Christmas is such a special and magical time that even great cinema need not abide by typical feature length conventions to earn love and appreciation the world over. Across 125-plus years, some of the very best memories of Christmas viewing, and some of the most iconic representations of festive cinema, have come from within the tighter confines of those films that have lasted fewer than 60 minutes – special animated fare, stories first aired on television, and more.
In this Movie List from The Film Magazine, we are looking at these movies in particular. The films that have spoken to us as a culture, have lasted long in our public consciousness, have been present for many a warm Christmas memory. These films are all under one hour in length – you can find our feature length selection in our 50 Unmissable Christmas Films list – and must be exclusively festive in nature. These are the most important, the most memorable, the most beloved, the 10 Best Christmas Short Films.
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10. Frosty the Snowman (1969)
Rankin/Bass are one of the most famous animated short producers in film history, their contributions to seasonal fare living long in the public consciousness of those in the United States and beyond since their releases more than fifty years ago. The animation of this production house was so beloved that Jon Favreau famously fought for it to be paid tribute to in his 2003 Christmas film Elf (a unique aspect of this contemporary live-action film that separates it from many of its competitors). Rankin/Bass’s legacy is one that continues to find fondness generation after generation.
Frosty the Snowman was the final animated short made for (and released on) television that Rankin/Bass released in their most popular decade, the 1960s, and the first of a few Rankin/Bass films to make this list.
Based on the song of the same name by Walter E. Rollins and Steve Nelson, this 1969 version of the seasonal tale is harmless and fun, animated with all the soft lines and wholesome glow of the best Rankin/Bass films. It tells of a snowman and a small girl being pursued by a magician for the snowman’s magic hat, and aside from a few slightly scary scenes offers all the warmth and heart of the season.
Recommended for you: 5 Reasons ‘Elf’ Is a Gen Z Christmas Classic
9. Olive, the Other Reindeer (1999)
This uniquely animated Christmas musical released by Fox Television and Flower Films just before the turn of the century is as star-studded as it is lovely.
Based on the 1997 children’s book of the same name by Vivian Walsh and J. Otto Seibold, which in turn was based on the misunderstanding of the lyric “all of the other reindeer” as “Olive, the other reindeer” in the Christmas song “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”, Olive, the Other Reindeer follows Drew Barrymore’s titular Jack Russell Terrier who travels to the north pole to help pull Santa’s sleigh when it is discovered that Blitzen is injured and unable to fly.
Nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Animated Program, the seasonal short is stylish and beautifully brought to life by the voice actors, with the type of story that will bring plenty of smiles to faces, especially at Christmas. There’s even a song by Blitzen’s cousin Schnitzel, voiced by R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe. What more could you need?