The Best Christmas Movies You Forgot About
Guys, it's December already. Can you believe it? It feels like just yesterday we were taking down the holiday decorations, and lo and behold, the darn things are already back up. While my bank account might not be ready for the holiday season (correction: it's not), we are ready for our favorite winter activity: cozying up on the couch and watching movies. Movie after movie after movie. We're talking hours of film watching, and we're not ashamed of it. December is meant to be spent sitting on our butts (and shopping on the internet, of course, because going to a store is so last century).
Of course, everyone knows the holiday classics: A Christmas Story, It’s a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street, even Gremlins. But we’ve also seen them a million times and some have worn out their welcome. Luckily, there are a bunch of great festive seasonal films that are a bit overlooked — and they come in every genre. Let’s take a closer look.
This isn’t just an overlooked Christmas movie, it’s also an overlooked John Cusack movie and an overlooked '80s movie. It has some of the weirdest, funniest scenes in film history, and you won’t be able to make it through the rest of the season without asking, “Do you have Christmas in France?” Not to mention, we think it’s way more than an oddball cult classic. It’s also a super-solid dark romantic comedy.
Why not celebrate the birth of Jesus with a slasher movie from the 1970s? We can’t think of a good reason why not. This one — which has some amazing feminist undertones — follows the residents of a sorority house during the holidays who are murdered one by one by a psycho killer living in their attic. Enjoy, but be sure not to get this holiday classic mixed up with the remake from 2006, which is a major flop.
Besides Lethal Weapon, Iron Man 3 and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, filmmaker Shane Black returned in 2016 to add a little yuletide magic to yet another of his movies, The Nice Guys. This action comedy has Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling running around LA in the 1970s looking for a kidnapped girl — and yep, it’s during the holiday season.
Black told Entertainment Weekly why he loves putting the holidays in his movies. “It tends to be a touchstone for me,” he said. “Christmas represents a little stutter in the march of days, a hush in which we have a chance to assess and retrospect our lives. I tend to think also that it just informs as a backdrop. I also think that Christmas is just a thing of beauty, especially as it applies to places like Los Angeles, where it’s not so obvious, and you have to dig for it, like little nuggets.”
Bridget Jones’s Diary takes place during the span of a year, and it opens and closes during the Christmas holiday. We love going to Bridget’s mum’s turkey curry buffet almost as much as we like the looks of Mark (played by Colin Firth) in his amazing reindeer jumper. And this doesn’t just have a couple of classic Christmas scenes. It also has the feel-good tone of a Christmas movie, with a lovely happy ending (in the snow). If you’re really snowed in and cuddled up for the night, follow it with a couple of sequels.
Let’s say you don’t want to have a holly jolly Christmas and instead want to watch an Australian schoolmaster descend into madness in the Outback. We have the movie for you! Released in 1971, the film follows a school teacher who is traveling home for the holiday break. He stops for a beer in an odd little town and finds himself on a terrible journey of self-discovery and depravity, which honestly kind of sounds like what happens when we try to engage in holiday travel. This movie has an amazing 100 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes and is considered a classic Down Under.
Shot entirely with iPhones, Tangerine saw a limited released in 2015, but to rave reviews. The movie, which takes place on Christmas Eve, follows transgender sex worker Sin-Dee Rella on a quest to confront her pimp/boyfriend after she discovers he’s been cheating on her with a cisgender woman. While the plot might seem a bit gritty and dark, the movie is funny and touching, with several standout performances from Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, Mya Taylor and James Ransone. While this is about as nontraditional as holiday films get, it is well worth the watch.
This classic '80s movie starring Bill Murray takes on Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, with lots more edge than the original. We love following cold-hearted television executive Frank Cross as he learns the true meaning of the holidays, especially when Murray is just being himself. We’re not going to lie. This movie can be a little dated, but it’s in a fun way. Warning: There are some exposed nipples in case you are watching with family.
Both the 1994 version (with Winona Ryder and Kirsten Dunst) and 1933 version (with Katharine Hepburn) are absolutely delightful and open with Marmee and her daughters celebrating a warm and funny but modest Christmas. This is hands down one of the best coming-of-age stories and a total classic that can give you a rest from Miracle on 34th Street or It’s a Wonderful Life.
We’re not going to lie. This movie has a lot of haters. But it also has a small cult following who swear by it every Christmas. Released in 1994 to terrible reviews, Mixed Nuts has an ensemble cast of rising stars that include Adam Sandler, Juliette Lewis and Jon Stewart. Starring Steve Martin, the movie follows a zany Christmas Eve night at a suicide hotline call center in LA. You might love it; you might hate it, but either way, the original French version, Le père Noël est une ordure, is a foreign-film classic.
How about a Christmas movie about Irish hit men? The 2008 film In Bruges stars Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson in a black comedy that was lauded for its acting and its screenplay. While Christmas is only mentioned a couple of times by the characters, the feeling of the season is central to the mood of the movie, and we think it’s a new holiday classic for sure.
Let’s go all the way back to 1183 when Henry II was celebrating Christmas in medieval France while trying to figure out who was going to get the throne next. This 1968 film is filled with acting powerhouses — including Peter O’Toole, Katharine Hepburn and Anthony Hopkins as Richard the Lionheart — and won a bunch of Academy Awards when it was released, including a Best Actress statue for Hepburn. Don’t miss this forgotten classic.