‘Tis the season for Christmas movies. And while there are plenty of great classic Christmas films to watch for the umpteenth time this holiday season, there are also plenty of terrible Christmas movies out there that you should avoid like the plague. For every It’s A Wonderful Life, there seems to be a Christmas with the Kranks. And while the good Christmas movies are usually in heavy rotation at this time of year, many of the worst Christmas movies are also shown on TV a lot each December. Here is a list of the 25 worst Christmas movies of all time – in case you’re wondering what to avoid this year.
25. Santa’s Little Helper
Produced by WWE Studios in 2015, Santa’s Little Helper is a painful direct-to-DVD movie starring WWE superstars The Miz and Paige, as well as Nip/Tuck’s AnnaLynne McCord. After losing his job, the fast-talking Dax (Miz) is hand-picked by Santa Claus to replace his second-in-command and resume the role as Santa’s Little Helper. Before he can do so, Santa’s daughter Eleanor (Paige) envokes an obscure North Pole law that allows her to challenge Dax for a position. Riveting stuff, eh?
Although the acting was better than initially expected, the reality is, Santa’s Little Helper is so dull it even lacks that hilariously-bad quality that makes even the worst Christmas movie worth watching around the holidays. It’s the kind of movie you forget while you’re still watching.
24. Call Me Claus
Call Me Claus is a lifeless holiday-themed TV movie about a woman named Lucy Collins (Whoopi Goldberg), a grumpy network executive who unknowingly hires Santa Claus to play himself on their shopping network to promote the Christmas season and increase sales over the holidays. What Collins doesn’t realize is that Mr. Claus has chosen her to be his replacement, as his 200-year reign must come to an end. Move over Tim Allen, it’s Whoopi’s time to shine.
Despite being a fan of Goldberg’s performance, Call me Claus was a cheesy, predictable, and otherwise unfunny attempt at holiday movie that at times seemed a little too inappropriate given the film’s target demographic.
23. Rudolph and Frosty: Christmas in July
Released in 1979, Rudolph and Frosty: Christmas in July is a Christmas TV special and crossover that features characters from both Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman. This bizarre holiday movie pits Santa Claus, Frosty, and Rudolph against the recently awakened and evil Winterbolt, ruler of the North Pole.
While this might sound like the perfect movie to toss on during the holidays, Rudolph and Frosty: Christmas in July is dreadfully long and convoluted Christmas tale that, for whatever reason, revolves around a circus and take place during July.
22. Santa with Muscles
Santa with Muscles is an astonishingly lousy movie starring WWE legend Hulk Hogan as Blake Thorn (Hogan), a self-made billionaire who suffers amnesia after hitting his head, wakes up in a Santa suit, and believes he’s the real Santa. Hogan then ends up at an orphanage full of children and as his memories return, he agrees to save them from the evil scientist looking to obtain the energy crystals located under their orphanage… we’re not making this up.
Santa with Muscles is the kind of movie that’s so bad you’ve probably never seen the ending or remember how things turn out. What in the world was Ed Begley Jr. and Garret Morris thinking?
21. Jingle All the Way 2
Directed by Alex Zamm and starring Larry the Cable Guy, Jingle All the Way 2 follows a dad who wants nothing more than to get his daughter her favorite toy for Christmas, but when his ex-wife’s husband gets involved, Larry is forced to do whatever it takes to find his daughter a ‘Harrison the Talking Bear’ before its too late.
This straight-to-video sequel was so outstandingly terrible it made Arnold Schwarzenegger’s version look like a holiday classic. Why the WWE thought it would be a good idea to make a movie based on an already inferior Christmas-themed movie and pack it full of lame jokes is a strange move, but this is the WWE we’re talking about.
Released in 1989, Jeffrey Mandel’s Christmas-themed horror film Elves, starring Dan Haggerty, Julie Austin, and Deanna Lund might be of the strangest movies ever made and so unimaginably bad it cannot be found in stores and is practically impossible to find. The story revolves around a young waitress, a group of Neo-Nazis, and an ancient demonic Christmas elf that’s been freed, here to carry out Hitler’s dream of a race of half-human/half-elf hybrids.
Although the film might be hard to track down and could leave you scarred for life, according to Jeremy Wheller of Allmovie, Elves is so bad it’s actually kind of funny.
“No holiday horror viewing would be complete without a little screening of the horrendously strange low-budget opus Elves… this old VHS gem delivers the ridiculous goods hand over fist time and again.”
19. Fred Claus
Directed by David Dobkin and starring Vince Vaughn, Paul Giamatti, Elizabeth Banks, and Rachel Weisz, Fred Claus is a bland holiday movie about Santa’s (Giamatti) bitter and jerk of an older brother, Fred Claus (Vaughn). After being thrown in jail Fred calls his younger brother Nicolas to bail him out, which he agrees to do as long as Fred returns with him to the North Pole to work off his debt – which he does.
Given the strength of the cast and premise of the movie, Fred Claus had the potential the kind of Christmas movie families could watch year-after-year, unfortunately, it wasn’t all that funny and Vaughn appeared to mail it in halfway through.
18. A Christmas Story 2
Released almost 30 after the original, Brian Levant’s Christmas Story 2 is an embarrassment to everything that made Bob Clark’s 1983 holiday classic so timeless. Picking up five years after the first film, a now 15-year-old Ralphie has his sights set on a sweet new ride but before he can even get it off the lot, he accidentally damages it. With the help of his friends Flick and Schwartz, Ralphie attempts to pay for the damages before the car dealer tells his Old Man.
This straight-to-DVD sequel has some redeemable qualities, but given it features an all new-cast of no-name actors (besides Daniel Stern) and an endless amount of out of date references to the original film, it’s not hard to understand why A Christmas Story 2 is so universally unpopular.
17. The Grinch (2000)
The animated special from 1966 based on Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas children’s book is a holiday classic. The live action movie version that starred comedian Jim Carrey as The Grinch is not a classic. In fact, it is one of the worst Christmas movies ever made and a total misfire – not only for Jim Carrey but also for the film’s director, Ron Howard, who tried unsuccessfully to stretch what is essentially a 26-minute cartoon into a 104-minute movie. This required a lot of padding of the plot and resulted in a weird backstory about The Grinch being teased in grade school by his classmates, which never really works. Plus, Carrey as The Grinch features horribly over-the-top acting, the Who folk are covered in weird makeup, and Whoville is this super strange town that is clearly built on a Hollywood backlot. The whole thing comes off as some pseudo-Fellini-type movie and it just doesn’t work.
16. Jingle All the Way (1996)
Remember the comedian Sinbad? If you replied “no,” you’re not alone. The stand-up comedian who was well-known in the 1990s hasn’t been seen much since he starred in this holiday turkey with Arnold Schwarzenegger back in 1996. This movie is about a well-meaning father, played by Arnold, who tries in vain to get his son the hottest toy for Christmas, a Turbo Man action doll. In the process, he is pitted against an unscrupulous mailman, played by Sinbad. This movie tries to capitalize on the Christmas toy craze phenomenon (remember Tickle Me Elmo?) and the difficulty parents can have found the gifts their kids want right before December 25th. The problem is that this movie is really just a single joke stretched into an agonizing two hours. The humor isn’t that funny, the action scenes are lame, and there’s no chemistry between Schwarzenegger and Sinbad. At the end of the movie when Arnold is wearing a Turbo Man costume himself, you will no doubt look at your own kids and think: “The things I do for you…”
15. Ernest Saves Christmas (1988)
There were a lot of unfunny Ernest movies in the 1980s. Played by the late Jim Varney, Ernest was kind of like the Larry the Cable Guy of the previous generation. In addition to this terrible Christmas classic, people in the 1980s and very early 90s also got to sit through duds such as Ernest Goes to Jail, Ernest Scared Stupid and even Ernest Goes to Splash Mountain. How these movies ever got made remains a bit of a mystery, considering that they were each critically mauled and left for dead at the box office. As for Ernest Saves Christmas, it is one of the worst in a very bad group of terrible films. In this movie, Santa Claus taps hapless taxi driver Ernest to be his successor at the North Pole. It’s never really made clear why, though. But it sets the movie up for a series of unfunny incidents that have Ernest running amok amongst the elves at Santa’s workshop. We all deserve better than this lame movie during the holidays.
14. I’ll Be Home For Christmas
Starring the one and only Johnathon Taylor Thomas, I’ll Be Home For Christmas is a family comedy that tells the story of Jake Wilkinson (Thomas), a spoiled college student who must travel from Los Angeles, California to Larchmont, New York in order to win his father’s Porsche. As you might expect, Wilkinson decides to return home, but not because he wants to see his family, because he wants the Porsche.
I’ll Be Home For Christmas made our list because there is absolutely nothing redeemable about it and but most of all, it’s a shining example of why some actors should stick to television.
13. Home Alone 3
Released in 1997, Home Alone 3 was Raja Gosnell’s tired attempt at reviving the once-popular franchise by replacing Macaulay Culkin with Alex Linz and as you might imagine, it missed the mark. Nothing against Linz, it’s just difficult to fathom a sequel without the antics of Culkin, Daniel Stern, and Joe Pesci. Even as a child, the thought of a kid besting four highly trainer hitmen in search of a stolen missile-cloaking computer chip seemed ridiculous.
Despite many critics panning Home Alone 3 for trying to squeeze a few more dollars out a franchise that should have folded after Macaulay Culkin quit, Robert Ebert believed it was “better than the first two.”
12. Babes in Toyland
Directed by Jack Donohue, Babes in Toyland is an awful ’80s TV movie that stars a Richard Mulligan, Pat Morita, Drew Barrymore, and Keanu Reeves. It tells the story of Lisa Piper (Drew Barrymore), a young girl who is randomly transported to Toyland after getting in an accident during a blizzard on Christmas Eve. Upon waking up, Piper intervenes in a wedding and along with some new friends, uncovers the evil Barnaby Barnacle’s (Richard Mulligan) plan to take over Toyland.
While we acknowledge some might have enjoyed Babes in Toyland, given the film’s poor dialogue, low production value, and that it was basically a rip-off of The Nutcracker, this Christmas monstrosity is right where it belongs.
11. Star Wars Holiday Special
Released in 1978, Star Wars Holiday Special is without a doubt one of the most cringe-worthy films ever made. The film tells a ridiculous story about Han Solo and Chewbacca attempt to return to Chewie’s homeland of Kashyyyk to celebrate Life Day, but after being halted by the Galactic Empire looking for Rebel Alliance members, they are unable to do so. In the meantime, Chewbacca’s family prepares for his arrival
When asked about the film during a 2015 interview, Star Wars creator George Lucas didn’t hold back.
“The special from 1978 really didn’t have much to do with us, you know. I can’t remember what network it was on, but it was a thing that they did. We kind of let them do it. It was done by… I can’t even remember who the group was, but they were variety TV guys. We let them use the characters and stuff and that probably wasn’t the smartest thing to do, but you learn from those experiences.”
10. A Christmas Carol
Directed by Robert Zemeckis, A Christmas Carol is based on the Charles Dickens’ classic book of the same name and stars the Jim Carrey as Ebenezer Scrooge. As the tale goes, Scrooge is visited by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come, who each take him on a self-reflective journey in an attempt to show Scrooge error of his ways.
Despite the film receiving a 0% on Rotten Tomatoes and winning four Golden Raspberry Awards, if nothing else, A Christmas Carol does deliver on some pretty impressive performances from both Carrey and Oldman.
9. Saving Christmas
Released back in 2014, the faith-based Christmas comedy Saving Christmas is without a doubt the worst Christmas movie ever made. This absurd film begins with Kirk Cameron – as himself – professing his love of Christmas and then proceeding to go on a rant about how atheists, materialism, and Christian fundamentalism have ruined the spirit of Christmas, all while sitting beside a fireplace. The scene then shifts to Cameron’s sister’s Christmas party and for whatever reason, Cameron believes the party is in danger from his brother-in-law Christian, which leads to him “Saving Christmas.”
Believe it not, Saving Christmas is so unimaginably terrible, it received a rating of 0% on Rotten Tomatoes and was nominated for six Golden Raspberry Awards, to which the film won four, for Worst Picture, Worst Actor, Worst Screenplay, Worst Screen Combo.
8. Four Christmases
Directed by Seth Gordon and starring Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon, Four Christmases might just be one of the worst Christmas-themed romantic comedies ever made. This shameful holiday movie tells the story of Brad (Vaughn) and Kate (Witherspoon), an upscale couple who attempt to avoid their families during the Christmas holidays by going on a vacation to Fiji. After the couple’s exotic getaway is ruined by a fog storm, Brad and Kate must find a way to make it through four separate family Christmases in one day.
Despite having both Vaughn and Witherspoon onboard, Four Christmases lacked any sort of joy or cheer synonymous with Christmas-themed film, especially one that literally takes place on December 25.
7. Santa Claus: The Movie (1985)
This movie was a big production when released in 1985. The film was produced by Alexander and Ilya Salkind, who were also behind 1978’s Superman: The Movie. And while Superman was a great flick, Santa Claus: The Movie is not. It stars Dudley Moore as an elf named Patch who has been with Santa Claus for centuries but decides to set out to make toys on his own, only to be exploited by a crooked toy company run by an uber-capitalist played by actor John Lithgow. An attempt at telling a contemporary Santa Claus story, this movie disappointed critics and viewers. Featuring exploding candy canes and a Congressional investigation into the nasty toy company, critics called this movie “tacky” and “mean-spirited” and found that it was unlikely to appeal to its target audience of children, who were not mature enough to understand the complicated business side of the story. Definitely a movie worth skipping.
6. The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause (1992)
Hey, we actually really liked the first Santa Clause movie, in which Tim Allen accidentally kills Santa Claus and ends up becoming the jolly old elf. It’s seriously better than the premise makes it sound, trust us. The sequel wasn’t quite as good but was still an acceptable film about Santa trying to find a Mrs. Claus and also be an absentee father for his son. But the third one is a blatant attempt to milk any remaining money out of the franchise, featuring a painfully uninteresting plot and a lame villain in Martin Short as a bitter Jack Frost, who steals the job of Santa Claus and turns the North Pole into a year-round theme park. The film is unfunny and emotionally bereft, and there’s almost certainly a reason why the franchise died after it came out. Like, immediately afterward.
5. Surviving Christmas (2004)
This terrible Christmas movie was the low point in actor Ben Affleck’s mid-2000s slump. In the film, Affleck plays a wealthy executive who has no close relationships and becomes nostalgic for his childhood home at Christmas. When he visits the house and finds another family living there, he offers the residents, played by James Gandolfini and Catherine O’Hara, a lot of money to pretend they are his parents during the holidays. The couple’s daughter (Christina Applegate) comes home from Christmas too, adding to the awkward and tense situation. This movie is two hours of Tony Soprano trying not to kill Batman. It’s lame, mean-spirited, and not funny in the slightest. Surviving Christmas currently holds a 7% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Yet this movie is shown on television almost every year at Christmas. Why?
4. Christmas with the Kranks (2004)
Speaking of mean-spirited Christmas movies, let’s not forget 2004’s Christmas with the Kranks. About a couple (Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis) who decide to skip Christmas the year their daughter is away, only to have their plans changed when their daughter phones to say she is coming home for Christmas after all, this movie spends two hours reminding people what a gigantic pain in the ass getting ready for Christmas is and offers little else. It certainly isn’t funny. Ironically, this terrible movie is based on a novel by author John Grisham (also called Skipping Christmas) and has a screenplay written by Chris Columbus (of Home Alone fame). So what the hell went wrong? Maybe Columbus should stick to making kids movies and leave the adult stuff to other folks? It certainly didn’t work in this case.
3. Jack Frost (1998)
Pray that your kids don’t make you sit through this one. This movie from 1998 stars Michael Keaton (there’s a reason he disappeared from movie screens for 15 years) as a musician and jerk of a father who is accidentally killed and then reincarnated as a snowman. Yes, you read that correctly. He comes back to life as a snowman, thanks to a magical harmonica that Keaton’s son possesses. If this sounds weird and extremely far-fetched, that’s because it is. This is one of the worst Christmas movies of all time. When released, it was a box office turd that was laughed out of theaters by critics. Yet every year, you can find this movie broadcast on your television set. The thing is, this is a movie that seems to get worse as the years go by. It’s pretty dated now and looks really 90s. But not in a good nostalgic kind of way. In a “why is everyone wearing plaid shirts?” kind of way. Not cool.
2. Deck the Halls (2006)
Whoever thought to put Matthew Broderick and Danny DeVito in a Christmas movie together was a good idea should be fired. Like a lot of the titles on this list, the 2006 film Deck the Halls takes a simple premise and inexplicably tries to stretch it into a full-length movie. In this case, it is how rival neighbors try to outdo one another with their Christmas lights and decorations. In Deck the Halls, Broderick, and DeVito both play unlikable people and neighbors who each feel that they “own Christmas” in their neighborhood, and try to show the other up with an elaborate display of festive lighting. With the tagline “There Glows the Neighborhood,” this awful and unfunny Christmas movie is a let down from start-to-finish. There just didn’t need to be a movie made about this topic. Every single street has one house that completely overdoes it for the holidays, in terms of decorations. That’s enough. You don’t need to watch a two-hour film about it.
1. An American Carol (2008)
There are a lot of other movies that could be on this list. But for our money, the most egregious and unforgivable Christmas movie has to be 2008’s An American Carol. On paper this film looks like it could have been pretty decent. It was written and directed by David Zucker, the comedy genius behind Airplane! and The Naked Gun. And it stars Kelsey Grammer, Leslie Nielsen, Jon Voigt and Dennis Hopper. Yet this movie is a total train wreck. Presented from a politically conservative perspective, the film is a parody of liberal filmmaker Michael Moore that lampoons contemporary American culture, particularly Hollywood. Actor Kevin Farley (brother of the late, great Chris Farley) plays a Michael Moore-like character who is visited by three ghosts, similar to Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol. It’s barely a Christmas movie at all, other than blatantly copying the most iconic Christmas story of all-time. We’re not sure what Zucker was trying to get across with this movie, but it just doesn’t work. Oh yeah, and Gary Coleman makes an appearance in the film. Plus, outside the U.S. and Canada, this film was called Big Fat Important Movie. WTF?