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Anything-but-Traditional Holiday Movies We Love

Because you already know to watch It's a Wonderful Life.

Santa Claus: The Movievia

“Santa Claus: The Movie”

“I used to be obsessed with this holiday flick that features John Lithgow as an evil toymaker and an emotional elf named Patches. After remembering flashes of random scenes and not recalling the movie title, I hopped online to Google a variation of ‘homeless boy falls in love with rich girl on Christmas’ and ‘scary-looking John Lithgow yells at weeping elf’ and luckily dug up the name. If this recommendation hasn’t already got you on Hulu, then I give up.”—Alison Caporimo, former associate editor.

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“It’s festive fun with a mean streak—you’re bound to appreciate even the worst of holiday gifts just a bit more after viewing because, hey, at least that lame pair of socks can’t metamorphose into a blood-thirsty imp that gnashes at you from the Christmas tree, right? Right.”—Damon Beres, former assistant editor.

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The Refvia

“The Ref”

“Dennis Leary stars as a burglar who takes a bickering, dysfunctional couple—Kevin Spacey and Judy Davis—hostage in their home. The twist is, the couple ends up driving him crazy.”—Andy Simmons, humor editor.

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Elf : Widescreen Editionvia


“It’s both an original and funny fish-out-of-water comedy and a quintessential underdog film—we all want enthusiasm, love of family and friends, and belief in Christmas magic to triumph over busy schedules and cynicism.”—Sarah Wharton, former copy editor. Check out these Christmas movies that’ll get you in the holiday spirit.

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The Polar Expressvia

“The Polar Express”

“This full-length animated movie turns the classic picture book into a fully fleshed-out story. The visuals are just as incredible the tenth viewing as they are the first, and you really feel like you’re there, journeying to the North Pole. Tom Hanks as Santa Claus yelling ‘The first gift of Christmas!’ has become an oft-quoted line in my house every year during the holiday season.”—Meghan Jones, assistant staff writer.  

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Home Alonevia

“Home Alone”

“I’ve watched this and its sequel every Christmas, usually more than once, forever. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t an accident that my dad always managed to find both movies playing on multiple channels throughout the day, and since he’d sit there and watch the entire thing, I don’t think he chose the programming just for my brother and me. For some reason, they never get old.”—Alyssa Jung, former assistant research editor.

“What could possibly beat Home Alone? Funny whether you’re 11 or 66, it never fails to put me in a good mood and remind me of the fun spirit of this time of year. And how can you not love all that endearing little boy mischief?”—Perri O. Blumberg, former assistant editor. Here are 15 of the best Christmas movies for kids.

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Love Actuallyvia

“Love Actually”

“This British romantic comedy always brings a smile to my face. Everyone has a Christmas wish, and I enjoy how the four vignettes play out.”—Fran Lostys, former research manager.

“Characters experience the loss of a cherished wife, a cheating girlfriend, a troubled marriage, unrequited love, new love realized and young love with all its heartache. It’s all here. You laugh, you cry, and you watch the movie again and again.”—Ann DiCesare, former head librarian. Here are the 20 best Hallmark Christmas movies.

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When Harry Met Sallyvia

“When Harry Met Sally”

“It’s a good year-round film, but the closing scene is the best New Year’s moment in any movie.”—Rebecca Simpson Steele, photo director.

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Holiday Innvia

“Holiday Inn”

“Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire, and an Irving Berlin score including ‘White Christmas’… what’s not to love?”—Dawn Raffel, former books editor.

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How Grinch Stole Xmas:50th Ann. DE (BD)via

“How the Grinch Stole Christmas!”

“‘You’re a mean one, Mr. Grinch, You really arrrrre a heel!’ I love that song, and I love this iconic cartoon!”—Adrienne Farr, former executive assistant to the editor-in-chief. Don’t miss the 40 best Christmas movies of all time, ranked.

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Every product is independently selected by our editors. If you buy something through our links, we may earn an affiliate commission.