Lesser known, underrated, or simply unconventional Christmas movies

We all know about classic Christmas movies. “It’s a Wonderful Life”, “Miracle on 34th Street”, “Trading Places”, “Love Actually”, “Serendipity”, and yes, even “Home Alone” and “Die Hard”. And many others. But what are some underrated, overlooked or simply unconventional, but good Christmas movies?
“Faith, Fraud & Minimum Wage” fits the bill IMO. The story itself had been done before (kind of), but acting (especially from Martha MacIsaac) and directing are top notch, and the scenery is wonderful. The ending is also really well done, and pretty much none of the characters are cliche. The movie was (badly) advertised as a Christmas comedy (it is more of a coming-of-age drama), so that really didn’t help its popularity.


More well known, “Frozen River” is also a pretty good, albeit atypical, Christmas movie. The acting is spot on, and the build-up to the final act is quite intense. The ending is pretty satisfying and fitting too. Plenty of people don’t seem to really consider it a Christmas movie though.

Do you agree, and what are some of your suggestions?

The Ref, with Denis Leary. Funny, festive and irreverent. One of my favs, certainly lesser known I should think.

In past years I’ve mentioned A Midnight Clear, starring Gary Sinise, Ethan Hawke, Kevin Dillon, John McGinley. It got some notice when it was released, but most people have never heard of it. Very well acted and directed drama. Brief story line: an American patrol in WWII encounter a German unit. Neither has much interest in fighting.

Also: A Christmas Memory. The original starring Geraldine Page, not the remake. Written by Truman Capote, done for TV, difficult to find in good condition, although there is a good copy on YouTube.

A Christmas Horror Story. William Shatner (outstanding, BTW) is a radio DJ who tells horror stories, over the air, about the strange little town of Bailey Downs. IMDb quote tells you all you need to know: “Meanwhile at the North Pole, Santa is fending off zombie elves.” :smiley: Not for young children, but a lot of fun for fans.

Try Rare Exports, a 2010 film about how a small Finnish community discovers the true meaning of Christmas.

A movie little known in the West but eternally popular in the former Soviet Union is*** Ironiya sudby (ili S legkim parom)**. It’s set at New Year’s Eve, since Russians don’t celebrate Christmas on 25 December (Russian Christmas is on 7 January, and it’s more solemn than festive), but it can easily be taken as a Christmas movie. It’s a satire on the similarity of government housing (the key to the protagonist’s new apartment in Moscow is identical to the one for a new apartment in Leningrad). This results in all sorts of confusion that ultimately leads to romance, and hilarity ensues.

It kind of drags toward the end (it’s long!), but there is a lot of good music in it, performed by the actors themselves.

It was filmed in 1976, in southwestern Moscow. That area was then on the very edge of the city. The Orthodox church that’s visible in the opening sequence (The Church of the Archangel Michael) has since been fully restored, and there’s a commemorative plaque mounted at the door to the building where the protagonist supposedly lived. The building where I live in Moscow just a short walk away.

The village (Troparevo) that’s visible in the overhead shots is long since gone, as the area has been heavily redeveloped. One reason the film remains so popular in Russia is its Brezhnev-era nostalgia value.

I believe the movie and clips of the musical scenes are available on YouTube.

The Irony of Fate (or [loosely translated]** Have a Nice Bath?)***

Parts of it were filmed in Leningrad (St Petersburg) as well.

I’ll second* The Ref*, and add 29th Street. It’s like if Goodfellas met Arrested Development met It’s A Wonderful Life, at Christmas.

There is a new Christmas movie on Netflix, The Christmas Chronicles. It stars Kurt Russel as Santa, and is a lot of fun.

^ I’ll second this.

A Christmas Without Snow

If you like or have ever sung Handel’s Messiah (or sung in a church choir), this is for you. A divorced woman joins a choir that is rehearsing the piece for Christmas. The choir director is a very crotchety John Houseman (Prof. Kingsfield with a baton). Rivalries and personality clashes, some romance (IIR). Lots of Messiah. (Hint: in the final performance, real singers take the solos.)

Wow–looking it up on IMDB, I just found that it’s available to stream from Amazon Prime for free. Oh boy! Haven’t seen this one in years, but I’ll be watching it (and getting teary-eyed) this evening.

Aside: Amazon has plenty of movies that never show up on the pre-arranged lists. You have to search for them by name. When you find one you like, go to “customers also watched” to find more of the same.

Does Life of Brian count as a Christmas movie?

One that seems to be totally forgotten these days is Fitzwilly, starring Dick van Dyke. It features a complicated robbery (for good motives!) on Christmas Eve.

I saw that movie in the theater and remember really liking it and being crushed when the plan collapses. I haven’t seen it since, though. I should take another look and see if it holds up.

It’s on our annual rotation, and it does hold up.

Another rec: A Child’s Christmas in Wales, based on the prose by Dylan Thomas, and starring the late Denholm Elliott as the grandfather.

The denouement of The Thin Man is at a Christmas dinner, and there’s a wonderful scene where William Powell and Myrna Loy exchange presents.

I’ve been mentioning this all season, but Arthur Christmas is an amazingly good Christmas film, about Santa’s klutzy son who is shocked when a child is skipped and decides to take matters into his own hands. By Aardman Animations, so you know it’ll be great.

Thanks to the* How Did This Get Made?* podcast, I just watched Holiday in Handcuffs, a 2007 ABC TV movie where Melissa Joan Hart kidnaps Mario Lopez and takes him to her family’s Christmas gathering. It’s actually not too bad for a TV holiday movie.

the most unusual xmas movie I have ever seen was on Netflix and its a comedy about a working class somewhat socially offensive schmo putting up with his obnoxiously pretentious brother and sister in law the night before xmas

what makes is weird is there’s a running history of the Cleveland Indians baseball team and the sub plot of the protagonist trying not to have an inappropriate relationship whit his not down to earth niece who thinks almost everything and one is “fulla sh–”… (although its sorta implied that neither would mind the arrangement)

I never did find the name of it when I seen some of it last year ……

erm that was supposed to read "with his hot down to earth niece "

We just finished watching this a half hour ago, we really enjoyed it.