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Binge Watching 101: Christmas Special

by Ned Lewis and Christy Walters

Hot Chocolate, the Christmas Tree lit up, and a holiday movie or TV Show on the Television. What more could you want? If you’re struggling to pick the best movie or episode to watch one evening, look no further. Here are our staff picks for top 10 holiday movies and top 10 holiday TV show episodes:


Ned’s Top 10 Christmas Movies


  1. Jingle All the Way (1996).

Join Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sinbad on their hilarious Christmas Eve quest to find the year’s hottest and most elusive toy, Turbo-Man. This 1996 cult classic is a giant poke in the eye for our modern consumer driven holiday season. Plus, who can’t help but laugh when the Terminator screams “Put the cookie down, Now!”


  1. In Bruges (2008).

Here’s a nontraditional pick. Spend Christmas hiding out with two hitmen in the tiny Belgian town of Bruges. This is a very dark comedy that manages to be both funny and touching. A word of warning though, only watch this one when all the good little boys and girls are snug in their beds. This definitely isn’t for the wee ones.


  1. The Santa Clause (1994).

Say what you want about the sequels. This 1994 box-office smash is a Christmas staple in my house. Watching Tim Allen slowly become Santa Clause against his will is a treat the whole house will enjoy. This is a perfect example of a well-balanced family film. It captures the magic of Christmas while sprinkling in more than enough jokes to keep the grownups chuckling.


  1. Miracle on 34th Street (1994).

Starring the late great Sir Richard Attenborough as Kris Kringle, this movie is the very definition of heartwarming. This is the perfect movie to watch on Christmas Eve as it is guaranteed to make you feel like a kid again. By the end you will believe.


  1. A Christmas Carol (2009).

No list of Christmas movies would be complete without a spot dedicated to one of the countless movie adaptations of Dicken’s classic tale. I chose this one because it took me by surprise. It is beautifully animated and Jim Carrey makes a fantastic Scrooge. Best of all though, the filmmakers didn’t feel the need to update the English Charles Dickens used in his best known story. Finally a movie for kids that doesn’t feel the need to speak down to them.


  1. Gremlins (1984).

Ahh Christmas, the perfect time for a movie featuring a demonic creature being blown up in a microwave. Or is that just me? Journey back in time to a Christmas done 80’s style. With all the violence, gore, and bad decisions the decade is famous for. Be sure to watch this one after midnight, preferably with a snack.


  1. Scrooged (1988).

You could say that this is just another movie adaptation of a Christmas Carol, and technically you’d be right. However this movie is so radically different from all the other films Dickens has spawned that it really does belong in its own category. This is another addition on my list filled with 1980s decadence and dark humor. Plus it stars Bill Murray. What’s not to like?


  1. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993).

Tim Burton’s brilliant stop motion gothic masterpiece has reached a status of pop culture icon that very few other films have managed. Almost every line is quotable, and every frame is gorgeous. Best of all this is one you can break out early as it also works for Halloween.


  1. A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965).

I know, technically this isn’t a movie but since its release in 1965 not a Christmas has passed without either CBS or ABC airing it. So it definitely deserves a place here. Its message is timeless and its yearly broadcast has made it a part of the fabric of our culture. You would be hard pressed to find anyone who didn’t see this at least once when they were growing up.

1. Home Alone (1990).

It just isn’t Christmas until you’ve watched Kevin McAllister disfigure and nearly kill the wet bandits. Like the scent of a pine tree or the taste of a candy cane, John Williams’s iconic soundtrack will instantly put you in the Christmas spirit. Having watched this movie annually since I was around four years old, seeing it now has the same effect as flipping through a photo album. An initial rush of nostalgia, followed by a sense of place and tradition. Who knew that so many priceless memories and emotions could be awakened by watching Joe Pesci set his own head on fire?

Different generations have different tastes. To give our readers a wide range of choices, here is another set of staff picks for top 10 Christmas movies.


Christy’s Top 10 Christmas Movies

1.) Christmas with the Kranks (2004)

Based on the novel “Skipping Christmas” by John Grisham, and starring Tim Allen and Jaime Lee Curtis, how could this not be the number one choice? From N. Reeky to the Hickory Honey Ham, to Free Frosty, and everything in between this movie will have you laughing all the way through.


2.) A Christmas Story (1983)

You either love this movie or you hate it, but you can’t deny it’s a Christmas classic. Everyone knows the story of the Bumpus hounds, the leg lamp, and the B.B. Gun by now, and if you don’t, just tune in to TBS anytime on Christmas day since it runs for 24 hours.


3.) The Santa Clause and The Santa Clause 2 (1994; 2002)

These two have to be grouped together, and are good for watching back-to-back on a snow day. Where else could we learn that Denny’s is an American institution and that Santa Claus HAS to have a Mrs. Claus?


4.) Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town (1970)

Claymation might be a movie-making tool of the past, but it sure did help create some great Christmas movies. While Jessica’s hippie-style song about changes could have been eliminated completely, the rest of the movie has cute animals—like Topper the penguin—crazy characters (Bergermister anyone?), and fun songs to tell the story of how Santa Claus came to be.


5.) The Year Without a Santa Claus (1974)

Another Claymation classic, though less exciting than Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town. This movie is saved by the scenes and songs of the Heatmister and Snowmiser. Act like you don’t know all the words. I dare you.


6.) Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas (1997)

This one may be a biased choice. Belle was my favorite princess until Frozen was released (now she and Elsa are tied for first place) so when Disney released Beauty and the Beast Christmas I was instantly hooked. Be warned, the pipe organ Forte (voiced by Tim Curry, who brought you Dr. Frankenfurter and the voice of Nigel Thornberry) will probably give you the creeps.


7.) Elf (2003)

I’ve never seen Elf in its entirety, or in English for that matter (thanks for those movie days in Spanish Class Senorita!) However the parts that I did see (and could understand) were funny. While watching, see if you can spot one of Santa’s elves that starred in another one of our top ten Christmas movies.


8.) The Christmas Wish (1998)

This made for TV movie, based on a novel by Richard Siddoway, premiered on CBS in 1998, so that’s how you know it won’t be too sappy, unlike some of its Hallmark counterparts. It stars Neil Patrick Harris and Debbie Reynolds (better known as Grandma Aggie from the Halloweentown movies) and is a mystery rather than a love story. While not playing to Harris’ comedic strengths, the movie is very interesting.


9.) Mickey’s Christmas Carol (1983)

What’s better than an animated version of A Christmas Carol? Spot your favorite Disney characters in their new roles in the Charles Dickens classic.


10.) Holiday Engagement (2011)

Scrambling for a tenth pick, I give you “Holiday Engagement.” Sorry to tell you, this one is a Hallmark movie and gets sappy at the end. It stars a cast of “hey, where have I seen them before?” actors (Hint: Cheers, Rizzoli and Isles, and Hillary Duff’s sister), and just like every other RomCom, focuses on a down-on-her-luck writer who has a hidden talent for music. It has a few plot holes, but overall was a cute, funny movie that wasn’t too thinking intensive.


Top 10 Christmas TV Show Episodes


1.) Happy Days – Guess Who’s Coming to Christmas (Season 2, Episode 11) (1974)

This episode has everything: laughs, heartfelt sentiment, The Night Before Christmas, and Santa Claus mugging the neighbors. Can you dig it?


2.) The Wonder Years – Christmas (Season 2, Episode 3) (1988)

All Kevin (a.k.a. Butthead) and Wayne want for Christmas is a color TV, but dad isn’t going for it. Not to mention Kevin has to figure out what to get Winnie for Christmas, and he can’t afford perfume.


3.) Mary Tyler Moore – Christmas and the Hard-Luck Kid II (Season 1, Episode 14) (1970)

Work never stops in the Newsroom, not even for Christmas Eve. When Mary is forced to work the holiday, her friends make sure she doesn’t have to spend it alone.


4.) Home Improvement – Yule Better Watch Out (Season 1, Episode 12) (1991)

Tim tries to out-decorate his neighbor Doc Johnson. Randy and Brad are cast in a Christmas play where Joseph can’t even remember his lines: “Have you met my wife, the virgin…duh… Sheila?”


5.) Who’s the Boss – The Christmas Card (Season 3, Episode 11) (1986)

Tony sells his last baseball card to buy Angela a special Christmas present. Meanwhile, Angela is looking for the perfect gift for Tony.


6.) Gilmore Girls – Forgiveness and Stuff (Season 1, Episode 10) (2000)

Because it’s just not Christmas without some Emily and Lorelai fighting, and a sweet but disgusting Santa Burger.


7.) Lizzie McGuire – Xtreme Xmas (Season 2, Episode 20) (2002)

Steven Tyler as Santa Claus. Enough said.


8.) Friends – The One with the Girl from Poughkeepsie (Season 4, Episode 10) (1997)

While not completely a Christmas episode, Phoebe tries to write a holiday song for her friends. It’s how we learn nothing rhymes with Rachel and Chandler.

9.) Glee – A Very Glee Christmas (Season 2, Episode 10) (2010)

In true Glee fashion, this episode combines many holiday tunes and a “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” storyline for a fairly enjoyable hour-long episode.


10.) Full House – Our Very First Christmas Show (Season 2, Episode 9) (1988)

The Tanners and Co. get snowed in at the airport for Christmas and Stephanie freaks out because she thinks Santa won’t be able to find her.


Bonus: Made-for-TV Shorts

Not quite movies. Not quite TV shows. Where do we list these two Christmas classics? In their own category of course.


1.) How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)

We all know the animated version of The Grinch is better than the Jim Carrey version. Who doesn’t carve out a half-an-hour every Christmas season to watch this? Fun fact: The Grinch is 102 this year. Not the movie, the actual Grinch. If you listen carefully, you can figure out how I came up with that number.


2.) A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)

Charlie Brown may be a blockhead, but he does have a good Christmas special. This is one of the very few Christmas movies/specials that is still shown on TV today and has a shred of religion in it. Sometimes we tend to forget that before Christmas was a commercial event, it was a simple religious holiday; it’s nice that Linus is still there to remind us.


Did we miss any of the best Christmas or Holiday movies and TV shows? Tweet us @upginsider and use the hashtag #Christmas101 and let us know your top picks.

1 Comment on Binge Watching 101: Christmas Special

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