Alternative Christmas

It’s Christmas Eve and if you’re anything like us, you’ve exhausted your Christmas movie library.

You’ve seen New York declare Kris Kringle the real Santa Claus, Howard Langston’s hunt for a Turbo-Man doll, George Bailey getting Clarence his wings and at least three different Scrooges embrace the festive spirit.

With less than 24 hours to go until you’re unwrapping those inevitable novelty socks, it’s your last chance to get in some festive viewing before family arguments block out the sound of your television.

Some may have Christmas written all over them, others may have little to nothing to do with it, but we present to you 10 alternative Christmas films for you to watch tonight.


Catch Me If You Can (2002) 

Based on the true story of Frank Abagnale Jr. (Leonardo Di Caprio), a 16-year-old who runs away from home and begins a new life as a con-man as the FBI’s Carl Hanratty (Tom Hanks) relentlessly chases him down over various cites, countries, fake careers and several Christmases.

An enjoyable rollercoaster ride of that almost verges on the unbelievable at times, many of its scenes hinge on these two lonely characters interacting at Christmas.

Weirdly uplifting, this is one of Spielberg’s under-appreciated gems with plenty to get you into the festive spirit.


Edward Scissorhands (1991)

When Peg (played by the always-wonderful Dianne Wiest) discovers Edward (Johnny Depp), a strange man with scissors for hands living alone in a broken-down mansion, she decides to take him home with her.

Edward soon becomes a bit of a local celebrity, but when feelings start to develop between him and Peg’s daughter, Kim (Winona Ryder), things soon start turning for the worst.

The cast do a great job with very little to work with, but for what Edward Scissorhands lacks in plot it more than makes up for in stunning visuals.

A great mix of stunning, quirky and eerie; it’s a somewhat visceral experience as you almost feel the Christmas cold coming through the screen.

There’s an underlying festive feel throughout, and if anything, it’s told in flashback during Christmas.


Trading Places (1983)

A snobbish stockbroker (Dan Akroyd) and a down-and-out con artist (Eddie Murphy) have their lives switched as part of a nature vs. nurture social experiment by the Duke brothers (Ralph Bellamy and Don Ameche), two squabbling millionaires with too much time on their hands.

A simple premise made with a lot of Capra-esque charm, Trading Places is a fun watch with great support from Jamie Lee Curtis, Denholm Elliott and Paul Gleason.

This Christmas-set comedy classic shows Murphy and Akroyd on the top of their game; they may have both made bigger films, but not many better.


While You Were Sleeping (1995)

If you can’t handle the schmaltzy syrup of Love Actually, yet you’re in a romantic mood, then look no further than this criminally underrated rom-com.

Sandra Bullock shines as Lucy, a train token collector who saves the life of Peter (Peter Gallagher), a man she’s secretly infatuated with, on Christmas Day.

With Peter falling into a coma, confusion arises which leads to his family believing Lucy and Peter are engaged.

Due to Lucy’s loneliness, she plays along, but Peter’s brother (Bill Pullman) begins to suspect something is awry as sparks begin to show between the two.

Full of humour, charm, romance, endearing characters and an overall feel-good, festive vibe, this is the Christmas rom-com everyone should be watching every year.


Die Hard 2: Die Harder (1990)

Not quite had your fill of John McClane? Well, why not watch the sequel to the best Christmas film?

Basically ‘Die Hard at an airport’, this sequel is just a Christmassy, maybe even more so – we actually have snow this time!

Simply put, there to say really other than there’s a terrorist situation and only one man’s up to the job.

Despite everything, Die Hard 2 is more than a simple retread of the original and is unfairly criticised in many circles.

Full of exciting action, snappy humour, twists, turns, great practical effects and stunt-work, this unappreciated sequel is worth re-evaluating.

Think of it like you would Home Alone 2: Lost in New York; the first is a classic, but you still enjoy watching the second one this time of year.


Rare Exports

There’s a fair share of Christmas related horror movies, but if you’re looking for something a bit more original than your standard fare, Rare Exports is the film for you.

If you were to take Santa Clause: The Movie and throw it in a blender with John Carpenter’s The Thing, you’d be left with this dark Finnish tale.

After an expedition group arrive in Lapland, they discover a preserved Santa Claus, who during his time being frozen has lost his kind streak.

Despite the over-the-top premise, this is a smart film that works on every level a top draw horror film should.

Without wanting to give much away, lets just say you’re in for a treat.


Brazil (1985) 

Contender for the biggest Marmite film of all-time, it’s easy to forget Terry Gilliam’s dystopian vision is set at the most wonderful time of the year?

Sam Lowry (Jonathan Pryce), a repressed file clerk who dreams of escaping his living hell becomes obsessed with a enigmatic woman (Kim Greist), but is she real or just another one of his fantasies?

Full of atmosphere, stunning visuals, great performances and intricate complexities, this is a dark, visceral experience with a sharp, satiric edge.

Whether you end up loving or hating it, you will not have seen much like it – possibly one for one for the dark, lonely cynic out there?


Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987) 

Yes, I know. It’s set at thanksgiving, but as a Brit, I don’t celebrate it and if you were to swap the word Thanksgiving for Christmas, you’d have a yuletide classic for the ages.

The look, feel, tone and story of a marketing executive (Steve Martin) looking to get home to his family for the holidays is the most technically-non-Christmas Christmas film ever made.

The chemistry between Martin’s uptight Neal and John Candy’s optimistic slob, Del, is as god as you will see on the screen with Candy easily giving the best performance of his career.

Far from being just another comedy, Planes, Trains and Automobiles is full of the heart and soul associated with any John Hughes picture, although it is a lot of fun watching these two slip into madness as problems arise one after another in their efforts to get from New York to Chicago.


Hostile Hostages (1994)

Denis Leary plays Gus, a jewel thief on the run from the police after a bungled robbery on Christmas Eve.

Needing to hideout until everything cools down, he kidnaps a married couple (Kevin Spacey and Judy Davis) that have just come out from seeing their marriage counsellor.

Gus gets them back to their house only to find out they’re expecting all of their dysfunctional family over for Christmas.

As family arguments ensue, Gus unavoidable gets involved as he attempts to keep his cool while dealing with the chaos at hand.

Far from perfect, but if you have a big family round for Christmas, you will recognise all the signs, arguments, family members and the like, although hopefully not the gun-toting criminal.

Hostile Hostages, also known as the Ref, is hard to find, but if you can somehow manage to get hold of a copy, it’s definitely worth a watch.


Lethal Weapon (1987) 

Yes, that other great American action franchise also has its roots set in the festive period.

When aging Cop, Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover), is assigned a young, suicidal partner, Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson), they begin to uncover a drugs ring that will draw them deeper and deeper than either imagined.

Similar to how Die Hard is the gold standard for the one-man-army action flick, this is standard barer for the buddy-cop film.

Richard Donner’s tight direction and two fantastic central performances make this a worthy watch anytime of year, but similar to alcohol, any excuse will do to enjoy it at Christmas.

Granted the film isn’t exactly Christmas laden, there’s enough here to justify its inclusion from being set at Christmas, ‘Jingle Bell Rock’ during the opening credits, a scene and quote from ‘Scrooge’, Christmas trees and an emphasis on family.

Throw in a no longer needed suicide bullet as a Christmas present and you have a Christmas classic, right?


About The Author