Are you tired of fruitcake and Christmas cheer, but still want to observe that cozy wintry tradition of watching movies with the ones you love? Do you adore snow and biting cold, but not reindeer and elves from the North Pole? Would you rather hear dick jokes and see exploding planes than Santa saving Christmas and families gathering around a fire in matching red pajamas? Do you like stealing presents from adorable little snowflake-dwelling children and making your employees work on Christmas day? If you answered yes to any of those then you might be a bit of a scrooge, but before you get offended you should know I’m only here to help. Christmastime doesn’t have to be a season of apathetic groaning and eye rolling; you can have wintry fun too.
That’s why I’ve put together a list of alternatives for the Grinch in all of us, ranging from something for a mildly scroogey movie-lover to something that undoes an attack of momentary holiday insanity after a three month long season of endless carolers, bell-ringing Santa's on every corner and over-joyous elves wrapping your purchases at the mall. If you’re a scrooge of any degree, it’s okay. Embrace your distaste for the most wonderful time of the year and enjoy some of these alternative seasonal features.
Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
So you’re not completely scroogey, but maybe the typical visions of sugar plums have danced through your head one too many times. You need a Christmas movie that challenges the holiday's traditions, from the inquisitive montage where Jack Skellington tries to dissect candy canes and paper snowflakes to the undead Frankenstein-style flying reindeer to Santa-Jack’s terrifying presents that chase children around their homes, it’s a terrifyingly jolly way to celebrate the season of cheer without getting too cookie-cutter.
So maybe you’ve seen Nightmare a few too many times. You need something even stranger. Enter the long lost Star Wars Christmas Special. Yes it’s strangely cute; yes it aims to put you in a yuletide mood; but is it completely INSANE? Yes, yes it is.
Dumb and Dumber (1994)
This is for fans of Christmas, Lloyd Christmas. The classic comedy isn’t really a Christmas movie but it does take a few of those holiday tropes and fart all over them. It’s the film that gives us Jeff Daniels defiling a snowman, violently pegging his lady-crush in the face with a snowball and taking on that famous scene from A Christmas Story by getting his tongue stuck to the metal pole on a ski lift.
This Bill Murray staple is the perfect comedic rendering of a traditional and oft overdone Christmas tale. You can still get the holiday moral without the heavy handedness of the original Charles Dickens tale (which I love, don’t get me wrong) - plus you may feel just a little less cantankerous when you get to the end (but not too cheery, don’t worry). I mean, the movie includes Christmas ghosts that smoke cigars and hit people with toasters: you really can’t go wrong here.
Die Hard 2 (1990)
A scroogey Christmas list isn’t complete without at least one Die Hard movie. Of course everyone goes with Die Hard, but don’t forget that the follow up was also a Christmas Eve escapade and it includes John McClane defeating a band of terrorists on a plane with little more than a lighter. What do I want for Christmas? Some true badassery, that’s what. Yippee ki-yay motherf***er.
It’s a wintry wonderland in Fargo, North Dakota, but the holiday spirit in this Coen Brothers classic is non-existent. There’s murder, intrigue, prostitutes, a pregnant police chief and that infamous wood chipper scene – and that red snow is anything but holly jolly.
Batman Returns (1992)
I’ll admit, there’s an exorbitant amount of Tim Burton on this list (I resisted adding Edward Scissorhands as well), but the man really knows how to screw up Christmas. Besides the fact that it’s a Batman movie and by default awesome, it gives us giant Christmas boxes full of bad guys, cuddly little penguins blowing stuff up and Michele Pfeiffer in head-to-toe leather (Merry Christmas, dudes). Besides who needs a plucky little elf when you can watch the Dark Knight save Christmas? (Or Gotham at Christmastime, but let’s not split hairs, okay?)
Bad Santa (2003)
He swears, he’s drunk, he’s just downright belligerent and his sidekick/elf is just as foulmouthed as he is. Billy Bob Thorton’s Bad Santa is the film equivalent of telling holiday cheer to suck it. Enjoy, scroogies.
The Shining (1980)
Here’s Johnny! While most people are getting excited about their winter breaks, looking forward to solitude, evenings by the fire with hot chocolate and Christmas carols, togetherness, peace, love and harmony - you know, all that baloney - take a dive into the ultimate bout of cabin fever with this Kubrick classic. By the end you’ll want to stay as far away from evergreens and wintry wonderlands as you possibly can.
Black Christmas (1975)
This is a film for the ultimate Grinch. Do you want to see Christmastime annihilated? Instead of an advent calendar do you keep a “Thank-God-There-are-only-____more-days-of-this-holiday-crap” calendar? Slash yuletide carols to tiny slivers with this original horror film from the 70s. Not only did it give us many of the slasher tropes that are a part of every modern horror flick, it literally turns Christmas into a sorority girl massacre. Ho-ho-horrifying. Enjoy.