One of the many traditions most of us engage in during the holiday season is crashing on the sofa and tuning in to our favorite Christmas flick. You’ve got your Frosty the Snowman, A Charlie Brown Christmas, and of course, A Christmas Story that air every year, but what if you’re looking for a new kind of yuletide binge-fest?
Sure, you can go to your old standbys, but what about some alternative holiday flicks that need more attention. Thanks to IMDb, we’ve pulled some criminally underrated Christmas classics for you to consider. Despite their ratings, we hope you’ll think about tuning into something different this season.
10 Miracle on 34th Street (1994) (6.5)
This is nowhere near as classic as the 1947 original, but that does not mean it’s without merit. It’s a different retelling of a Christmas Classic produced by the one and only John Hughes and featuring the late great Richard Attenborough in the iconic role of Kris Kringle.
Attenborough alone is the reason to see this movie. The rest of the cast is just fine, but the way the actor absolutely loses himself in the role of Santa is positively astounding. It’s one of those comfort food movies that’s absolutely desired this warm and loving time of year.
9 The Nativity Story (6.8)
Surprisingly, there aren’t really that many Christmas movies about the first Christmas and this one is possibly the best. Despite the 6.8 rating, we consider this a mandatory watch for anyone who celebrates this joyous holiday. The sacred account of Mary and Joseph is told every year, but few do it justice like this.
This version not only shows the story of the birth of Jesus Christ, but dives into the effects of a Roman-occupied Israel, the lives of the people involved, and the struggles both Mary and Joseph had to face. It’s certainly our favorite representation of this historic event.
8 The Ref (6.9)
When many people think of holiday gatherings, one of the stereotypical images is usually a dysfunctional family bickering around a dinner table. The Ref involves one such family, but it mainly focuses on an outsider’s point of view in the form of a burglar who takes a hateful couple hostage.
This is one of those movies where we’re actually rooting for the bad guy, simply because the family in question is made up of absolutely horrible people. The hostage married couple, the delinquent son, and even the posh and proper grandmother are all insufferable and deserve every well-written insult thrown their way.
7 Batman Returns (7.0)
We can already hear some of you scratching your heads. Batman isn’t exactly what we’d call a Christmas icon, but we have to put this gift from Burton on our list. It’s your standard dark and mysterious Batman outing with the fights, car sequences, and outlandish villains, just set against a Christmas backdrop.
Think about it; the Penguin and his freakshow baddies attack during a Christmas tree ceremony, the events of the film happen over the holiday season, and the setting is a snow-covered Gotham city. We’d love to put this on between airings of the traditional Christmas fluff.
6 The Man Who Invented Christmas (7.0)
There are plenty of adaptations of Charles Dickens Christmas Carol, but only one film gives attention to the prolific author who scripted Scrooge. Though definitely embellished a time or two, this film takes an interesting and creative dive into Dickens’ creative process as we watch his characters come to life.
Dan Stevens’s portrayal of a young Charles Dickens is delightfully maddening, and Christopher Plummer is a near-perfect Ebeneezer Scrooge. Not only do we see the Christmas Carol narrative unfold as Dickens writes it, but we also see his own struggle during the holiday season. Definitely a new take on a Christmas Classic
5 A Christmas Carol (1999) (7.4)
Speaking of A Christmas Carol, one of the most accurate portrayals of the classic tale has to be Patrick Stewart’s version from 1999. Based on Stewart’s one-man-show adaptation pulled directly from the text, this adaptation is criminally under-watched and underappreciated. If you only see one showing of Dickens’s classic, be sure it’s this one.
Most versions depict Ebeneezer Scrooge as indifferent and crotchety, but Stewart’s is practically the most villainous adaptation we’ve ever seen. He’s not just mean, he’s cruel and cold as ice. Perhaps that’s why it’s all the more enjoyable to see his cold heart redeemed before the credits roll.
4 Terry Pratchett’s Hogfather (7.5)
If you enjoy The Nightmare Before Christmas, you’ll absolutely adore this one. Set in the Discworld, Sir Terry Pratchett’s fantasy realm of wizards, dwarves, and Oh-Gods of Hangovers, Hogfather sees the Grim Reaper trade in the scythe for a sleigh and black cloak for a red-furred coat as he substitutes for this world’s version of Santa.
The film as a whole is a strange fantasy with Monty Python-esque humor and writing. At times, it’s brilliantly and darkly comic, and other times it’s painfully poignant. It’s a hidden gem from one of the most treasured fantasy writers who ever lived and simply begs to be watched.
3 Father Christmas (7.5)
Author Raymond Briggs brings us this quirky and charming alternative tale of Santa Claus. In most versions, Santa is bright, jolly, and whimsical, but this version gives us a somewhat grumpy and more human take on the classic holiday figure. Plus, it’s pretty interesting to see Santa on vacation.
Though there’s nothing wrong with this version of Santa, he definitely does some un-Santa-like things on his trip around the globe, including drinking Wine in France and liquor in a Scottish Pub (resulting in a hangover), and taking an extensive trip to Las Vegas where he gambles in the casino, sings karaoke, and dances with showgirls. Santa knows how to cut loose!
2 Joyeux Nöel (7.6)
Along with The Nativity Story, this is one of the films on our list that has to be mandatory this season. This brilliantly emotional French film about the famous Christmas Truce of WWI will definitely ignite the sensation of goodwill toward men inside all of us. Be sure to have the tissues handy.
For those unfamiliar, the Christmas Truce was an unofficial ceasefire along the western front during the Christmas of 1914. The film shows the lives and interactions of the German, French, and Scottish troops that served during that time. There are a few creative liberties, but for the most part, it’s a touching and sincere representation that begs to be rewatched.
1 The Snowman (8.0)
For a more artsy and magical version of Frosty the Snowman, we highly recommend Raymond Briggs The Snowman. Told in a beautiful, sketchbook art style with incredible music and virtually no dialogue, this is a purely emotional piece that helps get us in the warm and fuzzy mood in time for the holidays.
Watching this movie is like watching a Christmas card come to life before your eyes. The Snowman himself might be a bit less-known than his top-hat-wearing American cousin, but his adventure is no less magical. Especially if you can find the version introduced by David Bowie.