Around the holiday season, it’s easy to suffer from overexposure to classic Christmas movies. Sure, we all love A Christmas Story — but when TBS unfailingly plays it for 24 hours straight every Christmas, the whole tradition can start to feel a bit worn out and tired.
Fortunately, there are some under-appreciated Christmas movies that haven’t been given their holiday due, and are equally deserving of your festive movie marathons. While these movies may not spring to your mind when you think of typical holiday specials, they should definitely satisfy your need for some new film fodder this Christmas season. From action movies, to romances, to mysteries, there are plenty of genres here that span beyond the basic holiday-centric fare — but still incorporate enough Christmas elements to get you in the spirit.
Here are just a few picks that you should consider adding to your Christmas movie repertoire:
1. Die Hard
Despite its explosions, profanity, and violence, Die Hard is still, at its core, a holiday movie. The whole kidnapping/robbery takes place during an office Christmas party, after all — and you don’t feature “Christmas in Hollis” on the radio unless you’re telling the world “Hi, I’m a Christmas movie.” Watch this classic when you just can’t take any more It’s A Wonderful Life.
2. Edward Scissorhands
The entire story for Tim Burton’s Edward Scissorhands unfolds when an elderly Winona Ryder (in the worst old age makeup ever) tells her granddaughter a bedtime story about where snow comes from. While the story focuses on Edward’s relationship with the Boggs family, and his attempt to fit into a small-minded, suburban town, one of the most iconic scenes in the movie take place when Edward makes an ice sculpture of Kim Boggs at (you guessed it) Christmas time. The film definitely serves as a heartwarming, if unorthodox, Christmas love story (as well as a completely unscientific explanation for the creation of snow).
3. Batman Returns
Yes, I managed to fit several Tim Burton films in this list, and I’m not going to apologize for it. This sequel to Warner Brothers initial Batman film is unapologetically campy, complete with appearances by Danny DeVito as the Penguin and Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman — and the whole thing kicks off when a group of deranged carnival performers riot at the lighting of Gotham City’s Christmas tree. What more could you ask from a holiday movie??
Tangerine is probably one of the more atypical Christmas movies on this list — but it’s easily one of the most innovative and culturally important. The story revolves around two transgender sex workers and friends, Sin-Dee Rella and Alexandra, who reunite when Sin-Dee is released from a three-week prison sentence on Christmas Eve. The two spend the majority of the film trying to track down Sin-Dee’s pimp, who has apparently been cheating on her with a cisgender woman. While the movie is often unflinchingly seedy, it also features a surprising amount of warmth and humor — and a very memorable rendition of the song “Toyland.”
5. While You Were Sleeping
This early Sandra Bullock flick is relentlessly charming, albeit founded on a totally unconvincing and outlandish premise: a woman accidentally claims that she is the fiancé of a man in a coma, and must keep up the lie to avoid disappointing his family. The whole ordeal takes places at Christmas, and you get to see a young Bill Pullman slip and slide on the ice with a young Sandra Bullock. Pretty much everything you need for a magical Christmas.
6. To Grandmother’s House We Go
Four words: Olsen twins Christmas movie. It’s cheesy, it’s ridiculous, and it features the two most iconic twins of our generation before they became ghostly fashion waifs. Wallow in the nostalgia, why don’t you?
7. You’ve Got Mail
Because who do you want writing your Christmas dialogue other than Nora Ephron herself? Nobody, that’s who. This classic Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks rom-com technically takes place over several seasons, but the holiday moments are easily the best (because I’m a sucker for Christmas in New York).
8. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
Robert Downey Jr. and Val Kilmer star in this neo-noir film set during Christmas time in Los Angeles. The movie is darkly funny, and the plot, like all good LA noir stories, is needlessly complicated — but the whole thing is so entertaining that it doesn’t really matter.
9. The Thin Man
If you claim to not watch black-and-white movies because they’re “old,” then let me just tell you to SIT YOUR ASS DOWN RIGHT NOW while I explain a few things: 1.) The Thin Man features one of the best on-screen couples in cinema history, 2.) it not only involves Christmas, it involves a murder mystery, and 3.) there are so many cocktails in this movie, it could easily make for the most diabolical holiday drinking game in existence. It’s charming, it’s romantic, it’s funny, and it involves detective work at Christmas time. You should probably be watching this movie right now.
10. Bridget Jones’ Diary
The perfect antidote for anyone who appreciates the British charm of Love, Actually, but can’t really get behind any other aspect of the movie. Not to be confused with its far-inferior sequel, Bridget Jones’ Diary is a charming and cynical (but secretly optimistic) movie about love that begins and ends with the Christmas holidays. Bonus: you get to see Colin Firth in an embarrassingly ugly reindeer sweater.
The two women in this movie about forbidden romance initially meet during the holidays in 1952. Their meet-cute occurs when the titular character Carol (played by Cate Blanchett) asks for salesgirl Therese’s (Rooney Mara) help when picking out a Christmas gift for her young daughter. While the film might be considered a tad heavy for the average Christmas movie fest, it’s still a beautiful film that is a nice deviation from the average holiday fare.
12. Trading Places
The modern (ish?) take on Mark Twain’s The Prince and The Pauper is, hands-down one of the funniest Christmas movies out there — and, best of all, it features the infamous Jamie Lee Curtis topless scene (in case you were concerned about the general lack of nudity in Christmas movies). There’s something for the whole family!
I’m sorry — I had to. This campy classic takes places around the holiday season, and features the absolute worst “And that’s how I found out Santa wasn’t real” story of all time. Besides, you have to admire a Christmas movie that features tiny diabolical monsters on a killing spree.
14. The Apartment
This incredibly solid movie, directed by Billy Wilder, is a classic for a reason: it’s impeccably written, the story is equal parts devastating and charming, and the performances from Shirley MacLaine and Jack Lemmon are irresistible — and its bittersweet perspective on the Christmas holidays is also refreshing for a holiday movie. Prepare for Shirley MacLaine’s pixie haircut and doe-eyed makeup look to give you major holiday style goals.