7 alternative holiday movies worth a watch


Last year, one of our writers made a vlog titled Top 11 Alternative Holiday Films, which are essential for the crowds of people that enjoy variety outside of the sentimental sap or endlessly rewatched classics. In order to further spice up your Christmas, here are seven more alternative holiday movies to select from to watch on the titular holiday. If there are any movies we missed here, in addition to the ones featured in the original post, share your picks in the comments below!


Bad Santa

Christmas has such a good-natured, family-friendly image, which makes Bad Santa’s wicked presence such a welcome addition among Christmas films. This dark comedy follows a mall Santa who annually robs department stores on Christmas. This latest run, however, is unlike the rest, with the cold-hearted Willie befriending a young boy. With an incredibly sharp script, the film thankfully never breaks its darkly comedic tone, with the characters being despicably lovable. Billy Bob Thornton shines from start to finish, flinging his arms and shouting vulgarities with such force. He has such presence in the role and really makes the character come to life. Several films have tried to replicate this film’s perfect darkly comedic balance, with none even coming close. – Matt Conway



Nothing says holiday cheer like destructive monsters creating chaos across an entire town during the Christmas season. Gremlins is one of the most deserving cult classics of the 1980s, and also one of several films that led to the creation of the PG-13 rating in 1984, because of its surprising amount of violence and gore. The happy-go-lucky opening montage of Kingston Falls’ citizens relishing Christmastime activities, along with the scenes of Billy bonding with Gizmo the mogwai, are about the only warm and tender moments you’ll get from this film. Once all three important rules of the mogwai are broken, the quaint suburbia setting turns into an anarchic hell, as an army of gremlins attack everyone and everything they can. Director Joe Dante’s pension for B-movie thrills is in full force during the film’s final hour, and the combined puppetry and practical effects of the gremlins are some of the most notable in 1980s cinema. Furthermore, the setting of the film’s final battle in a department store is perfect for its purported satire of materialism since so many of the film’s goods are both used and destroyed in the fight.


The Ice Harvest

The late Harold Ramis will always be best remembered for the comedies he worked on from the eighties to mid-nineties, but The Ice Harvest remains as quite possibly the most underrated film in his directing resume. Set in Wichita, Kansas, on Christmas Eve, John Cusack plays a mob lawyer who along with the help of his criminal associate, Vic (Billy Bob Thornton) robs over two million dollars from his boss. Treacherous weather prevents them from leaving town so soon, and Cusack  must deal with a mob enforcer tracking down him and Vic, in addition to keeping his drunk friend, Pete, out of more trouble than he’s already in. Oliver Platt’s scene-stealing performance as Pete produces most of the laughs in this dark comedy noir, and the film’s critique of Christmas materialism, most notably shown in Cusack’s character buying cheap, last minute gifts for his kids at a convenience store, make this one of the more exquisite and naughtier Christmastime movies of the last decade.


Iron Man 3

On one hand, Iron Man 3 deals with themes of redemption, generosity, greed and coming together with both friends and strangers for a better world, all of which are addressed in the Christmas season. Additionally, director Shane Black has even stated that Harley, the young boy Stark encounters, is sort of a “ghost of Christmas past” to the memory of a younger Tony. On a less optimistic note, division over menial issues is a perfect way to distract those unbearable relatives coming over this Christmas, arguing over politics or religion or how you need to do more with your life. Try popping in Iron Man 3, that way they’ll at least be arguing about the Mandarin twist instead of your questionable life choices. – Donald Strohman

The Night Before

Combining the stoner humor of the Seth Rogen brand with the Christmas season seems like an odd pairing, but the combination works surprisingly well in The Night Before. Featuring three best friends (played by Rogen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Anthony Mackie), who go out for one last night on the town, the raunchy flick surprises not only with laughs, but an honest portrayal of friendship. Writer/director Jonathan Levine’s presence is very much felt, as the film gives more attention to its characters and their problems more than the average comedy. With this, the characters and their dynamics feel more fleshed out and genuine, making it easy to grow attached to them. Its themes of friendship, taking accountability to oneself and commitment ring quite true, with some small, yet effective dramatic moments. Comedy fans should still not fret, as the film brings the laughs in a big way with its trio’s great chemistry along with some truly fantastic cameos. For myself, it’s a modern Christmas classic. – Matt Conway

The Ref

Attending marriage counseling on Christmas Eve is bad enough, but to return home and be held hostage by a thief that just robbed a neighboring house, now that’s the ultimate cherry on top. However when the thief decides to play marriage counselor to the couple and their never-ending bickering, Ted Demme’s The Ref becomes a black comedy that is any on-the-rocks, married couple’s worst nightmare. As the quarreling wife and husband, Judy Davis and Kevin Spacey are as blunt as they are witty, while Denis Leary fully embraces his trademark, sneering comic persona to full effect.


One of 2015’s early indie darlings, which was initially most renowned for being shot entirely on iPhones, Tangerine has gained just as much — if not more — notoriety for creating one of the most unorthodox stories to be set on Christmas. Centered on a transgender prostitute released from jail on Christmas Eve, who sets out on the streets of Hollywood to find the pimp that cheated on her, the movie deftly balances dazzling comedy with insightful explorations of prostitute subculture, all of which are juxtaposed with vivid primary colors encompassing the characters. Tangerine’s daring subject matter might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s nonetheless an excellent example of a Christmastime movie that features little to no sentiment for the holiday.


Exit mobile version