The 10 Best Alternative Christmas Films

Each year when Christmas comes around the annual rotation of the usual festive flicks begins, featuring classics like It’s A Wonderful Life and The Muppet Christmas Carol.

Love Actually is guaranteed to be playing on repeat on the TV channels, and that copy of Elf will be dug out as it always is this time of year.

Now, we aren’t saying there is anything wrong with these movies as they really are wonderful, and some of the best Christmas films ever made.

However, you may not feel like watching Home Alone for the millionth time, and maybe you aren’t in the mood for a sweet rom-com such as The Holiday.

RKO Radio Pictures

Let’s be honest, we have all been there, and felt ourselves in need of a film with a Christmas vibe to it that isn’t full of sickening holiday cheer.

Luckily there is plenty of choice out there, alternative festive movies which are either set during or have something to do with the season, but aren’t considered to be your typical Christmas film fare.

And so in no particular order, here’s 10 of the best unconventional and alternative Christmas films that are seasonably appropriate but will definitely shake things up.


20th Century Fox

Opening with a scene which sees a family watching Tiny Tim share his wisdom in an adaptation of Charles Dickens’ classic festive tale A Christmas Carol, Brazil is from the very start unashamedly a Christmas movie.

Of course Dickens’ story is interrupted as a SWAT team come swarming in raiding the home taking away the father, introducing you to the nightmarish world of Terry Gilliam’s haunting dystopian fantasy.

However, the festive theme continues amidst the horror and insanity with Gilliam effectively using Christmas motifs in an unsettling way, something which gets increasingly sinister.

Also there are more than enough Santas in this movie to warrant it a spot on this list!

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

Warner Bros. Pictures

Writer and director Shane Black clearly loves the festive season with the majority of his films taking place during Christmas, from Lethal Weapon to The Long Kiss Goodnight.

Many of his movies then could be included on this list, but we picked Black’s brilliant directorial debut Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, which is endlessly quotable and a huge amount of fun.

Robert Downey Jr., Michelle Monaghan and Val Kilmer are all on fantastic form in this comedic crime caper, which also has a handful of festive cheer thrown into the mix for good measure.

Iron Man 3

Marvel Studios

Even though we have already had a Shane Black movie on this list, we couldn’t not include Iron Man 3 which he also wrote and directed, seeing him reunite with Kiss Kiss Bang Bang star Robert Downey Jr.

Arguably the best Iron Man instalment in the series, not only is the film an absolute blast, but it is also very much a Christmas movie.

As well as being set during the holiday season, in a way the story is Tony Stark’s version of A Christmas Carol as he faces the ghosts of his past (i.e. Killian) as well as his present, learning from his mistakes to become a better person, much like Dickens’ Scrooge.

It has as much Christmas spirit as any of the other classic festive films you would usually watch during the season, but packed full with explosions this one is a bit more exciting.



Todd Haynes’ gorgeously directed romantic drama tells the story of a forbidden affair between two women in the early 1950s, one which will leave you reaching for the tissues.

So what makes Carol a Christmas film then we hear you cry? Well, dear reader, not only is it set during the festive season, which only makes the cinematography more warm and lush, but the title itself also reminds us of a Christmas ‘carol’ of course.

Most importantly though Christmas is a time for love and joy, thus emphasising the longing and melancholy Cate Blanchett’s Carol and Rooney Mara’s Therese feel, with their sorrow juxtaposing with the holiday cheer surrounding them.

Yeah, we did say get the tissues ready!

Trading Places

Paramount Pictures

This great comedy earned its spot on the list thanks to a singular scene: the one where Dan Aykroyd crashes his old company’s Christmas party dressed as Santa Clause of course, with chaos unraveling in his wake.

Set during the festive season, Trading Places also does what every great Christmas film should do – teach us a moral lesson, with this one being about generosity and not taking everything for granted.

But yes, it also does involve Aykroyd stuffing meat into the pockets of a Santa suit and for that alone its worth the watch this Christmas.


Warner Bros.

This wild and chaotic 1984 cult classic will never get old, and Christmas is a great time to watch it as Gremlins is set during the festive season.

Which of course is something it really embraces as highlights include the naughty Gremlins singing Christmas carols, Gizmo playing the keyboard with an adorable Santa hat on, and the creatures getting merry in a pub as we all usually do this time of year.

Just remember, if you do ever get a mogwai don’t expose it to sunlight, don’t get it wet and above all, never feed it after midnight.

Eyes Wide Shut

Warner Bros.

Kick the kids out as this unconventional festive film is definitely for adult eyes only, with no jolly elves or adorable reindeer in sight!

The last film by the great director Stanley Kubrick, Eyes Wide Shut follows a man (Tom Cruise) embark on a night of sexual and moral discovery after his wife (Nicole Kidman) reveals a painful secret to him.

In-between the masked orgy and lustful scenes is plenty of Christmas cheer, from trees to fairy lights and festive decor aplenty.

Does the story have anything to do with Christmas? No, not really, however the setting only makes the events of the movie even more surreal.


Magnolia Pictures

This indie comedy-drama from 2015 is probably the film you are least familiar with on this list, which should give you another reason to watch it as hey, it’s always great to try new movies.

Directed by Sean Baker and shot on an iPhone, Tangerine follows a transgender sex worker who discovers her boyfriend and pimp has been cheating on her, beginning a mad and wild hunt to find him on Christmas Eve of course.

The sharp and exhilarating buddy Christmas comedy is worth watching for the delivery of the line “Merry Christmas Eve, Bitch” alone really, however its big heart also makes it a film fit for the festive season.

Batman Returns

Warner Bros. Pictures

We are big fans of Tim Burton’s Batman movies and will use any excuse to watch them, with Christmas being a great one since the thrilling events of Batman Returns is set against a festive backdrop.

The story may not have anything to do with the season, but the setting only makes Burton’s vision even more bizarre and moody, especially since this is the volatile world of Gotham.

The bat, the cat, the penguin and the mistletoe is clearly all you need for a very merry Christmas.

Die Hard

20th Century Fox

Okay, so even though we said this list is in no particular order, Die Hard is most definitely the ultimate alternative Christmas film.

The debate over whether the action blockbuster is a Christmas film or not is long over, in fact you could say it’s as dead as the villainous Hans Gruber, who of course falls from the Nakatomi Plaza to his fate in spectacular fashion.

It may be an unconventional festive flick yes, but it is undoubtedly one of the best. Welcome to the party pal!

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Emily Murray

Emily Murray


Emily is a journalist and film critic who unashamedly cries at most movies having got too emotionally attached. When not at the cinema, she is at home cuddling her cat Holmes, whilst binge watching New Girl. She can be found on Twitter @emilyvmurray