’Tis the season… for bratty onscreen kids to slam doors, throw tantrums ,and demand expensive presents from their exhausted parents. Ahead of Christmas Day, we present the most annoying children from our favorite festive films, ranked from mildly grating to genuinely infuriating.
9. Sophie and Olivia in The Holiday
The giggly daughters of Jude Law’s dashing book editor Graham, as played by Miffy Englefield and Emma Pritchard, throw a spanner in the works in Nancy Meyers’s classic rom-com when their calls to their father are seen by his one-night stand, Amanda (Cameron Diaz), who assumes they are other romantic rivals. When she finally meets them, they’re cute enough, but also bicker about who has more marshmallows in their hot chocolate, force their father to do his Mr, Napkin Head routine, mock Amanda’s milk moustache, and then make her crawl into their tent in her stilettos. As first meetings go, it’s pretty demanding.
8. Annabelle and Matt in You’ve Got Mail
The autumnal montage in which Tom Hanks’s Joe Fox takes his 11-year-old aunt Annabelle (Hallee Hirsh) and four-year-old half-brother Matt (Jeffrey Scaperrotta) to the fair in Nora Ephron’s charmer is adorable, granted, but the pair lose points for the former’s unbelievably off-key rendition of “Tomorrow” from Annie, and the latter’s tendency to incessantly spell out “Fox”—a habit which almost exposes Joe’s real identity to his anonymous pen pal and competitor in the book business, Kathleen (Meg Ryan).
7. Zuzu in It’s A Wonderful Life
We get it, she needs to give her flower a drink, but Zuzu’s (Karolyn Grimes) refusal to put on a coat and insistence that her father, George Bailey (James Stewart), repair the aforementioned flower as it’s wilting is what finally sends our beloved everyman over the edge in Frank Capra’s Christmas mainstay. Later, in a fit of frustration, he asks his wife Mary (Donna Reed) something that many of the fictional parents on this list must be thinking: “Why did we have to have all these kids?”
6. Kevin in Home Alone
All of the kids in Chris Columbus’s family comedy are irritating—the snarky Linnie (Angela Goethals), the grouchy Jeff (Michael C. Maronna), the cruel Buzz (Devin Ratray), the hopeless bed-wetter Fuller (Kieran Culkin)—but Macaulay Culkin snags the top spot as the precocious, moany smart-ass Kevin McCallister, who tells his mother (Catherine O’Hara) that he hopes to never see his family again. Thankfully, he becomes a lot less insufferable once his wish is granted and he’s accidentally left behind to battle a pair of hapless burglars (Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern).
5. Sam in Love Actually
The kid in the octopus costume who prevents David (Hugh Grant) and Natalie (Martine McCutcheon) from being able to speak openly is irksome, but nothing compared to Thomas Brodie-Sangster’s wide-eyed, eerily well-spoken, painfully earnest Sam in Richard Curtis’s heart-warmer. Firstly, he lets his stepfather (Liam Neeson) agonize over why he’s been so withdrawn lately, only to reveal that it’s due to his crush on an American classmate (Olivia Olson). Then, he spends the next two hours moping around in his dressing gown, writing annoying notes on the blackboard outside his door, drumming the house down, and, finally, causing a major security incident at the airport which seems to have no repercussions.
4. Charlie in The Santa Clause
When Tim Allen’s toy salesman Scott Calvin startles the real Santa Claus on his roof, causing him to slip and fall, his whiny son Charlie (Eric Lloyd) talks Scott into filling in for him in John Pasquin’s ’90s comedy. This binds him to a contract that transfers all of Santa’s future responsibilities to him, and he soon finds himself rapidly gaining weight and growing a white beard. The eye-rolling, wise-cracking Charlie displays his lack of concern by revealing his father’s new identity to his classmates just to show off, despite being told to keep it secret. Oh, and he goes on a Christmas adventure without telling his mother (Wendy Crewson), causing her to panic and call the police.
3. Max in Krampus
His cousins (Lolo Owen and Queenie Samuel) are horrid and bear some responsibility, but it’s ultimately Max (Emjay Anthony) who inadvertently summons the titular horned beast which wreaks havoc on his family in Michael Dougherty’s horror comedy. When the former taunt him, he responds by throwing food, rugby-tackling them, telling his parents (Adam Scott and Toni Collette) that he hates them all, and tearing up his own letter to Santa and throwing it into the wind—a move which sets off a chain reaction that ends with some of his relatives being devoured by a monstrous jack-in-the-box and others being dragged to hell.
2. Jamie in Jingle All the Way
Workaholic and unreliable father Howard Langston (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is eager to make it up to his cranky, demanding nine-year-old, Jamie (Jake Lloyd), in Brian Levant’s mile-a-minute romp. His request? A Turbo-Man action figure that is sold out, leading his father to scour every store and warehouse in Minneapolis and develop a poisonous rivalry with Myron (Sinbad), a postman who’s also searching for the elusive toy. There are punch-ups, run-ins with the police, a letter bomb, an attempted robbery, a reindeer attack, and a final death-defying showdown—and, all the while, Jamie chides his father and yells at him for not keeping his promises. The reason he misses out on the top spot, though? Because, once his father finally gets him the doll, he chooses to let Myron’s son have it instead.
1. Tootie in Meet Me in St Louis
Judy Garland as the effervescent Esther Smith, the sumptuous costuming, the songs (including “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”)—everything about Vincente Minnelli’s joyous musical is delightful, except for Tootie (Margaret O’Brien), Esther’s shrill, spoiled, obnoxious little sister. She worries her family sick by returning injured from a Halloween bonfire and accuses Esther’s love interest, John (Tom Drake), of trying to kill her, when he had in fact saved her from being caught after one of her dangerous pranks went wrong. Then, in a later scene, furious at the prospect of having to move from St. Louis to New York, she decapitates a set of beautifully made snowmen. “You’re the most deceitful, horrible, sinful little creature I ever saw,” Esther tells her at one point. We couldn’t agree more.