5 Not-So-Christmas Movies to Watch This Holiday Season

It’s mid-December, the Christmas season is well and truly here, and I can barely go on social media without people sharing the classic Christmas movies they’re watching. I’ve got a place in my heart for some of the Christmas classics I grew up with, but I just don’t go crazy for all things festive. Sometimes I just want a darker (dare I say… edgy?) alternative to holiday cheer, but something that still feels Christmassy.

For everyone else like me who doesn’t love the obvious Christmas choices, I’ve put together a list of alternative options to watch this holiday season. If we live in a society where Die Hard is allowed to be a Christmas movie, then these movies should be too!

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

most nostalgic
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Okay, so maybe I did already recommend this movie as a Halloween classic. HOWEVER, when it comes to the age-old debate of “is this a Christmas movie or a Halloween movie?”, I will always argue that it is a Christmas film. Jack Skellington, famous figure from Halloween Town accidentally stumbles upon Christmas Town, and is instantly entranced by everything new: snow, sparkles, gifts, and joy. He is shaken from his Halloween-induced slump and wants to spread Christmas joy, accidentally terrorizing children around the world with his bastardized Christmas/Halloween hybrid. It definitely fits the bill for a Halloween film and a Christmas film, but my pro-Christmas argument is this: the characters come from Halloween Town, which acts as a background for them to explore the concept and culture of Christmas. Nightmare is loaded with Christmas visuals and aesthetics, as well as two absolute ~tunes (What’s This? and Making Christmas), and it’s a great movie to throw on for the perfect Hot Topic Christmas.

The Conjuring 2 (2016)

scariest movie
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Peep that Christmas Tree in the background!

If you’re looking for alternative Christmas movies, the horror genre has a pretty wide selection (Black Christmas, Silent Night Deadly Night, and many others. I don’t have a huge interest in outright Christmas-themed horror, but The Conjuring 2 doesn’t incorporate Christmas into the concept or plot. Based on the paranormal investigation of the Enfield Poltergeist, the movie is set around the holidays but is not a holiday film. It’s probably the least “Christmassy” film on this list, because it’s a straight up scary horror flick with festive set dressing and a hint of Catholicism. I love a good supernatural horror movie, and The Conjuring series has some seriously scary movies. I remember letting out a scream or two the first time I watched this with my friend, and on my recent rewatch I definitely jumped out of my seat at least once. Christmas Trees, paper snowflakes, holiday lights, and Christmas carols definitely make this a Christmas movie in my mind, but it’s a bit more toned down than the other movies on this list.

Edward Scissorhands (1990)

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Watching Edward Scissorhands might become my newest Christmas tradition. The story of a suburban family finding and trying to help a living creation with scissors for hands spans across the year, but the final chapter is all Christmas. I love this movie’s whole pastel ’50s idealized aesthetic, and adore the super retro vibes of the Christmas decorations. White trees, vintage glass ornaments, rolls of fake snow, and the old-school-cool holiday party outfits capture the amazing kitschy style that I love. It’s Tim Burton in his element before he became a pastiche of himself.
Beyond the holiday decor, this movie has strong Christmas vibes. It’s super cozy, feeling a bit like a fairytale or folk tale, as it exists within the framing device of an old woman telling a story on a snowy night. The snow itself calls back to a magical scene in the film, and the moral of her story (and the movie) is something along the lines of “goodwill towards man”, which is an undeniably Christmassy theme. If you’re looking for a feel-good movie, this is my pick for you.

Krampus (2015)

funniest movie
Name the Last Movie You Watched in Your Home Theater - Page 2636 - Blu-ray  Forum
I love the character design of Krampus

Okay, so I know I said I’m not a big fan of Christmas-based horror, but Krampus is fucking great. Unlike most Christmas horror movies (which tend to be slashers), this is a supernatural monster movie that expertly treads the line between horror and comedy. Krampus is named after the Central European demon who punishes naughty children at Christmas. In the film, a stressed suburban family hosts their relatives for the holidays in what feels like a miserable version of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. The family does not get along, ruining the holiday for everyone, and accidentally summoning Krampus to punish them for not believing in Christmas spirit.
I watched this movie drunk on Christmas Eve with my brother a few years ago, and instantly added it to my mental list of holiday favourites. If you’re a horror fan, this movie has a creepy atmosphere and enough scares to keep you happy, and if you’re not a horror fan, you’ll still probably like it. This movie is packed with weirdness and comedy, including tiny evil gingerbread men and David Koechner as the awful Uncle Howard. Equal parts campy and creepy, this movie moralizes on the meaning of Christmas in the darkest way possible.

Batman Returns (1992)

top pick!
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Apparently 2020 is the year that the Internet decided that Batman Returns is the new Die Hard, and I’ve been saying this for years! Set around the Christmas season, Batman faces The Penguin as he runs for office and seeks revenge for his abandonment, and Catwoman as she seeks revenge for her own death. It’s a very revenge-driven movie! Seminal scenes include the Gotham City Tree Lighting ceremony and a Christmas Charity Ball, firmly cementing the film in the holiday season. The film’s design is very dark and moody, which creates a very cool ~dark Christmas~ vibe that I just love.
This is one of my favourite superhero movies in general: I think early Tim Burton’s aesthetics really suit Gotham City, Michael Keaton is a great Batman, the villains are super fun (Danny DeVito as The Penguin and Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman), and I unabashadly stan the Batman/Catwoman relationship. If you’re a Die Hard Christmas movie fan, this one is probably going to be most up your alley.

Those are my top 5 not-so-Christmas movies to add to your holiday movie lists!

  • The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
  • The Conjuring 2 (2016)
  • Edward Scissorhands (1990)
  • Krampus (2015)
  • Batman Returns (1992)

Which of these films is your favourite? What are some other not-so-Christmas movies you’d add to the list? Let me know in the comments!

P.S. Can we also discuss how into Christmas Tim Burton was in the early ’90s? Though he did not direct The Nightmare Before Christmas, it is based on a poem he wrote and he was highly involved in the production, and he directed and produced both Edward Scissorhands and Batman Returns! His 1996 film Mars Attacks! was also set for a Christmas release which is why the martians’ vaporizer turned people red and green. As much as people associate Tim Burton with Halloween and all things spooky, he sure does (or did) have a pretty big fixation on Christmas!

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