10 Classic Christmas Movies You've Been Overlooking This Holiday Season

There's never been a better year than this one to catch up and see every single classic holiday movie. What else are you going to do with all that time at home on your hands?

But you may find that after you've burned through the usual favorite likes It's a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Story and Elf, that you want something that is still basically a Christmas movie, but doesn't really feel like one. Don't worry: We got you.

In recent years, there have been plenty of non-traditional Christmas movies that have entered the holiday canon for people who want something with its halls slightly less decked.

Of course everyone now knows that Die Hard is technically a Christmas movie, but there are plenty of other movies that have entered the canon, whether it's a celebrated classic simply set around the holidays (like Lethal Weapon) or another great flick with an iconic Christmas scene (like Mean Girls).

Die Hard

What gets lost in the whole “Is Die Hard a Christmas movie?” debate is that Die Hard and Home Alone are essentially the same movie.

— Philip Klinkner (@pklinkne) November 30, 2020

Let's get this out of the way early. The 1988 action classic starring Bruce Willis and Alan Rickman is set on Christmas Eve. Some even go so far as to compare it to Home Alone. 20th Century Fox even played into the hype, releasing a recut trailer in 2018 to make the film seem like a Yuletide family comedy.

The Nightmare Before Christmas

Nightmare Before Christmas tree something I would not mind getting #christmas #tree #horrorcommunity pic.twitter.com/N0JcRZbOP8

— 𝕯𝖊𝖆𝖙𝖍2𝕿𝖍𝖊𝕲𝖗𝖆𝖛𝖊 pls RT 👍Pinned Tweet (@Death2TheGrave) December 1, 2020

Even though the Halloween scenes inspired a generation who would vow to shop at Hot Topic for the rest of their lives, it's important to remember that the Tim Burton-produced classic has so much more than just the iconic gothic imagery. Even undead pumpkin kings like Jack Skellington like to get into the holiday spirit! Also, for all the times that "This is Halloween" showed up on your October playlist, it's probably worth throwing "What's This" on at least once in December.

The Wizard of Oz

While there's nothing inherently Christmas-related to the plot of the cinema classic, Dorothy and Toto make their way from Kansas to The Emerald City in living rooms across the country every year. Besides being a family-appropriate movie, the film has regularly been shown on various cable networks between Thanksgiving and Christmas since as early as 1956, when The New York Times reported that CBS had plans to show the film as part of its seasonal programming.

Iron Man 3

Not enough is said about how Iron Man 3 is a Christmas movie.

— M’BlockU (@rodimusprime) December 7, 2020

While patiently awaiting the next crop of Marvel movies to enter Phase 4, the holiday season is a perfect time to view the third Iron Man film, which features Tony Stark grappling with the events of the first Avengers movie around Christmas. The film being set around the holidays should be no surprise as Shane Black, who directed Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (another alternative Christmas movie), was also the auteur on this MCU installment. Plus, who could forget Tony's Christmas display where he blew up all his suits?

Eyes Wide Shut

My girlfriend just asked could she put on a Christmas movie and then turned on Eyes Wide Shut. This is what Twitter discourse empowers people to do. I’m sick of it.

— Brittani Nichols (@BisHilarious) December 8, 2020

While Stanley Kubrick's final film is probably best remembered for the masquerading sex scenes, it's another movie that's set around the holidays. Although the novel Dream Story by Arthur Schnitzler, which the movie is based on, was set around Mardi Gras, Kubrick's artistic liberties have caused a number of critics to weigh in on what he was trying to say about the holidays including criticisms of consumerism or to create a setting with "otherworldly radiance and personality," as The New York Times review put it.

Batman Returns

Before Iron Man 3, Tim Burton's Batman-sequel laid the groundwork for superhero Christmas movies.The 1992 movie is set around the holidays and features two of Bruce Wayne's most famous foes: Catwoman and The Penguin. Perhaps as something of a predecessor to 1993's Nightmare Before Christmas, Christmas in Gotham is exactly as sinister as it sounds. In 2017, Nerdist called Batman Returns a "Magical Christmas Movie."


GREMLINS doesn't get enough love for being the best goddamn Christmas movie out there. Horror just sometimes hits harder when it has some heart. RT if you also love GREMLINS. pic.twitter.com/16KTQ6xdhN

— Michael Roffman (@michaelroffman) December 8, 2020

It's often forgotten that the horror-comedy cult classic is set around the holidays, and the mogwai creature (the titular Gremlins) is actually given as a Christmas gift. Plus, who could forget Gizmo wearing a Santa hat.

The Harry Potter Series

While so many of the movies do have Christmas scenes (complete with Hogwarts' Great Hall completely decked out), it appears that most of the film's November release dates and regular holiday marathons have helped it enter into the Christmas canon, so you can "Do The Hippogriff" at your own person Yule Ball every year.

Bad Santa

While there's no reason to argue why the adult comedy ends up in Christmas rotation, it's not necessarily the feel good holiday classic that your typical Christmas movie may provide. There are plenty of memorable scenes as Billy Bob Thornton's miserable mall Santa and his con-man elf sidekick played by Tony Cox get up to no good, while plotting to rob department stores. While the scenes with Santa screaming and cursing at kids are most memorable, the story about Santa and the young Thurman Merman becoming friends is actually a little heartwarming.

Black Christmas

For horror fans who aren't satisfied with Gremlins or Nightmare Before Christmas, there's always the more traditional slasher film Black Christmas. Set in a sorority house, the movie plays on the classic trope of an unseen person in the house terrorizing the inhabitants. The killer enters while a Christmas party is going on. So if COVID-19 didn't scare you out of holding a Christmas party, maybe Black Christmas will.

A Nightmare Before Christmas Movie Still
Decked out in his new Santa Clause outfit, Jack Skellington, the ruler of Halloweentown, delivers a very different version of Christmas to the real world in Touchstone Pictures animated film, "Tim Burton's A Nightmare Before Christmas." Joel Fletcher/Online USA/Getty

Editor's pick

Newsweek cover
  • Newsweek magazine delivered to your door
  • Unlimited access to Newsweek.com
  • Ad free Newsweek.com experience
  • iOS and Android app access
  • All newsletters + podcasts
Newsweek cover
  • Unlimited access to Newsweek.com
  • Ad free Newsweek.com experience
  • iOS and Android app access
  • All newsletters + podcasts