Beloved children’s character Charlie Brown originates with Charles Schulz’s old comic strip Peanuts. With his trademark zigzag patterned shirt, the nervous and self-conscious Charlie navigates life with his beagle Snoopy at his side. Schulz created Charlie Brown as a “lovable loser.” This meek boy and his friends have gone on to star in numerous documentaries, television series, feature films, and TV specials.
Generations of television watchers grew up watching the Charlie Brown specials over the decades. Starting in the mid-1960s, dozens of iconic broadcasts have aired. Many of these specials, centered around holidays and big public events, are streaming on Apple TV+ and the ABC App.
10 It’s a Mystery, Charlie Brown (1974) – 7.6
This detective-themed TV event first aired on CBS. Snoopy’s best friend Woodstock, a bird, discovers his new nest has gone missing, and he recruits Snoopy for help.
Donning a Sherlock Holmes outfit, Snoopy searches one house after another for the disappeared nest, stretching the neighborhood from Charlie to Peppermint Patty. After they stumble upon a pair of footprints, they eventually discover the culprit: Charlie’s little sister Sally.
9 It’s the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown! (1974) – 7.6
In It’s the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown!, the Peanuts gang comes together for an Easter-themed romp. While having fun on an Easter egg hunt, the kids spot a figure who bears a striking resemblance to the elusive Easter bunny – or is it Snoopy in disguise?
CBS aired this special, the 12th in the franchise, every Easter from 1974 to 2000. It’s noted for its colorful score composed by Vince Guaraldi.
8 You’re in Love, Charlie Brown (1967) – 7.6
As the look on his face implies, falling in love is not fun for Charlie Brown. In You’re In Love, poor Charlie falls head-over-heels for the Little Red-Haired Girl – whose attention he is desperate to get before school ends.
Like other early Charlie Brown TV specials, this one is directed by Bill Melendez. Melendez is also credited with supplying the voices for Snoopy and Woodstock in the short films.
7 He’s Your Dog, Charlie Brown (1968) – 7.6
Released soon after You’re in Love, He’s Your Dog sees all of Charlie’s friends in the neighborhood getting fed up with Snoopy’s mischievous ways. They all encourage Charlie to do something about his dog’s behavior.
Charlie decides to send Snoopy to Daisy Hill Puppy Farm for an obedience class, but Snoopy finds a way to get himself out of going. When Charlie discovers this, it puts a major wedge in his relationship with the beagle.
6 Charlie Brown’s All Stars! (1966) – 7.6
The second Charlie Brown TV special, All Stars! sees the all American boy playing the all American sport: baseball. When Charlie’s team loses its very first game, everyone quits – leaving poor Charlie all by himself.
Fortunately, the local hardware store owner Mr. Hennessey offers to sponsor Charlie’s team and help the players improve their skills. Unfortunately, there’s a caveat: Mr. Hennessey says there are no girls or dogs allowed on the team.
5 A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (1973) – 7.7
Charlie Brown’s third holiday special sees the main character tasked with making an elaborate Thanksgiving dinner for all of his friends. Mr. Brown doesn’t have much experience in the kitchen, but he tries his best to spread cheer with his menu.
A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving won an Emmy for animated specials. It has been syndicated on nearly every major network, from NBC to the Disney Channel to Nickelodeon.
4 What Have We Learned, Charlie Brown? (1983) – 7.8
What Have We Learned, Charlie Brown? coincides with the Memorial Day holiday, which is designed to honor those who died at war while serving in the US military. In the special, the gang spends time at memorials to World War I and World War II – where Linus teaches them about the history of each war.
The special picks up where the 1980’s movie Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown (and Don’t Come Back!!) leaves off. When the crew returns from a student exchange program, they take some time to learn a few things about American history.
3 Why, Charlie Brown, Why? (1990) – 7.9
The most recent special to receive high accolades from fans, Why Charlie Brown, Why? deals with a very serious subject: cancer. Charlie’s buddy Linus develops a crush on a new girl at school, Janice, who is diagnosed with leukemia.
Charlie and Linus support Janice through her chemotherapy treatments. While exploring how cancer affects the loved ones of those who suffer from it, this broadcast also tries to find hope in the worst circumstances.
2 It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966) – 8.2
This celebrated Peanuts Halloween special also features music from jazz pianist Vince Guaraldi. The titular creature is touted by Linus as a mythical being that materializes each Halloween.
No one else believes in the Great Pumpkin, but this doesn’t stop Linus from writing the magical gourd and preparing for its arrival. In order to prove to Charlie and the rest of his friends that the Great Pumpkin is real, Linus invites them to spend Halloween night in a pumpkin patch.
1 A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965) – 8.3
The very first Charlie Brown TV special is still the best. In A Charlie Brown Christmas, Charlie is dejected about the holiday’s focus on gift buying and obtaining material possessions.
Lucy tells him directing the school Christmas play will fill him with the holiday spirit, so Charlie signs up – but he becomes even more frustrated by the commercialization of Christmas. He eventually finds hope in a tiny, living fir tree that has become a standard decoration in households that celebrate Christmas.