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Off the Beaten Path Christmas Movies

By Lori Perkins

My son and I always watch Christmas movies as part of our holiday ritual. We kick off our family movie season with Planes, Trains and Automobiles on Thanksgiving (which I hear they are remaking with Kevin Hart and Will Smith) and then begin the slow roll of our favs with The Nightmare before Christmas around the first of the month.


Of course, this year we’ve had a lot more time together in the home, so we’ve found ourselves looking beyond Elf, The Santa Clause, Home Alone and It’s a Wonderful Life.


Since we started this season off with the horror Christmas classic, and we are watching all these movies in lockdown, we found ourselves turning to the darker Christmas movies this year. My son has been insisting for a few years that we watch Krampus, which I thought was going to be a version of Black Christmas or Silent Night, which I wasn’t really in the mood for, but it surprised me both with its stellar cast (Adam Scott and Toni Collette) and general good plot. I found it was a cross between Nightmare Before Christmas (there’s some animation in flashback) and Christmas Vacation (horrible family you really love). I think this one is going to make it into our annual rotation.


Keeping in the horror Christmas vein, it’s the 35th anniversary of Gremlins, and there’s an argument about whether or not it’s a Christmas movie just like the one about Die Hard (it is—we watch it every Christmas Eve), so we streamed this Chris Columbus film. I hadn’t seen it for at least 20 years and had forgotten the horrific reason why Phoebe Cates’ character hates Christmas, but the film holds up, although much more horror than holiday.


I love Christmas romances, but my son doesn’t, so I usually watch Love Actually (which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year) on my own. But the surprisingly charming Nicholas Cage/Gillian Anderson The Family Man is also one of my favorite holiday romances that often doesn’t make the list of classics.


Also nowhere on most people’s Christmas movie list is the 1977 remake of It’s a Wonderful Life with a gender switch starring Marlo Thomas. It Happened One Christmas is worth a viewing, if only to see how the country was changing at that time.