The Christmas Movies You Forgot

A guide to the lesser-known holiday classics.

Part of the joy of Christmastime is that you have permission to watch the same movies over and over and listen to the same carols on repeat. There’s a certain festivity and nostalgia in the sameness of the season. But even your holiday favorites lose a little of their tinsel sparkle after the third or fourth viewing. ... Have you watched Home Alone so many times you know the total of Kevin’s pizza delivery order ($11.80)? Does your family still try to laugh like they’ve never heard the dad mispronounce “fragile” on A Christmas Story (fraah-gee-lay)? Have you finally realized How the Grinch Stole Christmas and all the claymation classics are really only 40 minutes long?

Here are our top 10 suggestions for underappreciated or unconventional Christmas films you might not have seen (or simply forgot about because cable TV doesn’t air them on repeat for 24 hours). With a little creativity and Netflix searching, you just might uncover a new/old Christmas classic.

The Shop Around the Corner

This is Jimmy Stewart's lesser-known and not-so-tear-jerking holiday film. The 1940 romantic comedy also served as the loose inspiration for Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan’s unlikely love story in You’ve Got Mail. This time, the two leads aren’t falling in love via email, but as anonymous pen pals. Of course, they actually see each other every day at the gift shop where they work and loathe each other’s existence. Perhaps only a little Christmas retail magic can bring them together ...

The Family Stone

Most films that star everyone in Hollywood settle for a flimsy plot. But this time the full cast is a solid foundation for discussions of some very serious topics—racism, parenting, choosing a career, homosexuality, unhappy relationships, terminal illness. Uncomfortable? Sometimes. But not unlike many family gatherings at Christmas. Ultimately, this is a story of a loving family staying strong when its individual members may not.

The Bishop’s Wife

Remember The Preacher’s Wife, the '90s film where Denzel Washington is an angel on assignment and Whitney Houston is a choir director with a strange attraction to the angel (oh, and she’s also married to a minister trying to rebuild his church)? It was actually based on this less weird and spiritually moving film from 1947, starring Cary Grant and Loretta Young. Though it lacks an amazing gospel choir, Grant’s Christmas angel is more believable in this warm-and-fuzzy classic.

Scrooged

This “modern” (read: “'80s-tastic”) retelling of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol stars Bill Murray as Frank Cross, the Ebenezer Scrooge of TV executives. Hilarious hijinks ensue when he is visited by the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future to revive his holiday spirit. It’s still slightly spooky and redemptive, but you also get Carol Kane as a pip-squeaky Ghost of Christmas Present intent on literally slapping Cross in the face.

Die Hard

Don’t you just hate it when a hostage situation involving terrorists sabotages your Christmas plans with your family? ... OK, so it’s not exactly the kind of holiday film that makes you want to gather the kids close and drink some eggnog. But the '80s action film starring Bruce Willis could be an unconventional addition to your viewing list this season. And any movie with an evil Alan Rickman is worth your time.

White Christmas

When it comes to Christmas musicals, it doesn’t get any better than this. But somehow, many forget about watching White Christmas, and settle for singing the song (introduced in Holiday Inn and later popularized in this film). The back story? Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye team up with Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen as a swinging, tap-dancing, harmonizing quartet trying to save a friend’s struggling lodge during a not-so-snowy holiday season. The answer, of course, is to dance and sing.

Edward Scissorhands

You might have forgotten this is a Christmas movie because a would-be man with a big heart and scissor hands makes for a creepy Halloween costume. But the chilly climax of this quirky Tim Burton story actually revolves around a Christmas party. Plus, what’s more festive than Johnny Depp making crazy life-sized ice sculptures in your front yard?

A Muppet Christmas Carol

The gang is back full-force with The Muppets. But why not revisit one of their earlier films this Christmas season? A Christmas Carol becomes that much more endearing when Gonzo narrates as Charles Dickens, and Kermit and Miss Piggy play the unfortunate Cratchits. And only the Muppets could get Michael Caine to be a Mr. Humbug so cranky, “even the vegetables don’t like him.”

Meet Me in St. Louis

This old film is about a family moving away from home. There’s also a bit about the World’s Fair and you’ll get a dose of romance. But really, all you need to know is this lively musical eventually makes its way to a

scene where Judy Garland looks tearfully out the window over the snow glistening in her backyard and sings “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” to her baby sister. Break out the hot chocolate and the tissue box.

The Year Without a Santa Claus

This TV special is the overlooked claymation cousin of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Santa Claus Is Coming to Town. When Santa Claus comes down with a cold, he decides to call in a sick day on his Christmas duties—which you can probably already guess is a terrible idea for everyone involved. If you love Heat Miser, Snow Miser and the song “Blue Christmas,” this one is worth browsing for.

HONORABLE MENTION: Little Women, All I Want for Christmas, Gremlins, Batman Returns, Serendipity, To Grandmother’s House We Go, Bridget Jones’s Diary, The Holiday, While You Were Sleeping, Babes in Toyland, Bells of St. Mary’s

What are you watching this Christmas season? Is your favorite forgotten classic not listed here?

 

64 Comments

84,866

Denise commented…

We taped (and wore out!) a copy of another Jim Henson special, "Mr. Willoughby's Christmas Tree"--- it starred Robert Downey Jr., Leslie Nielsen, Stockard Channing, and a full cast of adorable muppet characters. I still try to find it every year!

84,866

Anonymous commented…

Claymation Christmas.

84,866

Anonymous commented…

I absolute love 'White Christmas'! It's certainly not forgotten in our house, because we try to watch it every year. There's this other Christmas TV movie I remember watching when I was young - 'Robbie the Reindeer,' or something - about Rudolph's son. I remember loving it but I haven't seen it for a long time...

Danielle Christopher

11

Danielle Christopher commented…

One that most people probably haven't seen let alone heard of is Midnight Clear. I first watched it 3 years ago and have watched it yearly since. It's about a bunch of people on Christmas Eve, and throughout the film you see their lives intertwine and their hopelessness lifted by each other. It's a very real film, and it isn't one I would show kids, but for adults it's a beautiful film that covers the realities of life and loneliness during the Christmas season. I hadn't watched it yet this year, but I just saw it on TBN and of course couldn't change the channel. I highly recommend to anyone.

Joe Marinich

1

Joe Marinich commented…

Season 3 of Pee Wees Playhouse was shortened because of a writers strike, so to make fans happy they made a Christmas Special that year.

Its called Pee Wees Playhouse Christmas Special and its pretty awesome! Like all good kids shows it teaches a good message and its a lot of fun, so if your a fan of the Playhouse then check out this holiday favorite. We love it at my house.

Please log in or register to comment

Log In