12 Forgotten Family Holiday Movies

Piper Weiss, Shine Staff
Remember this?
Remember this?


The holidays are almost here, but you wouldn't know it by looking at box office numbers. Usually a booming time for the movie industry, this year's Christmas movies aren't packing theaters like they used to. As of mid-December, Hollywood had its worst weekend since 2008. Blame the economy or, simply, slim pickings. Another chipmunk flick? A movie with 30,000 celebrities and no plot? Or a second helping of Robert Downey Jr. being dandy and adorable?

There are holiday movies that stand the test of time-"It's a Wonderful Life", "Home Alone", "A Christmas Story"- and there are those that don't. 2011's "New Year's Eve" will probably fall into category two, along with 96's "Mixed Nuts" and 88's "Earnest Saves Christmas". But that's not always a bad thing. Some of the most unwatchable movies the first time around, make unforgettable YouTube clips 20 years later.

Earnest Saves Christmas, 1988


Synopsis: The peephole-faced yokel (Jim Varney's Earnest P. Worrell) is tasked with helping the old Santa find a new Santa to take over his privileged post.
Fun Fact: You could almost make a parallel between this plotline and the search for the next Dalai Llama. But that would distract from the really important moments, like when Earnest says his signature catchphrase "YouknowwhatImean?"


Emmet Otter's Jugband Christmas, 1977


Synopsis: There was a time, not so long ago, when Muppets got more film work than humans. Case in point: Jim Henson's holiday movie about a family of out-of-work otters competing in a talent show. The movie was nominated for an Emmy after it was aired on ABC, and it almost had a second life on Broadway.
Fun fact: The band My Morning Jacket covered one of the songs in the movie for a 2011 Muppet compilation album.

Funnier fact: Sure, the movie is about Christmas, but it's really about the emergence of glam rock and the demise of folk.

Funniest fact: Otters are the original hipsters.


An American Christmas Carol, 1979


Synopsis: Nobody's forgotten the story of Scrooge, but the image of The Fonz under ten pounds of old-face rubber, is something we've buried deep in our psyches. This take on the classic Dickens tale, starred Henny Winkler as a "miserly businessman" in depression era New England.
Fun Fact: Around the time the movie was made, Winkler was TV's biggest star, portraying the Fonz, not only on "Happy Days", but also on crossover appearances on "Laverne and Shirley", "Mork and Mindy".

A Year Without Santa, 1974


Synopsis: Here's something kids born after 2000 will never understand: stop motion. In the 70s and 80s, holiday-theme TV was predominantly made of surreal peg toys having identity crisis. There was Rudolf and Pinocchio. But this tale was the least remembered stop motion classic of all. In it, Santa bails on his responsibilities and it's up to two elves to save Christmas.
Fun Fact: Mickey Rooney played the voice Santa, not only in this flick but in three other stop-action holiday movies. For kids of the seventies, Mickey Rooney was Santa, audibly-speaking.


J.T., 1969

Synopsis: CBS aired this special about a shy kid living in a tough new york neighborhood, who befriends a stray cat during the holidays. (Spoiler: tissues required for the ending.)
Fun Fact: That kid who played J.T. Did well for himself. In addition to directing a slew of hit shows like "Bones" and "Monk", Kevin Hooks became the executive producer of the series "Prison Break".


Babes in Toyland, 1986

Synopsis: Drew Barrymore stars in this "Wizard of Oz" knockoff about an 11-year-old who learns how to believe in living toys with the help of a young naturally-wooden Keanu Reeves.
Fun Fact: Forget Drew and Keanu, Pat Morita and Richard Mulligan were in this movie!

Almost an Angel, 1990


Synopsis: Hot off "Crocodile Dundee", Paul Hogan plays a dead burglar (but more importantly, an Aussie) who can't go to heaven unless he does a good deed as an angel.
Fun Fact: Rod Stewart makes an cameo as Rod Stewart and Charlton Heston makes a cameo as God.

A complete guide to this month's biggest movies, here


Mixed Nuts, 1994


Synopsis: Steve Martin, Adam Sandler, Jon Stewart and Liev Shreiber in drag. Come on, you're a little curious. Nora Ephron directed this comedy about a crisis hotline during the holidays.
Not so fun fact: It has a 7 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Miracle on 34th Street, 1994


Synopsis: No, not that Miracle on 34th street. The one with Dylan McDermott and the little girl from Mrs. Doubtfire. Not sold? Eighties teen rom-com guru John Hughes actually adapted the script.

Totally coincidental fact: Macy's wouldn't lend their name to this version of the movie, so the writers made up a department store called Coles, which now sounds like a lot like a real department store called Kohls.

Jingle All the Way, 1996


Synopsis: ...better known as the movie where Sinbad has all the lines except three and still gets second billing. The movie follows two dads competing for the most coveted toy of the season.
Fun Fact: 20th Century Fox was engaged in a longstanding lawsuit over whether or not they stole the idea of this movie from a similar script. Is it that hard to believe two people on the planet would come up with this premise?

Santa Claus: The Movie, 1985


Synopsis: The late and lovable Dudley Moore plays an entrepreneurial elf who branches out with his own toy-making business. How eighties is that?
Fun Fact: Paul McCartney and the band Queen were both asked to contribute to the soundtrack. Both were, uh, too busy what with the holidays and all.

Santa with Muscles, 1996


Synopsis: This is one of those movie titles that sounds like it was translated poorly from another language. It wasn't. Hulk Hogan plays a body-building millionaire who gets amnesia and becomes convinced he's Santa Claus. Somehow that makes him equipped to prevent an evil scientist from pillaging an orphanage for its magical crystals.
Fun Fact: This is a real movie.


Read about even more holiday movies for the entire family