(Photo by Courtesy: Artisan Entertainment, Rankin/Bass Productions, Classic Media)

12 Rankin/Bass Christmas Specials Ranked by Tomatometer

It’s simply not Christmas on television without the holiday stop-motion classics from Rankin/Bass, the production company founded in 1960 by Arthur Rankin, Jr., and Jules Bass. Did you know that 1964’s Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is the longest-running special on television? This year, AMC is hosting a multi-day Rankin/Bass marathon that began in late November and runs through late December andincludes airings of Nestor the Long-Eared DonkeyRudolph’s Shiny New Year, and, of course, Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town.

For every holiday icon there’s a Rankin/Bass movie to explain its backstory: from Rudolph (ostracized by other reindeer for his famous cherry nose) to Santa (alienated from his peers before donning that big red suit); from an elf who’d rather fix teeth than build toys to a donkey ridiculed for his basset hound–like ears and soft Eeyore-like demeanor. There are also several lesser-known tales, such as Cricket on the Hearth (an animated adaptation of a Charles Dickens short story) and two installments of The Little Drummer Boy story, and even stories for other holidays (New Year’s, Easter, and pseudo–St. Patrick’s Day).

We’ve ranked the top 12 Rankin/Bass specials by their Tomatometer scores, and included a few unscored films at the end to show you more of the titles in their catalog. Though its score is based on fewer reviews than some of Rankin/Bass’ more familiar films, the top-ranking movie might still surprise you.

#1
#1
Adjusted Score: 63243%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: A re-telling of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol."... [More]
#2
Adjusted Score: 96599%
Critics Consensus: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is a yule-tide gem that bursts with eye-popping iconography, a spirited soundtrack, and a heart-warming celebration of difference.
Synopsis: This stop-motion animagic version of the classic Christmas tale adds a bit of a twist when Rudolph encounters an abominable... [More]
Directed By: Maury Laws, Larry Roemer
#3
Adjusted Score: 94375%
Critics Consensus: Arriving with light-hearted cheeriness and the best musical numbers, Santa Claus Is Comin To Town is a magical story told by charming wood-figure animation.
Synopsis: A lanky mailman (voiced by Fred Astaire) tells the story of Santa Claus. Adopted by an elf family named Kringle,... [More]
#4
Adjusted Score: 91725%
Critics Consensus: Have no fear! Mrs Claus spreads holiday cheer in The Year Without Santa, a holiday classic full of unforgettable songs and characters that stays true to the Christmas spirit.
Synopsis: Sidelined by a nasty cold and feeling unneeded, Santa decides not to make his annual Christmas journey. Elves Jingle and... [More]
#5
#5
Adjusted Score: 74313%
Critics Consensus: Frosty the Snowman is a jolly, happy sing-along that will delight children with its crisp animation and affable title character, who makes an indelible impression with his corncob pipe, button nose, and eyes made out of coal.
Synopsis: A discarded magic top hat brings to life the snowman that a group of children made, until a magician, professor... [More]
#6
#6
Adjusted Score: 75752%
Critics Consensus: The Little Drummer Boy is a mature addition to the Rankin-Bass catalogue, with a powerful conclusion that compensates for the special's dour storytelling and unpolished animation.
Synopsis: An orphaned boy who hates humanity encounters the baby Jesus in Bethlehem. Music by the Vienna Boys Choir.... [More]
#7
Adjusted Score: 64414%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: When Santa Claus removes the citizens of a small town from his delivery itinerary after an insulting letter in the... [More]
#8
Adjusted Score: 53685%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Immortals adopt a mortal baby, who later returns to Earth to make children happy.... [More]
#9
#9
Adjusted Score: 50137%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer must save the day when Happy, the new baby New Year, goes missing. Father Time asks... [More]
#10
Adjusted Score: 56095%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Guided by his guardian cherub, an orphan donkey realizes his destiny on the road to Bethlehem.... [More]
#11

Jack Frost (1979)
57%

#11
Adjusted Score: 45109%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: ... [More]
#12
Adjusted Score: 11522%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (Billie Mae Richards) realizes his famous red nose is getting dim. Santa Claus (Mickey Rooney) explains... [More]
#N/A
#N/A
Adjusted Score: -1%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: An animated musical adaptation of Charles Dickens' 1845 novella.... [More]
#N/A
Adjusted Score: -1%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Lonely at the North Pole, the magic snowman is pleased when his human friends build a wife for him. He... [More]
#N/A
Adjusted Score: -1%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: In search of a Christmas tree, a boy accidentally releases a bad-tempered banshee from her pine-tree prison.... [More]
#N/A
#N/A
Adjusted Score: 11757%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Pinocchio joins a puppet show to earn money for Geppetto's Christmas gift.... [More]
#N/A

Santa, Baby! (2001)

#N/A
Adjusted Score: -1%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Prodded by a magical partridge, a songwriter becomes a sidewalk Santa and finds the inspiration to write a hit song... [More]
Directed By: Lee Dannacher
#N/A
Adjusted Score: -1%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: A toy rabbit's plans to cheer up an ill girl on Easter take a gloomy turn when an evil bunny... [More]
#N/A
Adjusted Score: -1%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Aaron and his animal friends try to recover three stolen silver bells. ... [More]
#N/A
Adjusted Score: -1%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: When a young shepherd is blinded by lightning, nuns at a nearby abbey take him in.... [More]