Not your typical Christmas movies.
If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably sat through Elf and Home Alone a few (or far) too many times, but you still want to get into the festive spirit. Or maybe you’re also not a big fan of most soppy, cliche Christmas films. But enjoyable, wintery films set at Christmas don’t need to have angels, matching jumper sets, and an unconvincing redemption arc. Here are my top picks for films to watch at this time of year, without having to sit through another painfully cheery festive flick.
A personal favourite, and a classic. A heart-warming(ish) tale which isn’t nauseating, with lots of snow and ice sculptures, and a climactic scene set at Christmas to end on a happy, festive note. Still characteristically Tim Burton, and without Christmas spirit at its centre, it follows the gothic Edward as he tries to be accepted into suburbia after finally leaving his (super cool) spooky mansion. Edward isn’t changed into some merry elf, the snow provides a lovely backdrop rather than some motivator for the locals to magically become good people, and it’s an all-round great film. As a bonus, it’s free to watch on Disney+.
Ah, yes, nothing says Christmas like cabin fever gone wrong. Still, the bloody hallways provide a nice warm tint, and the winter jumpers and snowy exterior set the festive mood well enough – and, for some reason, the famous hotel carpet is very cosy to me. Not to mention, snow saves the day here! A classic, supernatural tale tackling addiction, this one is a great watch any time of year – but if you want alternative Christmas viewing, Kubrick has you covered. The Shining is also on Prime for a little while, so no excuse not to.
Absolutely hilarious. And if you wanted to see a drunk Santa fight or mess of a company Christmas party to cheer you, then this is for you. A brilliant comedy and an exceptional cast, but with a pretty dark plot against the festive elements and jokes. Not a traditional Christmas film, but perfect to watch for a good laugh during the cold, dark nights ahead.
Burton makes it back on the list – though this time, instead of a Christmas in suburbia, we get a refreshing Christmas in Gotham. Some absolutely gorgeous Christmas trees/weapons, and while the penguin fits the theme here, he also isn’t overcome by the power of Christmas to save the day – and certainly not by the power of family. A somewhat satirical take on a Christmas film (after all, “mistletoe is poisonous if you eat it”) but a wonderful, unique movie – and who doesn’t like some pretty lights in everyone’s favourite comic book city?
The whole premise of the film involves Christmas and a cute, fuzzy mogwai. A fun little monster attack set against a snowy backdrop with intermittent fairy lights, what’s not to love? I personally love to watch this in winter; it’s not too dark or horrifying, and instead is nostalgic and entertaining. Really, the gremlins are a group of merry, carolling anti-elves, so perfect for a different kind of Christmas film.
This film is brilliant, and set in the wintery, picturesque town of Bruges, so it could definitely be enjoyed this festive season. The troubling and gory content don’t make this a traditional choice, but the film is also absolutely hilarious, and if you haven’t seen it yet you definitely should make the time. At times it looks like a Christmas card, but it contains absolutely none of the soppy, nauseating themes you may expect. In Bruges follows a disgraced hitman and his friend, waiting out the decision on what should happen after a hit gone wrong. A heavy theme, but it’s woven throughout with dark jokes, once again perfectly accompanied by twinkling Christmas trees.