I'll Have a Blue Christmas (With Your Help)
December 7, 2012 8:28 AM   Subscribe

Help me think of the saddest, most heart-rending Christmas-themed movies and/or TV series Very Special Episodes. Not just heartwarming or awww-eliciting, but stuff that will absolutely break your heart and have you bawling like a newborn baby. There's It's a Wonderful Life, of course, but what others would you list?
posted by El Sabor Asiatico to Media & Arts (40 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Truman Capote's A Christmas Memory, with Geraldine Page.
posted by bcwinters at 8:32 AM on December 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

The "So-Called Angels" episode of My So-Called Life, where Rickie ends up homeless at Christmas.
posted by futureisunwritten at 8:34 AM on December 7, 2012 [11 favorites]

It's the end of "Emmet Otter's Jugband Christmas". The whole special is just a woodland "Gift of the Magi", but Paul Williams wrote the prettiest song called "When the River Meets the Sea" that is not a Christmas song at all, rather it is a meditation on death. It broke my heart before, but it has particular poignance for me after my father died last December, 5 days before Christmas.
posted by inturnaround at 8:37 AM on December 7, 2012 [6 favorites]

posted by empath at 8:38 AM on December 7, 2012

Hachiko or Hachi with Richard Gere. For some reason, I'm thinking it has to do with Christmas...maybe because it snows, I could be wrong though.
posted by foxhat10 at 8:39 AM on December 7, 2012

Nestor, The Long-Eared Christmas Donkey. The scene with his mother after the snowstorm. You will cry. Definitely.
posted by Hanuman1960 at 8:40 AM on December 7, 2012 [6 favorites]

Try out Val Lewton's Curse of the Cat People. Not exactly Christmas-themed but some important plot points happen with Christmas as a critical backdrop.
posted by Currer Belfry at 9:00 AM on December 7, 2012

I'd suggest The West Wing, season 1 episode 10, In Excelsis Deo. There's a continuing plotline which you don't really need to know--the real crux of the episode is about Toby learning of the death of a homeless Korean War veteran, who was wearing a coat Toby gave to the Goodwill (which leads to other things, including some personal information about Mrs. Landingham). The final five minutes or so of the episode always make me cry, and I've seen it a dozen times. The episode won a writing Emmy, and Richard Schiff won Best Supporting Actor.
posted by theatro at 9:03 AM on December 7, 2012 [6 favorites]

Christmas Eve on Sesame Street. Bert and Ernie playing out the Gift of the Magi. Best version of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" ever. (And really, that song should get a special mention in the 'sad Christmas' category no matter who does it.)
posted by ActionPopulated at 9:15 AM on December 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

The Kid Who Loved Christmas made me sob when I was 10. Maybe it still would today.
posted by mkb at 9:28 AM on December 7, 2012

The Arnold's Christmas Episode of Hey Arnold (warning: spoilers) is currently on Netflix, is usually on YouTube, and makes me cry every single time.
posted by Juliet Banana at 9:34 AM on December 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

"simpsons roasting on an open fire" -- the very first simpsons christmas special, when the family gets santa's little helper.
(the best moment)
posted by changeling at 9:40 AM on December 7, 2012

Nthing Nester. My gosh....
posted by pearlybob at 9:41 AM on December 7, 2012

I offer you the "Blue Christmas" episode of Ally McBeal.

But definitely Nestor. Brings back lovely memories of five year old me and my mother bawling uncontrollably.
posted by kimberussell at 9:51 AM on December 7, 2012

Scrooged. It's the movie where Bill Murray decided he was going to act for a living, and there are at least three scenes of pure heartbreak in there.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:54 AM on December 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh Lord. The Little Match Girl with a tiny Sarah Jessica Parker as the match girl. I can cry right now just remembering it. A little girl outside in the snow trying to sell matches so her father won't beat her. She looks in people's windows and sees families eating dinner with Christmas trees all around. It gets worse and worse from there.

Here's a synopsis if you want to make yourself miserable. Hans Christian Andersen was a dark, dark man.
posted by hollygoheavy at 10:09 AM on December 7, 2012

One True Thing
posted by jmmpangaea at 10:24 AM on December 7, 2012

The House without a Christmas Tree.
posted by Oriole Adams at 10:32 AM on December 7, 2012

Jim Henson's The Christmas Toy. MEW DIED FOR YOUR SINS, RUGBY.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 10:34 AM on December 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Nthing the Little Match Girl. I remember seeing a version when I was little (why, oh why did my parents let me watch that?) and sobbing uncontrollaby for hours. I still remember the closing scene, and get shudders.
posted by ElleElle at 10:39 AM on December 7, 2012

All Mine To Give - Saddest movie ever.
posted by dawkins_7 at 11:05 AM on December 7, 2012

There's Phoebe Cates' famous monologue about the death of her father in Gremlins. Although that may be more darkly humorous than you're looking for.
posted by brundlefly at 11:14 AM on December 7, 2012

The Little Match Girl will reduce anybody to tears. I remember going to see the play at a theater with my aunt when I was a kid. When the lights came up, everyone was crying. I was at an age where I didn't think that adults cried at all...and certainly not in groups, or in public. It was weird.

I'd forgotten about Nestor the long-eared donkey.

I'm going to be depressed all day.
posted by Elly Vortex at 11:21 AM on December 7, 2012

The Cat Carol. I am not linking to anything about it. I dont want the responsibility.
posted by Billiken at 11:38 AM on December 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

The movie "Love, Actually" did this for me.

I just read the lyrics of "The Cat Carol". Used three tissues. Five minutes, three tissues. Geez.
posted by amtho at 11:47 AM on December 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

The Designing Women episode The First Day of the Last Decade of the Entire Twentieth Century is technically set on New Year's Eve, but I believe it was the Christmas special that year? It has Christmassy things in it. At any rate, when I watched that episode I bawled like a baby. Every time I caught it afterward, same waterworks. And now that I have had a baby, whenever I see it? I bawl like two babies.
posted by peagood at 11:56 AM on December 7, 2012

Community's Christmas Episode, "Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas."

Also, if you don't mind very nice animation, check out one of the last movies by Satoshi Kon, Tokyo Godfathers. It's a partial take off of the Western the Three Godfathers, but set in modern day Tokyo with three homeless men at Christmas time who find themselves in charge of a baby (very good).
posted by Atreides at 12:07 PM on December 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Terry Gilliam's Brazil is set during Christmas. That doesn't make it a Christmas movie per se, but still…
posted by Grangousier at 12:08 PM on December 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

nthing so many - especially Nestor and the Little Match Girl. My plans to watch EOJBC again this year seem a little more fraught than when I made the decision.

I seem to remember Little Drummer Boy making me sob, but I was particularly sensitive, so maybe not.

oh, my gods, why did i read those lyrics?! what is wrong with me?!?
posted by batmonkey at 12:12 PM on December 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

I just read the lyrics of "The Cat Carol". Used three tissues.

I'm not even allowed to do that. I can get weepy just THINKING about the damn thing.
posted by dlugoczaj at 12:14 PM on December 7, 2012

BBC 1 had a long-running and very popular sitcom in the 1990s called 'One Foot in the Grave', which was about the misadventures of cantankerous retiree Victor Meldrew and his long-suffering wife, Margaret. The series was written by David Renwick, and managed to be both very funny and, at times, really quite dark for a prime-time sitcom.

One Foot in the Grave had the only TV sitcom Christmas special episode I've ever seen that made me cry -- Wikipedia tells me the episode was called 'Who's Listening' and aired on 27/12/1990, and had a subplot where Victor loses his temper with a video-rental store worker only to later discover that her husband had just died (I *think* -- I haven't seen the episode since). The Christmas episode the following year, 1991, had the Meldrews' next door neighbour Pippa suffering a miscarriage.
posted by meronym at 12:26 PM on December 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Meet Me in St. Louis: Judy Garland sings "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" to Margaret O'Brian.
posted by Carol Anne at 1:15 PM on December 7, 2012 [3 favorites]

Joyeux Noel.
posted by Wavelet at 2:15 PM on December 7, 2012

The best filmed version of A Christmas Carol, with Alistair Sim, from 1951. I challenge just about anyone to make it through Fan's deathbed scene without choking up.
posted by jokeefe at 8:47 PM on December 7, 2012

Paul Kelly - "How to Make Gravy"

Not sure how this translates outside of Australia. My brother sang this tonight, I don't think there was a dry eye in the house.
posted by arha at 3:23 AM on December 8, 2012

The Office (UK) Christmas special also makes me lose my shit every time I watch it, but that just might be me.
posted by arha at 3:29 AM on December 8, 2012

Ziggy's Gift. Seriously.
posted by jbickers at 8:26 AM on December 8, 2012

Do you remember the song "Christmas Shoes"? There's a movie..
me, I need to go cry for hours now.
posted by baconandvodka at 8:37 PM on December 9, 2012

One Magic Christmas-Mary Steenburgen
posted by sybarite09 at 5:31 AM on December 11, 2012

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