ten best

by Keith Barber

Children’s Christmas movies and TV specials

How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

The 1966 animated short film directed by Chuck Jones features film icon Boris Karloff, who narrates and performs the role of the Grinch — the bitter and hateful hermit who hatches a plan to steal Christmas from the Whos in Whoville. Karloff even sings a classic song, “You’re a mean one, Mr. Grinch.” Based on Dr. Seuss’s classic children’s tale, How the Grinch Stole Christmas is a morality play about the true meaning of Christmas. For 45 years, children of all ages have enjoyed watching the Grinch’s transformation through the power of love.

A Charlie Brown Christmas

Legendary animator Charles Schulz, creator of the Peanuts cartoon strip, expressed his own personal views about the commercialism of Christmas through the character of Charlie Brown in his 1965 animated TV special, A Charlie Brown Christmas. Frustrated by the materialism associated with the holiday season, Charlie Brown seeks to find the answer to his most pressing question, “Doesn’t anyone know what Christmas is all about!?” Linus supplies the answer, quoting from the Bible, specifically the second chapter of Luke as he tells of the birth of Jesus.

Home Alone

The 1990 film by director Chris Columbus catapulted McCauley Culkin to stardom and quickly became a holiday favorite of families everywhere. When 8-year-old Kevin McAllister is accidentally left home alone when they depart one morning to spend their Christmas holiday in France, he has to defend his home against two bumbling criminals played brilliantly by Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern.

Rudoph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer

One of the most beloved animated Christmas specials, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer first aired on CBS in December 1964. Sam the Snowman, played by Burl Ives, narrates the story of Rudolph, a young reindeer who is teased by his fellow reindeer because of his big red flashing nose. Feeling like an outcast, Rudolph departs the North Pole and eventually returns to ask Santa’s help to repair some misfit toys. Santa has bigger ideas for his young reindeer as he asks Rudolph’s help guide his sleigh through a foggy Christmas Eve.

The Polar Express

This 2004 animated feature film features a fantastic performance by Tom Hanks, who plays a variety of roles including the conductor of a magical train bound for the North Pole. Based on a children’s story by Chris Van Allsburg, The Polar Express tells the story of a young boy, also played by Hanks, who is beginning to doubt if Santa Claus really exists.

The Santa Clause

The 1994 film The Santa Clause garnered a People’s Choice Award for Best Comedy Motion Picture in this heartwarming story of a recent divorcée, played by Tim Allen, who is discouraged when he finds out his ex-wife is about to tell their 6-year-old son there is no Santa Claus. Allen is asked to take on the job, and he has no choice but to accept.

Frosty the Snowman

Jimmy Durante narrates this 1969 animated Christmas classic, based on the beloved holiday song, that tells the story of a young girl who places a magician’s hat on a snowman and watches him come to life. Karen tries to help Frosty get to a colder climate so he might survive, but fate soon takes a hand.

Christmas Vacation

Clark Griswold strives to have the best Christmas holiday ever but things quickly fall apart as his experiment at placing holiday lights on his entire home goes terribly awry. Then Clark, played by Chevy Chase, must deal with his wife’s moronic cousin, played brilliantly by Randy Quaid, as he and his children wreak havoc on the Griswold home.

A Christmas Story

“You’ll shoot your eye out, kid,” has become a holiday catchphrase due in large part to the brilliant 1983 film A Christmas Story, starring Peter Billingsle. Ralphie’s quest is simple: a Red Ryder 200-shot carbine action Range model air rifle. He will stop at nothing to win his prized “blue steel,” as he unsuccessfully drops hints to his parents and in an act of desperation, asks a department store Santa Claus. Featuring some of the funniest scenes of any Christmas movie ever made (i.e., the triple-dog dare scene) A Christmas Story has quickly become a holiday tradition on a par with It’s a Wonderful Life.


Will Ferrell takes his star turn in the Christmas comedy Elf, which tells the story of Buddy, a 30-year-old man who thinks he’s an elf — that is, until Papa Elf breaks the news that Buddy’s actually human, and was put up for adoption as a baby. Buddy then travels to New York City to find his birth father, Walter Hobbs, who works at a children’s book company. Buddy befriends Jovie, played by Zooey Deschanel, while working at a department store and sparks fly.