News

20 Rotten Christmas Movies We Love

Have a very Rotten Christmas with this list of holiday duds that somehow fill us with Christmas joy.

by and | December 6, 2019 | Comments

(Photo by © 20th Century Fox, © Buena Vista, @ Universal)
Just because a film is Rotten doesn’t mean it doesn’t come with plenty of Christmas cheer — or at least enough one-liners, touching scenes, or outright weirdness — for it to win our affections at this time of year. This Christmas, for the first time, we at Rotten Tomatoes are spreading the love, giving you an expanded list of the Best Christmas Movies ever – all Fresh and sparkly and ranked by Tomatometer – but also the below list of movies that fall on the Rotten end of the Tomatometer, but which are still on our own nice lists come December. They’re movies the critics mostly dismissed, but that are still worth your yuletide time.

A Bad Moms Christmas (2017) 31%

This 2017 sequel celebrates Father Christmas by doubling the number of moms in the first film. Titular bad moms Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell, and Kathryn Hahn butt heads with their own mothers, played by Christine Baranski, Cheryl Hines, and Susan Sarandon, in a comedy that doesn’t aspire to much more than a chance for these talented actresses to pass on a little Christmas cheer and chaos. And that they do. 


Almost Christmas (2016) 49%

The worst thing Almost Christmas has going for it is also the best thing: it’s so familiar. It’s a big family coming together for the holidays and they all have their own personal drama and relationships but also there’s love there, and more than a few laughs. We’ve seen this movie before, but we keep seeing it (and studios keep making it) because it works. Like milk and cookies for Santa, comedy-dramas like Almost Christmas and the yuletide are a natural, comforting fit.  


Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000) 50%

No, not the classic animated special featuring Frankenstein’s Monster himself, Boris Karloff, as the narrator; that holiday gem sits at 100% on the Tomatometer. This Jim Carrey vehicle, directed by Ron Howard, translates Dr. Suess’ whimsical illustrations into live-action, and the results aren’t particularly good, for goodness sake. But, while the Dr. Suess-meets-Tim Burton’s nightmares aesthetic is a bit unsettling, the comedy holds up — especially in a scene where the Grinch’s own echo shouts “you’re an idiot” at him.


Ernest Saves Christmas (1988) 36%

You’ve got to appreciate a movie that gives the whole plot away in the title. One of the earliest Ernest films, Ernest Saves Christmas sees Ernest (who began life as a character in local TV commercials) helping Santa Claus as he seeks his replacement. It’s kind of a proto-Santa Clause, in a weird way. 


The Family Stone (2005) 53%

Imagine if the worst blowout your family had over a holiday meal was a movie, and also kinda charming and cathartic rather than stressful. That’s The Family Stone, which stars the great Diane Keaton as a forceful matriarch and Sarah Jessica Parker as a potential (emphasis on the “potential”) future daughter-in-law. Rachel McAdams as a kind of Regina George in sweatpants almost steals the show. Bring tissues.


Four Christmases (2008) 24%

Four Christmases understands that the holidays can be rough, especially if you’re dealing with multiple families who may or may not all like each other and/or you and your partner. This 2008 film – which has developed a following over the past decade – adds some hilarious big-name actors (Vince Vaughn, Reese Witherspoon) to that reality in order to create a movie experience that’s a relatable escape. Look out for a very funny turn by Katy Mixon, who would go on to star in American Housewife.


Last Christmas (2019) 47%

Take the Mother of Dragons and the hot guy from Crazy Rich Asians, mix them with the music of George Michael, bring in Emma Thompson to co-write the script and Paul Feig to direct, and sprinkle a bit of holiday magic over the whole thing, and you’re looking at Last Christmas. Look, we get that the story is somewhat predictable — pretty much everyone figured out where it was going just from watching the trailer — and it’s all a tad overly sentimental, but with this kind of pedigree, it’s hard not to be charmed by its immensely likable stars and its feel-good fuzziness.


The Holiday (2006) 49%

It’s fair (if a little reductive) to say that The Holiday is what Love Actually would be if it only focused on two couples instead of, like, 25. Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet star as two women who swap homes for the holidays and fall in love with Jude Law and Jack Black, respectively. A little predictable, sure, but in that special way that’s warm and reassuring — the Christmas rom-com equivalent of chestnuts roasting on an open fire.


Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992) 33%

There’s something charmingly old-school about Kevin McCallister’s second adventure. He travels to New York by mistake thanks to lax airport security regulations, enjoys a New York City that feels bygone for some vague nostalgic reason, and Donald Trump makes a cameo (that was cute, rather than controversial, at the time). But, if remembering Christmases of yesteryear isn’t enough for you, Home Alone 2 is worth it if only because it’s a hoot to see young Kevin inflict a possibly fatal amount of damage to the hapless Wet Bandits, once again.


The Grinch (2018) 59%

If the Jim Carrey-fied live-action Grinch movie (see above) wasn’t quite your bag, it’s worth checking out this animated update on the iconic Dr. Seuss story. We aren’t saying the original animated adaptation isn’t also without its charms; it’s still a holiday classic worthy of celebration. But the visual upgrade you get with 2018’s The Grinch is ridiculously gorgeous, and the film’s attempt to, er, “humanize” the Grinch himself — he was an orphan! He has an adorable dog! — is actually touching, even if it robs the character of some of the bite he needs to make his redemption more compelling.


The Ice Harvest (2005) 47%

The Ice Harvest is a Christmas movie in the way Die Hard is a Christmas movie: Arguably. Harold Ramis’ thriller comedy is set on Christmas Eve, and there’s a cool wintery vibe throughout the whole thing. It’s enough to make The Ice Harvest a good Christmas watch when you want to come up for some less holly jolly air while still feeling like you’re honoring the Christmas spirit.  


Jingle All the Way (1997) 15%

Jingle All the Way is not just an unfairly maligned Christmas movie — it’s also a pretty good Power Rangers movie in disguise. Turbo-Man is a hero for our time, as are dads like Howard Langston (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and Myron Larabee (Sinbad) who, in the true spirit of Christmas (read: capitalism), will brave crowded malls to make sure their kids get the perfect present under the tree on Christmas morn.


Office Christmas Party (2016) 41%

A typical workplace Christmas party is either underwhelming (oh, there’s fake holly in the break room) or a terrible mistake (how many co-workers did I kiss?). This 2016 comedy is about the latter sort. Starring Jason Bateman, Olivia Munn, and T.J. Miller, Office Christmas Party doesn’t quite go so far as to put the “X” in “X-mas,” but it certainly earns its R rating, making it a rowdy change of pace for this time of year.


The Polar Express (2004) 56%

Robert Zemeckis’ take on the classic Christmas children’s book was extremely ambitious — only problem was that motion-capture technology wasn’t quite there yet in 2004, so CGI Tom Hanks and Co. ride the titular train straight through the uncanny valley. You can’t help but appreciate what Zemeckis was trying to do, and there’s a very sweet Christmas story underneath the eerily smooth textures. In fact, there’s a case to be made that the uncanny look of the movie only adds to the surreal holiday magic that propels this mighty train’s engines. A case – but not an open-and-shut one.


Reindeer Games (Deception) (2000) 25%

Another action flick set at Christmastime, Reindeer Games sets itself apart from Die Hard and The Ice Harvest by making the holiday a little more than just scenery. When Ben Affleck and Co. rob a casino, they’re all dressed as Santa Clauses (Santas plural, not the Tim Allen kind). Reindeer Games is a pretty thorough fusion of Christmas and kick-ass, which is no small feat.  


Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964) 23%

Kris Kringle doesn’t actually do much conquering in this extremely cheap-looking 1964 sci-fi comedy. Instead, Martians kidnap him in order to bring some Christmas cheer to their very boring martian children. Santa Claus Conquers the Martians is the subject of one of the best Mystery Science Theater 3000 episodes, but even without the bots’ commentary, it’s a hall-of-fame “so bad it’s good” flick – every character acts like they’re high on a mixture of sugarplums and quaaludes. Also, fun fact: This was the first time Mrs. Claus ever appeared on screen. 


The Santa Clause 2 (2002) 56%

The Santa Clause 2 is a charming second reminder to always read the fine print – and one that’s just 5% shy of Freshness on the Tomatometer. It’s fun to see Tim Allen as a more confident Santa Claus in his second go-around, and the film operates in a neat space thematically. Everything is fantastical and Christmasy, while also being grounded with talk of contracts, parenting, and finding love after divorce. Let’s call it “Christmas magical realism.”


Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984) 32%

It doesn’t take a lot of work to make the Santa Claus fable horrifying (“he knows when you are sleeping / he knows when you’re awake”). So, Silent Night, Deadly Night takes the next logical step and makes an axe-murderer out of him. There are some depictions of mental health in this movie that deserve big lumps of coal, but if you’re willing to just accept Silent Night, Deadly Night as a seasonally appropriate ’80s slasher, you won’t be disappointed.


Star Wars: Holiday Special (1978) 27%

George Lucas made a habit of going back to update or change parts of the Star Wars films he didn’t like for new “special editions,” but the one thing he can’t do is erase this 1978 TV special from history. Sure, there was a cool cartoon that introduced Boba Fett to the far, far, away galaxy, but the actors all look miserable and/or stoned, large swaths of the dialogue are incomprehensible Wookie-speak, and at one point Chewbacca’s grandpa gets noticeably horny. If you haven’t seen it, it’s worth tracking down this holiday season, if only to see why George hates it so much.


Whoever Slew Auntie Roo? (1971) 63%

Imagine if Psycho was set at Christmastime and centered on a demented British lady and her mummified daughter instead of a demented American man and his mummified mother. Who Slew Auntie Roo — originally titled Whoever Slew Auntie Roo?, because, British — is excellent counter-programming for all that colorful feel-good Christmas fare.

Tag Cloud

First Reviews Travel Channel universal monsters Character Guide AMC Opinion asian-american FX on Hulu dark IFC batman Film discovery documentary SDCC screen actors guild RT21 screenings miniseries crossover Pride Month Star Trek Awards Classic Film TLC canceled TV shows NBC The Walking Dead Watching Series Peacock Animation Netflix CBS Endgame Superheroe ESPN OWN HBO Go Black Mirror Thanksgiving Netflix Christmas movies cartoon TBS cinemax SundanceTV 24 frames sequel Interview Drama sag awards Apple CBS All Access mission: impossible CW Seed Nominations renewed TV shows A&E Mary poppins Mystery X-Men Mary Poppins Returns Baby Yoda Election medical drama Creative Arts Emmys joker 4/20 Television Academy criterion revenge children's TV Toys casting Mudbound Summer Stephen King facebook MCU best green book Martial Arts scary movies LGBTQ Tubi name the review Red Carpet Biopics indie Dark Horse Comics binge Sundance Now San Diego Comic-Con Emmy Nominations elevated horror richard e. Grant See It Skip It Disney Plus slashers golden globes cancelled emmy awards BBC America DC Universe FX Teen Tumblr period drama Spike dceu Captain marvel Pirates Rock cancelled TV shows GoT Amazon Studios Super Bowl SXSW indiana jones New York Comic Con psycho dc Valentine's Day USA cats sitcom spanish language unscripted Pop Reality supernatural Fantasy Disney+ Disney Plus news jamie lee curtis anthology natural history 2019 Winter TV Fox News Epix foreign WarnerMedia comiccon Musicals social media Trophy Talk dogs YA Walt Disney Pictures composers YouTube Red Columbia Pictures zombie adaptation Comics on TV die hard films USA Network travel 21st Century Fox crime drama cops hispanic cancelled television Crackle TV Land critics Apple TV Plus crime thriller blockbuster Countdown TIFF Action independent cooking YouTube Premium The Witch 007 politics HBO Mindy Kaling Discovery Channel streaming APB Disney streaming service versus canceled blaxploitation Oscars FXX Brie Larson reviews romance serial killer concert Logo cars American Society of Cinematographers hist Best and Worst Cannes 45 Esquire WGN Hallmark TCA Winter 2020 comics Comic Book OneApp Spectrum Originals CMT breaking bad PBS tv talk Disney Channel 20th Century Fox Spring TV Extras Sundance Trivia video Paramount Network Pixar Ellie Kemper Showtime Quiz 2020 nature Set visit TCA 2017 Schedule NYCC child's play Shondaland Music movies Amazon Prime Syfy The CW Apple TV+ Film Festival psychological thriller zero dark thirty Marvel Studios Warner Bros. Certified Fresh talk show based on movie TCM series historical drama Sony Pictures crime Food Network E3 El Rey Turner book Marvel Television true crime directors YouTube Mary Tyler Moore Polls and Games 71st Emmy Awards Adult Swim PaleyFest police drama Pet Sematary Cartoon Network DGA Grammys spinoff thriller kids doctor who BBC One game of thrones Sci-Fi documentaries TV Disney biography twilight BBC Acorn TV dragons ABC latino Horror docudrama cancelled TV series teaser ITV Podcast Infographic boxoffice Cosplay Sundance TV VOD christmas movies Kids & Family Starz Tomatazos Avengers sports Marathons Comedy Funimation Superheroes technology MSNBC DirecTV Paramount DC Comics all-time comic Star Wars robots CNN Nickelodeon Shudder ratings First Look Fall TV comedies Ghostbusters Rocketman war Academy Awards halloween FOX VH1 2018 HBO Max Chernobyl science fiction Holiday IFC Films Calendar Christmas Amazon Elton John Country witnail stoner television Musical Hallmark Christmas movies TV renewals History satire quibi free movies Lucasfilm Tarantino Freeform BAFTA disaster a nightmare on elm street Anna Paquin rotten movies we love TCA Awards Emmys Arrowverse Comedy Central E! DC streaming service 2015 Black History Month ghosts Bravo TNT Sneak Peek Year in Review Family adventure TCA Lifetime parents Premiere Dates Amazon Prime Video Rocky spain Vudu Winners zombies Western anime Heroines BET Awards Television Critics Association festivals space VICE reboot stand-up comedy LGBT Ovation GIFs political drama game show RT History Women's History Month singing competition Britbox Pop TV dramedy franchise video on demand movie PlayStation spy thriller Holidays Rom-Com Marvel award winner vampires MTV The Arrangement Lionsgate Song of Ice and Fire mutant what to watch strong female leads harry potter Trailer Chilling Adventures of Sabrina aliens cults Binge Guide Awards Tour transformers justice league animated theme song mockumentary Masterpiece Universal Box Office BET 2016 Nat Geo National Geographic Photos toy story Writers Guild of America Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt chucky spider-man werewolf Video Games President ABC Family Reality Competition Hulu The Purge 2017 Crunchyroll A24 south america TruTV Hear Us Out finale diversity GLAAD romantic comedy Lifetime Christmas movies Turner Classic Movies