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10 Best Christmas TV Episodes of All Time

Unranked because it’s Christmas and everyone celebrates in their own way.

Peter Capaldi's 12th Doctor wearing a reindeer antler headband for Christmas

It’s Christmas time, which means it’s the time of year when TV shows share their own version of holiday cheer. Some are more focused on complicated family dynamics, while others are about the stresses of balancing holidays with work, but all these episodes have some cheer to give. Here are 10 of the best Christmas TV episodes of all time (unranked because it’s Christmas and they’re all merry in their own way).

DC Animated Universe 

The DC Animated Universe has produced a host of holiday specials; the Joker’s first episode in Batman: The Animated Series was a Christmas special titled “Christmas with the Joker.” Of DC’s animated holiday episodes, my personal favorite is Justice League‘s “Comfort and Joy”; when watched with the Thanagarian arc that came immediately after, this seemingly sweet one-off becomes the start of one of the most heart-wrenching arcs in superhero animation. I will also highlight the New Batman Adventures episode “Holiday Knights,” as it has some fun HarleyIvy moments, and the New Year’s scene with Batman and Commissioner Gordon feels especially sad given the passing of Kevin Conroy this year.

The Spectacular Spider-Man – “Reinforcement” (season 2, episode 3)

The holidays are stressful enough without the pressures of being a teenage superhero, but of course the Sinister Six would decide that Christmas is the best time to try and kill Spider-Man. Still, Peter gets some cute moments as he tries to navigate multiple crushes and get a good gift for Aunt May. It’s also really funny that this show brought down the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree in a superhero fight years before Hawkeye did.

Kim Possible – “A Very Possible Christmas” (season 2, episode 16)

While I have mixed feelings about the canonically Jewish Ron Stoppable being a Christmas fanatic, “A Very Possible Christmas” is still a very jolly Christmas special in which the villains and heroes put aside their differences for the holidays. It was also one of the pre-season 4 episodes that openly teased KimRon with their kiss under the mistletoe.

Danny Phantom – “The Fright Before Christmas” (season 2, episode 10)

Danny Phantom’s “The Fright Before Christmas” is an episode that encapsulates the frustration of family antics made worse by the holidays—and a curse that forces the hero to speak entirely in rhyme. It’s enough to drive anyone mad, so of course it’s driving the teenage half-ghost hero Danny Fenton absolutely bonkers. Even his enemies come together to help him get out of the eternal rhyme scheme in which he’s been trapped. Now that’s some Christmas spirit!

Phineas and Ferb – “Phineas and Ferb Christmas Vacation!” (season 2, episode 21)

For a show about summer, Phineas and Ferb has multiple amazing Christmas/holiday/winter episodes, including “S’Winter,” “A Phineas and Ferb Family Christmas,” “For Your Ice Only,” and “Happy New Year.” But the greatest gift of all is “Phineas and Ferb Christmas Vacation!” in which Phineas, Ferb, and their friends get to celebrate Christmas by taking over for Santa. (I know I’m stretching the rules with this one since it’s basically a mini-movie more than an episode, but it’s still a jolly good time!)

The Simpsons – “Marge Be Not Proud” (season 7, episode 11)

The Simpsons is another show that has a host of good Christmas episodes, but this one has stuck with many people for how real it is. After Bart gets caught stealing, Marge decides she’s mothering him too much and resolves to not include him in the family activities. Bart, for all his bluster, finds himself struggling without a mother to give him boatloads of affection, and eventually works to make amends with his mother.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer – “Amends” (season 3, episode 10)

The one and only Christmas episode in the show, “Amends” was also a backdoor pilot for Angel. Angel is tortured by visions of his past victims and the fear of doing further harm to Buffy and her friends. Resolving to end the threat of Angelus and the guilt he feels for his un-souled actions, Buffy and Angel have a beautifully heart-wrenching cry-fight that is suddenly stopped by a miracle snowstorm in Sunnydale, California. Merry Christmas, Angel. Your fight isn’t over yet. 

(Alternative Christmas episodes include “The Wish” (literally the plot of It’s a Wonderful Life), “The Body,” (or at least the brief bit before the 40 minutes of pure trauma), and “Bring on the Night.”)

Doctor Who

The Christmas Specials are a longstanding tradition of Doctor Who and it can be truly hard to decide on the best one, especially since some of them are the best episodes in the whole series. If you’re looking for lighter ones where (almost) everyone lives, “The Christmas Invasion,” “A Christmas Carol,” “The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe,” “The Husbands of River Song,” and “The Return of Doctor Mysterio” are good choices (I have a particular fondness for “The Husbands of River Song”). If you’re okay with a little bit of angst with your Christmas cheer, “The Runaway Bride,” “Voyage of the Damned,” “The Snowmen,” and “Last Christmas” provide both. If you’re prepared to cry your eyes out, “The Next Doctor,” “The End of Time,” “The Time of the Doctor,” and “Twice Upon a Time” are all excellent choices—though my personal favorite is “Twice Upon a Time,” which brings in the real world miracle of the Christmas Armistice of WWI.

Leverage – “The Ho Ho Ho Job” (season 3, episode 14)

“The Ho Ho Ho Job” is a cute episode that sees the Leverage team attempting to restore the reputation of a mall Santa and stop a potential heist in the process. It features surprise cameos from past enemies, as well as a bunch of Grinches learning the True Spirit of Christmas.

Parks and Recreation – “Citizen Knope” (season 4, episode 10)

“Christmas Scandal” and “Ron and Diane” are both fun Christmas episodes with a lot of heart and cheer, but I have to give the award for best Parks and Rec Christmas episode to “Citizen Knope.” In the season 4 episode, the whole cast comes together to celebrate Leslie Knope with a gingerbread diorama of the Parks department and an offer to volunteer for her campaign. It’s especially lovely since this is one of the rare Christmas episodes that is part of a larger ongoing narrative.

What’s your favorite Christmas episode? Comment below!

(featured image: BBC)

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Kimberly Terasaki is a Creative Writing graduate, fanfiction author, and intersectional feminist. She liked Ahsoka Tano before it was cool, will fight you about Rey being a “Mary Sue,” and is a Kamala Khan stan. She appreciates all constructive criticism and genuine discussion.