7 Christmas Movies So Bad, They're Bad

(But if you must watch them, here's what to look for.)

by | December 18, 2015 | Comments

Whether you’re an It’s a Wonderful Life-r, a National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation-er, or even Die Hard-y, you’ve got a favorite movie that you pull out every December as part of your holiday celebration. But for every Elf and A Christmas Story, there are dozens of duds like Christmas with the Kranks and Deck the Halls and The Santa Clause 3 to put a damper on your cinematic fun.

You may, of course, enjoy one or all of those movies: We tend to fall in love with our favorite Christmas films as children, and in some ways, every December that we revisit them, we watch through those same innocent eyes. All of which is to say: If you watched Surviving Christmas or The Family Man on cable when you were seven years old, you will most likely love those movies your entire life. Even if they’re terrible. Which they are.

Magic Christmas Tree (1964)  

I’ve come around to appreciating the bizarro 1959 Mexican Santa Claus as less of a bad movie and more an odd gem of low-budget kiddie surrealism. If you want a terrible example of the latter, check out this super-cheap film (apparently, almost no one involved in its production ever worked in the business again) about a kid and a witch and an enchanted seed that grows the titular tree, which talks like Charles Nelson Reilly and grants wishes that lead to slapstick mayhem and the kidnapping of Santa.

Look for: The kid’s first wish is for “an hour of absolute power,” which he uses to make police cars and fire trucks run amok, culminating in a big pie fight. Because who wouldn’t use omnipotence for that?

If you must: The Rifftrax version is on DVD, and the whole movie can be legally viewed on YouTube.

The Christmas That Almost Wasn’t (1966)  

Mean old millionaire Phineas T. Prune (Rossano Brazzi, who also directed) buys the North Pole so he can foreclose on Santa Claus (Alberto Rabagliati) and cancel Christmas. (This is one of those stories where the underlying premise is no Christmas presents = no Christmas.) Santa turns to kindhearted lawyer Mr. Whipple (screenwriter Paul Tripp) to help out, and after several botched attempts, they eventually teach Prune to love Christmas again. This happy turn of events is capped off by a musical number in which Santa and Prune ride off in the sleigh and sing a song called, I kid you not, “We’ve Got a Date with Children.”

Look for: The ladies wigs that all the elves are wearing.

If you must: Available via Amazon Video (for free with Amazon Prime), and DVD.

One Magic Christmas (1985)   47%

There’s precedent for Christmas stories going bleak, whether it’s the horrors witnessed by Ebenezer Scrooge or it’s George Bailey yelling at his family, groveling before his rival, and getting punched in a tavern before attempting suicide. But dag, this Disney movie gets really, really dark before the requisite happy ending, and it’s a textbook example of how not to handle a tonal shift in a holiday story. Any movie where Harry Dean Stanton plays a guardian angel is clearly planning to take you to some uncomfortable places, but the underlying message seems to be that if you don’t believe in Santa Claus — like Mary Steenburgen’s harried housewife and mother — everyone you love will be killed horribly on Christmas Eve. Or something like that.

Look for: The moment when a getaway car that may contain Steenburgen’s children as hostages skids off an icy bridge and into the water. Magic Christmas, everybody!

If you must: Available via Amazon VideoNetflix and DVD.

Santa Claus: The Movie (1985)   20%

After raking in the bucks on their late-70s Superman franchise, producers Ilya and Alexander Salkind turned to another universally beloved figure with the power of flight: jolly old Saint Nick himself. Once we get past the origin story of how a kindly 14th century woodcutter winds up living at the North Pole, the movie detours and spends a great deal of time on an inventive but clumsy elf (played by Dudley Moore) and his decision to run away to New York City, where he falls in with a greedy toy manufacturer (John Lithgow, giving what may be the one terrible performance in an otherwise distinguished career). Throw in a streetwise urchin and some eye-assaulting polka-dot outfits on the elves, and you’ve got one humbuggy holiday stinker.

Look for: The blatant McDonald’s product placement. Ho Ho Hamburglar!

If you must: Available via Amazon Video, DVD and Blu-ray.

The Christmas Shoes (2006)  

Based on one of the most cringe-inducing songs ever recorded, it’s no surprise that this made-for-TV movie is hard to stomach in its own right. As comedian Patton Oswalt so accurately sums it up, this is a story about God killing a woman so a grumpy man can rekindle his Christmas spirit. Inflating the ditty’s simple tale to two hours of television, however, requires a gargantuan lattice of coincidence, mostly woven around Rob Lowe as an emotionally detached family man and Kimberly Williams-Paisley as a choir director whose days are numbered. When a movie has to play the “mommy dying at Christmas” card — looking at you, Stepmom — it’s a sign of desperation.

Look for: The kindly shopkeeper who, in this movie’s universe, may or may not also be the Supreme Deity.

If you must: Available on DVD.

The Nutcracker in 3-D (2013)   0%

The first credit in this movie isn’t for a movie studio or a distributor — it’s for a bank, which reveals that a.) this film probably only got made for some complicated deal involving frozen assets or money laundering and b.) only a fat paycheck could get this many talented people involved in an enterprise so soul-crushing. Director Andrei Konchalovsky (in happier times, he directed arthouse fare like Runaway Train and Shy People for Cannon Films) gives us an “updating” of the classic ballet that includes hip-hop orchestrations of Tchaikovsky (with new lyrics by Tim Rice), toy-destroying rats strutting about in Nazi-esque uniforms; and Nathan Lane camping it up as Albert Einstein. This isn’t just one of the lousiest Christmas movies ever made but one of the singularly worst films of all time. And not even in a fun way.

Look for: John Turturro (in an Andy Warhol wig) and Frances de la Tour straining their dignity as the goose-stepping leaders of the rats.

If you must: Available on DVD under the title The Nutcracker: The Untold Story, and on Amazon Video.

Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas (2014)   0%

A new addition to the canon, this screed from former child star turned endlessly quotable evangelist Kirk Cameron barely even counts as a movie. Its 80-minute running time is padded with a lengthy introduction from the sitcom veteran, closing credits jammed with unfunny outtakes, and an extended dance sequence in which Cameron and costar-director Darren Doane get to bust out their freshest 1986 breakdance moves. The rest of the film offers Cameron’s crackpot theories — with no regard for history or science — about how everything we think is pagan about the holiday (trees, Santa, etc.) was really Bible-based all along. Oh, and that materialism is awesome since Christmas is about the divine manifesting itself as human. Saving Christmas is the kind of Sunday School lesson you sneak out of in the hopes of finding lemon bars in the fellowship hall.

Look for: Cameron talks a lot about cocoa, but it’s obvious that the mug he’s “drinking” out of is completely empty.

If you must: Available on DVD, and Amazon Video.

Alonso Duralde is the author of the quintessential holiday film guide Have Yourself a Movie Little Christmas. Follow him on Twitter at @aduralde.

Tag Cloud

witnail Cannes Extras adaptation BET Awards worst Best and Worst TCA Amazon Prime Paramount australia IFC Films Western Sneak Peek DC Universe halloween Marvel The Purge black 45 Ghostbusters Captain marvel LGBTQ true crime Lifetime Toys cancelled TV series indie Oscars mutant Reality kids breaking bad VH1 Pirates Martial Arts WarnerMedia Infographic AMC dragons anime 99% First Reviews facebook historical drama Disney Channel dc Columbia Pictures OWN MCU BAFTA films Hallmark travel Comedy Central award winner Crackle FX on Hulu talk show Pixar ITV E3 Lucasfilm laika Song of Ice and Fire boxing science fiction Mindy Kaling sports Ellie Kemper VICE child's play 2020 Academy Awards blockbuster spain El Rey Pop TV Spike dogs romance elevated horror Podcast Mystery Funimation FXX Action canceled TV shows Walt Disney Pictures free movies Tubi Fantasy TV renewals indiana jones crossover Film Lionsgate football natural history theme song werewolf reviews Stephen King Opinion First Look Crunchyroll parents Arrowverse Endgame politics PBS MSNBC transformers revenge GIFs 71st Emmy Awards comiccon nfl Watching Series Photos documentaries Spectrum Originals video obituary stand-up comedy political drama Acorn TV National Geographic Nickelodeon TruTV Tarantino video on demand rotten movies we love Mary Poppins Returns golden globes Horror Polls and Games Biopics TCA Awards Superheroe scary movies superhero The CW The Arrangement concert ghosts doctor who Elton John singing competition Sony Pictures Trivia movies cars game show strong female leads OneApp Starz rt archives HBO Max Showtime HBO based on movie Super Bowl Fall TV Marvel Studios biography Hear Us Out ESPN space name the review PlayStation cancelled television 21st Century Fox X-Men independent archives Cosplay GLAAD cinemax diversity Freeform Black Mirror series screen actors guild NYCC toy story 007 disaster adventure DGA CBS sitcom The Walking Dead Sci-Fi jamie lee curtis Amazon hist 2016 cancelled TV shows NBC Winter TV BBC America robots Teen dramedy MTV justice league social media asian-american Holiday Sundance Britbox best batman Mary poppins hispanic New York Comic Con Drama Netflix Christmas movies ratings rotten Superheroes Turner Classic Movies sequel Rocketman cults dark Musicals Travel Channel renewed TV shows CBS All Access Marvel Television Disney+ Disney Plus zombies Comic Book french spider-man screenings Mary Tyler Moore GoT versus all-time Animation Bravo game of thrones Television Critics Association Emmys LGBT YA Rock Disney streaming service tv talk Video Games Baby Yoda Writers Guild of America History APB Tumblr remakes satire Black History Month Year in Review E! Film Festival a nightmare on elm street HBO Go directors Star Wars children's TV crime drama halloween tv nbcuniversal crime spinoff Masterpiece Binge Guide Comedy cooking cancelled CW Seed Peacock Summer hollywood USA Emmy Nominations Nominations See It Skip It YouTube Red stoner Spring TV FX Pop Tomatazos serial killer Ovation Warner Bros. Awards Tour Kids & Family DC streaming service RT History Paramount Network Trophy Talk FOX zombie Pet Sematary Adult Swim cops Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt venice ABC Family green book Holidays Rom-Com festivals TNT Red Carpet deadpool what to watch book YouTube SundanceTV supernatural comic books quibi TIFF fast and furious worst movies WGN Box Office Discovery Channel Women's History Month Apple TV Plus anthology cartoon teaser TCA 2017 Pride Month YouTube Premium Music franchise Countdown comedies Disney twilight Quiz 2018 spy thriller Epix Turner Cartoon Network Calendar psychological thriller stop motion Grammys criterion 24 frames TLC movie Universal Apple Sundance Now TV Family Trailer Nat Geo crime thriller war fresh composers The Witch 20th Century Fox spanish unscripted docudrama die hard sag awards spanish language Set visit critics Comics on TV animated Avengers dceu mockumentary aliens Thanksgiving medical drama binge CMT richard e. Grant toronto zero dark thirty reboot SXSW BET ABC cats VOD BBC One Netflix Sundance TV Valentine's Day Reality Competition Disney Plus PaleyFest classics DC Comics news Esquire Television Academy Fox Searchlight comics American Society of Cinematographers latino Apple TV+ Shondaland Character Guide TBS Logo italian television San Diego Comic-Con Alien 2015 72 Emmy Awards south america A&E BBC 2017 foreign Creative Arts Emmys universal monsters police drama canceled Hulu USA Network A24 Marathons TV Land boxoffice Brie Larson streaming Musical discovery romantic comedy Chernobyl 4/20 DirecTV ID SDCC Star Trek TCM Chilling Adventures of Sabrina casting period drama Amazon Prime Video Heroines Food Network Rocky slashers finale technology festival vampires Schedule psycho nature Mudbound Premiere Dates joker TCA Winter 2020 Hallmark Christmas movies Dark Horse Comics Classic Film Shudder mission: impossible sequels christmas movies comic Fox News CNN Awards documentary Country scorecard emmy awards harry potter Winners President The Academy Anna Paquin miniseries japanese blaxploitation RT21 Christmas Lifetime Christmas movies thriller Vudu Election james bond Certified Fresh Interview 2019 Amazon Studios Syfy chucky IFC