Most people would agree: One of the best things about the holidays is the down time relaxing on the couch with a cup of hot cocoa and watching a tried-and-true favorite holiday movie.
This year, I’m giving you a challenge when you binge-watch “Home Alone” for the tenth time since November: try something new that might give you a warm, familiar feel to what you’re used to.
Not that “The Holiday,” “Batman Returns,” or “Scrooged” aren’t great.
But there is a wealth and breadth of options available within the holiday movie category that you may not have discovered yet. So if you’re looking for something to watch when the cousins come over for Christmas dinner, consider these options below.
(Note: I’ve left out the obvious — like “A Christmas Story Christmas” or the new series “The Santa Clauses” — because I don’t have to tell you those are worth a try if you like the originals.)
For those in the mood for a Christmas movie and not for the faint of heart, “Violent Night” features a Santa kicking ass who takes no crap and fights bad guys with aplomb. While David Harbor’s character Santa Claus (“Stranger Things”) may not be as “bad” as Billy Bob Thornton’s trash-talking Father Christmas in 2003’s “Santa Bad Santa,” the pair can certainly drink each other under the table, avoid Each smiling/cheesy character’s vision of something hilariously funnier.
If for no other reason than to witness the union of two Hollywood greats, this year’s “Spirited” is a safe and fun bet as it brings together Will Ferrell and Ryan Reynolds, who were featured in two of the most beloved and hilarious Christmas movies from earlier this century. — Ferrell in 2003’s “Elf” and Reynolds in 2005’s “Just Friends.” The new movie is full of song and dance built around a (new) take on the story “A Christmas Carol,” and still manages to showcase Reynolds’ trademark clever delivery as well. Ferrell crap. The only thing that seems to be missing is Anna Faris’ brilliant and radiant pop star, Samantha James From “Just Friends”.
If you haven’t fulfilled your post-Halloween horror quota, 2015’s “Krampus” will get you a hit, and then some. Featuring a cast including Adam Scott, unofficial horror queen Toni Collette and the late actress Conchata Ferrell, the film parodies the Germanic fairy tale of Krampus, a mysterious pagan figure who comes to punish anyone who transgresses Santa Claus. The film is an atmospheric slow build, but once the killer gingerbreads attack, even those nostalgic and ferocious will have to run for cover.
For those who want to go “Overboard” in Hallmark-style holiday fare, Lindsay Lohan has come to the rescue on Netflix this year, bringing viewers the amnesiac theme “Falling For Christmas,” which looks strikingly similar to 2018’s “A” movie. 2016’s A Christmas to Remember” starring Mira Sorvino. In both, an unfortunate mishap takes place in a privileged, beautiful young woman, who learns lessons in life and the spirit of Christmas from a small-town flannel-clad hunk. The main beats are there, and nothing else matters apart from LiLo’s cuteness With small eyes and killer holiday fashion.
Who doesn’t love to tear up at the holidays? “The Family Stone” from 2005 is a warm, charming Christmas family movie that makes for a heartbreaking climax, one you can see in the latest “Last Christmas” from 2019, which features Emilia Clarke as a free spirit who crosses paths with the basic and proper Henry Golding. While it may just be a touch heavy on heart strings, “Last Christmas” stars Emma Thompson (who co-wrote the screenplay) and this year’s awards sweetheart Michelle Yeoh of “Everything Everywhere at Once.” Plus, it features the music of the late and great George Michael (the film’s title is no coincidence).
“Die Hard” is everyone’s favorite alternative knock ’em, sock ’em Christmas movie that earns its place in the category only because it takes place during a high Christmas party. And while the Korean movie “The Tower” from 2012 doesn’t involve snooty kidnappers like the dearly departed Alan Rickman, the story of a luxury skyscraper going up in flames during a Christmas Eve party feels like the love child of “Die Hard” and “The Towering.” “Inferno” you didn’t know you needed, providing the perfect viewing opportunity for those in the mood for more terrifying and death-defying antics instead of icicles and mistletoe.
Last year’s 8-Bit Christmas game upped the nostalgia factor, as this lovable throwback story centered around a young boy seeking the ultimate gift in the ’80s – a Nintendo video game system. Much like “Jingle All the Way” starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and now nostalgic for the ’90s, “8-Bit Christmas” hinges on the frenzied rage that overtakes Christmas shoppers as they embark on their quest to buy gifts they’re desperate to including the need (this is also shown, beautifully, in the opening credits to “Krampus” above). Furthermore, “8-Bit” features Neil Patrick Harris of “Doogie Howser” fame – a walking piece of nostalgia. (“8-Bit Christmas” is available to stream on HBO Max, which like CNN is part of the same parent company, Warner Bros. Discovery.)
“Love, Actually” fans are the rowdiest Christmas movie fans of them all, and while nothing could capture the magic of this team-up movie (except perhaps for its recently aired anniversary special), the Emmy-winning feel-come-close Series well “Ted Lasso” from last year’s Season 2 episode 4, which is arguably the best entry from the show to date. Between Roy and Keeley’s bonkers quest to freshen a little girl’s breath to Rebecca’s sweet gesture toward Ted, the episode is charming, warm, sweet, and unmistakably British – just like Hugh Grant.
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