At this time of year, it is almost impossible to escape holiday cheer and all the sugar-sweet delights of the Christmas season – but, once in a while, you just have to try.
If you’re a little bit weary of all the kid-oriented, family-friendly holiday movies out there (or you’ve already sat through renditions of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” too many times this season), we’ve got the antidote to your sugar overload.
Wait until the kids are in bed, grab the Baileys or Kahlua, and watch one of these movies instead:
1. Gremlins (1984)
Do you like a mix of holiday horror, humor and total mayhem? You can’t go wrong with “Gremlins.” This classic comedy-horror film introduces a mysterious (and adorable) creature called a Mogwai to the world – along with his terrible spawn. Given as a gift to a teenager, things promptly start to go off the rails when the Mogwai’s new owner doesn’t follow the rules for its care. Be warned: This movie has one of the darkest “how I learned Santa Claus isn’t real” stories you’ve ever heard, and there’s a lot of gore amid the slapstick destruction as the gremlins wreck the entire town.
2. Scrooged (1988)
A modern take on the classic tale by Charles Dickens, “Scrooged” stars Bill Murray as a cynical, self-centered television executive named Frank Cross. As Cross plans a live production of the classic tale, he is visited by three ghosts – Christmas Past, Christmas Present and Christmas Future – who take him on a journey of self-discovery and redemption. Filled with Murray’s signature humor and a thoroughly scathing and satirical look at the commercialization of Christmas, “Scrooged” provides a fresh comedic perspective on a timeless holiday story.
3. Die Hard (1988)
No matter what anybody says, “Die Hard” is most definitely a Christmas Movie. Bruce Willis stars as NYPD officer John McClane, who is forced into action when he becomes the lone hope for a group of hostages (including his estranged wife) being held in a Los Angeles skyscraper by an elite team of terrorists and thieves. This film also has the distinction of starring the late, great Alan Rickman in his breakout role as villain Hans Gruber, which alone makes it worth viewing. If you like action flicks with a holiday spirit, this is one movie you’ll love.
4. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)
Does the quest for holiday perfection drive you crazy? You’ll have no trouble commiserating with Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase), the patriarch of the whole nutty Griswold clan, as his hopes for a picture-perfect Christmas celebration go completely sideways. There’s something endlessly relatable about the struggles Clark endures with a malfunctioning electrical system, eccentric relatives, aggravating neighbors and a disastrous dinner. Throw in a missing holiday bonus, a kidnapping and a SWAT team, and you have comedic gold that makes for a delightful break from all the super-saccharine sweetness that comes with most holiday films.
5. Love, Actually (2003)
Is a rom-com more your thing? This is a light-hearted and humorous take on love, loss and forgiveness. Set against the backdrop of a London Christmas, these interconnected stories involve the way that love has a habit of cropping up in unexpected places, often with messy results. The movie manages to avoid the clichéd “happy ending” that’s required in a lot of holiday movies, while still leaving the viewer satisfied.
6. A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas (2011)
Get ready for a riotous ride through a decidedly unconventional winter wonderland in “A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas.” The third installment in the iconic stoner comedy series, this film reunites the dynamic duo, Harold Lee (John Cho) and Kumar Patel (Kal Penn), for a holiday adventure that’s as absurd as it is hilarious. As Harold prepares for a perfect Christmas with his family, a mysterious package addressed to Kumar sets off a chain of chaotic events. What follows is a drug-fueled escapade involving a magical joint, a gangster-like snowman and the relentless pursuit of the perfect Christmas tree.
7. Krampus (2015)
Young Max Engle, disillusioned by his dysfunctional family’s selfishness during the holiday season, accidentally manages to summon the ancient Yule spirit known as Krampus. Pulled straight out of folklore, Krampus is the anti-Santa – and his elves are decidedly not sweet. This movie is utterly chilling and often violent, but it also has some twisted humor (and an ending that will stick with you for a while). You really get to explore the dark side of Christmas with this one, so beware!
8. Bridget Jones’ Diary (2001)
This is another great laugh-out-loud rom-com that will really resonate with you if you’re struggling to navigate your own holiday angst. Bridget Jones (Renée Zellweger) is a 30-something Londoner trying to navigate her complicated love life, family gatherings and holiday office parties – all the while seeking her own self-improvement. If you need a reminder that it’s okay to be perfectly imperfect, this is the flick for you.
9. The Holiday (2006)
This is a lovely piece of escapist fantasy that follows two women – one American, one English – as they switch homes for the holiday season. Both of them are motivated to embark on their adventures by heartache, and both find much more than a simple change of scenery when they fall in love again. This film is a great reminder that life (and love) requires you to take chances.
10. Jingle All the Way (1996)
This is another laugh-out-loud comedy that skewers the commercialism associated with the holiday season. Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger as Howard Langston, a workaholic dad who realizes on Christmas Eve that he forgot to buy the year’s hottest toy for his son. A frantic quest that’s pure comedic gold ensues, as he and a rival father compete to secure the coveted gift in time for Christmas morning.
If you enjoy the break from all the traditional holiday sweetness and light pumped out by the Hallmark Channel, you may want to consider making “adult Xmas movie” night a part of your annual holiday traditions!