Written by Amber Hickman
Now, I love Miracle on 34th Street and Home Alone as much as the next person, but I can’t help feeling like I have watched the same old holiday films a few too many times. Thankfully, there are some amazing Christmas films out there that are usually forgotten about on the lists of ‘Christmas Classics’ that inevitably emerge every year, which is why I have made my own list of all the films that either bring something refreshing to the Christmas genre or are just not talked about much at all.
And no, Die Hard isn’t on here.
- Klaus (Sergio Pablos, 2019) [Netflix]
I’m starting this list with a film that has very quickly become my favourite Christmas film. The film tells the story of a selfish postman named Jesper, who is sent to work in an isolated snowy town devoid of joy and filled with hate. It is then by accident that he ends up creating the first Christmas; with the help of the mysterious toymaker in the woods. The film has a gorgeous 3D-style 2D animation, and music that still leaves me choked up when I hear it now. If you have access to Netflix this year, this is the film to see.
- Rise of the Guardians (Peter Ramsey, 2012) [Netflix] [Now TV] [Amazon (to rent/buy)
This is a film you’ve probably heard of already, however; it is also a film I never see or hear about at Christmas. Although the actual Christmas holiday only makes up a small portion of the plot, and we have characters such as the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, and so on as a part of the ensemble cast, I think that the inclusion of Jack Frost and Santa Claus alone qualify this film as a perfect festive feature.
(plus, younger me definitely had a thing for Jack Frost, so maybe I am a little biased)
- The Christmas Chronicles [Netflix]
This is another one of Netflix’s recent Christmas films, and whilst the narrative is somewhat predictable, the characters and the message it shares are truly heart-warming. The story follows Kate, and her delinquent older brother Teddy, who ends up trying to catch Santa on camera on Christmas Eve. However, things quickly get out of hand, and Kate and Teddy must team up with Santa to save Christmas in time. Featuring a reindeer-car chase and Santa Claus’ very own musical number/jailbreak, the film brings a whole load of new fun to Christmas. And with the sequel film having only been released a few weeks ago, why not make it a marathon!
- Happiest Season (Clea DuVall, 2020) [Rent or Buy online only]
This is the most recent film on this list and one that is proclaimed as being the first gay Christmas movie released by a major studio! The film stars Kristen Stewart as Abby, a young woman who plans to propose to her girlfriend while at her family’s annual holiday party but is stopped by her discovery that her partner has not yet come out to her conservative parents. It’s a fun film that absolutely makes a nice change from the standard heterosexual-hallmark classics.
- Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey (David E. Talbert, 2020) [Netflix]
Unfortunately, it is common for many Christmas films to feature very white casts, which is why I think this film is so important in its inclusion of a whole group of audience members who also wish to feel a part of the magic of Christmas. It is a musical and tells the story of toymaker and inventor, Jeronicus Jangle, who’s most prized creation is stolen by his apprentice. It is then up to his equally inventive granddaughter to heal old wounds and bring back the magic of creation to Christmas. The incredible soundtrack and beautiful visuals make this film one to not miss this year.
- Nativity (Debbie Isitt, 2009) [Netflix] [Amazon Prime]
Okay hear me out, I know that this isn’t an uncommon Christmas film, but I do think that it isn’t appreciated nearly enough. What more could you want than some British humour and primary-school nostalgia with an incredible soundtrack on top? Seriously, when I watch this film I can’t get ‘sparkle and shine’ out of my head for weeks. And with four films in the series, they make a perfect Christmas marathon (even if the first one will always be the best one).
- Gremlins (Joe Dante, 1984) [Now TV] [Amazon (to rent/buy)]
I’m finishing off this list with a film that is very, very, different from the festive, fun, features I’ve included previously, and that’s Gremlins! I feel like it is often a forgotten fact that the whole film is set around Christmas, with the main character Billy receiving a Mogwai (Gizmo) as a gift. One thing leads to another and soon a whole army of Gizmo spawn, known as Gremlins, cause chaos around the town throughout Christmas eve. The film is a dark comedy with a touch of festivity and should be appreciated more than it currently is in the holiday period.
Amber Hickman is a third-year Film and English student. You can keep up to date with her attempts of being a writer as well as general ramblings on her Twitter: @ambmarie_