19 Of The Best And Worst Rankin Bass Christmas Movies

19 Of The Best And Worst Rankin Bass Christmas Movies

Figure out what which holiday films to watch this Christmas.

Every year ABC Family has 25 Days of Christmas where they show Christmas themed shows and movies. It's one of the things I look forward to all year but as time has gone on, ABC Family has been showing more and more of its own made for TV Christmas movies and less of the classic Rankin Bass specials I loved as a child. I watch these specials all throughout the year, but there's something really magical about watching them in December when your house is decorated and you're bundled up in blankets drinking hot chocolate.

This year, I've taken it upon myself to watch all 19 Rankin Bass Christmas Specials and rank them from worst to best using a rating system out 30 points. There will be 3 categories each special will be rated on: 1. Holiday Cheer, 2. Music, and 3. Nostalgia.

19. Nestor, the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey, 1977

Cheer: 4/10

Music: 2/10, 3 songs

Nostalgia: 4/10

Total: 10/30

Whenever I get into the Christmas mood outside of December I typically watch this special because it's super easy to find. I think I may have watched this one too much during the year for me to like it now. It tells the story of Nestor a long-eared donkey (obviously) who after going though some trials becomes the donkey that carries the Virgin Mary to Bethlehem. All though I do love the opening song, "Nestor, the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey" sung by Roger Miller who was the narrator and sang the majority of the special's musical numbers it's honestly pretty boring and a Rudolph knock-off.

18. The Little Drummer Boy: Book I, 1968

Cheer: 2/10

Music: 3/10, 4 songs

Nostalgia: 5/10

Total: 10/30

Yes! Early stop-motion animation. This is definitely what they do best. Unfortunately this is still pretty early in the game, this was only their 3rd special. It's nice that the Mary and Joseph in this look the same as the Mary and Joseph in Nestor. This whole special is pretty depressing and there isn't any Christmas "magic" till the end. Narrated by Greer Garson, a pretty big name for the time, Drummer Boy is just lacking overall.

17. Cricket on the Hearth, 1967

Cheer: 3/10

Music: 6/10, 9 songs

Nostalgia: 2/10

Total: 11/30

This was my first time watching Cricket, although I had heard of it before. This is the second Rankin Bass special every made and it is hand drawn. The animation is... not very good... at all. But it is interesting because it is based on a little known Charles Dickens story. In the production, a young woman goes blind because she is sad when her beloved dies at sea. The cricket narrator is voiced by Danny Thomas, who also does dome live action segments throughout the special. The saving grace for this one are the songs, none are particulate catchy but there's just so many of them.

16. Frosty's Winter Wonderland, 1976

Cheer: 3/10

Music: 3/10, 2 songs

Nostalgia: 5/10

Total: 11/30

This is the sequel to Frosty the Snowman. This is the first introduction to Crystal, Frosty's wife, and though I like what is done with her in later specials, not much really happens in this one. Jack Frost is the villain here which is kind of lame, he just wants to be appreciated for making the snow that created Frosty and Crystal. Andy Griffith is the narrator, which is a testament that the amazing narrators, Rankin and Bass ,were able to get. Maybe I would have liked it more if it was stop-motion, I'm not really a fan of hand drawn Rankin Bass specials.

15. Santa Baby!, 2001

Cheer: 7/10

Music: 6/10, 12 songs

Nostalgia: 0/10

Total: 13/30

I never ever heard of this one before embarking on this journey into Rankin Bass' history. I honestly thought I had seen all of them. I had no idea there was even a special made this recently. It was the first special Rankin Bass did after a 19 year hiatus. Basically a magical Christmas partridge (a la, a partridge in a pear tree) comes and helps a little girl's dad get over his song writers block. Also there's a lady who runs an animal shelter because animals aren't allowed in the apartments. The bird is played by Patti LaBelle and the little girl's cat is Eartha Kitt, who is also the narrator, which begs the question, why isn't this special amazing? Suzanne Collins, the author of the Hunger Games was one of the writers on this special. Maybe the hand drawn animation is where they went wrong but overall this one is pretty terrible.

14. The Stingiest Man in Town, 1978

Cheer: 7/10

Music: 6/10, 13 songs

Nostalgia: 0/10

Total: 13/30

First time watching this after, again , never hearing of it before. It's actually not that bad, it has good music but it's essentially just a Christmas Carol. I think it would be a lot better if it was stop animation but I'm super biased. I just think that hand drawn Rankin Bass is terrible. Also the narrator is a bug named B.A.H. Humbug... yeah...

13. The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus, 1985

Cheer: 7/10

Music: 6/10, 5 songs

Nostalgia: 0/10

Total: 13/30

Finally, this is the last special that I hadn't heard of before. It's based on a 1902 L. Frank Baum book and was the last Rankin Bass Christmas special before they closed their studio in 1987. Santa is raised by a lion and gets stolen by fairy and then they decide to co-parent him. And then he pretty much becomes Santa and gains immortality. I kind of want to read the original book, the story is pretty crazy and the stop-motion in this one (at least for people) is really smooth.

12. The Leprechauns' Christmas Gold, 1981

Cheer: 4/10

Music: 4/10, 4 songs

Nostalgia: 7/10

Total: 15/30

I've only ever seen this on television once. For years, I searched for it so I could find it again. It's just so... weird. Luckily I found it last year and watched it non-stop. This one barely has anything to do with Christmas, but there is a banshee and Leprechauns. It's so terrible, it's entertaining. Also, I died when I heard Christmas in Killarney on my Songza Christmas station.

11. Jack Frost, 1979

Cheer: 5/10

Music: 7/10, 8 songs

Nostalgia: 6/10

Total: 18/30

I watched this quite a lot growing up and rarely during the Christmas season. I don't like it as much as I did when I was little. The plot and songs are kind of lacking, but I'm a sucker for that classic stop-motion. My favorite characters are Kubla Krause and Pardon-Me-Pete, who serves as the narrator and is voiced by Buddy Hackett. He definitely has the best songs. Also, it's not really about Christmas but there is definitely some cheer.

10. Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July, 1979

Cheer: 6/10

Music: 7/10, 12 songs

Nostalgia: 6/10

Total: 19/30

The music score is high for the sheer number of songs, none of them are too memorable but all are fun and sweet. There's not a ton of cheer besides the characters but adds a lot to the Christmas mythology and still has continuity which I love. Ethel Merman plays Lilly Loraine the leader of the circus and again, how they heck did Rankin and Bass get all these amazing stars? Merman is a joy to watch in this.

9. Drummer Boy: Book II, 1976

Cheer: 6/10

Music: 6/10, 3 songs

Nostalgia: 7/10

Total: 19/30

I thought I hadn't seen this one before but I had. I was a lot better than remembered. I absolutely loved Zero Mostel in his role as Brutus and his song Money, Money, Money. This sequel follows the story of Solomon and the silver bells and honestly I think it's really beautiful. By this time, the animation has improved greatly and I really enjoyed it.

8. Frosty the Snowman, 1969

Cheer: 5/10

Music: 6/10, 1 song

Nostalgia: 9/10

Total: 20/30

This is an absolute classic. Again as always I don't really like the animation but it's not as bad as others and it's a lot of fun. Only one song in this one but come on its Frosty the Snowman, you can't not love that. I do wish there were more songs but this was only the 4th special, l so I can understand them not wanting to be so involved with that. This one isn't really about Christmas but it definitely is cheerful.

7. 'Twas the Night Before Christmas, 1974

Cheer: 8/10

Music: 7/10, 3 songs

Nostalgia: 5/10

Total: 20/30

I think this is the only hand drawn Rankin Bass that I really like. When I was younger and watched on television I always hated it and thought that it took too long. I'd get annoyed that it wasn't stop motion. This time, however, I really found myself enjoying it. The story is actually very sweet and I love the songs in it. I'm actually really excited to see this come on television now.

6. The First Christmas: The Story of the First Christmas Snow, 1975

Cheer: 6/10

Music: 5/10, 4 songs

Nostalgia: 10/10

Total: 21/30

I completely forgot about this one!! I remember watching it when I was little and really loving it. This one is about a blind kid and the magic of Christmas snow. Nothing really happens but for me, the nostalgia 100% got me. Also, Angela Lansbury is the narrator in this and I adore her.

5. Rudolph's Shiny New Year, 1976

Cheer: 7/10

Music: 8/10, 8 songs

Nostalgia: 7/10

Total: 22/30

This is getting into the golden era of Rankin Bass Specials. I always really loved this one growing up but I've seen it so many times it was almost played out. The songs are definitely the best part. I find myself singing them all throughout the year. And they got Red Skeleton to play Father Time and serve as the narrator. Seriously, who do I have to call to get all these people that Rankin Bass is able to get?

4. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, 1964

Cheer: 8/10

Music: 7/10, 9 songs

Nostalgia: 8/10

Total: 23/30

This is the one that started it all, the forever classic Rudolph. I don't particularly like the way Santa looks in this one. Obviously they hadn't quite found their stride as the stop-motion is actually quite terrible. Also everyone is kind of a jerk to the misfits in this one and no one really likes them until they figure out that they are useful, it really isn't the best message for children. Still, it is extremely memorable and probably the first special many people watch. I think the misfit toys song is so weird though, that whole part always throws me. Even so, I watch it every year.

3. Pinocchio's Christmas, 1980

Cheer: 8/10

Music: 8/10, 8 songs

Nostalgia: 8/10

Total: 24/30

I remember being 3 years old and watching this for the first time with my mom, so much nostalgia for me. Overall, it's just a really solid special the story is fun and the stop-animation is surprisingly clean. Love the song Knock on Wood. I also think the kid who voices Pinocchio does a really fantastic job. The basic plot is about Pinocchio (while he's still a puppet) experiencing his first Christmas and learning more lessons of what it takes to be a real boy.

2. The Year Without a Santa Claus, 1974

Cheer: 8/10

Music: 10/10, 8 songs

Nostalgia: 8/10

Total: 26/30

This is my second favorite and the only special to get a 10/10 for music. I really love the continuity from Santa Claus is Coming to Town to this. The plot is really cute, basically what would happen if Santa took Christmas off. Heat Miser and Snow Miser really make this one, their songs are always the one's I look forward to every time I watch this special. The one thing I don't get lyric "worst we ever had", are they saying they've had multiple years without Santa or is this the worst year they ever had?

1. Santa Claus is Comin' to Town, 1970

cheer: 9/10

music: 8/10, 7 songs

nostalgia: 10/10

total: 27/30

This. Is. The. Ultimate. Christmas. Special. My absolute favorite. It has everything I love, great songs, great memories associated with it, Fred Astaire as the narrator, Mickey Rooney as Santa, and expansion of the Santa universe. It's just great. This special tells the story of Santa and how he became the way he is. This story could've been really boring but the pacing of the plot and songs make for an hour of fun. I get so excited when it comes on television and I can't wait to watch it again.

*Honorable Mention*

Although they aren't Rankin Bass I also love A Christmas Story, How the Grinch Stole Christmas (live action and animated), and The Polar Express to get me really into the Christmas spirit.

Now get the family together, sip some hot chocolate, and pop on one of these classic films.

Cover Image Credit: http://enchantedworldofrankinbass.blogspot.com/

Popular Right Now

Why Your Grandma Is Your Biggest Blessing In Life

Because nobody loves you more than she does.

There are many people in your life you are thankful for: Mom, Dad, siblings, cousins, best friends, teachers, neighbors, you name it. You are grateful to have people who constantly support you, who pick you up when you're down and love you unconditionally. But the one person who stands out among the rest of them is your grandma.

SEE ALSO: 10 Reasons Why Your Grandma Is The Best Person In Your Life

Ever since you were little, you and your grandma have always had a special connection. Going over to Grandma's house for the night was something you looked forward to. She knew how to entertain you at your best and worst moments. No matter what you did together, you loved it. Being with your grandma wasn't like being at home or with your parents – it was better. You went to the park, made cookies, went out to dinner, got a “sweet treat" at the mall, played Go Fish, took a bubble bath for as long as you wanted and got way too much dessert than you should have. You did things you weren't supposed to do, but Grandma didn't stop you. Because at Grandma's house there were no rules, and you didn't have to worry about a single thing. Being with Grandma was the true epitome of childhood. She let you be you. She always made sure you had the best time when you were with her, and she loved watching you grow up with a smile on your face.

The older you got, your weekend excursions with your grandma weren't as frequent, and you didn't get to see her as much. You became more and more busy with school, homework, clubs, sports, and friends. You made the most out of your time to see her, and you wished you could be with her more. Although you were in the prime of your life, she mattered even more to you the older you both became. You were with your friends 24/7, but you missed being with your grandma. When the time rolled around, and you got the chance to spend time with her, she told you never to apologize. She wanted you to go out, have fun and enjoy life the way it makes you happy.

Reflecting back on these moments with your grandma, you realize how truly special she is to you. There is no one who could ever compare to her nor will there ever be. All your life, there is no one who will be as sweet, as caring, as sincere or as genuine as her. Even though you're all grown up now, there are things about your grandma that never changed from when you were a kid. She still takes you out for your favorite meal because she knows how important eating out means to you. She writes you letters and sends you a $5 bill every now and then because she knows you're a hard-working college student with no money. She still helps you with all of your Christmas shopping because she knows it's your tradition. She still asks what's new with your young life because hearing about it makes her day and she still loves you to no end. Your grandma is your biggest blessing (whether you knew it or not), and she always will be no matter what.

Cover Image Credit: Erin Kron

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

14 Things I Did This Season To Cope With My Seasonal Affective Disorder

SAD is a real thing.


Seasonal Affective Disorder affects many people. I promise it is a real thing. The Mayo Clinic defines SAD as "A mood disorder characterized by depression that occurs at the same time every year." Mine comes in the dead of winter. So this winter, I wrote down a couple of things that made me feel better.

1. Take a hot shower/bath

All the steam in the bathroom and the heat from the water soothes the soul for real.

2. Get out of bed 

Try and wake up earlier than usual.

3. Buy a happy lamp

They mimic sunlight but without the UV rays.


4. Make your bed everyday

One small accomplishment everyday.

5. Sit in your living room as opposed to your bed room

6. Eat healthier 

7. Do one small thing for yourself everyday

Get a cup of coffee or go for a walk.

8. Exercise 

I hate it as much as the next person but it does help.

9. Go out with friends 

I know sitting at home may be ideal but it's nice to be surrounded by people who love you.

10. When you're sad, let yourself be sad

Cry, listen to sad music, do what you gotta do.

11. Ask for help

Let people know what you're going through. It's ok.

12. Take care of yourself

Put on a facemask. Paint your nails.

13. Write about it

14. Try and plan a trip to a warm place with sun

Related Content

Facebook Comments