Families coming together, singing carols by the fire, exchanging gifts ― these are the warm and toasty moments Hollywood likes to capture this time of year, since the vast number of holiday movies out there suggests that Christmas is the most cinematic season of them all.
But they can’t all be so delightful. Along with heartwarming stories of familial love and seasonal generosity are some pretty wretched Christmases ― the kind we wouldn’t wish upon our worst enemy. They can be found in Christmas classics like It's A Wonderful Life and National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation... or, they can be found in all the many, many Christmas misfires that somehow made it into theaters (Christmas With The Kranks, anyone?).
So, in honor of December 25th, here's a list of 25 abominable Christmases we say "bah, humbug!" to. (And yes, we've checked it twice.)
There are innumerable versions of this story, including one with Scrooge McDuck, one with Bill Murray, and one with Muppets, so take your pick. In every version, Ebenezer has a pretty wretched yuletide filled with regret and remorse. Nothing says “Merry Christmas!” like a bunch of ghosts reminding you what a cold bastard you are. (Couldn’t they have waited until a different day, at least?)
24. Four Christmases
Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon play a couple that hides from their families in Fiji every year for the holidays. Nice, right? But their vacation plans get thwarted and they have to spend Christmas running around to each of their divorced parents’ homes, causing them to briefly break up themselves. Sounds exhausting and unpleasant to the max. (We're mainly talking about the movie itself, rather than the ordeal of the characters.)
23. Home Alone
Two dastardly burglars try to break into a seemingly-abandoned home and repeatedly attempt to kill a small child, who then tortures them with various tools found in his father's garage. Yeah, bad Christmas. But what really makes this one sting is how long it takes Kevin's family to realize they left him home at the holidays. Burn!
22. How The Grinch Stole Christmas
All’s well that ends well, and of course Dr. Suess’ classic story ends with The Grinch making nice with the people of Whoville. Fine. But until then, we have to deal with a green, furry Jim Carrey’s outrageous mugging and a prepubescent Taylor Momsen singing. If that's what Christmas is all about, The Grinch is welcome to it, no stealing necessary.
21. Jingle All The Way
Arnold Schwarzenneger’s son really, really wants a specific toy for Christmas, so Ah-nuld has to spend the holiday fighting with mad crowds and a rabid Sinbad to get his hands on the sold-out Turbo Man (and even dresses like him). As we all known, shopping on Christmas Eve is pretty much the worst experience imaginable, yet this movie somehow makes it even more unpleasant than the real thing.
20. It’s A Wonderful Life
The most cherished Christmas movie of all is like a perfect little slice of Frank Capra Americana, and yet, hero George Bailey spends it getting wasted, crashing his car in a drunk driving accident, attempting suicide, and then meeting his guardian angel, who shows him what life would be like had he never been born. It may end up being a wonderful life, but in the majority of the film, it’s far from an ideal one.
19. Home Alone 2: Lost In New York
Dealing with the same two homicidal crooks? Kevin's got this covered. But his family forgets him again? Seriously, at this point, Kevin must have no self-esteem left, and what he needs for Christmas is thousands of dollars to pay for the lifelong therapy he'll need at being unloved, abandoned, and nearly killed dozens of times. Worst. Parents. Ever. (Also: this one has Rob Schneider.)
18. Reindeer Games
Ben Affleck, Charlize Theron, and a preposterously convoluted plot that involves a bunch of criminals dressing as Santa Clauses to rob a casino. (Do casinos even have chimneys?) The title is the most festive thing about this lame caper.
17. Surviving Christmas
Oh, hello again, Ben Affleck. Are you here to ruin Christmas again? In this one, he plays a millionaire jerk who pays a family of strangers (led by James Gandolfini) to spend the holiday with them ― they’re strangers who live in his childhood home. The unfunny movie was slammed by critics as one of 2004’s worst. Honestly, we’d rather spend Christmas with the Sopranos than this sorry brood.
16. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
Everyone deserves a break every now and then, but the Griswold family tends not to fare so well in vacations. Sleds turning into rockets, a mucus-spewing dog, cranky neighbors, a turkey carcass, and a Christmas blackout are just a few of the ingredients that make this Vacation less-than-relaxing.
15. Silent Night, Deadly Night
One of far too many Christmas-themed horror movies. This one has an orphan dressed as Santa Claus, punishing people for having sex (as a sadistic nun taught him to in his childhood). Amazingly, this movie has four sequels, none of which are recommended viewing for the holidays (or any other time of year).
14. Christmas With The Kranks
Following the Santa Clause series, Tim Allen takes another stab at holiday humor, with worse results. He and Jamie Lee Curtis decide to skip Christmas and head to the Caribbean, but their neighbors revolt and literally force them to extravagantly decorate their house. It's a movie about the soulless commercialism of Christmas that is also soullessly commercial, and kind of makes us think we'd prefer one of the holiday serial killers to spending Christmas with the Kranks.
13. Batman Returns
If you live in Gotham City, seriously, why have you not moved? Or at least planned to get away for the holidays? The Penguin rounds up all the first-born sons of Gotham’s richest families on Christmas Eve, intending to kill them all, while Catwoman gives her boss a kiss that ends up electrocuting them both. Even the ceremonial lighting of the Christmas tree doesn't happen without the poor Ice Princess meeting her maker. Luckily Batman swoops in to save the kids, killing a lot of evil clowns in the process. Ho ho ho, happy holidays!
12. The Nightmare Before Christmas
And speaking of Tim Burton movies. Jack Skellington means well, kind of, but when the Pumpkin King tries to take over for Santa at Christmas by making it more like Halloween, it makes for one unsilent, unholy night. (P.S.: Remind us to never spend the holidays at the Burton residence.)
11. Bad Santa
Okay, we kind of wouldn’t mind spending the holidays with Billy Bob Thornton’s mischievous mall Santa, because he's hilarious. But when his elf goes on a crime spree, bad Santa has a very bad Christmas (he gets shot 8 times).
10. Santa’s Slay
Come to think of it, there is something a little weird about a legend where a strange man comes into your home during the middle of the night and sneaks around eating your cookies. Santa (the spawn of Satan, according to this movie) comes down the chimney and kills entire families in various holiday-themed ways (turkey legs and egg nog are used as instruments of death). Being forced to sit through this movie is almost as bad.
9. The Nativity Story
Knocked up by another man (okay, God) and forced to wander around with her hubby searching for a place to have the child? Poor Mary. That's not merry at all! However, Mary's holy infant also Inspires King Herod to kill a bunch of babies in the Massacre of the Innocents, so the most famous Christmas story of all is actually one of the most unpleasant, too. We're glad this miracle eventually ended up being more about gingerbread and presents than mangers and baby-killing.
8. Black Christmas
Dreaming of a white Christmas? Well, Black Christmas is a nightmare. A killer who makes Christmas cookies out of his mom’s flesh stalks a bunch of sorority girls, played in the remake by Lacey Chabert (dispatched with a garden tool) and Michelle Trachtenberg (who gets an ice skate to the face). But all this worked better in a more appropriate holiday-themed slasher flick, Halloween. This one's just a cheap rip-off we'd like to exchange for something better.
7. Jack Frost
It’s bad enough to lose your father in a car accident just before Christmas. But having him return from the dead in the body of a snowman is just terrifying. Believe it or not, this isn’t another snowman slasher flick, it’s actually a family dramedy starring Michael Keaton (who, really, we thought was above this sort of thing). All the schmaltz and sentimentality in the world doesn’t stop Jack Frost from giving us chills that go far beyond just nipping at our nose.
6. Die Hard
Office Christmas parties can be brutal... in some cases, quite literally. John McClane wants to make nice with his estranged wife, but some terrorists make him naughty instead when they hold a bunch of people hostage on Christmas Eve. Luckily Bruce Willis is even stealthier than Santa at sneaking around and offing them one by one.
5. Die Hard 2
Once is bad enough. But when terrorists target you and your family two years later, on the very same holiday, it’s time to convert to Judaism or start celebrating Kwanzaa.
4. Santa With Muscles
Hulk Hogan gets amnesia and starts believing that he is Santa Claus. And trust us, any time that Hulk Hogan is involved in your yuletide, it basically ends up being a lump-o’-coal kind of year. Dear Santa, can we have amnesia too, so we can forget this movie?
A pagan ritual sics a killer elf on a hapless teenage girl. No fun. But these elves are not only ancient evil demons ― they’re also Nazis. (And yet this is set at Christmas, not Hanukkah. Whatever.) No matter what’s being celebrated, surely waking up on Christmas morning to discover that you've been impregnated by a Nazi elf trumps your worst holiday, hands-down.
Lauren Holly is a stewardess on a Christmas Eve flight that is transporting captured serial killer Ray Liotta from New York to Los Angeles. But he escapes, kills the cops, locks the passengers in a closet (?), and slaughters most of the crew... leaving Lauren to simultaneously fight off the sadistic murderer and safely land the plane herself. Totally plausible.
Billy doesn’t heed advice about his new pets ― don’t feed them after midnight! ― and accidentally unleashes a band of killer gremlins on his small town on Christmas Eve. Whoops! As if that wasn’t a bad enough Christmas on its own, his love interest Kate tells the tale of how her father died getting stuck in the chimney while pretending to be Santa Claus. So that’s two awful, horrifying Christmases in one movie ― bad enough to snag our top slot.
What's your favorite bad Christmas in a movie?