The 10 Best Christmas Movies You Haven’t Seen

It gets harder every Christmas season to turn on the TV and find something new to watch. To discover a movie you haven’t seen or even heard of. You’re bound to catch Elf, maybe Home Alone, even some of the charming made for TV movies on the Hallmark Channel. Cable and subscription channels alike just keep showing the same stuff on a loop. But it’s so easy to find something new, so long as you’re willing to dig or shell out a few dollars along the way. So, in no particular order, here it is: the 10 best Christmas movies you haven’t seen and the ways you can watch them leading up to the 25th.

1.) The Fitzgerald Family Christmas (2012) – Edward Burns’ customary Irish Catholic influence and stock supporting cast members from his previous films introduce us to a family divided, seeking unity through their estranged patriarch. The most grounded of any movie on this list, it’s a Woody Allen film made for millennials, full of discreet romance, accidental heartache, and an undeniable sense of family. You’ll feel like you’ve met these characters before, and you most likely have. Christmas is about family. So is this movie.

Where to watch: Amazon Prime

2.) Fanny and Alexander (1982) – You’re most likely to find the 3 hour cut of this historical zeitgesit, yet should you be interested there is a worthwhile 5 hr+ version out there. Set in the aristocratic backdrop of early 1900’s Sweden, it’s a magical tale of fantasy versus reality, of embraced joy battling self-imposed misery. Likened to director Ingmar Bergman’s own childhood, Fanny and Alexander is a sprawling, vast epic steeped in tradition and artistry. If you want something newer just try 2008’s A Christmas Tale…it’s a modern reimagining.

Where to watch: Available to rent

3.) Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010) – Easily the wildest, most unique take on the Santa Claus story, Rare Exports always embraces the bad and disregards the good. How else do you describe a movie where Jolly Old Saint Nick preys on reindeer and naughty children? Don’t let the description deter you either. This is an excellent movie with a visually stunning color palette, refreshing characters, plus a delightfully disturbing and animalistic take on the man behind the beard. You’ve never seen Santa like this before.

Where to watch: Amazon Prime

4.) We’re No Angels (1955) – This story of three escaped convicts could be The Grinch for adults. One of the legendary Humphrey Bogart’s only comedies, We’re No Angels is the classic redemption story. Hiding in a supply store ready to bunk up and loot before fleeing, the criminals overhear details of the hard times the store owners have fallen under. From there it’s all change of heart. The film is charming, uplifting, and an insightful study between right and wrong. Make sure to watch this and not the inferior 1989 remake.

Where to watch: Available to rent

5.) Lovely, Still (2008) Veteran actor Martin Landau stars as a lonely man who decides he wants to find a special someone to spend the holidays with. While endearing beyond belief, this Golden Years portrayal of new romance relentlessly tacks on the sentiment, but a great twist pushes the film into affecting dramatic territory. With a supporting cast that includes Ellen Burstyn, Adam Scott, and Elizabeth Banks, you really can’t go wrong. Lovely, Still is everything that the title implies.

Where to watch: Amazon Prime

6.) Joyeux Noel (2005) – Set in World War I Germany, Joyeux Noel (Meaning “Merry Christmas”) is based on a real life armistice between French, German and Scottish troops. Violence and bloodshed are stopped – only briefly – and the soldiers come together through song and brotherhood. While overly affectionate, it’s hard not to sympathize with these men who most certainly died soon after in the crossfire of No Man’s Land. Watch 1992’s A Midnight Clear if you’re not into reading subtitles. Both films handle the topic with sincerity and grace.

Where to watch: Available to rent

7.) Happy Christmas (2014) – This is a small-scale film about a small-scale story. Writer/Director Joe Swanberg stars as a married man with an infant son. When his irresponsible younger sister comes to stay, you expect spiked family tension and drama. But it never really happens. And that’s why I liked it. Occasionally it can be nice to sit back and simply watch people be good to one another. Happy Christmas is a short, fast film that will lift your spirits, even if it’s only by a smidgen.

Where to watch: Available to rent

8.) Three Days (2001) – Back before Freeform was ABC was Fox Family, the annual 25 Days of Christmas TV lineup was so much better. You got more than just Harry Potter and endless Pixar movies with no connection to the holiday. Three Days is as basic as it gets. Guy marries high school sweetheart, guy works at his job more than his marriage, guy loses wife to an auto accident. In the tradition of It’s a Wonderful Life, he’s granted three days to redo and prove his love once and for all. It’s a sappy and quintessential Christmas movie that stands out because of it’s solid cast and worthwhile romance.

Where to watch: Full movie available on YouTube

9.) Arthur Christmas (2011) – For whatever reason, it seems everyone missed this recent holiday classic. Beautifully animated and maturely told, Arthur Christmas is a wacky movie that kids will love and adults will connect with. It’s basically about choosing the heir apparent to Santa; the decision is between the clumsy and spirited Arthur and his older, militaristic brother Steve. Few films targeted towards a younger audience are smart and deep enough to engage any viewer no matter their age. This somehow does with intelligence and sheer effort.

Where to watch: Available to rent

10.) Christmas, Again (2015) – As unconventional a yuletide story as you’re bound to see, this little gem and somewhat hidden holiday film runs the entire gamut of the season’s emotions. The highs, the lows, and the waining moments between each crest. It’s the tale of a Christmas tree salesman, choosing a lonely and isolated road before reluctantly opening his door to strangers. Christmas, Again is a tiny snowglobe of a movie, filled with people and interactions and dialogue as rich as they are real, as well as being a launching pad for its complex leading man Kentucker Audley. What you’d expect to be a forgettable holiday film turns into something that’s rather transcendent, timely, and an intimate experience worth remembering.

Where to watch: Amazon Prime

Bonus Movies:

Stalag 17 (1953) – Here’s the one I’m sure few have seen. From legendary director Billy Wilder, this definitely isn’t your stereotypical Christmas movie. It’s about American POW’s during World War II and the Whodunit investigation into a German spy living amongst them. It’s culturally astute, socially responsible, and in the vein of Christmas, full of a perpetual sense of hope and laughter. William Holden won the Best Actor Oscar for his role, and the combination of his work with the zeroed in detail of each supporting character makes this story of captivity all the more freeing.

Where to watch: Available to rent

Becoming Santa (2011) – For the documentary fans out there, this is a fascinating journey of one man’s attempt to become a Santa. He’s overweight, has a beard, and generally is a jolly guy to be around. Why couldn’t he be Saint Nick? But there’s so much more to it, and we realize that for some this isn’t just a seasonal gig. It’s a higher calling to spread joy the best way they can. Becoming Santa teters back and forth on the message that it wants to share, but you’ll exit it with a new and expanded definition of what it means to be, and believe in, Santa Claus.

Where to watch: Available to rent

EXTRAS: If you’re one of those people who loves the old black and white classics but want something you haven’t seen before, there are a boat load out there that can always be enjoyed free of charge. Whether it’s on YouTube or available for streaming, almost all of the oldies can be watched at a fraction of the cost. Look around and you’re bound to find an inexpensive option.

Christmas In Connecticut, I’ll Be Seeing YouHoliday Affair, It Happened On Fifth Avenue, The Bishop’s Wife, Remember the Night.

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