Now that Thanksgiving is officially behind us, the Christmas season is finally here! While this year’s Christmas festivities began early this year in the cinemas (Disney released The Nutcracker and the Four Realms on November 2, followed soon by Universal’s The Grinch on November 9), it’s getting to be that time when people like to kick back with their families and watch some holiday fun.
Below are five of the best traditional and alternative Christmas movies. The traditional ones are those you may typically think of when you think about Christmas. On the other hand, the alternative ones offer a spin on the holiday film, infusing different genres such as raunchy comedy, action, and horror. This season you should relax and catch one of these festive flicks!
Love Actually (2003)
Initially receiving a mixed reception but later gaining a rather large following, Love Actually is a great example of the Christmas spirit at work. It is one of the few anthology films that works really well, largely due to the massively talented ensemble cast including Hugh Grant, Liam Neeson, Colin Firth, Emma Thompson, Keira Knightley, and the late Alan Rickman. The film feels surprisingly fulfilling because of the likable characters and compelling love stories. It will make you laugh and it will make you cry. Who can resist a bit of Christmas romance?
White Christmas (1954)
Although the eponymous song by Irving Berlin was originally from the less well-known Holiday Inn, the film White Christmas is the more famous of the two. The plot comes second to the wonderful music and performances that steal the show. Arguably the best musical number is “Sisters”, the duet between Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen. Even though this film was released in 1954, it hold up surprisingly well and is still thoroughly entertaining.
Home Alone (1990)
Endlessly quotable and tons of fun, what Christmas movie list would be complete without Home Alone? The physical comedy in this film is absolutely priceless and manages to elicit laughs from audiences — both young and old — even though it has been seen multiple times by many people. Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci, and Daniel Stern all give hilarious performances. That being said, down below all the layers of comedy is the story of a family trying to reunite. What screams Christmas more than a separated family coming back together?
It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
Many younger kids have a hard time appreciating Frank Capra’s It’s A Wonderful Life. It doesn’t have the most exciting story, and it’s over two hours long. However, many theaters show this film during the month of December, and that is an experience not to miss. Seeing it on the big screen, you can totally be immersed in the story of redemption which captures the magic of Christmas perfectly. This is truly a masterpiece.
Arguably one of the best comedies of the twentieth century is Jon Favreau’s Elf. Will Ferrell can be hit-or-miss sometimes, but this was a home run for him, his absolute best film. It has laughs galore and multiple quotable lines. Additionally, the movie has a great fish-out-of-water story with a compelling redemptive arc for Buddy’s real father. This has quickly become a classic, and rightfully so.
The Night Before (2015)
No one was expecting much of a raunchy Christmas comedy starring Seth Rogen and Joseph Gordon Levitt, but The Night Before had a surprising amount of laughs and heart. Behind all of the dirty jokes is a story of a makeshift family that gets together every Christmas. It has plenty of laugh-out-loud moments but also manages to show the meaning of Christmas. Not everyone will be a fan of this one — and it isn’t one to watch with the — but it’s a pretty solid film.
This film got the greenlight after the positive reception to a Christmas-themed attraction at Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights. Based on the eponymous character of German folklore, Krampus is a Christmas horror comedy with a lot of bite, but even more heart. Adam Scott (Parks and Recreation), Toni Collette (Hereditary), and David Koechner (Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy) all give great performances. Scares, laughs, and heartwarming moments abound, so this is one you need to check out or re-visit.
Die Hard (1988)
Even though Bruce Willis claimed that it wasn’t a Christmas movie at his Comedy Central roast, we all know that Die Hard is one of the best movies of the season. In all honesty, it is doesn’t have a very Christmas-y storyline, but the maniacal German terrorists (led by Alan Rickman) do invade a Christmas party, so… it counts. This film was the big break of Bruce Willis, and it’s still probably his best film. It is one of the most fun action movies of all time, so if you haven’t seen it in a while (or at all), it is worth checking out.
Better Watch Out (2016)
This is the film that you are probably least likely to know about, but also the one that deserves the most attention. Better Watch Out is an indie horror comedy, and it is one of the funniest films you can watch this season. A bit of advice: DO NOT WATCH THE TRAILER. The trailer spoils the film in a big way, so you’re better off going in blind. Just know that it’s gory, hilarious, and features a great supporting turn by Patrick Warburton. You will feel the reward if you don’t know anything else. If enough people see it, maybe there can be a sequel called “Better Not Pout”?
The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
The Nightmare Before Christmas is one of the few holiday films where you have an excuse to watch it twice in a year. A perfect film for both Halloween and Christmas, it has some of the best animation ever, a thoroughly compelling story, and some excellent music. It is very short and dense, but somehow doesn’t feel rushed. There should be no surprise that this ranks highest among the alternative Christmas films.
Those are the top 5 traditional and alternative Christmas movies. Do you agree? Was anything left off? Let us know what you and your family watch every holiday season in the comments!