There are plenty of great Christmas movies out there, but sometimes viewers want something a little different. So if you’re sick of sentimental, family-friendly fare, or you just want to watch something less traditional, here are some of our favorite unconventional Christmas flicks. Happy holidays!
There are many wacky Christmas horror films, but Gremlins is far more approachable than its counterparts. This 1984 comedy horror film focuses on Gizmo, a little Mogwai (Cantonese for “monster”) who becomes a Christmas gift for Billy Peltzer from his father. Before selling Gizmo to Billy’s father, shopkeeper Mr. Wing‘s grandson provides three rules. The most important rule is to not feed Gizmo after midnight. Predictably, things go awry when the Peltzers fail to follow instructions.
However, Gremlins isn’t your average kiddie creature flick. It’s a horror film with a fascinating amount of violence. When Gizmo inadvertently spawns Stripe and other mogwai, they morph into gremlins and kill a bunch of people. Yet, Gremlins only has a PG rating, since back in 1984, the MPAA didn’t yet have a rating between PG and R.
Gremlins is worth watching precisely because it’s an unconventional Christmas movie. It has some violent sequences, but not to the point where the film would only appeal to diehard horror aficionados. If Gizmo’s disgustingly cute appearance doesn’t make you check out Gremlins, then I might as well eat something after midnight.
It takes a keen eye to spot the Christmas decorations in First Blood. The little Pacific Northwest town of Hope, Washington is about to celebrate Christmas before John Rambo walks in. Even Sheriff Will Teasle’s quaint and quiet police station is decked out with a tree and lights.
Rambo wreaks havoc on a small town right before Christmas. He is responsible for the death of Sergeant Galt and just about every cop in the area gets severely injured while trying to take down Rambo. When the action moves into Hope itself, almost the entirety of the main street is devastated in the wake of this human killing machine.
It’s easy to say that Rambo ruined Christmas, but the film does its due diligence by stating clearly that none of this would have ever happened if Sheriff Will had been a tolerant man. John Rambo just lost his last remaining friend from serving in Vietnam to cancer. If Will hadn’t tried to throw him out of town and unlawfully arrest him, they could all have enjoyed a Merry Christmas.
In Bruges was director Martin McDonagh‘s first feature-length film, but he really started with a bang. The film tells the tale of two Irish hitmen laying low after a job gone very wrong. Colin Farrell plays a man who botched his first professional murder, accidentally killing a child in the process. His partner, played by Brendan Gleeson, is trying to help him handle the emotional toll of the situation. The two end up lying low in the beautiful medieval Belgian city, Bruges, which Farrell’s character finds horribly boring.
The film starts off as a sort of buddy comedy, but a slew of hilarious supporting characters make it richer than that. It’s brilliant, weird, and darkly funny. But in addition to being an amazing film, In Bruges is also a perfect Christmas movie for the Grinch in us all. The film takes place during the holiday season, with several characters remarking on how beautiful the city is with the lights and snow. It’s an anti-Christmas tale about a man who never finds redemption or kindness. For the cynic who can’t stand saccharine Christmas fare, this is a solid pick.
With all the blood and machine gun fire, it’s easy to forget that Die Hard is a Christmas movie. The 1988 movie opens on Christmas Eve, with NYPD officer John McClane (Bruce Willis) taking on a group of terrorists.
Without a doubt, Die Hard is the definition of an unconventional Christmas movie. Since Die Hard is more of a seminal action flick than a holiday movie, it satirizes the Christmas film genre to an extent. The gritty film has a soundtrack peppered with Christmas songs, including Vaughn Monroe’s rendition of “Let It Snow!” which launches the end credits.
What makes Die Hard a Christmas film is the fact that it’s about family. McClane battles Gruber’s men to save his estranged wife, Holly Gennero (Bonnie Bedelia), who is among the hostages. The action setting certainly makes Die Hard an unorthodox entry, but it’s still a Christmas film. The film launched four sequels, though only Die Hard 2 occurs during the holiday season.
Gundam Wing: Endless Waltz
Gundam Wing: Endless Waltz is a giant robot action anime movie that just so happens to take place on Christmas Eve. Rather than Santa giving good boys and girls presents, Endless Waltz is about a wicked warlord giving the Earth an invasion of mobile suits and war.
Endless Waltz is set exactly one year after the climax of the 1995 anime series. After 50 episodes of war and political turmoil between the Earth Sphere and the space colonies, total pacifism has taken hold. The hero pilots to fire their robots into the Sun, like an It’s a Wonderful Life-esque test to see what life would be like without Gundams. They do this just in time for a new secret army to show up and try to conquer everything.
But really, one of the only reasons to watch Endless Waltz is to see Bandai’s newest toy ideas. Wing Zero Custom is the coolest giant robot in anime history, and if you’re a gunpla fan, you should ask Santa for a model one of these years.
Some people call it Santa Claus vs. The Devil. Some MST3K fans say it’s one of the funniest films the crew ever riffed. I know this movie as K. Gordon Murray’s Santa Claus, the film that taught me Christmas.
Santa Claus is a mess. This Mexican-American 1950s production is a masterpiece of the bizarre and the undefinable. The story is a layered tale of one fateful Christmas night when Satan sends his best devil, Pitch, to Earth to thwart Santa. It’s all very absurd and incredibly Catholic.
The appeal of this film is its ridiculousness. Visuals like Santa’s flying castle in the clouds, insane animatronic technology, and horned red devils dancing in Hell are just a few things that make this is one of the craziest movies ever made.
A version of this article was originally published on Dec 17, 2016.