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Top 11 Alternative Christmas Films

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Published November 7th 2012
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As great as National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1984) and Home Alone (1990) are, sometimes you need to change up your Christmas viewing choices; here is a list of some alternatives, in no particular order;

The Ref
Set on Christmas Eve, this 1994 black-comedy, directed by the late Ted Demme, features Denis Leary (who at the time was a well-known MTV comedian), as Gus, a fast-talking petty criminal, who comes across Lloyd and Caroline Chasseur (Kevin Spacey and Judy Davies), who are on their way home from the supermarket. Gus takes Caroline hostage and forces her and Lloyd to take him to their home, however Gus does not know what he is in for; the Chasseurs are at breaking point, not only are the extended family coming over - Caroline is having an affair, Lloyd is miserable and their relationship with their son Jesse is problematic. They constantly agree, seemingly unaffected by the presence of Gus with a wavering gun - who swiftly regrets taking the dysfunctional couple hostage in the first place.

Directed by Doug Liman and written by John August, this 1999 drama takes place on Christmas Eve and depicts a drug-deal from different perspectives; Rossa (Sarah Polley), who is facing eviction, Simon (Desmond Askew) who is going to Les Vegas for a holiday and Adam and Zack (Scott Wolf and Jay Mohr), two soap opera actors. Also stars William Fichtner and Katie Holmes.

Batman Returns
While it may be considered dated by some audiences in comparison with Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins (2005) and The Dark Knight (2008), Tim Burton's 1992 feature Batman Returns, the sequel to the 1989 blockbuster Batman is still an impressive and somewhat dark film. It is set during the Christmas season in Gotham City and features Michael Keaton as Batman, Danny DeVito as Penguin, Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman, Christopher Walken as Max Shreck and Michael Gough as Alfred Pennyworth. It's worth nothing Burton's Edward Scissorhands (1991) is also set during the festive season.

Terry Gilliam's 1985 science-fiction masterpiece opens during the Christmas holidays. It features a stellar cast, including Jonathan Pryce, Kim Greist, Michael Palin and Robert De Niro. This cult-classic is available in a number of different versions, however Gilliam's preferred version is the 142 minute European release.

Eyes Wide Shut

Stanley Kubrick's enigmatic final film is also set during the festive season. Starring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, this tale of a New York married couple, has continued to intrigue audiences, since it's much hyped release in 1999.

Trapped In Paradise

This 1994 crime-caper, set during the Christmas season features Nicolas Cage, Jon Lovitz and Dana Carvey as three brothers, who travel to Paradise, Pennsylvania, and on the spur of the moment successfully rob a bank. However the getaway, in a town which happens to be populated by some of the nicest people in America, proves to chaotic to say the least.

Die Hard

Hardly a traditional Christmas title but in this action flick directed by John McTiernan, Bruce Willis really does save Christmas! Set on Christmas Eve, Bruce Willis stars as NYPD officer John McClane, who single-handedly storms into the Nakatomi Plaza, which has been taken over by thirteen ruthless terrorists including Hans Gruber - portrayed by Alan Rickman.


In this Joe Dante classic, the super-cute and cuddly Mogwai, Gizmo, was a special Christmas gift for Billy (Zach Galligan), from his inventor dad, Rand. However as Mr Wing had warned Rand, Gizmo really is a big responsibility! This horror classic also stars Phoebe Cates, Frances Lee McCain and Corey Feldman.

Bad Santa

You will look at the Santa Claus impersonator in your local shopping mall with new eyes after watching this 2003 black comedy, directed by Terry Zwigoff and produced by the Coen brothers. Billy Bob Thornton portrays Willie - who is not a nice guy, he's reckless, a raging alcoholic and lives a hedonistic lifestyle, however every Christmas season he dons the Santa suit, alongside his partner in crime Marcus (Tony Cox), in local shopping malls - in order to rob the place. This particular season, Willie and Marcus' plans swiftly fall apart, not only due to Willie's continuing self-destructive behaviour, but also Willie's new girlfriend Sue (Lauren Graham), Gin (Bernie Mac), who is blackmailing Willie and Marcus and Thurman Merman, a kid who is often bullied and befriends Willie.

Reindeer Games

Directed by the late John Michael Frankenheimer, this action-thriller features Ben Affleck, Gary Sinise and Charlize Theron. Set over the festive season, Rudy (Affleck) finds himself in a lot of trouble after pretending to be his deceased cellmate, Nick, in a series of letters to Nick's girlfriend Ashley whilst in prison. On release Rudy finally meets Ashley - hoping to start a new life with her, but her 'brother' Gabriel has other plans.

Rocky IV

Why is Rocky IV included in this list you ask? Well, in the Sylvester Stallone directed film, the epic boxing match between American hero Rocky Balboa and the amateur boxer Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) from the Soviet Union, takes place on Christmas Day!

These are just a few suggestions, what are some of your recommendations?
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Why? Christmas Films with a Difference
Gremlins is a great choice for an alternative holiday movie! I recently watched it again for the first time since I saw it in the theater as a kid and forgot—in my fearful nightmares about gremlins under my bed and popping out of toilets—how quirky and heartwarming the story really is.
By Kelly Aspen - senior writer
Tuesday, 21st of December @ 03:50 pm
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