Carroll County Times
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Cinematic Advent Calendar: 25 Days of holiday films

"A Charlie Brown Christmas" will air on ABC at 8 p.m. Dec. 1.

One of the best parts of the holiday season are the Christmas and seasonal films which start appearing on TV. To help you schedule out the month, the Times has gathered a list of holiday films which will be airing or are available on streaming or rental services throughout the month of December. Keep an eye on your local channels and streaming services for any changes. In addition to these films, Freeform, formerly ABC Family, is hosting a holiday marathon every day until Dec. 25.

So, pin this list to your wall and watch a film a day through Christmas, or go online and vote for your favorite entries at our online poll at


Dec. 1, "A Charlie Brown Christmas," 8 p.m. on ABC

One of the most iconic animated specials of all time, "A Charlie Brown Christmas" represented the Peanuts characters' first foray into animation. Unique in its time, and indeed still today, for its jazz soundtrack, use of child actors, melancholy themes and direct references to the Biblical inspiration for the holiday, "A Charlie Brown Christmas" is a holiday classic in every sense.


Dec. 2, "The Santa Clause," 7:15 p.m. on Freeform

Who would have guessed that one of the most popular holiday movies of the 1990s would open with sitcom star Tim Allen murdering Santa Claus? A fun look into the logic behind the Santa mythos, this film is singlehandedly responsible a lifetime of pun-impaired children misspelling the name Santa Claus.

Dec. 3, "Pee Wee's Playhouse Christmas Special," streaming on Netflix

This Christmas special features what might be the greatest assortment of entertainers ever assembled for a single production: Annette Funicello, Frankie Avalon, Grace Jones, k.d. Lang, Dinah Shore, Little Richard, Cher, Magic Johnson, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Whoopi Goldberg, Oprah Winfrey, Joan Rivers and Charo all come together for this camp classic which blends animation, live action, classic footage, songs and skits with Paul Reubens' quirky humor.

Dec. 4, "I'll Be Home For Christmas," 12:10 p.m. on Freeform

Hardly a Christmas classic, but this film does feature '90s Tiger Beat heartthrob Jonathan Taylor Thomas, an early appearance from Jessica Biel and a delightfully overwrought premise. JTT plays a self-centered college kid whose dad promises him a new car if he can make it home for Christmas Eve dinner. An angry prank leaves him stranded in the middle of the desert glued into a Santa suit, and he's got to cross the country dressed as Santa to try and win the car.

"Scrooged will appear on Freeform 9 p.m. Dec. 5. MUST CREDIT: Paramount Pictures ** Usable by BS, CT, DP, FL, HC, MC, OS, SD, CGT and CCT **

Dec. 5, "Scrooged," 9 p.m. on Freeform

One of the darkest adaptations of "A Christmas Carol," "Scrooged" features Bill Murray as a miserly television producer working on a scandalous version of the Dickens classic. The film, directed by Richard Donner of "Superman" fame, features an incredible cast including Carol Kane, David Johansen and Bobcat Goldthwait, Bill Murray's classic brand of humor and a legitimately heartfelt turn at the climax.


Dec. 6, "Miracle on 34th Street," streaming on Amazon Prime

The quintessential live action portrayal of Santa Claus, "Miracle on 34th Street" has remained a Christmas classic for nearly 70 years, despite some prominent product placement for Macy's department store. The film features memorable turns from Golden-Age star Maureen O'Hara and Edmund Gwenn as Kris Kringle.

Dec. 7, "A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas," streaming on HBO Go

Not every Christmas classic needs to be 100 percent respectful of the holiday and its institutions. Sometimes all a film needs is a lovable talking waffle-making robot to make it stand out in a crowd of competitors.

Dec. 8, "Elf," 8 p.m. on Freeform

Probably the most recent film that has already entered into the pantheon of Christmas classics, "Elf" features a lively performance by Will Ferrell as a grown-man raised by elves, with a production-design inspired by the Rankin-Bass stop motion Christmas specials. "Elf" represented "Iron Man" director Jon Favreau's first step into big-budget fantasy filmmaking.


Dec. 9, "Love Actually," streaming on Netflix

OK, so about half of the stories in the Christmas-set romantic anthology are morally reprehensible, but the other half are delightfully heartwarming tales of people finding a small solace of happiness in the winter months. "Love Actually" has grown into one of the most popular romantic comedies of recent memory.

Dec. 10, "Lethal Weapon," streaming on Amazon Prime

"Die Hard" has gotten a lot of press in recent years as a stealth Christmas classic, but "Lethal Weapon" often gets overlooked in the conversation of holiday action films. Opening credits are set to "Jingle Bell Rock" as the camera zooms over a Christmas tree, just before a drugged-up woman takes a swan dive onto an exploding car.

Dec. 11, "The Muppet Christmas Carol," streaming on HBO Go

There are few pleasures more pure than watching the knighted Sir Michael Caine trying his best to emote in scenes surrounded entirely by felt monsters. The first Muppet movie made after the death of Jim Henson, "A Muppet Christmas Carol" is a surprisingly faithful adaptation, featuring much of Dickens' original language, as well as a handful of incredible tunes by songwriter Paul Williams.

"The Nightmare Before Christmas" will air on Freeform at 5:45 p.m. Dec. 12.

Dec. 12, "The Nightmare Before Christmas," 5:45 p.m. on Freeform

Let's get one thing straight. "The Nightmare Before Christmas" is a spooky Christmas film, not a festive Halloween film. A feature-length treatise on the dangers of cultural appropriation, "The Nightmare Before Christmas has grown into a merchandising machine. Fun fact: Contrary to popular opinion, this film is not actually directed by Tim Burton.

Dec. 13, "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation," 9 p.m. on Freeform

The Griswold family finally stays in one place in this third entry in the "National Lampoon's Vacation" series. A bitingly funny disaster of a Christmas brings out the best and worst of Chevy Chase and the rest of the cast. It's better than a trip to Wally World.

"A Very Murray Christmas" is currently streaming on Netflix.

Dec. 14, "A Very Murray Christmas," streaming on Netflix

Sofia Coppola reteams with "Lost in Translation" partner Bill Murray for this wonderfully melancholy holiday special. Murray plays himself as a massive snowstorm cancels plans for his live Christmas special. The film features cameos from just about every corner of Hollywood, including George Clooney, Chris Rock, Miley Cyrus and David Johansen.


Dec. 15, "The Shop Around the Corner," 8 p.m. on TCM

Famously readapted as the non-holiday film "You've Got Mail," "The Shop Around the Corner" is frequently cited as one of the greatest Christmas films of all time. Coworkers James Stewart and Margaret Sullivan may not be able to stand each other in person, but slowly fall in love through their correspondence. This grandly romantic film climaxes quietly on Christmas Eve.

Dec. 16, "Gremlins," streaming on Amazon Prime

And you thought your Christmas presents were bad? Aimless 20-something Billy Peltzer proves he's the world's worst pet owner after being given a Mogwai with three simple rules: Keep it out of bright lights; don't get it wet; and don't feed it after midnight. Well, within the week, Billy's broken all three rules and unleashed a plague of puppet monsters on his small town.

Dec. 17, "Krampus," available at Redbox

Michael Dougherty had already made the perfect Halloween horror film with 2007's "Trick 'r Treat," before turning his attention to Christmas with this horror-comedy. Krampus hearkens back to the family-friendly horror of the '80s where the scares are serious enough to frighten kids, but the entire package is fun enough to make them want to sit through it anyway. Santa's grumpy coworker Krampus descends on a suburban family to punish them for their lack of holiday cheer.


Dec. 18, A Christmas Carol, 9 a.m. on TCM

One of the earliest sound adaptations of "A Christmas Carol," this 1938 rendition features Reginald Owen as Ebenezer Scrooge in what would become one of his most famous roles. The film comes in at a brisk 69 minutes and features music by famed composer Franz Waxman, who composed the scores for "Bride of Frankenstein," "Rebecca," "Sunset Boulevard" and more.

Dec. 19, "The Night Before," available at Redbox

A surprisingly heartfelt holiday comedy is buried in a level of raunch as "50/50" director reteams with Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen adding charisma-machine Anthony Mackie to the group. "The Night Before" follows three friends who have spent every Christmas Eve together on the final night of their tradition as they start to grow up and apart.

Dec. 20, "Santa Claus is Comin' to Town," 4:30 p.m. on Freeform

Rankin and Bass get an early start on the gritty reboot trend with this stop motion classic, "Santa Claus is Comin' to Town" is pretty much just a 1970s version of "Batman Begins" or "Casino Royale" with Santa Claus instead of Batman or James Bond. Listen while Fred Astaire sings to you the origin of all of Santa's most famous traditions as Kris Kringle sets off to deliver toys to Sombertown.


Dec. 21, "The Year Without a Santa Claus," 2:10 p.m. on Freeform

Best known for the endlessly catchy "Heat Miser" and "Snow Miser" songs, "The Year Without a Santa Claus" is one of the most emotional of the stop-motion Rankin and Bass specials. Santa, battling a cold and general ennui about his lot in life, decides to cancel Christmas for a single year. The children of the world have to come together to show the old man that he's still loved.

Dec. 22, "Jingle All the Way," 8:55 p.m. on Freeform

"Jingle All the Way" may not be a Christmas classic, and it definitely loses steam in the final act, but is there any better way to unwind on a Thursday before a long holiday weekend than watching Arnold Schwarzenegger cram his biceps into a Santa suit and try to recite all the names of Santa's reindeer?

Dec. 23, "Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas," 8 p.m. on NBC

Looney Tunes director Chuck Jones took the reins on this immensely popular version of the Dr. Seuss children's book. Film "Frankenstein" Boris Karloff trades in the neck bolts and padded shoes for green fur and a heart that's two sizes too small to portray that neighbor we've all had who can't stand to hear the slightest bit of joy from the folks living nearby.

"It's a Wonderful Life" will air on NBC at 8 p.m. Christmas Eve.  (RKO) ** OUTS - ELSENT, FPG, TCN - OUTS **

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Dec. 24, "It's a Wonderful Life," 8 p.m. on NBC

Despite its status now as a holiday classic, "It's a Wonderful Life" started life as a box office bomb. It wasn't until the film fell out of copyright in 1974 that TV stations began picking up the film and running it nonstop during the holiday season without having to pay for royalties. The film has been reclaimed by Republic Pictures, and now, NBC makes a huge production out of their annual screening, taking place this year on Christmas Eve.

Dec. 25, "A Christmas Story," playing on loop until 8 p.m. TBS

Bob Clark first made his mark in holiday cinema with "Black Christmas," the film that kickstarted both the holiday horror and slasher genres. Just a decade later he'd return to the holidays with "A Christmas Story" which has quickly rocketed into the prime entry as the Christmas movie for a generation. A look back to a raucous holiday season in the '40s, "A Christmas Story" feeds into nostalgia for those who remember the '40s, children of the '80s from when the film first came out to millennials today who grew up with the film.