I rank all of the Simpsons Christmas episodes, including the first episode ever.
On Sunday night, there was a new Simpsons Christmas episode. That gives me enough to put together this list of the Simpsons Christmas episodes, ranked from worst to best.
YES, I notice too that these basically go from newest episodes to oldest episodes. Just kinda happened that way.
NO, I didn’t forget Mr. Plow. (Even though it was placed on the Christmas With the Simpsons DVD in 2003.) Snow != Christmas in that case. Christmas is never mentioned in that episode so it doesn’t get in on a technicality.
Now, to review the surprisingly weak field of Simpsons Christmas episodes…
11 | “Kill Gill, Volumes 1 and 2” (2006 – Season 18)
Gil is one of those newer side characters who’s best in small, small doses. He’s like the cilantro of Simpsons side characters. Focusing an entire episode on how irritating he is when he moves in with the Simpsons doesn’t come out clever… it just irritates you as much as it irritates the characters on the show.
Plus the episode takes a weird plot direction when it becomes about Marge’s issues with telling people “No”… an issue that I’m fairly sure never came up before this and she’s never really struggled with. She bulldozed the burlesque house. She’s not afraid of confrontationally hurting people’s feelings.
10 | “The Fight Before Christmas” (2010 – Season 22)
This was last year’s Christmas episode and falls into the popular Simpsons trend of the past decade — splitting up an episode into a few shorter stories. This one has four: Bart in a Polar Express parody, Lisa in a random Christmas-inspired Inglourious Basterds parody, Marge seeing the downside of having Martha Stewart help with the holidays, and a live-action Muppets parody featuring Katy Perry.
Only the Bart story is a good Christmas one. Lisa’s story feels like it was added from a different episode and given a few Christmas lines to shoehorn it in. Marge’s is so forgettable I watched it three hours ago and barely remember it. And the Muppets thing fell shockingly flat for me, with Katy Perry making it distractingly worse. Overall grades would be a B+ for Bart and the Polar Express, C for Lisa’s Nazi hunting, C for Marge and Martha Stewart, and B- for Katy Perry and the Muppets.
9 | “Simpsons Christmas Stories” (2005 – Season 17)
This episode, much like the previous episode on this list, is a cluster of separate vignettes.
The first one is Homer retelling the story of the birth of Jesus and it’s a classic — the Simpsonizing of a famous story at its best. Unfortunately the episode kinda falls apart from there. The next story is a weird period piece about Grandpa Simpson and Mr. Burns shooting down Santa during World War Two. The third one isn’t a story, but rather some different characters singing about their Christmas to the Nutcracker song. It’s OK but the song isn’t strong enough to keep it from skewing toward filler.
Overall grades for the stories would be an A- for the birth of Jesus, a C- for Santa in World War Two and a B for the Nutcracker medley — not great, but better than the other Simpsons Christmas vignette-o-rama.
8 | “Holidays of Future Passed” (2011 – Season 23)
Watch this when it hits Hulu in a few days and I’d venture to say you’ll agree… I think we’ve finally hit the point of diminishing returns on Simpsons episodes set in the future.
7 | “Skinner’s Sense of Snow” (2000 – Season 12) / “Dude, Where’s My Ranch?” (2003 – Season 14)
I put these both here because they’re both sort of Christmas episodes, in that they have some portion that focuses on Christmas — but they’re not purely Christmas episodes. I felt like I couldn’t rank either of them higher because of that, but I do like them both.
Overall, I like “Skinner’s Sense of Snow” more, where Skinner, Willie and a few dozen students get trapped in the school after a blizzard and Homer and Ned try to get them out (ostensibly in time for Christmas). It also features Homer’s fume-induced daydream where he says “Bring me my ranch dressing hose!” — a quote I’ve said every time I’ve eaten ranch dressing for the past decade. (And a quote I also sought out when I was hunting for 11 Hidden Simpsons References At Costco.)
“Dude, Where’s My Ranch?” is only so-so at the dude ranch — but the opening segment featuring Homer’s original Christmas song is the best song that came out of The Simpsons in the past decade. (Check it out here.) This episode aired in April (the only one on this list that wasn’t originally aired in December), though, so clearly was not a Christmas-time Christmas episode. Then again they air their Halloween specials in November most years, so they do play a bit fast and loose with holiday deadlines.
6 | “Miracle on Evergreen Terrace” (1997 – Season 9)
In this episode, Bart accidentally burns down the Christmas tree and presents early Christmas morning and blames it on a burglar, which leads to an outpouring of support from the town. Eventually they learn what happened, ostracize the family, and only forgive them after they loot everything out of the Simpsons’ house.
There aren’t any truly memorable lines from this one — in fact, the biggest highlight is the first few minutes where Homer goes to the Try-N-Save on Christmas Eve and poses as a cashier to grab everyone else’s presents to give to the family. But it works as an episode and as a fresh storyline. And if you like black comedy, it definitely qualifies — not quite as much as the Frank Grimes episode but you don’t usually see black comedy and Christmas blending.
Queen Latifah’s Last Holiday exempted.
5 | “‘Tis the Fifteenth Season” (2003, Season 15)
In this episode, Homer selfishly buys himself a talking Astrolabe instead of spending money on his family, then sees version of A Christmas Carol, decides to be ultra-generous, but takes things too far and steals the town’s presents in a misguided attempt to try to make people happier.
Like many of the episodes from the early 2000s it’s a little bit all over the place but it does have some really good bits — and does take a much different route than any of the other Christmas episodes. I’m a particular fan of two parodies they feature — one of the California Raisins called the California Prunes, and one of Urkel on Family Matters also going through the ghosts of Christmas past/present/future.
4 | “Grift of the Magi” (1999 – Season 11)
This episode features Springfield Elementary being taken over by a toy company who use the students as market research for the ultimate Christmas toy — an evil Furby clone called Funzo.
There’s a lot to really like in this episode, especially the montage where Bart and Lisa distract families with carols while Homer breaks into their houses to steal the evil Funzos out from under their tree. This episode also featured a brilliant cameo by the late Gary Coleman — and this was before having random C-list celebrities play exaggerated versions of themselves on your show became a sitcom staple.
3 | “Marge Be Not Proud” (1995 – Season 7)
I actually didn’t love this one when it came out but over time, like many episodes from the early years, a combination of repetition and nostalgia has warmed it up for me.
I love Bart saying “Buy me Bonestorm or go to hell.” I love Milhouse entering his name but only getting out “Thrillho” (which is also featured in my list about Simpsons tattoos). I love Nelson’s line “Shoplifting is a victimless crime, like punching someone in the dark.” I love Homer’s lecture about stealing, where he calls the Reverend “Captain Whatshisname” and brings up the Police Academy movies. And about once a week I want to respond to a comment on this website with Comic Book Guy’s line “It seems we are unfamiliar with sarcasm, [so] I shall close the register at this point.”
And in a relatively weak field, those five moments are enough to vault this right into the top three.
2 | “She of Little Faith” (2001- Season 13)
In this episode, after Homer and Bart blow up the church using a model rocket (even though the word “unblowupable” is thrown around a lot these days), it sells out. Lisa explores other religions and converts to Buddhism — causing clashes with Marge as Christmas approaches.
It’s a well-done Lisa episode — Lisa episodes are always hit (this one, Lisa’s wedding, the vegetarian episode) or miss (“Lisa’s Pony”). Good story, good satire, good characterization.
But forget all that. This is the episode where Homer tells Bart, “As long as you’re in my house, you’ll do what I do, and belive what I believe. So butter your bacon… [and] bacon up that sausage, boy.” That’s enough for me.
1 | “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire” (1989 – Season 1)
On one hand, I felt like it was almost a cop out to choose the Simpsons pilot as the best Christmas episode. On the other hand, none of the other episodes is a true classic — and this episode is comprised of 22 of the most monumental minutes in television history — so it gets the crown.
Sometimes, #1 picks can be obvious. You don’t need to draft Greg Oden over Kevin Durant. You don’t need to say Williams College is the best school in America. You don’t need to name Jennifer Aniston the sexiest woman in history without even considering Helen of Troy. Occam’s razor exists for a reason.