Some of the links in this post may be affiliate links. If make a purchase through these links, we receive a commission at no extra cost to you. Please see our disclosure for more info.
We all love the traditional Christmas movies. As soon as December rolls around, we dig out the DVD copies of Home Alone, A Christmas Story, and A Christmas Carol that we haven’t touched all year.
It’s a great part of the Holiday season and the best way to get together with family and friends on cold nights!
Rather than making a list of the Christmas movies you already know and love, we’ve compiled a list of the 10 best Christmas movies that aren’t actually Christmas movies! There’s something on the list for everyone, and it’s a great way to find a new favorite!
1. Die Hard
Every guy’s pick for the holiday season, this 1988 Action smash was voted The Greatest Christmas Movie of All Time by readers of British movie magazine Empire in 2015. Directed by John McTiernan, Die Hard stars Bruce Willis as off-duty NYPD officer John McClane. It’s without a doubt the movie that made Willis an action star, and the ever-incredible Alan Rickman plays bad-guy Hans Gruber. Expect great acting and an incredible movie score, as well as all the choreographed fight scenes you’d expect from this genre.
There has definitely been some debate as to whether this is actually a Christmas movie or not, because it’s pretty much just an 80s action movie that starts with a Christmas party. But does that matter? It’s great to watch something different and have a break from the traditional, family-style movies we all watch every year – plus, it’s rated R, so this one’s just for the grown ups.
2. Trading Places
Another movie that’s definitely geared towards the otherwise-overlooked adult watchers at Christmas, Trading Places is one of the funniest on our list. The story – a modern retelling of Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper – is a simple one. Two wealthy brothers who own a commodities brokerage in Philadelphia debate whether genetics or upbringing is more important in a person’s life. They do an experiment to settle the question of nature vs. nurture, firing their top broker and framing him for a crime, forcing him to essentially live on the streets with no money. Then, at the same time, they take a nearly broke guy from the street, and see if they can train him to be a commodities broker.
Dan Ackroyd and Eddie Murphy play the leading roles in this one, and again, the time of year it takes place is the only real link to the season. Expect all the laughs you’d find in an Eddie Murphy movie, as well as a hefty dose of heartwarming Christian charity. As the movie spans from a few days before Christmas into the New Year, this is a good option to watch in those slump days after Christmas Day is over.
3. Batman Returns
The sequel to Tim Burton’s unexpected blockbuster Batman ups the ante by adding more characters, more archetypes, and yes – it’s set as Christmas. Cast additions include Michelle Pfeiffer, Danny DeVito, and Christopher Walken as “Gotham’s own Santa Clause,” Max Schreck.
With a script set at Christmas time and several real-live emperor penguins, Warner Brothers constructed an entirely air conditioned set that increased filming difficulties. The payoff of seeing Burton’s second rendition of Gotham in full Christmas regalia, and an even more somber Wayne Manor covered in snow makes for a beautiful holiday scene.
Dark, yet underrated performances by DeVito and Pfeiffer are peppered with yuletide references that make Christmas an integral theme. Enormous trees, giant fireplaces, and a rare Paul Reubens (aka Pee-Wee Herman) cameo as the Penguin’s father, make this a Christmas movie that works year-round!
4. Lethal Weapon
Didn’t remember this is actually a Christmas movie? That’s why we’re here! Lethal Weapon is arguably more Christmas-ey than real Christmas movies. In case you haven’t seen this one all the way through for twenty years, let’s break it down.
First, the intro music is none other than Jingle Bell Rock. Mel Gibson’s second scene as Riggs is a coke bust set in a Christmas tree lot, ending in a gun fight when the drug dealers won’t throw in a free tree. Nearly every TV shown in the movie has a festive film playing, to the chagrin of Gary Busey’s Mr. Joshua.
And what could be more festive than inviting a lonely friend to spend Christmas with your family, as Murtaugh does with Riggs? Lethal Weapon has it all, and is admittedly a new holiday classic.
5. Lady and The Tramp
Disney didn’t really go for many all-out Christmas cartoons in the early decades, but this is a gem of a movie that is sure to warm your heart this festive season. It starts and ends at Christmas, when the female lead – an American Cocker Spaniel named Lady – is gifted by Jim Dear to his wife Darling. What follows is the story of a refined, upper-class pup and her adventures with a local mongrel called Tramp. Over time, the two fall in love and, with the help of other dogs in the neighborhood, protect Jim Dear and Darling’s new baby from a rat and two seriously evil Siamese cats.
Expect musical numbers, high drama, and a Lhasa Apso called Peg. Released in 1955, this is a classic Disney movie that has definitely stood the test of time. Though much of the movie doesn’t take place at Christmas, its heartwarming spirit is perfect for the season. This is definitely a great option for kids and nostalgic adults!
BUY IT HERE
6. Mean Girls
The references are subtle in this one, but when you stop to think about it, the key moments in Mean Girls all center around the Christmas season: the plastics performing Jingle Bell Rock at the school Talent Show, and Damien giving 4 candy canes to Glen Coco (and none to Gretchen Wieners). Released in 2004, this has definitely become something of a cult movie. Although it can be watched all year round, the festive overtones make it the perfect movie to enjoy if you want (or need) a break from the standard seasonal offerings.
Expect questionable early noughties fashion, the best rap you’ve ever heard, and some seriously mean girls. The perfect movie to entertain teen girls this Christmas, or for a girls-only mulled wine party. It’s like, so fetch.
7. The Sound of Music
This is the only movie on our list with absolutely no Christmas overtones at all, but it’s so often shown on TV during the festive season, it had to be included. Released in 1965, it’s the real-life story of the Von Trapp family, who were one of the best-known concert groups in the world after WWII. Julie Andrews plays Maria, a nun-in-training who takes the role of governess for Captain Von Trapp’s (Christopher Plummer) seven children. Full of music, dancing, and making clothes out of curtains, this is a truly heartwarming story that’s perfect to watch around the holidays.
Expect LOTS of singing, because this Rodgers & Hammerstein musical is packed with the songs you’ve heard your entire life. Everyone from Tony Bennett to Mary J. Blige has included My Favorite Things on their Christmas Albums but you can see the original right here. It’s the perfect movie to gather the whole family around to watch, especially in the days between Christmas and New Year.
Going back in time even further, the next entry on our list is the classic Humphrey Bogart black and white romance, Casablanca. Released in 1942, it is set in contemporary World War II. It follows American expat Rick Blaine (played by Bogart) and his choice between the woman he loves, and helping her and her husband, a Czech Resistance leader, escape from Casablanca to continue his fight against the Nazis. A multi-award winning movie, this is a true classic that has consistently rated one of the best films in history.
Expect award-winning acting, a memorable theme song, and memorable lines from this one. It’s the perfect movie for snuggling up by the fire to. Here’s looking at you, kids.
Ever feel like the holidays have spiraled out of control? What if amidst the crowded malls, tinsel, and garlands were ferocious little monsters trying to destroy your whole town?It all starts with the search for a unique present in a mysterious Chinatown antique store. A man is intrigues by a cute, furry creature called a mogwai and takes it to surprise his son. The instructions not to expose the mogwai to sunlight, get it wet, or feed it after midnight seem odd but manageable.
All three rules end up being broken and the result is a mix between horror and dark comedy that will make even the most stressful time seem trivial in comparison. Though not as family friendly as its sequel, the Christmas backdrop makes Gremlins a must for suspense and thrills during the holidays.
10. The Godfather
Alright so we kind of snuck this one in, but it does have more actual yuletide footage than a couple of our other entries. Although this epic spans over a decade, some of its most memorable scenes (not involving toll booths and horse heads) take place in the most wonderful time of the year.
Michael and Kay’s last carefree scene sees them shopping for gifts, and Christmas trees dot the background when Don Corleone leaves his office… but we won’t give anything away. The sequel/prequel even circles back to the holiday theme with a penultimate frame of the family prior to Christmas in 1942.
So if you already feel like a Grizwold or you know all the Whos in Whoville then branch out with a new pick this Christmas. Thrills, laughs, or chills – these will take your holiday film collection to new heights.