When TV shows break for the holiday season, what remains is an entertainment vacuum that is quickly filled up with Christmas movies. From now until 2013, whenever you flip through the channels you’ll come across a wide array of different Christmas movies — some good, some bad and some not even Christmas movies to begin with.
Here are the 24 types of Christmas movies you’ll inevitably encounter on TV this holiday season, whether you like it or not.
1. Classic Christmas Movies – The vintage stuff your grandparents like to watch this time of year like White Christmas and Miracle on 34th Street. The standard Christmas movies we’ve been watching for the past umpteen years, where people sing and dance and decide not to kill themselves at the end.
2. Animated Christmas Specials – Charlie Brown, Frosty the Snowman, the Grinch — the usual crowd. It’s not going to feel like Christmas unless you see them and you’re definitely not going to see them because who the hell even knows when they play that shit anymore. Like 6 PM on a Saturday in November?
3. Claymation Christmas Specials – Speaking of which, you’re also going to miss the Claymation Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer with the Bumble and Hermy and the goddamn Charlie in the Box. But you will catch any of the bastardized sequels where Rudolph and Frosty celebrate like Cinco de Mayo or something.
4. Christmas Comedies You Could Watch All Year – You could feasibly pop in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation if you wanted to watch Cousin Eddie empty the shitter in the middle of August, but it just never feels quite right. If the themes of movies like Elf and Scrooged weren’t so intrinsically connected to “that Christmas spirit” we’d probably be watching them year-round like we do with Groundhog Day.
5. Family Christmas Comedies – When you’re still a kid these are fucking hilarious. Who doesn’t love watching Macaulay Caulkin try to straight up murder Joe Pesci in Home Alone? Probably anybody who grew up before 1990. When you’re not a kid anymore, family Christmas comedies start to resemble bullshit like Fred Claus and Jingle All the Way.
6. Broken Family Christmas Comedies – Not every family comedy features an intact family. Some embrace family separation, like Four Christmases, while others employ Christmas magic to get the family back together, like in All I Want for Christmas. Then there’s the third category where the spirit of a dead parent comes back to possess the body of a snowman, like in Jack Frost. Either way, prepare for Christmas laughs mixed with Christmas bummers.
7. Action Movies that Happen to Take Place During Christmas – Christmas time happens to be a strangely popular setting for summer action flicks like Die Hard and Batman Returns. However, you’ll also see some Lord of the Rings and Kill Bill too, because just so long as there’s snow on the ground at some point, it apparently counts as a Christmas action movie.
8. Christmas Romances – These are just like every other romantic comedy, except they happen to take place at Christmastime. In fact the most successful holiday romances like Love Actually and Sleepless in Seattle have so much appeal outside of the holiday season that they were basically remade and repackaged as non-Christmas romances like Valentine’s Day and You’ve Got Mail.
9. Made-for-TV Christmas Romances – A lot like regular romance movies, except they typically star actors that were a really big deal in the 90s. They all look exactly the same because they all have the same limited budget and were shot in the same Canadian neighborhood in the middle of the summer. Unlike romances that just happen to take place during the holidays, made-for-TV Christmas romances are almost always about how the magic of the season brings people together — and sometime straight up Santa magic too.
10. Movies Starring Animals – And most of the time, we’re really talking dogs. Reindeer might be seasonally appropriate, but Prancer proved that they’re not as cute as their Claymation equivalent. They just don’t draw in the kid and family crowd the way 90 minutes of golden retriever puppies wearing Santa hats will. If it isn’t a dog movie, than it’s either Babe or Stuart Little.
11. Fantasy Movies – Christmas magic and the dark arts are apparently interchangeable judging from the amount of fantasy movies that play during this season. The Harry Potter movies get a pass because they each contain roughly five minutes of Christmastime scenes. Same thing for any Narnia movies, since the kids all got their deadly magical weapons from Father Christmas himself. But movies like The Wizard of Oz, Mary Poppins and her ugly bastard cousin Nanny McPhee are also in high rotation despite a lack of holiday relevance.
12. Tim Allen Movies – Between The Santa Clause, the unnecessary Santa Clause sequels, Christmas with the Kranks and the Toy Story trilogy, you have a high chance of watching a Tim Allen movie this holiday season. Why doesn’t he grunt anymore? Wasn’t that his whole thing? He should be contractually obligated to grunt at least once per movie. Like instead of “Ho Ho Ho” he’d be all “Rarrff rarrff rarfff.” “To infinity and Aaaarrrrroooofff!”
13. Christmas Horror – Movies like Black Christmas and Gremlins offer a slightly more macabre option for those movie watchers who are too grim and cynical for all this peace on Earth and goodwill to men. Meanwhile, schlocky holiday horror movies like Santa’s Slay and Gingerdead Man offer an option for the movie watcher who pretends to like bad movies in an ironic way, but genuinely loves the idea of watching Gary Busey portray a killer cookie.
14. Halloween Leftovers – Speaking of spooky cinema, prepare to see some of the same movies you were watching back in October. The Nightmare Before Christmas definitively blurs the lines between the two holidays, yet never quite feels at home with either one. It’s too spooky for Christmas and too Christmassy for Halloween. Don’t forget that The Addams Family opens with a scene of carolers being nonchalantly murdered by the Addams clan — clearly a holiday movie. Same goes for Ghostbusters II, since it ends on New Year’s Eve.
15. Any Disney Movie – What do movies like Finding Nemo, Mulan and Pirates of the Caribbean have to do with the holidays? Nothing — other than the fact that Disney wants you to buy them on Blu-Ray this Christmas. Any Disney movie ever made is fair game this time of year, even those locked up in the infamous “Disney Vault.” Luckily, the modern day definition of a Disney movie now includes The Avengers and Star Wars too, so at least there’s something for everyone.
16. Any Family Movie – Not to be outdone by Disney, any family movie ever made is a likely candidate to be shown around the holiday season. I hope you like Shrek and its multiple sequels and spin-offs, because there’s a lot of Mike Meyers in your future. It doesn’t matter if it’s The Sound of Music or Beethoven’s 2nd, if kids can watch it without hearing dick jokes or seeing boobies, it counts as a Christmas movie nowadays.
17. Hastily Produced CGI Christmas Specials – Those generic animated movies featuring public domain characters or cheap imitations of licensed characters. The cast is always full of C-List and D-List celebrities, which leaves next to nothing in the budget for the animation itself. The result is flat, lifeless animation to match the flat, lifeless plot and voice acting. I couldn’t tell you the name of a single one because they always have nonspecific titles like Santa’s Christmas and Christmas with Santa.
18. Hastily Produced CGI Christmas Specials Based on Movie Franchises – Did you see whatever CGI kids movie Dreamworks happened to put out this summer? Well if you didn’t, you can always tune into this year’s holiday special featuring the same characters, same voice actors and same animation data with none of the same charm as the movies they’re being spun out of. And that’s saying something when the movie they’re being spun out of is the third Madagascar movie, which — according to the commercials I’ve seen — was mostly just a Chris Rock zebra screaming “afro circus” nonstop for two hours.
19. Straight-to-DVD Sequels – Everybody loves A Christmas Story and Christmas Vacation but we’ve also seen these movies a million times. Instead of striving to make the next classic Christmas movie we can watch a million times, someone decided it was easier to cash in on these franchise names about twenty years too late. From what I can tell without actually watching the movies, A Christmas Story 2 is about Daniel Stern making poor choices out of a desperate need for acting work, while Christmas Vacation 2: Cousin Eddie’s Island Adventure is about the ravages of methamphetamine.
20. Religious Movies – It’s all about the birthday boy Jesus this time of year, which means you’ll see a lot more religion on TV. That could mean films about his birth, torture porn about his death, or just movies about guardian angels helping well-meaning white families come together. The only religious movie you won’t see is The Ten Commandments because that’s strictly an Easter thing for some reason.
21. Movies Featuring a Hip Modern Take on Santa – It’s like one day someone wondered, “What if we did a movie about Santa but made him into someone that modern audiences can connect to? Like maybe he’s a young, attractive, ordinary guy or like a brassy no-nonsense woman or Tim Allen?” And then someone else said “Yes, let’s make that movie every year for as long as Christmas exists.”
22. Adult Christmas Movies – Adult males don’t exactly get into the yuletide spirit, so now we get naughty Christmas movies like Bad Santa where people do drugs, have sex and swear a lot. Take away the Christmas themes and these are really not much different than other R-Rated comedies — a point proven by A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas, which was basically like any other Harold and Kumar movie, only in 3D.
23. A Christmas Carol – This may be the most retold story in all of history. There’s no avoiding A Christmas Carol because there’s like a dozen different versions and they all play around this time of year. There’s the classic version, the Muppet version, the Mickey Mouse version, the Scrooged version, the creepy CGI Jim Carrey version — how many times do I have to be reminded not to die alone as a rich asshole?
24. A Christmas Story – A Christmas Story has evolved into a category of Christmas movies unto itself. It’s woven into the very tapestry of Christmas. Now that it’s played for 24 hours on Christmas Day, it’s become the perfect allegory for the holiday season. Like when you start watching it you feel like you’ve been waiting all year for it to arrive, but by the time the night is over and you’ve seen it a few times, you’re glad it’s not coming back for another year.