10.) Nester the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey
To get this out of the way there will only be one other Rankin-Bass special on this list, this one just deserves a special spot for being largely forgotten. While the stop-motion animation is crude and its acoustic guitar soundtrack feels a little too stuck in the late 1970s this special excels at making me cry every year when it comes on at 2 a.m. on ABC Family. Even by the time of the happy ending I'm in a pretty bad mood after seeing this...I mean this Donkey's long ears were what ultimately killed his mother in a storm and the songs singing about tolerance in the end really do little to get my mind off the fact that they were still subtly making fun of him. If you can't find this on ABC Family you can also find this special on the DVD for Santa Claus is Coming to Town. I don't even understand why this on gets me so hard, you can feel free to make fun of me for it afterwards.
On the other end of the spectrum, Will Ferrel's Elf packs a ton of belly-laughs alongside being a sweet and profound send-off of Holiday specials of yore. Elf stands out among the other movies on this list for its sophisticated humor paired with the antics of Ferrel in a goofy green suit. Most of the gags in this are funny for just about anyone and its a refreshing change from the usually "multi-tiered" humor often present in family films where pop-culture references are used in place of witty humor and timing.
8.) Olive the Other Reindeer
This underrated special was produced by none other than Matt Groening of The Simpsons and Futurama fame alongside other Simpsons alumni such as voice actor Dan Castellaneta and Billy West. Pair that with my Drew Barrymore voicing a dog fetish and a talking pyramid scheme obsessed penguin who sells factory second "Rolexxx" watches and you have a very solid holiday special on your hands. The humor has a lot of the irreverence of The Simpsons but its never crass and always innocent, a lot of puns and wordplay. Also it has a pretty awesome visual style which consists of flat characters in a 3D environment, very reminiscent of the Parappa the Rapper series of video games on the PlayStation.
7.) Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
This alongside the Charlie Brown specials and the animated How the Grinch Stole Christmas (not to be confused with the abysmal Jim Carrey remake), this special withheld the test of time for a reason and practically everyone who's celebrated Christmas has surely seen this at one point. Also it has a reindeer with a hat and whistle at the very beginning...how many films have that?
6.) Edward Scissorhands
Is it a stretch to call this Tim Burton film a Christmas movie? Perhaps but this Vincent Price swan song is both a charming and haunting call back to the winter season and you cannot deny the religious parallels between Edward Scissorhands and Jesus himself. Bizarre but I'll totally try to pull it off.
5.) The Santa Clause
This is the very definition of a modern classic. While the same can't be said for the two lackluster sequels the first Santa Clause was incredibly original and most of the humor came from just how bizarre the premise was. I can't think of many Christmas movies where Santa Claus dies within the first 15 minutes, especially family movies.
4.) Joyeux Noël
About as serious of a movie as this list will have this movie is not directly about Christmas but more the good nature of man. This film follows a World War I Christmas truce between two rivaling forces, despite being a war movie this features very little violence and is incredibly historically accurate as well as a very strong statement against war. Way uplifting and a great change of pace for those looking for a more sophisticated look at the meaning of Christmas.
3.) Tokyo Godfathers
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Can an anime movie have the Christmas spirit? Satoshi Kon's loose remake of the American christmas film Three Godfathers has some of the best character animation I've seen in a film, anime or otherwise, I'm tempted to praise this film for its acting...its that good. The film follows three ragtag hobos that found an abandoned baby on Christmas Eve on a quest to find the parents, apart from a few action scenes and a transvestite character this film is pretty family friendly too and the style, cinematography and music is as gritty and heartwarming as the plot.
2.) A Christmas Story
Not only a great Christmas movie but also a fantastic film about the wonders of childhood and growing up. This is another one that had a forgettable sequel but the humor of the first one more than makes up for it. Be sure to catch the annual 24 hour marathon of this film on TNT, this movie is best suited for repeated viewings, the jokes get funnier by the end of the day.
1.) Its a Wonderful Life
This one is culturally significant now, even those who haven't seen this would know the famous "every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings." line at the end of the film. Not only is this one of the greatest Christmas films ever made, this also holds a special place among classic film. Many theaters in my area actually hold midnight screenings of this on Christmas Eve.