19 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 | November 24, 2020 | 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.

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)


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.

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. Seuss’ whimsical illustrations into live-action, and the results aren’t particularly good, for goodness sake. But, while the Dr. Seuss-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.

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)


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)


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)


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)


It’s fair (if a little reductive) to say that The Holiday is what 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.

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 Ice Harvest (2005)


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 wintry 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 (1996)


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.

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)


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 (2000)


Another action flick set at Christmastime, Reindeer Games sets itself apart from Die Hard and The Ice Harvest,/i> 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.

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)


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.”

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.

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.

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.

On an Apple device? Follow Rotten Tomatoes on Apple News.

Tag Cloud

Thanksgiving romantic comedy biography hispanic heritage month scene in color cinemax Holiday Emmys concert new star wars movies cooking Ghostbusters 79th Golden Globes Awards Anna Paquin 94th Oscars Oscars sitcom summer TV Musical award winner emmy awards Mindy Kaling Chernobyl Sundance crossover ABC Pixar Polls and Games Star Wars remakes Sony free movies BBC One Lifetime Christmas movies Best Actor Drama sag awards Hollywood Foreign Press Association Vudu Fox Searchlight christmas movies posters Podcast TV Geeked Week Freeform Arrowverse 90s President Disney Channel twilight telelvision green book DGA Spike Tags: Comedy game of thrones venice superhero target scene in color Netflix Christmas movies streamig chucky Elton John golden globes sequels Britbox CBS screen actors guild Mary Tyler Moore marvel cinematic universe werewolf GIFs Reality Competition james bond french APB Hulu Turner Classic Movies Awards slasher Ovation sports witnail diversity laika trophy Spectrum Originals Wes Anderson Emmy Nominations obi wan NBA Apple TV Plus Crunchyroll Pacific Islander blaxploitation Paramount Plus superman crime Watching Series festivals PBS 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards mcc Peacock New York Comic Con doctor who Sundance TV IMDb TV Family Summer spanish language mission: impossible Mary Poppins Returns indie gangster Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt streaming Captain marvel SDCC CNN Esquire pirates of the caribbean psycho First Reviews singing competition live action godzilla Showtime slashers YouTube Sci-Fi Endgame TIFF deadpool Marvel Television robots art house satire Indigenous TCA Winter 2020 dragons Pop TV History a nightmare on elm street Disney Interview harry potter talk show TV Land Spring TV ratings Nominations Superheroe cancelled TV shows dexter zombie 72 Emmy Awards Disney streaming service 2015 Shudder TCA 2017 Kids & Family rt labs critics edition DC Universe ESPN Brie Larson binge Television Academy space live event GLAAD Fox News E! Infographic DC streaming service legend rotten movies we love supernatural 24 frames TV One NYCC 2017 Baby Yoda PlayStation sequel independent renewed TV shows Prime Video marvel comics VH1 ViacomCBS Quiz justice league kids LGBTQ crime thriller A&E YouTube Premium latino Crackle First Look HBO Max vs. Musicals Trophy Talk japanese Broadway leaderboard Sony Pictures Year in Review cars mob Universal Pictures Starz theme song Shondaland Disney+ Disney Plus kong Set visit Alien SundanceTV new york Syfy ghosts 1990s Tubi rom-coms Best Director 93rd Oscars RT21 FX on Hulu Apple TV+ Valentine's Day GoT festival nbcuniversal South by Southwest Film Festival 2020 halloween Funimation movie TCA VICE political drama The Academy Bravo aliens 2016 miniseries The Walking Dead HBO Go Film Festival YouTube Red Tumblr travel comiccon Hallmark Christmas movies Amazon Prime AMC CBS All Access Martial Arts dogs thriller Calendar natural history romance Rocketman disaster Song of Ice and Fire El Rey rt archives toy story Hallmark hist children's TV 45 teaser boxoffice adventure directors cancelled high school Discovery Channel technology comics Disney Plus king kong cops Native monster movies jamie lee curtis Chilling Adventures of Sabrina spy thriller Mudbound The Arrangement mockumentary vampires streaming movies Trivia classics Winter TV anime Western suspense based on movie Comedy Central Mary poppins popular Mystery CMT batman Tarantino DirecTV television critic resources Super Bowl CW Seed Awards Tour universal monsters PaleyFest 20th Century Fox Tokyo Olympics jurassic park Television Critics Association Comic-Con@Home 2021 Rock 2018 best Comedy See It Skip It trailers Epix Paramount Network TLC fast and furious MSNBC Rocky A24 TV renewals movies blockbusters OneApp IFC Films scary worst movies Classic Film Amazon Fall TV mutant Character Guide black comedy Apple Ellie Kemper Box Office Toys dc OWN action-comedy Teen American Society of Cinematographers Paramount Music Hear Us Out Lionsgate spider-verse obituary Horror Tomatazos The Witch cartoon richard e. Grant MTV 99% quibi child's play king arthur stop motion Holidays Best and Worst WGN razzies discovery Fargo joker Premiere Dates Lucasfilm Animation Dark Horse Comics Columbia Pictures Star Trek psychological thriller Election italian adenture 2021 hidden camera Creative Arts Emmys revenge MCU Adult Swim interviews news women toronto RT History lord of the rings scary movies comic book movie Trailer finale ABC Family Acorn TV comedies AMC Plus worst BBC America broadcast police drama Winners Sundance Now Comic Book unscripted 73rd Emmy Awards archives summer preview BBC hollywood spanish Stephen King 2019 Pet Sematary VOD spider-man basketball spain asian-american SXSW target Grammys Neflix cults comic book movies TNT canceled TV shows hispanic San Diego Comic-Con Heroines HFPA FXX Exclusive Video Writers Guild of America football BET Awards Reality series Cartoon Network south america Lifetime Christmas Cosplay WarnerMedia films serial killer Superheroes japan olympics Women's History Month Travel Channel Image Comics heist movie genre science fiction dramedy scene in color film series dceu aapi E3 Opinion true crime blockbuster summer TV preview war HBO Paramount Pictures 007 ID The Purge politics Best Actress facebook Best Picture canceled Oscar franchise Star Wars Celebration crime drama comic books criterion biopic casting Photos Academy Awards saw Biopics nfl transformers composers feel good SXSW 2022 rotten 71st Emmy Awards Schedule NBC ABC Signature Marvel Countdown scorecard MGM book cancelled TV series international historical drama Certified Fresh cats X-Men comic all-time video Fantasy Universal 4/20 adaptation The CW wonder woman Amazon Studios young adult reviews Pirates Country Nat Geo DC Comics medical drama National Geographic Masterpiece prank FOX Warner Bros. new zealand elevated horror documentaries versus stoner LGBT animated Turner name the review zero dark thirty strong female leads TV movies kaiju royal family Amazon Prime Video Red Carpet Marathons australia Pride Month indiana jones Action BAFTA fresh Logo Netflix TruTV Extras Rom-Com die hard cancelled television Instagram Live halloween tv TBS docuseries anthology Walt Disney Pictures know your critic stand-up comedy Black History Month tv talk Cannes BET IFC sopranos boxing debate Marvel Studios black Black Mirror dark screenings rt labs social media Focus Features docudrama TCM 21st Century Fox video on demand Binge Guide game show reboot critics TCA Awards Avengers period drama parents FX Comics on TV Sneak Peek documentary Film book adaptation Pop Video Games zombies Nickelodeon USA dreamworks spinoff nature Food Network what to watch Legendary scene in color series USA Network golden globe awards YA foreign ITV The Walt Disney Company breaking bad