Top Ten Christmas Animated Features

Polar Exptess: Christmas Movies

1. The Polar Express (2004) – Tom Hanks stars as a conductor on a train to the North Pole. Roger Ebert describes the film as a “movie in the process of becoming an enduring classic.” Director Robert Zemeckis has created a wonderful and mythical make-believe world not unlike the “Merry Old Land of Oz” in the 1939 Classic The Wizard of Oz. Hanks does everything but sell tickets at the box office, creating a total of five roles.

2. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966) – A nasty green fellow called the Grinch lives in the hills above Whoville, hates Christmas with a passion, and plans to stop it from coming by stealing toys, food, and presents from the Whos. Dr. Seuss’ timeless tale is wonderfully animated by Chuck Jones, of Looney Toons fame, and masterfully narrated by the incomparable Boris Karloff.

3. A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965) – In this TV special, Charles Schulz’s Peanuts gang stages a Yuletide pageant while Charlie Brown attempts to discover “the true meaning of Christmas” The highpoint is Linus’ classic recital of the Nativity Story from the Gospel of Luke. Another memorable moment is the unveiling of the iconic diminutive Christmas tree that cannot support even a single ornament. The Vince Guaraldi Jazz Trio’s lively score is equally unforgettable.

CLAYMATION CHRISTMAS CELEBRATION4.  A Claymation Christmas Celebration (1987) – Herb and Rex are dinosaurs who introduce a host of wonderful numbers, including the hilarious “Carol of the Bells.” Also featured are “We Three Kings,” “Angels We Have Heard on High” and the California Raisins’ soulful rendition of “Rudolph.”

5. A Garfield Christmas (1987) – Christmas with the dysfunctional Arbuckle family created by Jim Davis. Garfield, Jon and Odie head to their relatives to celebrate the holidays, and the orange tabby’s legendary gluttony steals the show.

6. Babes in Toyland (1997) – A lively rendition of the classic children’s Christmas fantasy by early 20th-century composer Victor Herbert. The beautiful Mary Contrary is saved from marrying the villain Barnaby instead of her true love, Jack Be Nimble. Featuring the voices of Christopher Plummer, James Belushi and Bronson Pinchot.

7. A Walt Disney Christmas (1982) – A number of classic Christmas shorts are included in this video, such as “Pluto’s Christmas Tree” starring those talented ground squirrels, Chip and Dale, as well as the 1932 Silly Symphony “Santa’s Workshop.” Unfortunately, this feature was only to be found on VHS, although some of the shorts are available on the Mickey’s Christmas Carol DVD. (More on that in a minute).

8. ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas (1974) – This film focuses on the magic of Christmas Eve, and children’s great expectations. The film tells of mice and men in a small town where, sadly, Santa will not be visiting this year because of an unfortunate letter from the pen of Albert Mouse.

9. Mickey’s Christmas Carol (1983) – Scrooge McDuck stars as, naturally, Ebenezer Scrooge, and Mickey Mouse is the cheerful and always grateful Bob Cratchit. Goofy is excellent as Scrooge’s partner Jacob Marley. With apologies to Charles Dickens.

RUDOLPH THE RED NOSED 196410. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964) – One of the most beloved holiday classics ever, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is essentially a story of misfits finding their place, be they reindeer, elves or forgotten toys. Singer Burl Ives livens up a charming soundtrack that includes “A Holly Jolly Christmas” and “Silver and Gold.”

Those are Charles Wiebe’s 10 favorite animated Christmas features, but what Yuletide-themed cartoons do you make an annual part of your holiday celebrations? Sound off in the comments!

Chuck Wiebe teaches Film Studies at the Pittsburgh Campus of the University of Phoenix.  He has published over 60 articles on film as the National DVD Movies Examiner on .  His work has also appeared in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He holds a BA in Fine Art from West Virginia University, and an MA in Art History from The Pennsylvania State University.  He also studied at the University of Rome, Italy.  He believes that film is the most influential art form of our time.

Looking for more articles on Christmas movies? Checkout our Christmas Movie Mashup.

  • Steve in Sedona

    You left out “The Year Without a Santa Claus.”

  • Earl

    You forgot “Santa Claus is coming to town”
    It answers so many questions and the music is great.

  • August

    Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer, @ number TEN???????
    Are you CRAZY????, especially when you even put the insipid Twas the Night Before Christmas.

  • August

    Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer, @ number TEN???????
    Are you CRAZY????, especially when you even put the insipid Twas the Night Before Christmas on the list!

  • Jack

    What about Sniffles the mouse as he tries to stay awake to see Santa Claus?

    • Jackie

      Jack..You are so right Sniffles the mouse trying to stay awake to see Santa is the most endearing cartoon I have ever seen.I saw it for the first time when I was about 16..I have missed seeing so many of the cartoon classics everyone is speaking of this year. I must have missed Garfieild’s Christmas and Mr. Magoos’s Christmas Carol this year. I just love Sniffles,best,though>

  • Bob

    none are better than Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol

  • Mike Boston

    The Polar Express is creepy. A Charlie Brown Christmas and Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer should be first and second, and you left out Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol.

  • James Sedares

    The Chuck Jones Grinch can’t be beat. The great Karloff shines once more.

  • John

    A new classic is “Olive,the Other Reindeer”,buoyed by the charm of Drew Barrymore and an animation style that mimics the illustrations of the book that it’s based on.It’s a little more hip than the traditional shows but it’s worth catching.

  • Mario Brescio

    Ok, so I’m an old fuddy-duddy, here is my top ten animated Christmas shows:
    1.Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town (1970) Fred Astaire, Mickey Rooney, Keenan Wynn.
    2.How The Grinch Stole Christmas (1966) Boris Karloff.
    3.Cricket on the Hearth (1967) Danny Thomas, Marlo Thomas, Roddy McDowell.
    4.Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol (1962) Jim Backus, Morey Amsterdame, Jack Cassidy.
    5.Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964) Burl Ives.
    6.Jack Frost (1979) Buddy Hackett, Robert Morse, Larry Storch.
    7.Frosty The Snowman (1969) Jimmy Durante, Jackie Vernon, Billie De Wolfe.
    8.The Little Drummer Boy (1968) José Ferrer, Greer Garson.
    9.A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965).
    10.The Year Without A Santa Claus (1974) Mickey Rooney, Shirley Booth.

  • tim

    polar express sucks

  • Chuck Neumann

    Good list, though I see many others feel you left out their favorites. Perhaps it is unfair to compare full length films to half hour TV shows. I agree with your listing of a Walt Disney Christmas, the old shorts are great and they were put together in a winning manner.

  • Cindy Urban

    Polar Express #1 ? Rudolph is #1,than Charlie Brown,Mr.Magoo,and a very forgotten,but brilliant,EMMET OTTERS JUG BAND CHRISTMAS by Jim Hensons’ group,than Mickey’s Christmas Carol,Frosty,Santa Claus is Coming to town,A year without a Santa Claus(heat Meister,cold Meister songs)Walt Disney Christmas(Chip and Dale),and lastly The Grinch that Stole Christmas.The Polar Express was a beautiful book,but as a film it was tooooooo long,and at times boring,and way too much Tom Hanks.We need more animated quality Christmas Classics.Less 3d,and special effects,and more story lines that will endure time.

  • Cindy Urban

    Oh,I forgot,I too,love Sniffles the Mouse waiting for Santa Claus,and Olive The other Reindeer was a great book,and animation.Was there ever an animation made from the cute book SANTA MOUSE ? I love that book !

  • M. Fashbauer

    What ever happened to “Ziggy’s Christmas” it was so cute?

    • Louis Martinez

      I bought Ziggy’s Gift for my kids on VHS tape and my daughter still has it. It is a bit worn on the box but it still plays well. My daughter will be 45 on Christmas Day and she still collects Ziggy memorabilia. I’d rather watch Ziggy’s Gift than any of the other’s mentioned but we should keep in mind the list is only one man’s opinion. Opinions and advice are worth exactly what we pay for them.

  • Chrissy S

    I have to disagree with Robert Ebert giving Polar Express a thumbs up and calling it “an enduring classic” and making it #1 on the list? I’m in agreement with Tim’s comment! The only thing enduring about that movie was us having to endure watching it! A thumbs down all the way Roger! It was endless, made no sense, depressing, scary, creepy, ghostly, and mechanical and had no Christmas in it at all. The sounds the train made were simlar to the ones Titanic made going down–really creepy. Tom Hanks was creepy and what was the point of him doing all those parts? Terrible. A Charlie Brown Christmas, Mr. Magoo, and the Grinch should be #1 and are truly classics. Amen to Cindy Urban’s comments.

  • Chrissy S

    Whoops! That was supposed to be Roger Ebert!

  • Denise P

    So many greats are left out of this list. Here are more for consideration! Santa Claus is Coming to Town, The Year without a Santa Claus, Rudolf’s Shiny New Year, Little Drummer Boy, All Frosty’ Programs, Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol, and MANY more! I also hope that the above list isn’t in rank so that Rudolf is LAST!!??

  • JoAnne McMaster

    So you think Charlie Brown is great? He’s bullied by his friends, belittled and humiliated. In real life would we tolerate this? Somehow it’s just not funny anymore,,,

    • classicsforever

      Charlie Brown IS real life. The character was created by Charles Schulz to express things that happened to him during his own childhood. Welcome to the world of reality.

      • JoAnne McMaster

        I doubt if his childhod was that baf. “Based on” usually means some is fact, but not all. And if you’d lost a child to bullying, or knew someone who had you might not sound so flippant about it. I find no humor in the way he’s treated, nor that everyone thinks it’s all so funny

        • classicsforever

          According to Schultz it was. As for bullying, this is nothing new. There are bullies when you’re 9 and 99. Physical, emotional, financial..and the list could go on. Bullies usually thrive on the weak. They avoid anyone who takes a stand. When I was a kid I noticed some guys picking on a boy who used crutches. Although I was smaller than they were I told them to leave him alone or I’d make them. They turned around and walked off. And so it goes.

  • rocky-o

    should have been a good list…really wasn’t…some good choices here, so many left off…and ‘polar express’ was indeed one of the worst…

  • rodahaco

    I favor the specials of my childhood and looked forward to watching them every Christmas. It wasn’t Christmas without Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol, Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer, A Charlie Brown Christmas, Frosty the Snowman, Santa Claus is Coming to Town.

  • Frosty

    “A Charlie Brown Christmas” , Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol”, and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” in that order.
    “The Grinch” would not be on my list – I always hated the Grinch.
    And where’s “The Little Drummer Boy”? I’d put that in at number four.

  • VKMfanHuey

    there should be at least a couple more Rankin-Bass features… Frosty and Santa Claus is coming To Town…heck, even the Year w/o Santa…isn’t that the ‘Heat Miser’ one?

  • PPPete

    B.C. A Special Christmas (1981). The best Christmas cartoon ever. Unfortunately not available on DVD or Blu-ray as far as I can tell.

  • hupto

    In addition to Magoo, you also left out the most extraordinary animated feature of them all, Aardman’s ARTHUR CHRISTMAS. Despite rapturous reviews, it did not do well at the box office (too much competition from The Muppets, Puss In Boots and Happy Feet 2), but it’s been on DVD for a year now and there’s no excuse for it not to be seen and become a beloved favorite.

  • Tom K.

    The more I watch ” Polar Express “, the better I like it. There is that one kid character that Santa told to be patient that is a real pain, BUT we all grew up with a kid like that one, now didn’t we. This animated film is on the way to being a classic. What a Ride !

  • williamsommerwerck

    “The Polar Express” has some truly wretched motion-capture animation that, as they say, Helen Keller could spot a mile off. And then there’s the scenes at the North Pole, in which thousands of elves march around like Nazi athletes in “Triumph of the Will”.

    Most Christmas specials — animated or not — are shallow, sentimental slop. “Grinch” is arguably the best, not only because of the basically anti-materialistic tone of the material, but Boris Karloff’s magnificent performance.

    How about a list of worst Christmas shows (starting with the Star Wars special)?