The 7 Best Christmas Movies That Aren’t ‘Christmas’ Movies

The unsung heroes of the holiday movie season.


We are all tired of talking about Love, Actually (actually, we have been for years!) and we’re guaranteed to be forced to watch It’s a Wonderful Life and/or a Christmas Story at some point this week. But Christmas movies come in all shapes and sizes, and some are not suitable for family gatherings. Here a few movies to get you in the spirit without sugar-coating the dark side of the holidays. 

Just Friends

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Ryan Reynolds is Chris Brander, a former fat kid-turned-hotshot Hollywood record executive who accidentally (literally) lands near his New Jersey childhood home right around the holidays — along with a famous, insane pop star who thinks she is his girlfriend. The Christmas season is in full swing, and his high school best friend and longtime crush Jamie is still living in town. He tried to pursue her but the odds are hilariously against him. Just Friends is an unsung hero of both Christmas movies and romantic comedies; Anna Faris has never been funnier. It also gave us “He skis in his jeans!”

Die Hard

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Christmas is in more than just the background of Die Hard. The movie takes place on Christmas Eve, during an office Christmas party. There are Christmas trees all over the place, and Christmas music is on the soundtrack. But more importantly, Die Hard is about redemption and renewal and finding out you’re a better person that you thought you were once you stopped thinking only of yourself.

Bridget Jones’ Diary

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Bridget Jones’ Diary is a rom-com that spans all seasons, but a key plot point is bookended by the Christmas/New Year’s holidays: Bridget first meets Mark Darcy at a family holiday party, and takes note of his terrible sweater. A year later, they run into each other at an ugly dress holiday party again — the kind that people started throwing “ironically” a few years ago Yep: Bridget Jones invented the Ugly Sweater Party.

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

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Shane Black’s Los Angeles crime caper takes place during the holiday season, and kicks off with Robert Downey Jr.’s character robbing a toy store, in part because of the tried-and-true Christmas movie trope of needing a hard-to-find gift for his kid. Enter an old high-school sweetheart, Michelle Monaghan, who dresses in a sexy Santa suit, while Downey complains about the vapidness of L.A. It kind of reminds you of another Robert Downey Jr. movie set during the holidays…

Less Than Zero

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Brett Easton Ellis hated the film adaptation of his novel about drug-fueled excess among entitled eighties youth, which opens on the most insane Christmas party — or rather, a “Fuck Christmas” Party — made with a budget no one under 21 should ever have access to. And in keeping with conventional Christmas movie themes, Downey’s drug-addicted Julian and his fed-up father struggle to salvage their relationship, and there’s a semi-happy ending.

Edward Scissorhands

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Tim Burton‘s sad and beautiful movie about the fetishization and rejection of unusual people has a sad and beautiful Christmas sequence, in which Winona Ryder dances in “snow” that is a byproduct of Edward Scissorhand’s ice-sculpting. After Edward is forced into exile from the California community, he continues to shower the neighborhood with snow in perpetuity. Both Burton and composer Danny Elfman have said that Edwards Scissorhands is their most prized film. It is also one of my all time personal favorites, but that’s not why we’re here. 

Eyes Wide Shut

Christmas is not the first thing you think about when you think about Eyes Wide Shut, but Eyes Wide Shut is wall-to-wall Christmas. It opens as Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman get ready for a Christmas party, there are Christmas trees in nearly every scene, and the protagonist’s illicit adventures have a bizarro Ebenezer Scrooge aspect to them. Notable: As a recent Rolling Stone story pointed out, Stanley Kubrick initially wanted to write the main characters as Jewish, and first considered Woody Allen for the role (many years before the film was produced).