Sleigh bells and reindeer and sappy Christmas wishes: It’s that time of year when Lifetime and Hallmark play holiday movies back to back, and although the actors change and the music may vary, the plot basically remains the same: if someone is bitter, they find happiness thanks to Christmas; if someone is single, they find love thanks to Christmas; and so on and so on and can we get some better viewing options?
If you agree with the above rant, have we got a treat for you! A couple of us here at Film Combat Syndicate decided to put together a list of non-traditional Christmas movies you should watch this month. In no particular order, here are the films as stored in the gallery below, or simply scroll down if you’ve opened this article via Twitter.
THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS (1993)
What it’s about: Jack Skellington lives in Halloween Town where everyday is about Halloween. Sounds great, right? Well, one day Jack goes wandering and discovers Christmas. In his excitement, he absolutely has to share it with his town who all help to put a creepy spin on all things related to Christmas.
Why you should watch: It combines Halloween and creepifies Christmas! There are also lots of catchy tunes and amusing characters. If you are not quite ready to let go of Halloween and are being forced to get into the Christmas spirit, this movie will definitely help you get there.
DIE HARD (1988)
What it’s about: New York police officer John McClane (Bruce Willis) attempts a one-man rescue of his estranged wife and her colleagues at their LA company Christmas party, taken over by German bad guy Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) and his terrorist henchmen, intent on stealing millions of dollars in untraceable bearer bonds. Aided on the ground by Sgt. Al Powell (Reginald VelJohnson), McClane makes like Santa and has to do most of the dirty work himself until the LAPD shows up with their SWAT team. Ho. Ho. Ho.
Why you should watch: Honestly, I don’t think I know a single dude (and any number of gals) who doesn’t prefer Die Hard as their perfect Christmas movie. It has iconic one-liners from both Willis and Rickman, and a happy holiday ending that Hallmark couldn’t do better.
EDWARD SCISSORHANDS (1990)
What it’s about: Yes, this is another Tim Burton film. Edward was created and lived all his life alone with his creator, knowing nothing of our world. Until one day, an Avon lady finds him and takes him to her home. At first, the community welcomes him, but that does not last very long.
Why you should watch: So, this could be counted as a Christmas film since the climax of the film does take place at Christmas. For most people the holidays are about family and loved ones, but that is not always the case. For others, the holidays are a time of struggling, being made to feel like they don’t fit in with their family yet having to spend time with them anyway. This movie is about being comfortable with yourself and finding peace where you can.
What it’s about: Based on the European folklore of Krampus, this movie features a family who has lost sight of what Christmas really means and following the legend of Krampus, this means that they must be punished.
Why you should watch: While Krampus usually focuses on naughty children, I like that in this movie he sets his sights on the whole family. Everyone learns differently and not everyone will become less of a Scrooge by just seeing some sad memories from the past. No, some people need to be tortured by evil gingerbread men and possessed toys. But do they actually learn? You will have to watch to find out.
A CHRISTMAS HORROR STORY (2015)
What it’s about: A radio host tells various tales that all take place on Christmas Eve including Santa fighting evil and mean Christmas spirits.
Why you should watch: Besides the fact that the drunk radio host is played by the comical William Shatner, this campy horror movie is full of all the holiday feels: a vengeful ghost, a changeling in a Christmas tree, Krampus teaching naughty people a lesson, and zombies! What more could one want from a Christmas movie?
A BAD MOMS CHRISTMAS (2017)
What it’s about: A holiday sequel of sorts to the original Bad Moms movie, the trio of friends is back to battle the holidays — and their own moms. Amy (Mila Kunis), Kiki (Kristen Bell), and Carla (Kathryn Hahn) each attempt to navigate Christmas on her own terms, only to be foiled by their respective mothers.
Why you should watch: Although it’s not as strong as the original movie, it’s fun to watch the younger moms go crazy dealing with their own mothers’ holiday shenanigans, including Carla’s mom trying to seduce Carla’s exotic dancer/date at a Sexy Santa contest. A Bad Moms Christmas isn’t strictly a chick flick, as many of us can relate to being an adult child of our parents, whether we have kids or not.
TRADING PLACES (1983)
What it’s about: Louis Winthrope III has it all: Money, an expensive home, a good job. Billy Ray Valentine, however, has nothing. So what would happen if they were to trade places? Would the rich Louis find a way to survive? Would the formerly homeless Billy Ray learn to love a life of leisure? Who would you bet on to do well?
Why you should watch it: So obviously this is not a traditional film. I don’t know many people who list it as their favorite Christmas movie, but it does take place during the holidays, so there is that. But what is Christmas anyway? A time of love, forgiveness, redemption (that is a big one, it’s the entire basis of any variation of Scrooge’s story), and generosity. Trading Places offers all of this and a sappy moral lesson that you can see through the tears filling your eyes as you are laughing so hard that you may cry.
LETHAL WEAPON (1987)
What it’s about: Suicidal, grieving LA cop Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson) gets partnered with family man, ready-to-retire detective Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover). The unlikely pair foil a drug-trafficking ring during the Christmas holidays.
Why you should watch it: Despite Mel Gibson’s recent weirdness, Lethal Weapon remains a fun late 80s buddy cop film. And what says Christmas more than LA? Well, how about a Christmas tree lot gun fight? Is it snow…or cocaine? Take a trip back to 1987 and find out.
BAD SANTA (2003)
What it’s about: Rude, crude, and highly inappropriate are not words you associate with Christmas, but alcoholic mall Santa Willie Soke (Billy Bob Thornton) brings out the worst of the season as he and his partner in crime plan a holiday heist at the mall. The plan goes awry, as they often do, and Willie ends up shot by police, who opt not to charge him — who would shoot an unarmed Santa?
Why you should watch: This is a different kind of “grumpy man learns the meaning of Christmas,” and you know Willie won’t change his ways completely. But it’s a raucous romp through the holidays and a way to enjoy being a little naughty without getting on the list.
THE LONG KISS GOODNIGHT (1996)
What it is about: Amnesiac school teacher Samantha Caine (Geena Davis) has been searching for her identity for almost a decade when a car accident reveals hidden skills of the spying kind. Set during the holiday season, Caine relies on third-rate private investigator Mitch Henessey (Samuel L. Jackson) to help her discover her mysterious — and deadly — past.
Why you should watch it: Like unexpected presents from Santa, Samantha discovers she can fight like a pro and reassemble a sniper’s rifle like she’s been doing it all her life. It’s also refreshing to see a female lead with power and ability.
What it’s about: While pets are frequent Christmas gifts, Gremlins shows us why this is not always the best idea. When Billy (Zach Galligan) receives a unique present from father and specific instruction on its care and feeding, you know all hell is about to break loose. Billy’s new pet mogwai, Gizmo, can’t get exposed to light, get wet, or be fed after midnight. Of course, all three rules get broken and the holidays become horror days for Billy and girlfriend Kate (Phoebe Cates).
Why you should watch: In addition to being a classic 80s movie, Gremlins is a black comedic-horror film, a powerful antidote to sugary sweet holiday movies. There are plenty of thrills and chills in this movie, with unexpected reveals and plot twists.
BETTER OFF DEAD (1985)
What it’s about: When Lane Meyer is dumped by his girlfriend, he becomes depressed and decides to commit suicide. After some attempts, he decides to change his life instead and aims to impress his ex.
Why you should watch: I know what you’re thinking: based on the title and the premise, how in the world could this be a holiday movie? Well, it does take place during Christmastime and although it could be a depressing subject matter, it actually falls into the comedy genre. As I’ve already stated, the holidays are not always about light and love for some; they can be dark and depressing. This film covers that, but there is also comedic relief.