There are a ton of heartwarming Christmas films. There are funny ones. There are really, really twisted ones that feature Santa fetishes, etc. Sadly, there are also some Christmas films that make you long for a really stiff egg nog. And maybe a blackout so you can forget what you just saw. Check out Fanhattan’s staff picks for the worst Christmas films of all time, and let us know yours.
I saw this film years ago and I still can’t get it out of my head. I really should like it. Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon are both lovely people. In fact, the cast is really pretty fantastic. It’s just the stupidity of the comedy that kills it for me. A couple who are all about doing the “cool Christmas thing,” which includes no stupid sweaters and trips to tropical islands end up visiting their divorced parents in one day. Okay, not a bad premise, but the slapstick has the quality of a couple of young boys making fart jokes. I guess I was supposed to have my heart warmed by the ending, but really, I kept thinking that they all needed a good smack upside the head. There were rumors of Witherspoon and Vaughn feuding on the set. Not sure if it’s true, but the two dust bunnies under my bed have more chemistry than they did. Bah humbug.
– Jenna Busch
Hold the Christmas tree! While Arnold Schwarzenegger may be one of my favorite actors, even I have to admit that not all of his films are winners- just look at Jingle All the Way. This one oozes a stink that will clear the room, which can be handy when you’ve got relatives visiting for the holidays and they just won’t leave. While JAtW (as the hardcore fans call it) was meant to be a satire on the commercialization of Christmas, it’s more of a satire on good movies, and ends up being incredibly materialistic and really, really not funny. There may be a laugh here or there for some, but ultimately you’d be better off spending your family time all sitting in the same room actually talking to each other and listening to each other’s boring stories than watching this stinker. Even with great comedy actors like Sinbad and Phil Hartman doing their damndest to keep this film funny, it just isn’t, which is why Jingle All the Way rode the painfully dull sleigh into my
pick as worst holiday movie.
– Katrina Hill
When you think of aliens, naturally your mind also drifts to Santa Claus. No? Well, the creators of Santa Claus Conquers the Martians thought it was a pairing as natural as peanut butter and more peanut butter. This schlocky gem is gaudy, maudlin, and somehow earnest in its portrayal of St. Nick’s interactions with the Martian people. The entire thing, from the special effects to the acting to the story, may be stilted and bizarre, but this flick is sure to entertain those searching for something riffable, but with an old-timey holiday flair.
– Alex Langley
Slasher movies of the ’80s had a reputation for being crass cash-ins, but few if any fit the bill as well as 1987′s Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2. There are others that kill running time by using footage from their predecessors in flashbacks, but this 88-minute film spends the first 40 minutes on Ricky (Eric Freeman), the younger brother of the original killer Santa, narrating highlights from part 1. He’s recounting the story to a psychiatrist, even though for most of the events he was either a baby or not present. Then he strangles the doc with reel-to-reel tape and goes on a rampage killing date rapists, noisy movie patrons, etc.
Freeman makes the proceedings hilarious with one of the most unbridled non-Nicolas Cage performances put on film as he goes around bugging his eyes out, yelling at people and making a guy’s eyes explode by hooking his tongue to a car battery. I have to admit, I think part 1 is a pretty decent Christmas horror movie, but I’ve watched this one more. Once I even tested my fortitude by watching them back-to-back, which is how I noticed that the Santa mistakenly shot by the police is identified as Father O’Brien in part 1 but “old man Kelsey, the janitor” in part 2. What, they didn’t have time to go back and check?
So this is a great movie but with its maniacal cruelty it’s not really in the spirit of the season, so I don’t recommend it for your family get togethers and that’s why it’s the worst Christmas movie. (I haven’t seen the live action Grinch.)
I knew something was wrong when I first saw The Polar Express. It had everything going for it. The director of Back to the Future and Who Framed Roger Rabbit? creating a new magical world of fantasy, an animation technology that would let Tom Hanks play every character. The trailers looked good, but watching the movie for all of five minutes, it just looked wrong. And the story was nonsense. It’s not just because they had to stretch out a children’s book. Plenty of movies have made full length stories out of short sources. There was just no momentum. They ride the train, maybe throw in an action sequence or musical number, then they get to the North Pole and come back. And the music sucked. That Hot Chocolate song? “Hot hot hot, we got it. Hot hot hot, we got it.” Where’s Randy Newman when you need him? In three more films, Zemeckis would still not perfect his performance capture animation and James Cameron would render it completely obsolete with Avatar.
– Fred Topel
Maybe I’m a cranky old elf but I find How The Grinch Stole Christmas starring Jim Carrey to be one of the films dragging along the bottom of my list of watchable Christmas films. Sure, it’s an incredibly ambitious film visually and Carrey’s performance is as big. crazy, and unrestrained as you would expect when you think of a Jim Carrey Grinch, but ultimately the film drags on and on and somehow seems to miss the point of the original Suess story altogether. Carrey’s Grinch is too menacing when he simply needs to be mean, too over the top enraged when he just needs to be slyly cruel, and generally unbelievable when he transforms into the redemptive soul that is so effectively charming in the original animated feature. No amount of polish, style, and noise can replace the heart and core message of never giving up on warming the hearts of the curmudgeonly and alone during the holidays. While Ron Howard and team deserve kudos for trying, it’s still a swing and a miss.
– Steven Horn
If you want the worst Christmas film of all time, look no further than Santa Claus: The Movie! Brought to you by producers Alexander and Ilya Salkind (aka the people who thought Superman III was a good idea), Santa Claus: The Movie tries to demystify the Christmas icon and explain away some of the mythology that surrounds him.
But Santa’s origin only lasts a few minutes before a very mortal Claus (David Huddleston) and his wife, Anya (Judy Cornwell) along with their non-flying reindeer magically escape a deadly snowstorm and find themselves in the North Pole surrounded by elves (or the “Vendequm” as they’re called here) because… CHRISTMAS MAGIC! And an elf prophecy or whatever…
Let’s just say that the Rankin/Bass animated special, Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town had a better way of explaining Santa’s quirks, and even that wasn’t very well written!
But Santa is not really the star of this movie. Instead, an inordinate amount of the focus falls on Patch (Dudley Moore), an elf who exiles himself to the modern world of the ‘80s after unknowingly sending out toys that break easily. Patch ends up working for John Lithgow’s B.Z., a toymaker who is so over-the-top evil that he not only has his stuffed bears filled with broken glass and nails, he wants to take over Christmas itself. Lithgow is the only one in this movie who doesn’t completely embarrass himself with his performance, even though the cast has more talent than is apparent here.
Granted, Santa Claus: The Movie would have made a great episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, but it has no reason to exist beyond that.
– Blair Marnell