From our friends at PopTonic:
Do Hallmark holiday romances leave you cold? Does the thought of even one more person learning the true meaning of Christmas from a precocious orphan make you say “bah humbug”?
Holiday movies tend to go heavy on the cheese. For some viewers, that’s a big part of the appeal. As soon as temperatures start to fall, they crave cinematic comfort food.
For the rest of us, I’ve put together a list of the best alternative holiday movies.
For me, this is the quintessential holiday movie. It’s got the goth sensibility of Tim Burton, Henry Selick’s trademark stop-motion animation, and a wonderful cast of voice actors. The music by Danny Elfman is fantastic, too. What more do you want?
The Nightmare Before Christmas is spooky, heartwarming, and still gorgeous 27 years later. If you haven’t revisited this one in a while, it’s worth watching again. Younger generations have embraced the movie as well, turning it from a cult classic into a perennial favorite at Halloween and Christmas.
For a lot of people, Die Hard is the best Christmas movie of all time. If you’ve ever dreamed of escaping an office holiday party by any means possible, then John McClane will be your personal hero.
Die Hard wasn’t the first action movie of the era to capitalize on the holiday setting. The first Lethal Weapon movie, which came out a year before Die Hard, was also set on Christmas. I think you could also argue that Home Alone is essentially just Die Hard for kids, but that’s a topic for a whole ‘nother post.
Speaking of Lethal Weapon, writer/director Shane Black went back to the holiday-action genre with Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Robert Downey, Jr. and Val Kilmer are fantastic in this Christmas noir comedy.
It deserves to be way more popular, especially since it was the movie that relaunched RDJ’s career. Jon Favreau liked it so much that he reached out to cast the actor in a little movie called Iron Man.
If your cold, black heart needs to be thawed just a little bit, then Scrooged should be on your watch list. Bill Murray takes on A Christmas Carol in this comedy that manages the perfect balance between sarcasm and sincerity.
If you’re trying to seek this one out, look for the 1974 original. It’s a classic slasher that contrasts the cheer of the holiday season with truly gruesome and upsetting violence. Black Christmas isn’t for the faint of heart. Frankly, the trailer alone will give me nightmares, but I’m squeamish about horror.
My personal favorite film on the list, The Thin Man is a classic screwball comedy disguised as a thriller. The 1934 film introduced audiences to Nick and Nora Charles, the hard-drinking, barb-flinging married couple who would go on to solve many mysteries together. The Thin Man is their first case, taking place over Christmas in a glamorous New York City setting.
Can this movie please get some love? If you’ve never heard of this 1992 film, I don’t blame you. It was a major box office flop, despite a stellar cast. It’s a beautifully stylized Christmas movie starring Robin Williams, Robin Wright, Joan Cusack, Michael Gambon, and LL Cool J. Williams stars as the son of a Wonka-esque toy factory who sees his father’s company get taken over by his warlike uncle.
Horror-comedy is such a fine line to tread. Krampus does a great job of being just scary enough to be fun but without taking itself too seriously. It’s also a gateway film into the genre of Christmas slasher flicks. Tune in for the creature effects by Weta Workshop and solid performances from Toni Collette and Adam Scott.
It’s easy to ignore Tim Burton’s other Christmas classic, Edward Scissorhands, in favor of The Nightmare Before Christmas. But Edward Scissorhands is unapologetically a holiday film. Not quite as full of holiday cheer, thanks to the bittersweet story, but still a beautiful film. Winona Ryder twirling the snow as Danny Elfman’s melancholy score swells is one of Tim Burton’s loveliest scenes.
There’s nothing quite like watching a bad movie with friends. During the pandemic, watching old episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000 is the next best thing. I wouldn’t recommend watching the original 1964 film without Joel and the Bots to keep you company, though–it’s really, really bad.