Finally, it is that time of the year again! Christmas is right around the corner, prompting quite a few people to start decorating their homes for the season. The lights are up and, depending on where you live, a white Christmas might very well be on the cards. Everyone has their own festive traditions, and there are certain movies and TV specials which have to be watched around this time of the year. What is December without Charlie Brown or Rankin/Bass?
Over the decades, dozens upon dozens of specials have tried to capture the spirit of Christmas. Sure, quite a few of them are just corporate cash-ins that are created solely to make a quick buck, but they tend to offer harmless fun. At the end of the day, the majority provide a bit of entertainment for the kids, while delivering the wholesome message that Christmas is not really about receiving presents. While the holiday is steeped in religious overtones, commercialism has twisted its original meaning to something a lot more unsettling. Even if the movies say otherwise, Christmas has primarily become about what someone can or cannot afford.
The sheer quantity of Christmas-themed episodes and movies is staggering. With so many to pick and choose from, there are bound to be a few strange moments worth discussing. Here are 30 inappropriate things you never noticed in Christmas specials.
For the most part, Home Alone is harmless. At worst, the adults are shown to be irresponsible and neglectful, but the humor is perfect for the entire family. Surprisingly, the majority of the movie is short on laughs, leaving everything for the climax. The final 15 minutes are a slapstick tour-de-force, as Harry and Marv are put through the ringer. Most of the scenes are nothing children would not see in a random episode of Tom & Jerry, but there is one exception - Marv stepping on a huge nail. This is shown directly to the audience, as Marv's foot meets the pointy steel. While there is no blood, that is a shockingly graphic moment in an otherwise wholesome Christmas romp. Kevin knows a thing or two about inflicting pain.
While Will Ferrell comedies tend to thrive on dirty humor, Elf is a relatively tame and family-friendly story. As a baby, Buddy crawls into Santa's sack and ends up in the North Pole. They decide to raise him as an elf, which eventually backfires due to Buddy being the size of a human. When questioned about who he really is, Santa reveals that Buddy was born to Walter Hobbs and Susan Wells, although they gave him up for adoption. As an adult, it is obvious that Buddy was accidentally born out of wedlock. The film avoids outright stating this, and children are unlikely to notice, but Buddy seemed to be an unwanted child. That explains why Santa never returned him.
Rankin/Bass were the kings of stop-motion animation. Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer are rightfully considered classics, while Santa Claus is Comin' to Town and The Little Drummer Boy have their fans. Their slow-paced but timeless shorts are watched every year, although they were not all created equal. 1979'a Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July is arguably the worst of the bunch. Calling this mess a Christmas special is pushing it, as the episode premiered in June and the story barely mentions the holiday season. Rudolph and Frosty decide to join a circus to impress the owner, but the former struggles to perform. Yes, a Rankin/Bass story dealing with their manhood's dysfunction, symbolized by Rudolph's nose losing its color. Merry Christmas everyone!
If taken out of context, the above picture is likely to anger quite a few people. Sisters at Heart is a Christmas episode from Bewitched's seventh season, and it was extremely well received. 1971's Primetime Emmy Awards picked Sisters at Heart to receive the Governors Award; an honor bestowed on projects that are so extraordinary, they go beyond the scope presented in the award show's typical categories. In today's culture, wearing blackface is an immediate fail, so an episode like Sisters at Heart would never see the light of day. The story tackled discrimination, as two girls wondered why they cannot be sisters just because of the color of their skin.
The Leprechaun's Christmas Gold is weird. Seriously, there is no other adjective better suited to describe this stop-motion fever dream. Released two days before Christmas, this 1981 TV special follows Dinty Doyle, who unintentionally frees a banshee while trying to dig out a pine tree. What can you do? These things happen. Old Mag the Hag wants to steal the gold to avoid melting away into tears on Christmas morning. If that last sentence sounds especially strange to you, then welcome to the club. The Leprechaun's Christmas Gold can be rather mean-spirited, and there are a few moments that take it a step too far. At one point, Mag spikes a Leprechaun's drink to force him to do exactly what she wants. This special might be obscure for a reason.
A Charlie Brown Christmas is rightfully considered a staple of the holiday season. Despite the special being destined to be shown every single year until the end of mankind, CBS was hardly excited prior to its original screening in 1965. Charlie Brown was almost not shown on TV, as the studio was worried about its overall quality. Thankfully, A Charlie Brown Christmas aired as planned and the rest is history. Charles M. Schulz' story is not exactly the most uplifting creation of all time, but it serves as a fantastic critique of the negative influence of commercialism. A handful of grown-up jokes slipped through the cracks, including one moment concerning Lucy. The selfish brat shows an admiration for the finer things in life, as she comments that snowflakes taste better with age. Mama van Pelt should probably re-check the wine cabinet.
Ron Howard's How the Grinch Stole Christmas is a rather odd beast. Based on Dr. Seuss' beloved children's book, this adaptation is rather unpleasant to watch. The characters are all rather grotesque, and the humor is surprisingly mean-spirited. Sure, the Grinch is not meant to be a delight, but the residents of Whoville are nearly as bad. Jim Carrey is entertaining as the grumpy title character, and the movie does feature a few surprises. There are some gags that only parents paying close attention will catch. During this particular sequence, the Grinch is being fed pudding by the Whos, when a resident stuffs Carrey's mouth with a brownish substance. The Grinch spits it out with disgust before stating that the substance was not pudding.
While Disney was on an upward trajectory when Frozen was released, nobody expected this modern re-telling of Hans Christian Andersen's The Snow Queen to leave such a lasting impression. At the box office, the movie sold over one billion, making Frozen the best performing animated product released by the studio. A handful of Pixar flicks did outperform the 2013 film, but those are the only exception. Frozen is fun for the whole family, although a few lines are meant to only be understood by the older generations. Anna and Kristoff have a brief discussion about foot size, ending with the latter declaring that size does not matter. For a brief second, Frozen turned into every sitcom from the 90s.
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky must be turning in his grave. The Nutcracker is a legendary two-act ballet that was based on E.T.A Hoffman's The Nutcracker and the Mouse King. Over the last century, the ballet served as inspiration for many film adaptations, including a segment in Disney's Fantasia. Arguably the most tone-deaf is 2010's The Nutcracker in 3D, a children's movie that is likely to inadvertently terrify its target audience. The cast, which includes Elle Fanning and Richard E. Grant, is easily the best thing about this misguided Christmas movie, although nobody could have saved this one. The Nutcracker in 3D is full of Nazi-symbolism and barely holds a passing resemblance to the original ballet. Show this to your kids only if they were particularly naughty.
In recent years, The Smurfs has proven to be a money-making machine. Naturally, a holiday special was ordered to take advantage of the holiday shoppers. Grouchy wants a hand glider for Christmas but gets angry when he only receives a hat. Despite everyone getting the same present, Grouchy Smurf declares his hatred for Christmas because he did not receive what he desired. As this is based on A Christmas Carol, a few ghosts appear to teach Grouchy that family and sharing is the true meaning of Christmas. On its surface, this is a pretty straightforward story, but the only reason Grouchy expected a hand glider was due to Joker Smurf confirming it was his Christmas present. Grouchy had every right to be disappointed, as he was practically turned into the butt of a pretty mean-spirited joke.
After repeatedly leaving behind their son, the McCallisters are hardly going to win any parents of the year awards. Okay, it was a pretty hectic morning, so we can kind of understand how they might forget to check whether Kevin is actually with them. The fact that it happens twice is rather insane, but let us give them the benefit of the doubt. Overall, Kevin is a pretty well-behaved kid. He knows how to do the shopping and spends most of his free-time watching gangster films on the television. Wait, the latter is far from a positive sign. Kevin loves his black-and-white mob flicks, to the point that he can quote some of the dialogue. It hardly seems like he just happened to stumble upon them during Home Alone, so do his parents just let him watch whatever he wants?
Cartoons in the 1980s were primarily designed to sell toys. That might sound cynical, but He-Man and the Masters of the Universe was LITERALLY based on a toy line. These shows were low-budget and cheesy, but they had a certain goofy charm to them. They were far from pretentious, as the studios seemed to know exactly what they were creating. He-Man & She-Ra: A Christmas Special made the fatal mistake of trying to teach a moral that directly contradicts the show's reason for existing. Adam and Adora end up helping out a few children with their prep work for a party; before informing the viewer that, while receiving presents is fun, Christmas is really about caring and goodwill. This is followed up by a tongue-in-cheek Orko saying that presents make him happy on Christmas, reminding parents that He-Man toys are available to purchase.
Ignoring Paul Rubens' less than PG real-life reputation, this special lands on the naughty list. Pee-Wee's Playhouse follows the adventures of a man-child, who ventures into a strange house filled with cool gadgets and toys. There is also a disembodied genie's head who grants wishes. While the series did offer a few worthwhile morals for children, the content often celebrates materialism and one's imagination. Pee-Wee ends up including too many things on his list for Santa, leaving no room for any other child to receive a present. After being sent on a guilt trip, Pee-Wee gives up his presents for the rest of the world. Also, he wishes for world peace, because Pee-Wee is secretly not a selfish man-child.
I want a Dog for Christmas, Charlie Brown was the third Christmas-themed special written by Charles M. Schulz. It was released nearly 40 years after A Charlie Brown Christmas and is nowhere near as iconic. Still, there are a handful of cool moments spread throughout this relatively long TV special. Rerun is jealous of Charlie's relationship with Snoopy, so he asks his parents to get him a dog for Christmas. After spending a bit of time with Snoopy's brother, Rerun realizes that dogs can be troublesome and decides against getting a pet. The story's theme is hard to digest, as the special glorifies commercialism for the most part. Rerun learns that animals are not toys, but the only person who really suffers is the abandoned Spike.
Deck the Halls is objectively terrible. A Christmas movie does not necessarily have to be whimsical and cheery, but this "comedy" is mean-spirited just for the sake of it. The laughable central conflict sees Danny Devito and Matthew Broderick fighting over their Christmas decorations, as they try to out-Christmas their neighbor. The juvenile premise is made worse by the disgusting humor, which includes a scene where Ferris Bueller is drenched in camel mucous. Deck the Halls is way too mean-spirited for children while offering jokes that nobody over the age of four could possibly find funny. Broderick's character is particularly terrible, as he steals fireworks and occasionally passes a lewd comment at his daughter's expense.
The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus is noteworthy due to being Rankin/Bass' final stop-motion production. From this point on, they would focus exclusively on traditional animation. So, was this 1985 production a worthwhile final project? Well, it is pretty surreal. Based on L. Frank Baum's children's book with the same name, the story tries to present every single tradition associated with the festive season without referencing religion. It is a Christmas special designed for atheists, making it relatively unique. This is definitely not for everyone, as some children might struggle to accept certain plot points. For example, the story starts with a council meeting discussing whether Santa Claus should be granted immortality. Also, he was raised by a lioness.
Since this is a Christmas-themed list, we are going to focus on this poor excuse for a TV special, but some of this criticism could be leveled at anything related to Grumpy Cat. Thanks to the internet, cats can now be considered celebrities. In the case of Tardar Sauce, her defining features were a genetic mutation known as feline dwarfism and an underbite. This pretty much resulted in shorter legs and the inability to properly smile. For a few years, children around the world were asking Santa to create more physical deformed cats. This Lifetime movie capitalized on the feline's genetic condition to try and make a quick buck. Before you give up on the human race, the special was rather poorly received and Grumpy Cat has faded into obscurity.
Note to studios, throwing in a cheesy moral at the very end does not justify an entire movie of reprehensible behavior. Jonathan Taylor Thomas rose to prominence as the voice of The Lion King's Simba, although his star did not shine brightly for very long. When it comes to Christmas family comedies, I'll Be Home For Christmas sits at the bottom of the barrel. Thomas' Jake is a spoiled teenager who does not want to return home for Christmas. Desperate to get the family together, his father promises to give him a Porsche if he happens to show up. Jake is motivated solely by the car and goes through a lot of trouble to get home in time. Obviously, he decides to reject the Porsche for no real reason other than the movie needing to teach a lesson. Next time just stick to your guns. We would have respected you more.
Christmas Evil pioneered the notion of the psychotic Santa Clause, beating Silent Night, Deadly Night to the punch. So, why is a slasher movie on this list? Obviously, it is not made for children. Well, the ending is hilariously inappropriate for all ages. For the most part, Christmas Evil is relatively restrained, as it shows how the down-on-his-luck Harry Stadling ends up as a serial killer. The movie does a decent job of establishing Harry as a sympathetic character before he starts to slash his way through the entire neighborhood. Then, the twist ending happens, as they finally reveal what turned Harry into a monster. Are you ready for it? When he was a child, Harry's brother explained that Santa Clause was just his father in a costume.
Santa Claus Conquers the Martians is really not a good TV special, but there is a certain goofy charm to it. Desperate to instill some energy into their children, a group of Martians kidnaps Santa Claus so he can force a bit of Christmas-spirit down their throats. Apparently, this version of Saint Nick is rather powerful, as he can manipulate a child's emotional state without saying a word. During one particular scene, Santa meets two Martian children for the first time and just starts to laugh. Mind you, there is nothing particularly funny about the situation, but Santa works in mysterious ways. Perhaps scared of what might happen to them if they anger this strange alien, the children copy his behavior and start laughing. The magic of Christmas is inescapable.
With classics like Suburban Commando and Mr. Nanny, Hulk Hogan spent the majority of his film career chasing after trends. Santa with Muscles was released in 1996, a few years after John Hughes' almost single-handedly revived the Christmas-movie genre. The Hulkster is an arrogant and corrupt millionaire who is wanted by the police. After a thrilling chase sequence, the wrestler dresses up as a mall Santa before banging his head and getting amnesia. Hogan starts to genuinely believe he is Santa Clause, as he becomes a hero for the neighborhood children. His change of heart is instigated by a smack to the skull, which must have caused quite a bit of harm. Why bother teaching the protagonist a lesson when you could just let brain damage do all the work?
Randy Brooks' Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer is a novelty song famous due to its ridiculous title. The verses talk about a drunken Grandmother who stumbles into a sandstorm before being greeted by Santa's sled. 20 years later, WB decides that a Christmas special based on the song was exactly what the doctor ordered. In this version, Grandma is not addicted to drink and Santa is just an irresponsible driver. After crashing into her, Saint Nick kidnaps the old women and holds her hostage for nine months. Sure, he says that he has no idea who she is, but how about leaving her at the town's hospital rather than trying to cover up the incident? What are you afraid of Santa? Does this accident violate your parole?
By this point, Saving Christmas is practically legendary. The religious Christmas-themed movie could not by anymore tone-deaf, but it should be watched just to bask in its glorious insanity. On the other hand, Last Ounce of Courage should be avoided like the plague. This Christian Christmas drama deals with a family grieving due to the man of the house passing away while serving his country in Afghanistan. Also, a few politicians decide to ban Christmas, prompting the father of the soldier to go on a warpath to save the memory of Jesus. No matter someone's religious beliefs, Last Ounce of Courage is bound to offend. The worst part happens during the climax, as the soldier's son decides to broadcast his father's final video - which includes his death scene - to an auditorium of innocent families.
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was originally released in 1964, were it quickly garnered a substantial following. The Rankin/Bass special continues to be shown around Christmas time and is among the studio's most popular creations. Rudolph was so loved by children, that a few sequels were commissioned with the deer as the central character.During the story, Rudolph and Hermey end up on the Island of Misfit Toys, where unloved presents are left to rot. After Rudolph proves himself to be a hero, Santa Claus promises to find a home for these toys. Unfortunately, the original did not show Saint Nick keeping his promise, as they never return to the island. After receiving complaints about this dropped plot point, the ending credits were changed to show Santa distributing the misfit toys.
During the 90s, Tim Allen could do no wrong. He was the voice of Toy Story's Buzz Lightyear, starred in a popular sitcom, and was Santa Claus. Santa Claus has aged quite well, mostly due to the inclusion of a few subtle adult jokes to compliment the sugary sweetness of the story. Considering that Tim Allen is more or less blackmailed into becoming the new Santa Claus, it should come as no surprise that the writers were willing to take a risk. Apparently, there was a single joke that went too far, as it was cut for the DVD version of Santa Claus. The line references a 1-800-SpankMe hotline, a service was occasionally used by the future Santa Claus. That explains why he is so jolly all of the time.
This joke is very easy to miss, as it barely lasts a second. Towards the beginning of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, a young Grinch stares through a window into a house where a party is taking place. On the table, there is a bowl filled with keys. What could that possibly mean? Would that not cause a lot of trouble for the Whos? They might end up with a key for someone else's house! For those blessed with a shred of innocence, this "game" is employed during a swingers party. Half of the visitors threw their keys into a bowl and the remaining members pick one at random. After the festivities end, they go home with the person that owns that key.
What is up with pro-wrestlers and terrible Christmas movies? Santa's Slay stares Bill Goldberg, a bodybuilder who was hardly known for his comedic timing. This Christmas-trainwreck aims to be a black comedy but falls way short of its goal. This version of Santa is actually the son of Satan, who was forced to deliver gifts after losing a bet. Now that he has served his time, Goldberg's Santa is out for revenge. The film goes from one gracious death scene to another, as it desperately tries to land a joke. Unfortunately, that would have required a Christmas miracle. There are more than a few incredibly offensive moments, including Santa burning a group of strippers because of their job and James Caan appearing for one of his more regrettable cameos.
Olaf's Frozen Adventure was pulled from cinemas due to a lackluster reception. When it comes to Frozen, the bubble might have finally burst. Unlike the original movie, this short is actually set during Christmas, as Olaf attempts to discover traditions that could be enjoyed by Elsa and Anna. Shockingly, this leads to hijinks, as Olaf finds himself in a few troubling situations. Olaf's Frozen Adventure is a series of gags, with barely anything at stake. Despite Frozen making a bit deal out of it, Olaf melts away in a sauna before being reassembled without any fuss. To be fair, there are a handful of genuinely funny gags, with a percentage targeted towards adults. At one point, the anthropomorphic snowman gets high after switching his carrot nose with a candy cane.
A bit of sibling rivalry never hurt anyone. Frederick Claus is Santa's underachieving brother, who grew up with a huge inferiority complex due to Mother Claus preferring his younger brother. Fred Claus is a fish-out-of-water story, as Frederick visits Nick at the North Pole. Vince Vaughn does his usual stick, as he tries to impress the elves by playing the part of the "cool" uncle. While the movie is really nothing special, there are a few cool ideas, like a snow globe that allows Santa to check whether someone is naughty or nice. After Nick shows this impressive device to his brother, Fred asks whether they can check up on the Swedish Women's Swimming Team, just to make sure they were not being naughty. Subtelty and Fred Claus go hand in hand.
The Abominable Snowmonster of the North is the closest thing that Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer has to a villain. Bumble hates everything related to Christmas, and he would love nothing more than to have Rudolph for dinner. After being captured by the Snowmonster, Rudolph and Hermey manage to knock him out by using a big rock. While he is unconscious, Hermey removes Bumble's teeth and rends him helpless. Just to be clear, the heroes of the story operated on an unconscious monster and surgically extracted his teeth. Bumble is a predator who is rendered defenseless without his fangs, so Hermey's actions were pretty much a death sentence. Bumble turns good at the end; but, by that point, he hardly had a choice.
Selecting a single dirty joke from Bad Santa is like trying to limit yourself to one piece of chocolate from an entire assortment. Eventually, temptation wins out and you are left with an empty box and a stomach ache. Billy Bob Thornton's Willie is a professional thief who dresses up as a department store Santa Claus to rob the mall during the night. Addicted to everything under the sun, Willie's life turns upside down when a young boy believes he is the real Santa. Surprisingly, the angry crook is not great with children, resulting in a few scenes of verbal abuse. There is not a single moment in Bad Santa that is appropriate for children and that is why we love it.