Christmas has a timeless feel to it. No matter where you are in the world, around this time of year, something fills the air. It could be the joy we all feel about another year coming to an end. It could be the inner child we all feel as adults and the nostalgia of Christmas pasts that bring us cheer that we can carry out in our lives. One thing that brings families together is a nice movie to watch by the fireplace next to a big, bright Christmas tree.
A film about this time of year is a genre in and of itself. But times do change, whether you like it or not. Opinions of things always shift, and what worked seventy years ago may not have the same appeal today. Christmas movies have also been known for having many failed attempts at trying to become classics. Some of them just squeaked by enough for contemporary audiences at the time, but in the long run, they are forgettable. Others are known to be utter classics but are very much of their time, and maybe their time wasn’t known for being too transparent. Here are 12 Christmas movies that don’t hold up.
Four Christmases (2008)
Release Date November 26, 2008
Director Seth Gordon
Cast Vince Vaughn, Reese Witherspoon, Robert Duvall, Sissy Spacek, Jon Voight, Jon Favreau
Main Genre Comedy
Four Christmases has Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon as a happily unmarried couple, Brad and Kate. When an exotic vacation falls through, they’re now stuck visiting one in-law’s house-to another. Brad goes through the motions of the holiday as he is just trying to get by. Meanwhile, Kate realizes she may want more out of life and that her family may not be as crazy as they seem.
Why Four Christmases Makes the List
Four Christmases is good enough for one viewing, and after that, that’s about it. There’s great laughter thanks to Witherspoon and Vaughn’s chemistry. As well as funny supporting roles by Jon Favreau, Tim McGraw, Dwight Yokam, and Katy Mixon. The film does pose a realistic question about a couple at a crossroads, but it plays it kind of safe. Eventually, Brad and Kate decide to start a family of their own, and a year later, the two welcome a child. Four Christmases isn’t a bad movie, but if you put it up against the classics, it’s forgettable, to say the least.
Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever (2014)
Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever
Release Date November 29, 2014
Cast Aubrey Plaza, Daniel Roebuck, Megan Charpentier, Grumpy Cat, Russell Peters, Chris Williams
Main Genre Comedy
Genres Comedy, Family
Grumpy Cat’s Worse Christmas Ever is a Lifetime original movie that capitalizes on the viral internet meme of the most grumpy-looking cat ever. The Internet sensation, Grumpy Cat (otherwise known by their real name, Tardar Sauce), is voiced by Aubrey Plaza and helps a little girl find the true spirit of Christmas.
Why We’ve Included Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever
For starters, may the kitten known as Grumpy Cat rest in peace, as they passed away a few years ago. Despite Aubrey Plaza being perfectly cast as the voice of the constantly bothered-looking cat, this film is clearly just trying to do something we’ve seen time and time again in Hollywood. Taking something popular in the world and making a pay day off of it. Lifetime is a perfect market for something like this, but unfortunately, due to the influx of holiday films year after year, Grumpy Cat gets lost in the sea of Christmas content. Besides, this was never really made to become a classic anyways.
Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer (2000)
Loosely based on the silly Christmas song Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer, is an animated movie about a young man named Jake Spakenheimer, whose grandma goes missing. In the midst of trying to solve that mystery, he also must prove to his family that Santa Claus is indeed real.
Why We’ve Included Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer
This made-for-television animated one-hour film is a distant memory in the minds of millennials. It takes the storyline of the classic song and stretches it out into a movie. Its target audience is kids, though. The film was initially released on home video in October 2000, but then got a television premiere on December 21st, 2000, on The CW network, which was then known as The WB. And being that this is a kid-friendly movie, spoiler alert: Grandma lives.
Santa Claus: The Movie (1985)
Release Date October 29, 1985
Cast Dudley Moore, John Lithgow, David Huddleston, Burgess Meredith, Judy Cornwell, Jeffrey Kramer
Main Genre Adventure
In Santa Claus: The Movie, the legend that is Santa Claus falls into jeopardy as one of his trusty elves, Patch (Dudley Moore), leaves the North Pole for New York City. There, Patch encounters a toy tycoon, whom he begins to work for. With this new job, Patch sees that his new employer is trying to take over Christmas in a greedy way. The only man that can save him and Christmas, well, of course, is Santa Claus.
Why Did We Include Santa Claus: The Movie?
There are a lot of interesting elements to the origin story of good ol’ Saint Nick in Santa Claus: The Movie. For starters, Santa and his wife freeze to death, but then he thaws out and finds his way to the elf’s toy shop. He seems to be the man for the job at this place, as he sees this massive warehouse of toys the elves have and decides what he must do for the children of the world. Let’s also not forget that this movie is titled Santa Claus: The Movie, and after the opening act of the origin story, Santa becomes more supporting, and Dudley Moore and John Lithgow’s greedy businessman villain become the center focus of the movie.
Surviving Christmas (2004)
Release Date September 21, 2004
Director Mike Mitchell
Cast Ben Affleck, James Gandolfini, Christina Applegate, Catherine O’Hara, Josh Zuckerman, Bill Macy
Main Genre Comedy
Surviving Christmas has Ben Affleck playing a wealthy executive named Drew Latham, a man who has no real close family members. And yet, during the holidays, he decides to go back to the house he grew up in out of sheer nostalgia and longing for his past. He sees that a new family has moved in. He pays the family a big lump sum of cash to pretend to be his family. As the holiday season goes on, Drew tests the family’s patience.
Why Doesn’t Surviving Christmas Hold Up?
The title alone is relatable because some of us have to do just that sometimes. A lot of Christmas movies kind of have an unrealistic look at the holiday and what we go through with it. Surviving Christmas does just that; the humor in it just doesn’t seem like anything we really encounter on a day-to-day basis, even during Christmas. Thus hurting the movie as the years have passed. It’s just not a funny movie. Not even Tony Soprano himself could save this movie, as James Gandolfini plays the new man of the house at Drew’s childhood home.
There is a strange core message in the film. Drew is a man who seems to have had a rough childhood, and instead of facing those demons, he’d rather throw some money at them. And since these days, nobody really has any money, this movie is kind of cringeworthy.
Christmas With the Kranks (2004)
Christmas With the Kranks
Release Date November 24, 2004
Director Joe Roth
Cast Tim Allen, Jamie Lee Curtis, Dan Aykroyd, M. Emmet Walsh, Elizabeth Franz, Erik Per Sullivan
Main Genre Comedy
Christmas with the Kranks has Luther and Nora Krank (Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis) playing a pair of empty-nesters who plan to make it a little easier this time around during Christmas. They decide to go on a cruise during the holidays, but some of the neighbors don’t seem to agree with the Kranks taking a year off and making things super competitive with the holiday lawn decorations. Something that gets under Luther’s skin, as he is known for having a great-looking decorative setup every year.
Christmas with the Cranks Just Isn’t a Classic
Chevy Chase is one of the few actors who can pull off physical comedy in his movies, and it still holds up today. Well, he’s not in this movie anyway. There just isn’t anything funny about the slapstick humor of it all. And there really wasn’t any reason to laugh when the movie even came out. And if that plot that you read up above sounded odd and confusing, that’s because it is. It’s a movie about competitive Christmas decorating.
There’s a lot of conformity being conveyed to the audience here, and most moviegoers are going to hate something like that. It’s no wonder Jamie Lee Curtis took a break from acting in movies for a while after films like this and a few others that followed. She’s better than a movie like this, and she clearly has proved it.
Jingle All the Way (1996)
Jingle All the Way
Release Date November 21, 1996
Director Brian Levant
Cast Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sinbad, Phil Hartman, Rita Wilson, Robert Conrad, Martin Mull
Main Genre Comedy
Jingle All the Way has Arnold Schwarzenegger playing Howard Langston, a hardworking father and husband who is missing out on a lot of important time with his son. He heads out on Christmas Eve to track down the hottest toy of the year for his son, Turbo Man. What he thinks will be an easy pickup turns into chaos as he is met by all the other ruthless, last-minute shoppers in town, one of whom is another desperate father, Myron Larabee (Sinbad).
Why We Included Jingle All the Way
Jingle All the Way hasn’t lost its charm. But if you really look at some of the plot points in this movie, you can’t help but second-guess it a bit. There’s a lot of satire in Jingle All the Way about consumerism. Oddly, this was around the time of the Tickle Me Elmo doll craze. However, the movie is just uneven in its humor. Schwarzenegger has always done well with comedy, but his playing a mattress salesman just feels unreal; the jokes don’t really land, and there’s a bomb threat used for comedic purposes.
The Polar Express (2004)
The Polar Express
Release Date November 10, 2004
Director Robert Zemeckis
Cast Tom Hanks, Leslie Zemeckis, Eddie Deezen, Nona Gaye, Peter Scolari, Andy Pellick
Main Genre Animation
The Polar Express tells the story of a young boy who is slowly beginning to not believe in Santa Claus anymore. He is then invited on board a train that is headed to Santa’s workshop at the North Pole. The movie is based on the adored children’s book by Chris Van Allsburg and was directed by Robert Zemeckis.
Why The Polar Express Makes the List
This one may get some push-back, and that’s okay. The Polar Express is on television every year in December, as well as streaming. Children and adults share a kinship with the film, and how can you hate a movie with Tom Hanks voicing the train conductor? There isn’t anything in the lore or performances in this film that hurts it. It’s the animation that isn’t holding up. The Polar Express looks kind of creepy now. The characters have lifeless eyes, and now, at almost twenty years old, they seem like creepy wax figures come to life in a digital motion capture animated film. Mo-Cap animation has evolved so much since 2004, and that’s what hurts this movie.
Love, Actually (2003)
Release Date September 7, 2003
Director Richard Curtis
Cast Bill Nighy, Gregor Fisher, Rory MacGregor, Colin Firth, Sienna Guillory, Liam Neeson
Main Genre Comedy
Love Actually is a romantic comedy centered around Christmas. It follows nine intertwining stories that follow one major core theme that connects us all: love. Although some of these stories don’t necessarily utilize the season as a backdrop, it has become a film that many like to turn on during Christmas time due to the stories that feel parallel to the season.
Love Actually Is Kind of Creepy, Actually
As of late, Love Actually has been criticized for the lack of diversity on screen. Now, if you’re scoffing at that idea, well, then just know that two other storylines were cut from the movie. One was a story of lesbian love; the other was a storyline focused on a black family. Like, what the hell? There are fat jokes aimed at the Natalie character (Martine McCutcheon). And lastly, what once was an admired and famous scene with Andrew Lincoln (yes, ‘Rick’ from The Walking Dead) and Keira Knightley and his giant note cards has now been labeled more creepy than romantic.
Bad Santa (2003)
Release Date November 26, 2003
Director Terry Zwigoff
Cast Billy Bob Thornton, Tony Cox, Brett Kelly, Lauren Graham, Lauren Tom, Bernie Mac
Main Genre Comedy
Bad Santa stars Billy Bob Thornton as Willie T. Stokes, a rough and tumble grouchy fella who reunites with his partner in literal crime, Marcus (Tony Cox). The two pose as mall Santa and his elf and plan to rob the outlets on Christmas Eve. However, Willie begins to have a slight change of heart.
Bad Santa Has Bad Jokes
Bad Santa needed to happen. We need an anti-Christmas movie and something vulgar and a bit crude. The only thing is, modern audiences now are not shocked as easily, as sad as that is to say. Bad Santa was a success upon its release, but a rewatch shows that it’s another one of the films that doesn’t hit as well after some time has passed. Billy Bob Thornton’s character spews homophobic and misogynist rhetoric throughout the movie. The rumors are that there was a lot left on the cutting room floor. And to really prove a point here, Bad Santa got a very forgettable 2016 sequel, thus proving that this dark comedy hasn’t aged well.
White Christmas (1954)
Release Date October 14, 1954
Director Michael Curtiz
Cast Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, Vera-Ellen, Dean Jagger, Mary Wickes
It’s a movie that is built off of a classic Christmas song. White Christmas is a musical about a pair of friends who learn that their commanding officer from wartime has hit hard times after World War II. His hotel in rural Vermont is on the verge of being taken from him. A film fit for a Christmas miracle to take place.
White Christmas Has Some Major Dating Issues
We’re now at that phase where your grandfather’s favorite Christmas movie might be under attack for not holding up to this day. White Christmas is the film that many love; it birthed the Chevy Chase line of having “the hap-hap-happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tapped danced with Danny f***ing Kaye.” It also has a minstrel show number. The “Abraham” performance scene is usually cut out of today’s showings of the movie. And if you look into it, you’ll know why. The one saving grace in this sequence, so to speak, is that Crosby, Kaye, and Rosemary Clooney do not do the scene in blackface.
Holiday Inn (1942)
Release Date July 10, 1942
Director Mark Sandrich
Cast Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire, Marjorie Reynolds, Virginia Dale, Walter Abel, Louise Beavers
Holiday Inn and White Christmas are somewhat similar films. White Christmas is a loose remake of Holiday Inn. The film also stars Bing Crosby and co-stars Fred Astaire. It takes place at a hotel that is only open for the holidays, and two men vie for the affection of a beautiful up-and-coming entertainer.
Why Holiday Inn Doesn’t Hold Up Today
White Christmas dialed back its black-face minstrel performances. In Holiday Inn, the performances are all in blackface for the infamous Abraham dance number. There is a reason why some people remember White Christmas more than they do Holiday Inn. It’s a film hardly ever shown these days, and even if it is, it’s rare that it is an original cut of the film. It doesn’t even need to be explained any more than why this film would not hold up in today’s world and the audiences that come with it.
Blackface on screen, in the context of a movie like Holiday Inn, doesn’t come off like it is being used for historical reference; it’s just there for entertainment, and maybe at the time it was not meant to do any harm, but now, there’s no argument that audiences don’t want to see something like that.