10 Deliciously Bad Holiday TV Specials and Movies

star wars holiday special

With the sleigh bells ringing, the snow falling, and the shoppers out in full force…guess what? It is Holiday Movie Season, everybody! And though that is the signal for classics like It’s a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street and every single version of A Christmas Carol to flood your TV schedules and streaming networksI tend to notice a whole other crop of entertainment pop up – and they’re delightfully terrible, in every way you can imagine.

Let’s put the classics in perspective. Here are a list of Holiday specials and low budget movies that will make you think twice about making fun of your family for loving A Christmas Story (or any seasonal flick you tend to find supremely cheesy or overrated). These selections are sure to turn your head in directions it never would have before and make your eyes roll all the way to the North Pole and back. These are the best of the worst that the Holiday’s have to offer. So grab your favorite ugly sweater, and a cup of hot cocoa and let’s see what piles of misfortune we have to unwrap!

Babes in Toyland (December 19, 1986) Shown: Drew Barrymore

Babes in Toyland (1986)

Whenever December 25th gets just a little bit closer, there’s this wonderful sparkly feeling that comes from the pit of my stomach – and that means there’s a reason to indulge in the Holiday monstrosity that is the ’80s Babes in Toyland, starring Drew Barrymore, Keanu Reeves, and the immortal Pat Morita. It tells the story of Lisa (Barrymore), a little girl from Cincinnati, who (after a car accident during a blizzard) gets sent to the magical Toyland. There she meets plenty of wacky individuals, aims to save a Romeo and Juliet style romance, and tries to defeat an evil dude (with pointlessly long finger nails) who lives in a bowling ball. Literally.

Regardless of the version, I’ve never been a Babes in Toyland person. The premise is lackluster at best, and it seems more like a  rip-off of The Nutcracker than anything else. But when speaking specifically about the ’86 adaptation, even with all the nostalgia I have for the film, it’s hard to ignore how trashy the production value is. The Toyland setting looks so small and you can clearly tell it is a sound stage. You can practically smell how dirty and cheap the costumes are. Mix that in with the citizens of the fantasy town (especially Mary’s mother) who are just plain rude or too stupid to earn our compassion. Between the low budget special effects and the awkward acting, this version is deliciously bad simply because there seems to be no effort put forth whatsoever.

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The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Christmas Special

Cash grab Holiday specials are awful – especially when they star a sidekick robot singing Christmas songs in the most demonic way possible. Let me introduce you to Alpha’s Magic Christmas, aka The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Christmas Special. This is a perfect example of a franchise milking every last drop it can out of its audience (or their parents) and not giving a hoot whether it is of any sort of quality. There’s no real plot, not a bit of that Christmas charm, and – wait for it – barely any Power Rangers. That’s right, the thing you were hoping would be all up in this special is downgraded to a cameo at best. Because obviously, kids only watched the show for Alpha. Those teenagers with attitude were only but the opening act for the real star of the show! 

Sure, this snore fest has its fans, but even in my prime Power Rangers phase, this one always left me cold. I didn’t want to see Alpha and the Gap Kids choir sing a bunch of Holiday classics – no, I wanted Zack, Billy, Trini, Kimberly, Tommy and Jason to decorate a Christmas tree, while also seeing Bulk and Skull do a Two-Man show version of A Christmas Carol, narrated by Ernie. Instead what we get is Alpha complaining about being depressed on Christmas Eve, Zordon telling Alpha the Power Rangers are on a “special mission” to help Santa (sure they are, Zordy), and Alpha kidnapping a bunch of random kids to do creepy arts and crafts. But if this sounds like a way for you to spend a half hour of your time during the holidays, by all means go for it. Personally, I have better Power Rangers: Wild Force episodes to marathon.


Santa Claus Conquers The Martians (1964)

Christmas is a time of giving, love…and aliens!? Well, that is certainly the case with Santa Claus Conquers The Martians. The plot surrounds a Martian family who fears that their children are watching too much human TV. In their time of need, they look to the guidance of Chochem, who advises them that the structured way that they raise their kids is the problem (including having a machine feed information into their brains – oh, the irony) and that they must put a stop to this or else the martian children will never know how to be free thinking individuals. The solution? Allow the martians to experience the concept of “fun”, and somehow this results in Santa Claus getting kidnapped and brought to outer space (along with two Earth kids).

If this sounds like an abomination of cinematic creation, that’s because it is! But I think what makes Santa Claus Conquers The Martians a “classic” to many of its viewers is how proud it is of its choices. From the use of the kind of costumes that would give Edith Head a heart attack, plot lines that don’t make much sense, and the inclusion of a “tickle ray” (I’m not kidding), this movie is committed to its premise and it’s borderline precious to watch.

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The Twelve Days of Christmas (1993)

If you think the perfect Christmas entertainment involves Phil Hartman and Tale Spin character design rip-offs, than The Twelve Days of Christmas might just be made for you…and you alone. This 1993 NBC special tells the story (narrated by the famous Partridge in the Pear Tree) of Sir Carolboomer, who wants to impress Princess Silverbell by granting her list of twelve Christmas wishes. The catch? The princess of this story is incredibly melancholy, and will only marry someone if they make her laugh. And when the person delivering these gifts isn’t Carolboomer, but his silly, nerdy servant Hollyberry (Hartman), you can see where this is going.

Though looking fairly innocent enough on paper, The Twelve Days of Christmas suffers from all the worst things a ’90s made Christmas special can have: lame pop culture references, lots of terrible puns, and no true acknowledgement as to why this story needed to be told with animated humanoid bears as opposed to humans (because seriously movie, why does it have to be bears?!) And even though the story ends with a well meaning moral that is cute on the surface, the total experience is a test in any sort of patience, even for the youngest of viewers.

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The Star Wars Holiday Special

In a galaxy far, far away, there was this lovely steaming pile of TV special garbage. This misfire within the Star Wars franchise has grown in its legendary status over the years, and for good reason: it features a fictional holiday (Life Day), Wookiees speaking with no subtitles for long periods of screen time, and the closest equivalent to galactic porn we’ll ever see in a Star Wars related product. It is so terrible that Lucasfilm has never even given it a home video release, not even as a special feature in a larger package of some kind. Truly, it is that bad.

Some of you may want to know what this thing is about, but to be honest with y’all, even after seeing this thing multiple times, I’m still not sure. What sticks out are the real head scratching elements, like the random cooking show starring a drag queen robot (played by Harvey Korman), a microscopic circus that entertains the Wookiee kid for way too long, Mark Hamill’s impression of a Ken Doll, or Carrie Fisher’s look of not caring what the heck she’s doing. And those are just only scratching the surface of the real weird stuff. But at the end of the day, even with an awesome cameo by Bea Arthur, the Force certainly isn’t with the Star Wars Holiday Special, and it never will be. 

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