6 Christmas movies, and one TV show, for people who hate Christmas movies

Posted at 4:53 PM, Dec 06, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-16 11:31:27-05

The holidays mean Christmas music plays everywhere you go, red and green lights flood your vision, and every channel and streaming service seems to air nothing but Christmas movies nonstop.

If you smiled with delight at that last sentence, this list isn’t for you. These are unconventional Christmas movies that do more to tear down the holidays than celebrate them. Or they are “Christmas” movies with a tenuous connection to the holiday, therefore technically a right answer when your family asks what Christmas movie you want to watch.

Whether you are a lifelong Grinch, or just at the hate phase in your love-hate relationship with the yuletide, here are six movies and one TV show that can give you a break from the jingling of bells, the decking of halls and the tanning of baums.


Terry Gilliam’s 1984 opus presents a dystopian retro-future with Robert DeNiro as a terrorist plumber. And it only gets weirder.

Stark visuals, unsettling themes and a real bummer of an ending keep this from being a must-watch for the whole family, unless you want to watch the notorious "cable TV" cut that edits it way into a happy, but completely nonsensical, resolution.

How is it a Christmas movie?

The movie is set during the holidays, but it seems Christmas is celebrated perpetually in the warped authoritarian nightmare created by Gilliam. Plus, the tale of a meek protagonist searching for direction in world riddled with late-stage capitalism will surely resonate with the holiday cynic in us all.

Iron Man 3

In a post-Endgame world, Tony Stark’s third solo outing is downright quaint, and certainly a little uneven. But it holds up as one of the better mid-phase MCU films, thanks to a solid-as-ever performance by Guy Pearce as the villain, and some touching moments, by Marvel movie standards. Plus, there are a few call-forwards to Infinity War and Endgame that you probably missed.

How is it a Christmas movie?

The movie takes place during the holidays, with plenty of Christmas tunes in the soundtrack and decorations throughout. Is that as deep as the connection gets? Pretty much, though someone makes the case that it’s actually yet another reimagining of A Christmas Carol.

The Long Kiss Goodnight

Before you bemoan the Hollywood of old casting aside strong female protagonists, take a long look at “The Long Kiss Goodnight” from 1996, a fantastic action flick featuring peak Geena Davis and a young up-and-comer by the name of Samuel L. Jackson.

Davis had Bourne’s identity years before Matt Damon – she plays an amnesiatic CIA assassin who finds out that Brian Cox holds the key to her past.

How is it a Christmas movie?

Christmas is woven into the plot in a way that makes it present but not obnoxious, and the final scene takes place on Christmas Eve.

Batman Returns

Yon wanna get nuts? Let’s get nuts! Michael Keaton is the best Batman. And this is one of the best Batman movies. Danny DeVito, Michelle Pfeiffer and Christopher Walken all deliver great performances, combined with Tim Burton’s visual flair.

The film took some heat in 1992 for being darker and more violent than its predecessor, but after Nolan’s trilogy and Zach Snyder’s downright disturbing take on the DC Universe, it’s practically Adam West.

How is it a Christmas movie?

Like Die Hard, there’s a lot of debate about this online. Of course, it is set around the holidays and adorned with Burton’s take on Christmas, even before his later foray into the festive in the next year’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas.” Many proponents argue online that it is a dark reflection of the family togetherness themes of most holiday movies, as almost all the principal characters are without family.

12 Monkeys

One of Terry Gilliam’s commercial and critical successes, the 1995 time travel neo-noir apocalypse thriller that inspired the TV series was itself inspired by an esoteric 1962 French short film composed almost entirely of still photographs.

Bruce Willis is endearing as a violent, unhinged time traveler turned mental patient. Brad Pitt is charming as a raving potential bioterrorist turned mental patient. What seems like a needlessly complex plot resolves itself with a moment of gestalt that is both beautiful and agonizing.

How is it a Christmas movie?

The deadly virus that caused the apocalypse was released at the height of the holiday shopping season, leaving those in the future to venture out for clues in a never-ending Black Friday. One of the movie’s themes – the futility of trying to correct mistakes of the past - is a subversion of the trope in many Christmas classics.

Trading Places

A comedy classic, the 1983 film starring Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy probably has some problematic moments by today’s standards. Still, if you can understand it as a product of its time, it has some genuine laughs, even if the satire is a bit on-the-nose.

How is it a Christmas movie?

Set in Philadelphia during Christmas, it is a modern retelling of the classic “Prince and the Pauper,” where fortune and misfortune turn on a dime.

Happy! Season 1

Not a movie, but a SyFy show based on the graphic novel by the same name, the first season’s eight episodes feature a madcap Christopher Meloni navigating the caricature of a hard-boiled gangster movie with the help of an imaginary friend voiced by Patton Oswalt. It’s gross, it’s violent, it’s really violent. Don’t watch with your family.

How is it a Christmas movie?

While not a movie, Christmas at its grimiest and most traumatic is featured prominently in the first season. A deranged lunatic dressed as Santa Claus kidnaps kids. And that’s literally just the first scene of the show.