We all know the Christmas classics: Rudolph, Miracle on 34th Street, Elf, and Home Alone. But what if I told you this year you could escape the clutches of those same movies you watch every year for something new, exciting, and while probably a little out there, still worth every second. Sure, Home Alone is good and those slightly creepy stop-motion animations are a tradition, but if you’re looking for something a little new, I have eight criminally underrated, unheard of, or irreverent Christmas movies for you to pick from.
Babes in Toyland (1986)
11-year-old Lisa doesn’t have time for toys, but when she is transported by a blizzard Wizard-of-Oz style to Toyland just in time for a wedding, she can’t help but stay. Literally. She finds out Young Mary Contrary is about to marry mean, old Barnaby Barnacle, despite the fact that she loves Jack Be Nimble. She and her new friends discover that Barnaby wants to take over Toyland, and they try to stop chaos from ensuing. This might sound like a ridiculous, old fashioned, lost-a-couple-million-at-the-box-office kind of movie – and it is. But it’s a fun watch and stars both Drew Barrymore and Keanu Reeves, so who can say no to that?
Jack Frost (1997)
In a 1997 direct-to-video Christmas horror-comedy, serial killer Jack Frost had left a trail of 38 bodies across 11 states before policeman Sam Tiler, sheriff of Snowmonton, finally captures him. While in a state execution transfer vehicle, Frost is exposed to a truck full of experimental genetic research. Everyone assumes he was killed, but the genetic material actually caused Jack’s body to freeze with the snow on the ground, transforming him into a literal snowman. Years later, he comes back to exact his revenge on the town. Despite being highly criticized and widely hated when it first came out, it’s now transformed into something of a cult classic, even spawning a sequel. If you want cheesy death scenes, an obvious puppet playing a killer snowman, and more, this is the movie for you.
From the director of Slumdog Millionaire comes a heartfelt Christmas film about two motherless British boys who come across a bag of cash in the middle of the Christmas season and must decide what to do with it. A heartfelt kind of Christian dramedy, this movie is sure to have your heart. Even though it rarely makes it to the top of Christmas movie lists, it won over five film awards, including the Saturn Award. For fans of indie movies with sweet British kids and some Catholicism, this should be at the top of your list this winter.
Mixed Nuts (1994)
An irreverent holiday comedy, Mixed Nuts focuses on a crisis hotline and the events surrounding it and its volunteers one holiday season. Featuring a young Adam Sandler, the movie quickly but thoughtfully moves the lives of many people in the city, intertwining them all together for a slightly raunchy, don’t-watch-with-your-little-siblings kind of Christmas comedy. There’s more dirty jokes than you’ll know what to do with, and it features an amazing soundtrack from the likes of Arethra Franklin, Carly Simon, and the O’Jays. Not to mention a few original songs by Adam Sandler you’ve probably never heard of. Regardless, any Steve Martin film is sure to be a crowd-pleaser.
In this retelling of the classic story A Christmas Carol, Bill Murray plays a cynical and selfish TV executive as the universe tries to get him to regain his Christmas spirit. He’s visited by a series of ghosts from the past, present, and future. A myriad of ghosts of people he had abandoned or left behind in his search for fame and fortune appear to him, and all try to convince him to be less of a Scrooge. This was Bill Murray’s first film following a four-year hiatus after the massive success of his movie Ghostbusters. Though critics were not a fan of it at the time, many now say it was ahead of its time and under-appreciated.
A Muppet Family Christmas (1987)
This originally aired in 1987, and it is probably the most family-friendly movie on the list. Featuring cameos from the likes of Jim Henderson and other muppet characters, the movie follows the usual cast of characters as they try to take a Christmas vacation. The usual chaos ensues. The movie even features the cast of Sesame Street, which I didn’t think ever crossed over, but apparently I was wrong. Even though this is more well known than the rest of the movies on this list, it still is a first for many people, and everyone loves the nostalgia of the Muppets, right?
Fred Claus (2007)
This comedy stars Vince Vaughn as Fred Claus, Santa Claus’s older, estranged brother come to stay at the North Pole. Fred asks Nick for money for a get-rich-quick scheme, but Nick says he’ll have to come work for it. When Fred arrives at the North Pole, he quickly realizes he’s going to have to make amends with Nick or ruin Christmas. Though it is a strange movie – it features an elf as an efficiency manager – it’s fun to watch and even more fun to make fun of. Even though it received criticism from reviewers in the early aughts, it’s become more of a classic good-bad movie in recent years.
The Ref (1994)
In this American black comedy, a married couple is taken hostage on Christmas Eve by a robber who eventually helps solve their marriage problems. When a criminal named Gus needs a fast getaway, he forces married couple Lloyd and Caroline to drive him home, where they proceed to bicker all night long with a revolving cast of characters, including J.K. Simmons. It’s not exactly a scary movie – even though Kevin Spacey stars in it – but it’s a good movie to watch if you’re not in the mood for another cheesy, stereotypical family movie.