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) 46%

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) 29%

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

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