10 Christmas Films to Spice Up Your Holiday Season

After years of Home Alone and It’s a Wonderful Life, it’s time to branch out into weirder holiday fare. Luckily for you, we have prepared a list of 10 off-brand Christmas movies — ranging from horror to stop-motion animation.

Die Hard (1988)

Die hard by Xander Lee

On Christmas eve, streetwise cop John McClane tries to reconnect with his wife, only to become the unlikely savior of an office party hijacked by terrorists. Nobody ever doubts the action cred of this Bruce Willis classic. However, arguments over whether this is a holiday movie or not pop up every December. Let’s settle the matter once and for all: it is indeed a Christmas film — no ifs or buts about it.

In Bruges (2011)

In Bruges by Phil Shelly Creative

Two hitmen go on a forced “vacation” to the titular Belgian city; hijinks ensue. Despite (ostensibly) being a comedy, In Bruges takes a look at the dark, melancholic side of the holidays. A narrative of redemption and sacrifice gives the film a genuine religious edge, making it a bizarre outlier among the droves of secular holiday movies.

Tangerine (2015)

Tangerine by shalida

Two transsexual sex workers, a pimp, and an Armenian taxi driver dash around a hot, sunny, non-touristy LA as they settle scores, sing, gossip, get laid, get paid, and find love in a hopeless place.  A Christmas movie with no discernible holiday cliches (except the emphasis on the power of friendship), it feels simultaneously old-fashioned (in a good way) and wildly modern (also in a good way). And best of all: it was shot on an iPhone!

Gremlins (1984)

Gremlins by estevansilveira

This horror-comedy (largely responsible for the creation of the PG-13 rating in the US) centers on Christmas gift-giving gone wrong. When a fumbling inventor buys his son a small, furry creature, he doesn’t expect to unleash a deadly force upon his small picturesque town. Will an army of Mogwai ruin Christmas in Kingston Falls? Stay tuned to find out.

Black Christmas (1974)

Black Christmas by keithgdesigns

Predating Halloween and considered the progenitor of slashers, Black Christmas is an unexpectedly nuanced and feminist take on sorority horror. Besides creative kills and an all-pervasive sense of dread, it’s notable for tackling heavy themes like domestic abuse and abortion. Fun fact: the director, Bob Clark, went on to create a much more traditional holiday movie in A Christmas Story.

Brazil (1985)

Brazil by halilkarasu

Terry Gilliam’s cult film Brazil is a critique of capitalism, bureaucracy, and societal placidity. It makes sense to set it around Christmas, the better to dress up this dystopian nightmare in twinking holiday garlands. Here, Christmas is a purely political endeavour: a social code, a set of empty rituals, a superficial celebration of consumerism. In short, this is one of those movies that understands that being surrounded by holiday cheer can be very depressing… and even deadly.

The Nightmare before Christmas (1993)

The Nightmare Before Christmas by Tiernandesign

A one-for-two holiday classic, this masterpiece of stop-motion animation is a narrative and visual delight. Directed by Henry Sellick (NOT Tim Burton, as many believe), the film focuses on the skeletal mayor of Halloween Town and his mid-life (mid-undeath?) crisis. With creative character designs, likable heroes and memorable songs, this is a sweet-yet-spooky treat for the entire family. 

Edward Scissorhands (1990)

Edward Scissorhands by rafaorrico

For a Christmas movie that IS directed by Tim Burton, look no further than Edward Scissorhands — a dark fairy tale about an outcast carving out a place for himself in a picture-perfect American suburb. Alas, the most wonderful time of the year is no match for the small-mindedness of the townfolk, and the true meaning of Christmas gets lost once transplanted into a hateful community.

Anna and the Apocalypse (2017)

Anna and the Apocalypse by edgarascensao

“What if High School Musical met Shaun of the Dead and had a baby with it?” In this musical zom-rom-com, Scottish teenagers blast out tunes and navigate relationships while a zombie outbreak rages around them. Rot and revelry mix up in equal measure: for every infectious song, there’s a heartbreaking death or a poignant moment. This is one holiday musical to sink your teeth into.

Eyes Wide Shut

Eyes Wide Shut by Bam.create

Much like Brazil, above, the great Stanley Kubrick’s final film is an anti-consumerist holiday classic. A sexual psychodrama adorned in tinsel and bows, it follows the aimless journey of a wealthy doctor through an impersonal New York, where the Christmas atmosphere has been reduced to vulgar transactions: gift shopping, paid sex, and lip service to civility. 

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