg lamp…I really love that film! No cable for many years as you know but I actually own A Christmas Story and Christmas Vacation! Never met a Rankin-Bass holiday special I didn’t like. I rather miss my yearly viewings! But How the Grinch Stole Chrismas will always be my favourite…charming, fun and Boris Karloff’s voice is like butter. I like Rare Exports and Black Christmas…but they are not films I watch every year like the ones on this list. This is one of my fave snl xmas skits…

  12. David

    Here I thought I was the only person in the world who found the bathroom decode scene/cut to pot of red cabbage boiling was funny/disgusting. Great list. Merry Christmas!

    • Yes! Someone else who’s seen that transition! At least a few members of my family are probably sick of me pointing it out every time it’s on TV. “Wait,” I’ll say. “Here comes the best part…”

  13. Jess

    Classic list. Elf and Love Actually are my Christmas movies among a few you list here. The FTS crew watched this Finnish movie Rare Exports last night and it was pretty damn awesome. Check it out on Netflix instant if you have the time. It rides the line between camp fun, horror, and adventure film perfectly.

    • Oh, I freakin’ LOVE Rare Exports. I turned one of my friends on to it this year and he went nuts for it. I laughed really hard during the action-y conclusion.

  14. Metropolitan, Bad Santa, Elf, The Shop around the Corner

    Also, the animated adaptation of Raymond Briggs’ The Snowman:

  15. It’s actually on my wife’s list, but we watched Love Actually last night and I think it’s going to make its way into my rotation because I don’t know of any other Christmas movies with so much nudity.

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