The holiday season is upon us and for many, that means it's time to indulge in all things holiday that the entertainment world has to offer. From movies to music to books to television, there's a little something for everyone looking to get into the festive spirit. And when it comes to television offerings, the superhero genre is no stranger to holiday-themed episodes. Nearly every series you can think of has had some sort of holiday-themed offering, making the superhero television show a perfect option when looking for holiday entertainment.
While there are a seemingly endless amount of superhero series with Christmas episodes -- and we're talking both live-action and animated -- and some series have more than one, there are a handful of episodes that frequently come to mind as being either favorites or simply unforgettable. With that in mind, here are ten of those very episodes from across both live-action and animation, DC and Marvel (and even one unexpected choice). These are by no means the only "best" episodes out there -- this list could easily have been 20 or 30 entries long just because there are some really great holiday offerings out there. These all aren't even strictly "holiday" episodes, but they all are set in the holiday season and offer interesting and fresh takes on some of the themes of the season.
So, read on for 10 of the best holiday episodes of superhero shows and let us know what you think -- or episodes you enjoy that we didn't list -- in the comments below. While you're at it, you can also check out our list of nine of the best non-traditional Christmas movies to watch this season as well. Now, on with the list.
DC's Legends of Tomorrow, Season 3 Episode 9: "Beebo the God of War"
While many holiday episodes of television lean hard into the the Christmas of it all, this absolutely bonkers and utterly delightful hour of superhero television also acknowledges another winter holiday -- Hanukkah. In the episode, a young Martin Stein (Graeme McComb) goes out to buy his daughter Lily the most popular holiday toy in 1992, a Cuddle Me Beebo, for the fifth night of Hanukkah. Unfortunately for him, while Stein gets his hands on the last Beebo toy, it ends up becoming an anachronism and lands them both in the 10 century with the Vikings. You see, in this tangled timeline, the Vikings don't go back to Scandinavia and become Christian. They stay and begin to worship Beebo which of course completely alters history going forward.
What makes this episode so great besides the combined holiday hijinks is the heart and humanity of it. The episode comes on the heels of the "Crisis on Earth-X" crossover in which Martin Stein (Victor Garber) died so there's a subplot in the episode in which Jax (Franz Drameh) tries to prevent that death but is ultimately unsuccessful. Even knowing what's coming in the future, Stein says he's okay with his future death especially if it spares Jax. It's a sad, painful moment -- especially since the episode marks Jax's departure from the team -- but it drives home that family and those you love are truly what the holidays are about.
And it also gave the world Beebo. That's a pretty big win.prevnext
Batman: The Animated Series, Season 1 Episode 2: "Christmas with the Joker"
Okay, so maybe Batman's most iconic villain doesn't feel like something in the holiday spirit, but you'd be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn't think Mark Hamill's Joker is anything but a gift. The episode sees Joker bust out of Arkham Asylum using a rocket hidden inside of Arkham's giant Christmas tree. With Gotham otherwise quiet, Batman and Robin sort of take Christmas Eve off to watch It's A Wonderful Life, but it's soon hijacked by Joker who threatens to kill Commissioner Gordon, Summer Gleeson, and Harvey Bullock. What ensues is a Christmas caper of sorts, with Batman having to find out where the Joker is broadcasting from, not only saving the hostages but restoring Christmas cheer as well. Despite the somewhat grim premise, the episode is surprisingly lighthearted and outright fun -- and, again, Hamill's Joker is always a gift.prevnext
Ultimate Spider-Man, Season 3 Episode 22: "Nightmare on Christmas"
A twist on the classic "A Christmas Carol" story, the episode sees Spider-Man find out what the world would be like without him when Nightmare takes him through the past, the present, and the future. The episode features a little Spider-Man shoulder devil and a shoulder angel that are kind of hilarious in their own right, but it also sees Peter come to understand that despite sometimes not feeling fully appreciated, the world really does need Spider-Man. It's a charming, funny episode framed nicely around some classic holiday story tropes.prevnext
X-Men Evolution, Season 3 Episode 9: "On Angel's Wings"
During the holidays a mysterious "angel" goes around saving lives which prompts Xavier to believe this angel may be a mutant. Of course, Xavier isn't the only person who has taken notice of Angel. So has Magneto, who tries to recruit Angel but then tries to take him out when the man -- really Warren Worthingon -- refuses. Rogue and Cyclops arrive just in time to save him. A chase ensues across the city with Angel ultimately saving Rogue. Rogue and Scott invite Angel to Xaiver's and all of the team ends up celebrating holidays with family or in other ways of their choosing (Wolverine goes to a bar in classic Wolverine fashion).prevnext
The Flash, Season 2 Episode 9: "Running to Stand Still"
Another great superhero holiday episode featuring Mark Hamill, The Flash's "Running to Stand Still" sees Hamill's Trickster out of prison and bent on killing The Flash at the same time Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) is dealing with family drama, specifically that it turns out that Joe's wife, Francine, had a son she never told him about (Wally). The episode, even with the Trickster hijinks, is full with themes of family and forgiveness. It also marks the first appearance of Wally West (Keiynan Lonsdale) in the series. There's even a bit of romance in the episode between Barry and Patty Spivot (Shantel VanSanten) who gives Barry a Christmas sweater that matches hers.prevnext
Arrow, Season 1 Episode 9: "Year's End"
The first midseason finale for Arrow sees Oliver discovering that, after his and his father's disappearance, the Queen family gave up celebrating the Christmas holiday. It prompts Oliver to make up for lost time by throwing a family Christmas party -- something especially important given that the family has having a very difficult time. The episode also sees Oliver trying to stop the Dark Archer as The Hood, something that leads to Oliver more or less getting the crap kicked out of him. There's a silver lining to that, however, as it brings the Queen family together again (under the guise that Oliver was in a motorcycle accident) prompting Thea and Oliver in particular to mend their sibling relationship.
Of course, it's not all warm fuzzy family times. The episode also sees the Dark Archer revealed to be Malcolm Merlyn as well as the kidnapping of Oliver's stepfather, Walter. But even a bit of hope in Starling City is a cause for celebration. Especially at the holidays.prevnext
Justice League, Season 2 Episode 23: "Comfort and Joy"
Kind of a unique episode of Justice League, "Comfort and Joy" sees the various heroes celebrating the holiday in their own ways. Green Lantern and Hawkgirl end up in a bar fight. The Flash teams up with the villainous Ultra-Humanite to get the perfect and extremely popular gift for some orphans who so badly want one (the D.J. Rubber Ducky), and Superman brings Martian Manhunter home to Smallville to spend the holidays with his family as J'onn doesn't have any of his own. It's a really beautiful episode that shows the various ways people can enjoy the holidays as well as is full of just heartwarming moments -- particularly J'onn singing in his native language while also petting everyone's favorite super pet, Streaky the Cat.prevnext
Smallville, Season 5 Episode 9: "Lexmas"
Something of a mashup of thems from A Chrismtas Carol and It's A Wonderful Life, Smallville's "Lexmas" sees Lex Luthor, while in a coma, get a glimpse of living the life he truly wants if only he makes the right choices. That perfect life includes being with Lana Lang and having a family, no longer under his father's thumb. However, when things go awry in this perfect world -- Lana dies giving birth to a baby girl and Lex's father refuses to help save her -- Lex rejects this life. When he awakens from the coma, he ends up choosing his father, cementing his destiny to become a villain.prevnext
Darkwing Duck, Season 1 Episode 41: "It's a Wonderful Leaf"
Yes, Darkwing Duck is a superhero show. It is. And "It's a Wonderful Leaf" is a great holiday episode of said superhero show. It sees Bushroot trying to do some last minute holiday shopping, but when that goes badly he ends up vowing to make the people in St. Canard regret Christmas. This prompts him to literally raise an army of Christmas trees and attack the shoppers, replace the mall Santa and generally just start creating chaos. It's Darkwing Duck and Launchpad to the rescue. The episode has a little bit of everything, with zany action as well as a bit of selflessness -- Gosalyn gives her presents (via a Santa-dressed Darkwing) to Honker's family when they aren't found in the aftermath of the chaos. And Gosalyn doesn't get left out, presents-wise. The episode closes with Santa leaving a little something for her, too.prevnext
Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H., Season 1 Episode 26/Season 2 Episode 1: "It's a Wonderful Smash"
Technically the last episode of the first season in terms of production but actually aired as the first episode of the second season, "It's a Wonderful Smash" sees Agents of S.M.A.S.H. team up with the Guardians of the Galaxy to break free from a simulated paradise created by none other than the Collector so that they can reclaim the Orb of Truth. We should mention that the simulated paradise happens to be the perfect Christmas. As Christmas episodes go, this one is a little on the weird side, but there's just something kind of charming watching the heroes come together to avert war between the Kree and the Shi'ar all while promoting the message that the holidays are really about being with those you love.prev