The Christmas Movie List You’ve Secretly Been Waiting For

Coming to a Streaming Device Near You

  • Boyfriends of Christmas Past
  • You, Me, & the Christmas Trees
  • Christmas in My Heart
  • A Husband for Christmas
  • A Bride for Christmas
  • A Christmas Prince
  • A Christmas Prince: The Royal Wedding
  • A Christmas Prince: The Royal Baby
  • A Christmas Prince: The Royal Scandal
  • A Christmas Prince: The Royal Divorce

(Just kidding about the last two)

Déjà Vue All Over Again

You know the routine. Tune into Hallmark (41 new Christmas movies this year alone) or Netflix or Lifetime or Prime Video or any streaming service on the planet, really, and you’ll find a movie full of treacle and light. All the movies will follow the same general plot outline: just before Christmas, an absurdly attractive person travels to someplace they either don’t want to go to or that they must go to incognito. (Variation on a theme: they stay home but they are forced to do something that they don’t want to do or that they must do incognito.) Once at the place (or doing the thing), they meet another absurdly attractive person who can’t stand them or who they can’t stand. The two ridiculously beautiful people team up to do something or save something or win something. Before you can say, “ho, ho, ho,” it’s Christmas and the beautiful people have fallen in love. They kiss under the mistletoe. If one beautiful person is from a big city, s/he (usually she) willingly gives up their glam city life to stay in the “quirky” (i.e., weird, dreary, and with limited employment prospects) small town with their newfound love. The couple will live happily ever after—or until the sequel, depending on what kind of deal the producers can hammer out with the streaming service.

You Say Grinch Like It’s a Bad Thing

I know, I know, my cynical plot synopsis puts me on Santa’s naughty list, right next to Scrooge, the Grinch, and Krampus. But, really, I’m not anti-Christmas. I celebrate all twelve days of the Christmas season. I queue the Christmas playlist the moment the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade ends. I unabashedly sing “The Christmas Song” along with both Nat King Cole and Johnny Mathis. Ella Fitzgerald and me, we’re right there when “Sleigh Ride” hits the airwaves. I actually own a digital copy of Borrowed Hearts (Roma Downey pretends to be a millionaire playboy’s wife so he can win a business deal and—you know the rest). I watch it every year. Occasionally, I watch it during the summer. Christmas movies in July, anyone?

Jolity Has Its Limits

Sentimental streak aside, however, every year I hit a critical mass of heteronormative love stories. I get especially tired of the ones that oh-so-subtly (or not so subtly) equate the big city with evil and small towns with goodness. (Think all small towns are charming and cheery and safe? Listen to the podcast, Small Town Murder and be disabused of that delusion.) One more dose of sugar and I’ll be headed to the dentist’s office to have a cavity filled. At some point during the holiday season, I crave—something else.

My Precious…or Not

I want something less precious than beautiful people falling in love. I want something edgier, darker. Something, let’s be honest, less predictable. Maybe you feel this way, too. Maybe you feel this way but are afraid to say anything. Maybe you feel odd, unusual, like an anomaly. If you find that your jaw aches from holding a fake smile in place as you watch that actor you kind of recognize from something pretend they have no idea that they’re in love with that other actor you kind of recognize from something when even your three-and-a-half-year-old cousin figured it out before the first limited commercial interruption, know that you’re not alone.

My Gift to You

Here, then, dear cynic, is a list of Christmas movies for you (and me). These films will speak to that small, dark part of your soul that yearns to tell Aunt Marge that the socks she gives you every Christmas are ugly and itchy and that her gelatin salad is vile. They’ll mollify your inner gremlin and keep it quiescent for another 364 days.

Christmas Movies for the Rest of Us

(To anyone who says these aren’t Christmas movie, I say nertz and bah, humbug. Where’s it written that Christmas movies must be warm and fuzzy? Violence, mayhem, bloodshed, and chaos are in perfect keeping with a holiday that falls close to the longest, darkest night of the year.)

  • Black Christmas (1974, 2006, and 2019 versions. The 1974 version is rated as the best. It was directed by the man who directed A Christmas Story.)
  • The Ref
  • Gremlins
  • Die Hard (No, you’re wrong. Yes, it is a Christmas movie.)
  • The Long Kiss Goodnight
  • The Nightmare Before Christmas (It’s a dual-holiday movie. More viewing bang for your buck)
  • Home Alone
  • Home Alone 2: Lost in New York
  • Trading Places
  • Bad Santa
  • Batman Returns
  • L.A. Confidential
  • The Thin Man
  • Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang
  • Lethal Weapon
  • Silent Night, Deadly Night
  • Night of the Comet

That’s only a sample of the alternatives to saccharine schmaltz. This list, and this one, and this one, offer more. (And here, and here. My list has provenance.)

Honest, There’s No Garlic in My Soul

Sometimes I want wholesome but not romance. We’re not all looking for love. Some of us are happily single. We realize that romantic love is not the be all and end all of existence. Here are some sweet-not-mushy Christmas films:

  • Angels in the Snow (A family helps a family)
  • The Bells of St. Mary’s (Attractive people who don’t kiss)
  • Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey and The Christmas Chronicles (Middle-grade heroes = no romance)
  • A Christmas Story (See also, Black Christmas 1974)
  • 8-Bit Christmas (Doogie Howser explains the 80s, Chicago-style. Think A Christmas Story but replace the air gun with Nintendo.)
  • The Bishop’s Wife (remade as The Preacher’s Wife)
  • How the Grinch Stole Christmas (the 1966 version. Only the 1966 version.)
  • A Charlie Brown Christmas
  • Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer, 1964. (Yeah, I know, Clarice. But it’s really a bromance between Rudolph and Hermey, the elf who wants to be a dentist.)
  • A Christmas Carol (Endless variations on this Christmas ghost story. I like An American Christmas Carol, with Henry Winkler. Aaaaay.)
  • Miracle on 34th Street (The original, 1947, version. If Perry Mason had a Christmas episode, this would be it.)
  • “A Holiday Reunion” (the 2019 Xfinity commercial/E.T. sequel. At 4 minutes, it counts as a short film)

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays. Grab yourself some eggnog and go have a watch party. And if you think of any Christmas Movies For the Rest of Us that I missed, share them here, on Facebook, or Tweet ‘em.

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