Top 12 Greatest Christmas Specials
December 22nd, 2008
NC: Hello, I'm the Nostalgia Critic. I remember it-CHRISTMAS! Christmas-Christmas-Christmas-Christmas-Christmas-Christmas-CHRISTMAS!
When he starts saying "Christmas", he leaps up, then with each subsequent utterance, he puts up another decoration until he sits back down.
NC: I. LOVE. CHRISTMAS. Season of joy, best time of the year! If I could somehow make love to Christmas, I would, and then, I would eat it, to consume all its wholesome holiday juices. I love it that much. I love the snow, I love the presents, I love the decorations, I even love these obnoxious little novelty items that burn money like a Yuletide fire.
He pulls out the "Oh Christmas Tree" tree and starts it playing.
NC: But most of all, I love-
Tree: Uh-oh. I think I better "bough" out! Hahahahahahaha.
It plays part of the music again.
NC: ...huh. But most of all, I love the Christmas specials, the movies, the shows, the classic shorts, I love 'em all. But, which ones are the best? I mean, I know we all had to watch the Rankin-Bass stuff because we mentally enslaved ourselves to do so, but which specials hold up the best, which ones capture the true essence of Christmas? Which ones are the funniest, saddest, or most influential? Well, tonight, seeing how it's the 12 Days of Christmas, I'm counting down the Top 12 Christmas Specials of All Time. Why Top 12? BECAUSE IT'S CHRISTMAS!* This is the Top 12 Greatest Christmas Specials.
(*Also, he sorta just explained the connection to the 12 Days of Christmas thing. So really, if you didn't know why, you're an idiot)
"Carol of the Bells" (from The Addams Family) and a montage of Christmas images is the intro and title screen; Interlude
NC (voiceover): Number 12--"Merry Christmas, Mr. Bean".
Footage from the Mr. Bean Christmas episode
NC (voiceover): Living mostly in a world of silence, Mr. Bean shows us that you don't need dialogue to be funny or Christmas savvy. The character's kind of like a nine-year-old trapped in a man's body. So like a child, he encompasses all the excitement about Christmas, but not much of the heart.
A scene shows Mr. Bean shutting the door on a group of children carol singers without giving them anything.
NC (voiceover): He's selfish, but he's also innocent, just like most of the kids at Christmas time. A good example is where he's playing with a Nativity scene like a G. I. Joe playset. He's not being mean, he just doesn't know any better.
NC: I used to pretend that the Baby Jesus was a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle...I was grounded for a week.
NC (voiceover): There's also a great scene where he writes out a ton of Christmas cards and then sends them to himself. That's both funny and kinda sad at the same time. Most people remember the infamous "turkey on the head" scene, which results in one of the funniest lines in the show.
Irma Gobb: You got the turkey on?
Mr. Bean: (muffled) Yes.
NC (voiceover): There's also a great joke about getting his girlfriend a ring, but I won't DARE ruin it for you here. Bottom line, Mr. Bean was full of surprises and almost entirely visual humor, which just goes to prove that Christmas doesn't always have to be heard to be felt.
Mr. Bean: Merry Christmas, Mr. Bean.
NC (voiceover): Number 11--South Park: "A Woodland Critter's Christmas".
Footage of the episode
NC (voiceover): South Park has done a lot of Christmas specials, mostly with that little piece of crap Mr. Hankey, but the "Woodland Critters' Christmas" was, by far, their funniest, because it mixed everything that Christmas was with everything that Christmas wasn't. It dealt with all your Christmas favorites like the Devil, orgies, sacrifices, abortions, and that's just to name a few.
NC: Aha, well, Merry Christmas.
NC (voiceover): The special centers around Stan as he keeps performing all these favors for these weird talking animals called the Woodland Critters.
Narrator: There was Squirrely the squirrel, Rabbity the rabbit, Beavery the beaver and Beary the bear. Woodpeckery the woodpecker, Mousey the mouse, and Chickadee-y the chickadee.
Stan: What the hell?
NC (voiceover): There's even a narrator who tells Stan what to do in rhyme, whether Stan likes it or not.
Narrator: He ran out the living room, turned out the light, and went back to the forest to set everything right.
Stan just walks to the couch and starts watching TV.
Narrator: He thought he could hide from his problems, not true! He knew in his heart the thing he had to do.
Stan: Leave me ALONE!
Narrator: He knew that only by going to the forest could he-
Stan: All right, all right, all right! God!
NC (voiceover): I'm not showing much because this Christmas special literally has surprise after surprise, and each one just gets funnier and funnier, especially the reveal about who the Narrator is. Always shocking, always controversial, and always funny as hell, the "Woodland Critters' Christmas" special makes us all thankful that no matter WHERE we spend Christmas, at least we're not spending it in South Park.
NC (voiceover): Number 10--Disney's The Little Matchgirl.
Footage of the short film
NC (voiceover): All right, I'm kind of cheating on this one, as it's not focused entirely on Christmas. But look! There's a Christmas tree in it! But not only that, the importance of hope, dreams, and the helping of the needy certainly shine through. Most of you probably never heard of it, but believe me when I say it's one of Disney's finest. It's a seven-minute short that's both sad and uplifting, combining the elements of charity, love, and the fragile nature of human life. And... (sighs) ...I have to admit, it's one of the few things in my life that actually did manage to get me a little teary-eyed.
NC: Ah, shut up!
NC (voiceover): Unfortunately, the short is only featured on the Platinum DVD edition of The Little Mermaid, which I'm sure doesn't please people like The Nostalgia Chick. *
- Since this review came out, the short was in fact released as part of a Disney short film anthology on Blu-Ray, separately from Little Mermaid.
Footage from The Nostalgia Chick's "Top 11 Villainesses"
Nostalgia Chick: I hate this movie. "I sold my soul for a vagina and a man I don't know."
NC (voiceover): Needless to say, Little Matchgirl really does need its own DVD release. It's touching, endearing, and may be the strongest thing Disney has done since their "Avé Maria" from Fantasia. If you haven't discovered it yet, do yourself a favor this Christmas and definitely check it out.
NC (voiceover): Number 9--Home Alone.
Footage of Home Alone
NC (voiceover): When you get past all the slapstick and some of the throwaway jokes, Home Alone is actually a very likeable Christmas film. It's a movie that didn't HAVE to be very Christmas centered, but director Chris Columbus decided to go the extra mile by surrounding it in reds and greens, playing Christmas songs, and creating a very bratty but also very innocent character to observe it all. This could've just been another slapstick comedy, but they treated it seriously, giving it a lot of heart and a lot of soul. Macaulay Culkin is often remembered for being kind of this marketing icon, and his later movies definitely showed that. But look at him here, that's entirely genuine, capturing both the whiny, selfish side of being a kid, but also the innocent, loveable side as well. I especially love the mother and what almost psychotic lengths she goes to just to get home to her son.
Kate McCallister: THIS IS CHRISTMAS! The season of perpetual HOPE. If it costs me everything I own, if I have to sell my soul to the Devil himself, I am going to get home to my son.
NC (voiceover): Again, that's both funny and touching. And I love how when she does get home, Culkin doesn't forgive her at first. He remembers what she did, and he needs an acknowledgement of it.
Kate McCallister: Oh, Kevin, I'm so sorry.
NC (voiceover): And fortunately, that's all he needs. The family element in this movie actually seems very believable. Sure, they all fight, but in the end, they're still a family. And the Christmas spirit always manages to shine through.
NC: But let's be honest, that all comes from the paint buckets.
He shows the paint bucket scene from the movie, then laughs like an idiot.
NC (voiceover): Home Alone, because no one should have to spend Christmas by themselves.
NC (voiceover): Number 8--Miracle on 34th Street.
NC: This movie really knows how-
Tree: Gotta go! I need to pack my "trunk." Hahahahaha!
NC: ...that was annoying.
Footage of the movie
NC (voiceover): This movie really knows how to portray Santa Claus, in that he's not just a chubby, jolly guy. He's sophisticated and dignified, which only actor Edmund Gwenn could provide. It's basically about a man who really thinks he's Santa Claus, and so, a court case is drawn up to prove whether he is or not.
NC: 'Cause that's just what kids wanna watch, right? A court case!
NC (voiceover): Surprisingly, though, Miracle on 34th Street is very entertaining for kids. A lot of that's not just due to Gwenn, but also to a very young Natalie Wood, who seems smarter beyond her years, but still essentially a little kid.
Natalie Wood: He said "What kind of animal are you?" And I said "I'm not an animal, I'm a girl."
NC (voiceover): Unlike the remake, where the kid just seems like a walking pudding commercial.
Remake girl: I probably won't get a chance to see him. Unless I get arrested, which is very unlikely, since it's Christmas Eve and I'm going to bed uncharacteristically early.
NC: (mocking her) Aren't I just pwecious?
NC (voiceover): It's funny, because the exclamation of how Santa gets released with the mail argument doesn't really hold up anymore. In fact, that IS one of the few things the remake changed, which I actually thought was a good addition. But still, the actors really pull this off, making this a very charming and very elegant Christmas tale. A bit of class and taste is just what Santa ordered in this enjoyable classic.
Santa: And a very Merry Christmas to you!
Judge: Thank you, Mr. Kringle!
NC (voiceover): Number 7--The Small One.
Footage of the movie
NC (voiceover): This is another one I'm sure a lot of you haven't heard of, but it really is timeless. It's about a boy and his relationship with his donkey, who he has to sell because he's getting too old. The rest of the story follows the boy as he tries to find a suitable buyer. But none of them seem to be kind or generous enough for the boy to give him away.
NC: I have problems getting rid of my jackass, too.
A still shot of his brother, Rob, is shown.
NC: But I digress.
NC (voiceover): The ending is PRETTY easy to figure out, but I won't ruin it for those who haven't seen it. Let's just say it's a perfect ending to what is ultimately an enjoyable and charming Christmas special. It was directed by Don Bluth before he left the Disney department, and like most prime Bluth material, it tugs at your heartstrings and brings on the sadness. But like his films as well, it ends on a happy note, which, of course, makes everything okay.
NC: I'm emotionally scarred! But the ending is so happy!
NC (voiceover): It's one of his stronger pieces and yet it's only a half hour long, keeping it short and sweet. You can find it on this Disney holiday DVD at most DVD stores. And much like the Small One himself, it doesn't cost much, and is worth every penny.
NC (voiceover): Number 6--National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.
NC: Much like Home Alo-
Tree: I pine for ya, baby, I pine for ya, baby!
NC: Okay, your novelty is wearing off, tree. You're hanging on by a thread!
Footage from the film
NC (voiceover): Much like Home Alone, Christmas Vacation knew how to combine the annoyances, but also the charm of staying home for Christmas. What I really like about this movie is that it focuses on a lot of details. Sure, it has all the pratfalls and slapstick like many physical comedies, but it also has all the little moments that you don't think about but always recognize. Like the grandparents asleep on the chairs. Or someone just mindlessly watching a Christmas show. And ESPECIALLY the family conversations.
The montage of asinine conversations with family members that Clark and his wife go through when the relatives arrive is shown.
NC (voiceover): The film got all the bits that people find annoying, but also surprisingly endearing about Christmas time. That, and I'm always shocked that even though Chevy Chase plays such a filthy, dirty a-hole, he still seems to be likeable in his naivety. All he wants is the perfect vacation, which, of course, never happens. But by the end, he realizes all the memories it's left behind, and how they'll enjoy them forever. Funny, detailed, and capturing every Christmas moment, Christmas Vacation knew how to expose this holiday for the enjoyable curse that it is.
NC: And that's tha-
Tree: Hahaha, I've always been a singer, but I'm at a jump. I'm branchin' out! Get it? Haha!
NC: ...All right, tree, you talk one more time, and I'm gonna put a bullet in your head, and call it macaroni.
Close up on the tree, which is silent for the moment, but just when NC is about to talk-
Tree: Hope you got some tree-
NC whips out his gun and shoots it.
NC (voiceover): Number 5--It's a Wonderful Life.
Footage of the classic
NC (voiceover): I'll be honest, when I saw this movie, I was saying, "Come on, Christmas classic! Nourish the spirit within me, see whatcha' got! Oh, yeah, you got a special effect that looks like someone spilled coffee on it? This movie's gonna blow." But... (sighs) ...as I let the film play on, I, too, succumbed to the movie's goodwill and innocent characters. And by the time I was halfway through, I was totally hooked. The story, about how one man's life can affect so many people, truly is inspiring as well as heartwarming. Though I DID always find it a little sexist when Jimmy Stewart finds out what happens to his wife if he wasn't born.
George: Tell me where my wife is!
Clarence: I'm not supposed to tell!
George: Please, Clarence, tell me.
Clarence: You're not gonna like it, George.
George: Where is she?
Clarence: She's an old maid. She never married.
NC: (gasps) You mean she never got married? That's like the only important thing to a woman, isn't it?
George: Where is she? Where is she?!
Clarence: She's just about to close up the library!
NC: (gasps) And she's learning at the library! What kind of horrible world is this?!
NC (voiceover): For its faults, the movie REALLY knows how to give us what it promises, making us realize what a good and wonderful life we truly do have, especially around Christmas time. Jimmy Stewart as usual is chillingly good, and director Frank Capra really knows how to pour the cheerful schmaltz on so thick, it's impossible not to enjoy it. It's a Wonderful Life still proves to be a wonderful movie.
George: That's right! (bell rings, he winks) Attaboy, Clarence.
NC (voiceover): Number 4--How the Grinch Stole Christmas.
NC (voiceover): It's funny how a lot of these Christmas specials seem to focus on the negative. Take the Grinch for example. HE IS LITERALLY STEALING CHRISTMAS. And the whole special is just showing in great detail how he's doing it. And yet, the Grinch is still very likeable in what a curmudgeon he is. With his grinchy Grinch frown and the voice of the Frankenstein monster himself, Boris Karloff--
Grinch: (NC, speaking for him, in Karloff's Monster voice) Grr, Christmas bad!
NC (voiceover): --how can you not be drawn to this holiday stick in the mud? Of course, all the negativity pays off when we discover that he can't steal Christmas, no one can. Christmas is something much deeper than he could ever imagine, as he realizes in the end. Which is ironic, because the name of the story is "HOW the Grinch Stole Christmas", not "DOES the Grinch Steal Christmas".
NC: I thought this was an instructional video! There should be a time machine and a road map to Bethlehem in this movie.
NC (voiceover): And don't even get me started on that pigshit Ron Howard movie. If I wanted to scare my kids with a green monster filled with hot air, I'd let them listen to one of Al Gore's speeches on global warming. Still, The Grinch was colorful, creative, and dripping in holiday cheer. Just enough to make anyone's frown turn upside down.
Narrator: Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.
NC (voiceover): Number 3--A Charlie Brown Christmas.
NC (voiceover): I can't exactly say why this special works, it just kinda does. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that there's absolutely no budget for this. The animation is simple, the actors are kinda wooden, and the story is very basic. But I think that's why it's so good. There's simply no bullshit in it. What you see is what you get. And you knew that even if these people had little money, they still did their best to give us a straightforward Christmas special, and the effort shows. It had great music, it had a wonderful theme. And there's something about the bluntness of the children that's actually very refreshing.
Charlie Brown: I know nobody likes me. Why do we have to have a holiday season to emphasize it?
NC (voiceover): It's not like any other Christmas special, it seems to exist in its own strange world, and that, for some reason, is kind of irresistible.
Linus: Of all the Charlie Browns in the world, you're the Charlie Browniest.
NC (voiceover): It's not laugh out loud funny, but I don't think it's supposed to be. It's almost like watching a Christmas pageant that you know everyone tried their hardest to create. It's not spectacular, but you feel the effort, the commitment, and above all, the sincerity. Nothing seems manipulative at all, it's just straightforward and to the point. And somehow, it just works.
Charlie Brown: Everything I do turns into a disaster. I guess I really don't know what Christmas is all about.
NC (voiceover): Charlie Brown, you can't really explain it, but you can certainly feel it.
Peanuts: MERRY CHRISTMAS, CHARLIE BROWN!
They begin singing "Hark The Herald Angels Sing".
NC (voiceover): Number 2--A Christmas Carol. Which one? Any of 'em.
Footage of a whole bunch of 'em
NC (voiceover): There are literally dozens of versions to choose from, each one carrying the stamp of the original Charles Dickens classic. Even the ones that are lousy still seem to have some element of good in them, simply because they're using a story that is timeless, thoughtful, and unforgettable. The tale of Scrooge is one that we all know too well. Not just because of the story, but because we've all met a person like Scrooge. Someone who just couldn't get in the heart of the holidays. It's not until the ghostly apparitions arrive that Scrooge changes his tone and sees the value in what Christmas can and does bring out in all mankind. All the different versions off are many creative variations. The ghosts are always similar, but still vary in design and tone. And even Scrooge himself has gone through a ton of actors.
Montage of various versions of Scrooge saying "Humbug!".
NC (voiceover): Everybody's taken their shot at this story, even the Muppets. But as long as they have just a scrap of the original story, there will always be something worth watching about it. I think my favorite Scrooge is either Alastair Sim or George C. Scott, who both found the subtlety in the character. Watch how Scott looks at his father in the past. You can just see him analyzing the man. And look at the pure disgust on Sim's face. These are both great performances, never going too far over-the-top. Of all things, I actually like the Disney version a lot, too, mostly because they managed to squeeze the entire story in just a half hour, and yet still managed to get an emotional response. That's hard to do. Live action, animated, A Christmas Carol is perfect anytime, for any generation.
Scrooge: Merry Christmas, to everybody! AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR...TO THE WORLD!
NC (voiceover): And the Number 1 Greatest Christmas Special is, say it with me now--A Christmas Story.
NC (voiceover): I know, I'm sorry to be so predictable, but this movie just seems to have it all, heart, innocence, and most of all, a lot of humor. It manages to be both broad and detailed at the same time. This film does so well capturing our childhoods that we often watch it saying "Dude, how did they know I did that?"
NC: I thought only I hid in the cupboard when I was afraid! (gasps) HUG ME, KINDRED SPIRIT!
NC (voiceover): This film got everything about being a self-centered yet still innocent child. The excitement, the emotions, the build-up, even the daydreaming. I think most kids fantasized something like this when they were punished by their parents.
Mother: What did we do?
The mother and the Old Man start wailing in shame.
NC (voiceover): I think we all embedded into our brains never to try this.
The tongue sticking to the pole scene is shown.
NC (voiceover): Even though it took place in the 1950s, everyone seemed to have this childhood and everyone seems to remember it the same. Now many people might think this film doesn't accurately represent Christmas. It just represents childhood and how materialistic we used to be. But here's the thing: Christmas is also about memories, as the story isn't told from the point of view of the kid, it's told from the memory of the kid as he's an adult, which is a huge difference. Christmas is about remembering the good times, comparing how we were then to how we are now, and how we hope to be in the future. That's the reason for the three ghosts in A Christmas Carol. This movie works the same, and captures everything we remember about Christmas to a T, and allows us to compare it to who we are now and who we hope to be in the future. On top of that, for me, there's one scene that just sums up Christmas altogether.
The scene toward the end where the Mother and the Old Man sit together in the recliner and look out the window at the snow is shown.
NC (voiceover): And that just about does it. For me, that's Christmas, sitting by the tree, just watching the snow with your loved ones. Most people miss it, but for me, that's my favorite scene. This movie is like a dream and a memory, remembering that childhood innocence and struggling to keep it alive even as you grow older. And as long as movies like A Christmas Story are around, I don't think we'll ever lose track. A Christmas Story, the best Christmas special ever.
NC: And those are my Top 12 Greatest Christmas Specials Of All Time. Happy Holidays, good will toward men, and rest in peace obnoxious singing trees. Instead, let's listen to some rockin' Christmas puppies!
The dog starts singing.
NC: I'm the Nostalgia Critic, I-
It continues singing.
Oh, it's not done.
NC: I remem-
Dude, you haven't caught on to this? NC glares at the singing dog, the video cuts to the credits, then suddenly, the dog flies across the screen and lands on the ground with a loud thud.