A top 10 list of Christmas tv-movies from the 1980s and 1990s

With the holiday tv season in full force, all of the cable networks have been churning out holiday tv movies like a toy on an assembly line.  While there are some gems within the clutter of tv-movies, there was a time that only one tv-movie was released per year on each network.  It can be argued that the quality might not have been top-notch, at least it felt more like an event when one was released then now.. where one is released per day it seems.  Saturation can hurt a product, which I’m finding is the case with the holiday tv-movie.

Below is my personal list of favorite Christmas tv-movies from the 1980s and 1990s before over saturation became the trend.

1) A Smoky Mountain Christmas (1986)

DP       This is a Dolly Parton movie so naturally it would be #1 on my list.  It’s a beautiful story about a country singer realizing something is missing from her life so she returns home to the Smoky Mountains to regroup and ends up in a 1980s version of Snow White.  Of course, a story based off of Snow White wouldn’t be complete without the addition of the evil queen, captured in all her glory with hair as big as Dolly’s.  I often coin their showdown at the end to be the ‘battle of the big hair divas’.  Given that the movie was made in the 1980’s, the hair isn’t quite so big 🙂  A movie with a cute story, great leads, and wonderful songs make this a classic in my heart 🙂


2) A Mom for Christmas (1990)

momA charming Christmas movie starring Olivia Newton John about a little girl wishing for a mother for the holidays, who turns out to be a store mannequin bought to life for the holidays.  After the typical comedic adventures that a mannequin bought to life would have, it comes to the final moments where you’re wondering will she stay amongst the living, or will she return to the land of mannequin’s.  If you have to ponder, then you’re watching the wrong genre 🙂 LOL



3) The Night they Saved Christmas (1984)

nightA truly 80s tv movie that plays off the oil crisis/boom of the 1980s.  The basic plot strand is that an oil company finds a couple of sites near the North Pole, and it’s up to a family to convince the head of the oil company not to drill on a site near the North Pole.  Some cute scenes such as talking into a candy cane phone, some tense family scenes, and a cheesy song that truly signals that this is a Christmas movie from the 80s 🙂



4) A Christmas Carol (1984)

CC1984One of my favorite adaptations of the classic story by Charles Dickens.  This is a very well done version starring George C. Scott, who truly embodies the essence and personality of Scrooge.  The attention to detail, the seamless transition from book to screen, and the acting from all involved make this version my favorite of all the Christmas Carol adaptations.. and there are ample ones to choose from 🙂



5) The Christmas Gift (1986)

The_Christmas_Gift_(1986)An often forgotten Christmas movie starring John Denver (I seem to be drawn to holiday movies starring Country singers for some reason LOL) where he’s a single dad that takes his daughter to a small town for a work vacation.  He lies to his daughter and the townspeople that he’s there for a vacation, but he’s really there to survey the town for a new housing project that threatens to ruin the small town charm of the town.  Parent/child conflict, a holiday romance, and a small town vs. big city conflict play out.. typical plot points for a holiday movie.. but it’s so charming here that I overlook the cliches and smile on the inside anytime I watch this 🙂


6) Ebbie (1995)

ebbie-covIt took well over a century before film makers decided to give the classic ‘A Christmas Carol’ a feminist twist and it took the power of a television movie to make that happen.  While it certainly isn’t the best of the feminist versions of the story, it’s the first and in an odd way, the most heart felt of the versions.  Susan Lucci plays a cold, workaholic department store owner that gets a visit from her former boss plus three different spirits of past, present, and future to show her the errors of her way.  There a few twists to the old story that add additional dimensions to the story such as her sister and niece being played by the same actress (giving an hint as to why Ebbie is cold to her niece).. and the ghosts of past, present and future being played by store employees.  It’s a good first feminist adaptation that should be viewed even over other versions such as ‘A Diva’s Christmas Carol’.

7) A Very Brady Christmas (1988)

VBCpaWhat list wouldn’t be complete without adding the Brady Bunch.  It was a genius idea to combine two cheesy things such as Christmas and the Brady Bunch into one movie.  I guess you could say it’s killing two birds with one stone.  The kids are grown and living the 80s lifestyle while becoming susceptible to the ways of the 80s yuppie lifestyle.  What better way to cure this malady then an old fashion Christmas with the Brady parents.. also influenced by the 80s lifestyle..as one can see when seeing how the parents redecorated their house in the style popular in the late 80s.  Despite that, and the fact that Cindy isn’t really Cindy, it’s still charming and cheesy.. and who can ask for anything more then that from a holiday film starring the Brady’s 🙂


8) The Christmas List (1997)

The_Christmas_List1-1387462805A person favorite Christmas movie from the late 90s.  It stars a 30 something single perfume counter worker, known for her ability to decipher any fragrance scent while blind-folded.  As the movie starts, she’s in a loveless relationship and being taken for granted by her job and family.  Once she takes her best friends advice to make out a Christmas list and send it to Santa.. her list starts to come true.  However, there is a price for each gift she gets from her list.  The main reason I enjoyed this film was due to the fact that the main character becomes self-confident and finally speaks up for what she wants including a new job, a better relationship with her family, and a new guy.  A winner that should be released on DVD, imho 🙂


9) The Best Christmas Pageant Ever (1983)

BESTCHRISTMASAn hour long adaptation of one of my favorite children’s books.  It’s about a church play that gets turned upside starting with the injury of the play director that leaves her replacement with her hands full literally especially when the no-good Herdman’s take over the play.  What no one realizes is that the Herdman’s and the church end up helping one another in ways neither expected.  Thank gosh for Youtube, or I’d never get to watch this gem from the 80s 🙂



10) Christmas Everyday (1996)

Title-Christmas_Every_Day_1996Last, and certainly not least, is a Christmas twist on the movie ‘Groundhog Day’ where a pre-teen boy has to relieve Christmas day over and over until he learns the true meaning of Christmas.  A great portrait of small town america, and the true lesson of the holiday means to several people.  Not available on DVD, and difficult to view on tv.  If you happen to find it on youtube, or if ABC family (soon to be freeform) runs it.. I recommend watching it.



So in conclusion, yes the above movies are cheesy.. but they were released during a time when there were less Christmas movies released per year so they made a bigger impact on me.  Most of the above list are available on DVD, or can be found on outlets like Hulu and Youtube.  So make your Throwback Thursdays a memorable one this holiday season and watch one of these classics 🙂

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