Sara is not a huge fan of the 3 months of Xmas, but she is passionate about films. She also enjoys making lists and spreading cheer.
Tired of the Same Old, Stale Xmas Films?
Does the thought of watching the same old, boring Christmas films year after year make you want to down a bottle of peppermint schnapps and throw your t.v. out the window? Me too; I can't handle that much drama. Also, Xmas just isn't my thing. The burnout starts to set in around the time the first decorations appear in Wal-Mart garden centers during the month of October. I cope by watching mostly action and horror movies until we ring in a brand new year.
It seems as if the television stations air the same few movies (A Christmas Carol, Miracle on 34th Street, A Christmas Story, etc.) every year. From November through the end of December, the networks push the same handful of movies over and over on a continuous, depressing loop. Netflix and the other major streaming networks offer more to choose from, but much of it is simply a fresh take on the same sappy themes.
To break out of the rut, I've put together a list of thirteen entertaining films that take place during the holiday season. That's my way of getting into the spirit. (The schnapps doesn't hurt either.) I tried to recall some decent movies from different genres, so there's something for everyone. If you have a favorite that I left out, feel free to post it in the comments section below.
13 Unconventional Christmas Movies
- Die Hard
- Silent Night, Deadly Night
- Love Actually
- Die Hard 2
- Bad Santa
- Black Christmas
- The Family Stone
- Reindeer Games
- Trading Places
- While You Were Sleeping
- Bad Santa 2
1. Die Hard (1988)
Starring Bruce Willis, the late Alan Rickman, Reginald VelJohnson, and Bonnie Bedelia. Adapted from Roderick Thorp's novel Nothing Lasts Forever, the story takes place during an elaborate office Christmas celebration. Some bad guys crash the party and soon discover one of the guests is on the loose in the building, trying to thwart their plans, keep the employees (especially his wife) safe, and basically save Christmas. John McClane is a New York cop who just arrived in Los Angeles to spend the holidays with his wife, but now he may be the only one who can rescue the hostages from the terrorists.
2. Gremlins (1984)
Starring Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates, Corey Feldman, Judge Reinhold, and Dick Miller. Directed by Joe Donte. This is a dark comedy with a moral to it. Billy's dad gifts him an early Christmas present in the form of a Mogwai. His exotic new pet comes with three simple rules which are not to be broken under any circumstances. But Billy soon learns those three rules aren't so easy to adhere to. This results in pint-sized creatures with sharp claws and fangs terrorizing a small town during the holiday season. Even though it sounds like a horror film, it manages to maintain an air of lightheartedness.
3. Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)
Here's a gratuitous slasher film for the holidays. If I haven't mentioned previously, I'm a huge fan of horror films, therefore I think there should be at least one on any movie compilation. This is not one of the best horror movies you'll ever see, but it has its moments. A deranged Santa punishes people he deems naughty. If you enjoy it enough to want more, there are sequels. I'm not necessarily recommending them, but there are sequels.
4. Scrooged (1998)
Here we have a modernized version of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol directed by Richard Donner. Worth watching more than once, this movie is laugh-out-loud funny, and it has a great cast including Bobcat Goldthwait, Karen Allen, Carol Kane, and Bill Murray as the lovable Scrooge-like character, plus a plethora of cameo appearances from veteran actors. Watch this one if you want to lighten the mood.
5. Love Actually (2003)
If you're not into action, camp or horror, this one's for you. It's one of those movies that is sure to please everyone, and it's safe for younger viewers. You will come away from this with a warm, fuzzy feeling inside. Featuring an all star cast including Hugh Grant, Liam Neeson, Bill Nighy, Emma Thompson, Colin Firth, Andrew Lincoln (The Walking Dead), and a slew of other stars. Several narratives unfold to tell the stories of different characters and their struggles during Christmastime in London.
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6. Die Hard 2 (1990)
Once more, our hero, John McClane is in the wrong place (which happens to be an airport) at the wrong time. Oh, yeah, and it's Christmas. Again. As in any good action film, it features shootouts, explosions, and all kinds of other excitement. Featuring Roderick Thorp's characters, this film was adapted from the novel 58 Minutes by Walter Wager. Directed by Renny Harlin and starring Bruce Willis, Bonnie Bedelia, William Sadler, John Amos, Robert Patrick, John Leguizamo, Reginald VelJohnson, and Dennis Franz.
7. Bad Santa (2003)
Starring Billy Bob Thornton, Tony Cox, Bernie Mac, Lauren Graham, and John Ritter. This is certainly not for those who are easily offended, especially if you choose to watch the Badder Santa version; it is hilariously funny, but also quite crude. An alcoholic criminal and his partner work as a department store Santa and an elf in order to rob the place.
8. Black Christmas (1974)
More holiday gore; an escaped lunatic is murdering sorority sisters. Here's the trailer for the original 1974 movie starring Olivia Hussey, Margot Kidder, and John Saxon. The film was remade a few times, including a 2006 version with Mary Elizabeth Winstead. Those are the two I've watched, and I don't have a preference for one over the other. I'm a huge fan of horror films, and as far as slasher movies go, this is certainly not the worst I've ever seen.
9. The Family Stone (2005)
Here's another option for those who enjoy having their hearts warmed. This is a movie about a diverse family that gathers together at the parents' house for the holidays. With a myriad of different personalities and lifestyles, what could possibly go wrong? It has touching moments, drama, and quite a few laughs. The cast includes Sarah Jessica Parker, Luke Wilson, Claire Daines, Dermot Mulroney, Diane Keaton, Rachel McAdams, and Craig T. Nelson.
10. Reindeer Games (2000)
This one got bad reviews, but in my opinion it's no worse than most of the well-loved films of the action genre. At any rate, the story is a bit different, and it's worth a watch. Ben Affleck plays a parolee claiming to be his deceased cellmate in order to woo the guy's pen-pal girlfriend (Charlize Theron). Also featuring Gary Sinise, Isaac Hayes, Donal Logue, Dennis Farina, and Danny Trejo.
11. Trading Places (1983)
A hilarious classic directed by John Landis, starring Eddie Murphy, Dan Aykroyd, Don Ameche, and Jamie Lee Curtis. A couple of millionaires make a bet, forcing a common con artist and a successful investor to switch roles. Unlike later similar movies, this one does not involve any kind of magical transformation involving two people actually switching bodies.
12. While You Were Sleeping (1995)
Bill Pullman and Sandra Bullock star in this romantic comedy. If most rom-coms tend to leave you feeling disappointed, this one might win you over. It's cute, funny, original, and not blatantly predictable. Also, the characters are endearing. A woman gets in over her head while pretending to be the fiancée of a man in a coma. News of the engagement comes as a surprise, and mostly delight, of the man's family members.
13. Bad Santa 2 (2016)
It's Christmastime again. Willie (Billy Bob Thornton) and Marcus (Tony Cox) are up to their old tricks, and they're planning to rob a charity this time. If you enjoyed the first film, part two is just as funny. And just as crude; it's definitely not for everyone. Also starring Christina Hendricks and Kathy Bates (as Willie's mom). Willie's interactions with his mother offer some insight into why he's such an unhappy, unpleasant, alcoholic crook.
That's my list; I hope you enjoyed the trailers. Perhaps this trip down memory lane stirred up fond memories and made you want to watch some of these films again. Or maybe you just found one you hadn't previously seen that looks intriguing. Either way, thanks for stopping by, and if you enjoyed this article, be sure to check out 31 Campy, Cheesy Horror Films for Halloween.
© 2011 Sara Krentz
Sara Krentz (author) from USA on December 24, 2012:
@anonymous: Will check it out. Thank you for visiting my lens : )
anonymous on December 24, 2012:
A bunch of those are on my list too. One additional that is a family favorite is Stalag 17.
VspaBotanicals on December 21, 2012:
Wonderful choices here. I like a bit of both: some tradtional, and some not so traditional.
Sara Krentz (author) from USA on November 11, 2012:
@eightieschild: I've never seen Kiss Kiss Bang Bang; I'll have to download it. Thanks for visiting my lens : )
eightieschild on November 11, 2012:
A great lens and some great movies. Trading Places is a favourite of mine, and nobody I know seems to even remember Reindeer Games, which was fun.
I'm still a sucker for old movies though, and will never tire of It's A Wonderful Life. Remember The Night, with Barbara Stanwyck is oft-forgotten little gem from the same era.
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is a more recent unconventional Christmas movie that everyone should watch. :)
Rose Jones on April 09, 2012:
Am I missing it about Die Hard? I have to check that movie out. Thanks for the suggestions.
kimark421 on January 30, 2012:
Great lens. Interesting that Die Hard is at the top of your list, it would be at the top of mine too. (although I don't miss "It's a Wonderful Life", it's like that worn out old blanket that you love to snuggle up with.)