The best “non-Christmas” Christmas films to watch these holidays

Photo by Joshua Herrera on Unsplash

With the festive season in full motion and the holidays coming up, it is the perfect time to grab a snack, sit in front of the TV, and put on a Christmas film. Yet, in a year full of irregularities such as lockdowns and isolation, it seemed only suiting to feature an irregular list of non-typical, “non-Christmas” Christmas films.

By definition, a “non-Christmas” Christmas film would be a film that would not traditionally be defined as a Christmas film but would be looked at by certain audiences as such. To find some varied suggestions, we asked users on Twitter for suggestions of some of their favourites.

The question produced many answers – many different films from many different filmmakers, eras, and genres, picked for varied reasons subjective to the person. Here were some of the suggestions.

A common theme among the picks were films that featured snow, a very essential element to the constructed look of Christmas and an element commonly associated with the festive season, especially Christmas.

Among that list, Home Alone would be the more typical, traditional Christmas family film, however along with that were some other suggestions contrarian to the normal festive family film that still fit the bill for “non-Christmas” Christmas film by featuring snow and/or a festive setting that made it feel more Christmasy.

John Carpenter’s 1982 science-fiction horror, The Thing – that features a group of American researchers in Antarctica facing off against an alien creature that is able to shapeshift – Quentin Tarantino’s grueling The Hateful Eight – telling the story of a bounty hunter and a fugitive – and the Stephen King adaptation, Misery – about an obsessed fan – are all a far cry from the typical Christmas film, but feature an element reminiscent to the holiday for audiences – a snowy setting.

Another common angle were films that featured a Christmas setting or Christmas scene.

Another list of suggestions that would be considered a far cry from the usual pick of traditional Christmas films, especially in their content, but they all still abide by people’s subjective tastes for Christmas because of certain elements, such as these films featuring certain Christmas scenes.

Stanley Kubrick’s enigmatic final film, Eyes Wide Shut, has synonymous labelling among many cinephiles and movie fans as being one of the pivotal “non-Christmas” Christmas films. The film revolves around a sexually-charged doctor who goes on a night-long adventure, in which he infiltrates a secret society cult, after learning that his wife had contemplated having an affair a year prior to the setting of the story.

The film’s contents could not be further from the average story of a Christmas or festive film, and an even further cry from that of family Christmas films – as it features a multitude of adult topics and displays – however, it is often considered a topical watch for the Christmas season due to its festive settings, including the Christmas party the film starts off in and the festive season it is set in throughout its runtime.

Another common attribute, incorporated along with the presence of snow and a festive setting, was the feeling of comfort and cosiness in films, similar to the cosy feeling the festive season brought around.

The Harry Potter saga of films, although not typically Christmas films, could be considered a part of the genre. The certain main qualities of these films are the sense of familial solidarity it emanates, especially in its themes of finding family where it counts, such as amongst friends, which yields quite a dearly Christmasy and festive message of familiality. With Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, it was the Yule Ball that painted another essentially communal stroke.

Another particular aspect of the Harry Potter films that feel wholly communal are its associations with snow and magic; elements certain people closely linked with the tradition of Christmas, the snowy setting that is equated with the constructed image of Christmas and the festive season, all of which give off a cosy and comfortable feeling.

Finally, a trademark of the festive season, joy and laughter, another element to movies that make certain films and movies feel more Christmasy and festive than they are.

Billy Wilder’s iconic 1960 romantic-comedy, The Apartment, is ofttimes regarded as a Christmas film for its festive setting, taking place around the end of the year, through Christmas and the festive season. Yet, another reason for its cosy festive feeling also lies in its atmosphere, outside its festive setting.

The Apartment is a hilarious film, pairing the genius writing of Billy Wilder with the brilliant comedic timing and presence of Jack Lemmon, and in that sense of hilarity, it creates a comfortable, festive atmosphere of joy, laughter, and happiness that perfectly creates a very gleeful and cosy festive, Christmasy feeling.

Other suggestions followed films that appealed to subjective tastes but also related to some of these elements.

Christmas films aren’t always necessarily festive family films, they can come in many shapes and forms, such as with these “non-Christmas” Christmas films that feature a varied selection of plots and atmospheres, but still, evoke a sense of festivity in its subjective appeal to audiences with certain associations to the festive period and Christmas.

A list of suggested “non-Christmas” Christmas films

Film title Year of release Where to stream/rent
The Thing 1982 Rentable on Amazon
The Hateful Eight 2015 Streaming on Prime Video
Misery 1990 Streaming on Netflix
Eyes Wide Shut 1999 Rentable on BFI Player
Goodfellas 1990 Streaming on Now TV
Silver Linings Playbook 2012 Streaming on Prime Video
Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire 2005 Streaming on Now TV
Carol 2015 Streaming on Prime Video
The Apartment 1960 Rentable on Apple TV
Phantom Thread 2017 Rentable on Amazon
Little Women 2019 Streaming on Now TV
The Social Network 2010 Streaming on Now TV


Words: Ashvin Sivakumar | Subbing: Yasmin Sakki

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