Not everyone loves Christmas. If you're the kind of person who refuses to watch Miracle on 34th Street in your holiday sweater, we get it.
That said, there are plenty of other Christmas-themed movies that use the holiday setting in clever and unique ways to craft stories that fit the season without succumbing to the usual tropes.
So, if you want to partake in the season but hate the idea of sitting through corny Christmas movies, know that you have options.
From dark thrillers to bright comedies, from cult classics to modern hits, here are my picks for the best Christmas movies that play with the holiday season in new and different ways.
10. Home Alone (1990)
I know, I know—Home Alone is commonly included on "best Christmas movies" lists and people always put it on during the holiday season.
But hear me out! The best thing about Home Alone is that the Christmas setting is really just a backdrop for all the shenanigans. The snow and the decorations evoke holiday spirit, but that's as far as it goes.
Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin) is eight years old and he's left behind at home when the rest of his family fly off to another country for vacation. Even if you've never watched it, you know the premise!
I'm including Home Alone on this list because everything thinks it's a Christmas movie but it really isn't. After all, Christmas is about family, compassion, and sharing—not much of that here, is there?
Rather, Home Alone gives us a spoiled kid who's forgotten by his family, who's put through a frightening experience as he fends off burglars from breaking into his home. It's almost anti-Christmas!
9. The Legend of Hell House (1973)
If you hate Christmas and love the supernatural horror genre, The Legend of Hell House is one of the greatest films worth watching.
Lionel Barrett (Clive Revill) and his wife are researchers who arrive at the Belasco House slightly before Christmas. There's no time for celebrations, however, because they must investigate—the house is haunted.
As it develops themes that are both morbid and obscure, The Legend of Hell House will make you forget it's even set during the Christmas holidays.
8. The Ref (1994)
In The Ref, it's Christmas Eve and Mr. and Mrs. Chasseur are at a marriage counseling session. They're unhappy but they're trying hard to makek their marriage work.
It doesn't seem like things will get any better—at least until they're taken hostage by an unlucky cat burglar.
This clever comedy uses Christmas as a stage for gags and satire. If you hate family Christmas dinners, you're in for a treat.
The Ref contains all the weird dynamics that come out during family dinners, with one amazing perk: you don't have to participate! You can sit back and spectate someone else's mess.
7. It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
If your reasons for hating Christmas involve some form of anti-capitalist ideology, then It's a Wonderful Life is the movie for you.
George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) feels as if he's failed at life and wants to end it. But then an angel appears and shows him how life in his community would have been without him.
Get ready to cry a little. Or a lot.
This emotional classic might not cure your hatred of Christmas, but it's an uplifting tale that highlights the values of Christmas—like kindness, family, and solidarity—in a way that's substantial and genuine.
6. Gremlins (1984)
Gremlins takes place around Christmas, but its plot development has nothing to do with the holiday itself.
This here is a classic film that's thrilling, funny, and dynamic. It belongs to the sci-fi tradition of the 1980s, and it simply uses the "Christmas gift" as a McGuffin to jumpstart the real plot.
Gifting a "mogwai" as a pet seems like a great idea at first! Just wait until nighttime comes—that's when all hell breaks loose.
5. Grumpy Old Men (1993)
In Grumpy Old Men, Christmas is just a distant background and the main focus in on John and Max: two people who have been neighbors for years, constantly getting on each other's nerves.
As it turns out, these two gents from the Greatest Generation actually care about each other a lot—they just don't know it yet.
During the winter season, someone new moves into the neighborhood. For John and Max, the competition is immediately on: Who will the new neighbor like more? John or Max?
Grumpy Old Men shows us that bickering is the salt of friendship. Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau will make your Christmas holiday much more bearable, if you'll only give this film a chance!
4. Departures (2008)
Daigo Kobayashi is a cello player. He loves his job and he's just bought a brand-new instrument to play. It's a pity that his orchestra just disbanded, leaving Daigo suddenly unemployed.
Despite being set around Christmas, this film never actually mentions Christmas. Follow Mr. Kobayashi while he finds a new job—in a mortuary. It's nothing like being a cello player.
During his time there, Daigo starts to learn about rituals for the deceased, along with the reasons that go into those rituals.
Departures is a deeply poetic and philosophical movie that uses Christmas as a stage to reflect on our own mortality. The film is bittersweet but never dark, and it works as an elicitor of beauty that reminds us that life is a gift. Regardless of the season, it's worth celebrating.
3. Die Hard (1988)
In Die Hard, John McClane flies to Los Angeles on Christmas Eve to visit his family. His wife's office party turns into a bit of a hostage situation, however, when a group of terrorists decides to crash it.
John, barefoot and grumpy, is the only one who can save the day.
The seasonal setting of Die Hard provides the perfect excuse to watch a holiday classic that's really only 1% Christmas and 99% Yippee Ki-Yay. It remains the best non-Christmas Christmas movies ever made.
2. Violent Night (2022)
As of this writing, Violent Night has just released and is only available in movie theaters. Catch it while you can!
It's Christmas Eve and a group of mercenaries break into a home, putting the family who lives there in great danger.
Luckily, Santa Claus happens to be there, too. He's made a list, he's checked it twice, and the mercenaries are not on it. That can only mean one thing: Santa's about to kick some ass.
Violent Night puts a new spin on the classic representation of this beloved character. Often portrayed as a kind and jolly old man, the Santa Claus in Violent Night has quite an edge to him instead.
1. Silent Night (2021)
In Silent Night, the world is about to end, so a group of people decide to celebrate their final Christmas together. This black comedy is a great play on a "what if" scenario.
Sure, Christmas can be a challenging time of the year for many. Yet, watching this film unfold on screen will definitely put things into perspective! The world isn't ending for us (yet, anyway).
Silent Night is an effective cautionary tale that we get to digest from the comfort of home. What is it that you hate about Christmas? Is there a way you could make it more bearable for yourself?
You deserve to have a good time, so don't let the season bring you down! At the end of the day, we have limited time here on Earth. What would you do if this was your final Christmas?