Outside-of-the-Box Christmas Movies (and Where To Stream Them)

From the site that brought you out-of-the-box Thanksgiving specials and seriously messed-up Christmas specials, we're here to put you in the holiday spirit with some outside-of-the-box Christmas movies.

Outside-of-the-Box Christmas Movies (and Where To Stream Them)

Gremlins Christmas

Christmas movies are a genre unto themselves, presenting numerous, far-ranging stories set in or around the holiday season.

Whether we’re talking about family-friendly Christmas movies like The Santa Clause, romantic holiday films like Love Actually, or notable classics like It’s a Wonderful Life or Miracle on 34th Street, there are dozens of movies that make for an entertaining viewing experience come December.

Given how many Christmas movies are at your disposal, narrowing down your watchlist for the holidays can be hard. With that in mind, we decided to make a list of the greatest Christmas movies that are a bit outside the norm for traditional yuletide movies.

Similar to our darkest Christmas special list, these are movies that present Christmas in a somewhat darker light, such as using the holiday setting for a horror movie, or as a vehicle for an action or comedy film.

Here are ten outside-of-the-box Christmas movies to enjoy for those looking for a different sort of Christmas film.

Image Credit: Warner Bros. 

Die Hard

Die Hard

Die Hard remains one of the most controversial movies of all time, not for its language or violence or anything, but rather for its status as a Christmas movie (this is as hotly debated as whether The Nightmare Before Christmas should be watched for Halloween or Christmas).

For the sake of argument, though, given the movie’s appearance on some well-known publications’ lists of best Christmas movies, and the fact the movie begins with an office Christmas party, we’re going to go ahead and say Die Hard does indeed fall within the framework of a Christmas film.

The plot of the film sees New York City police detective John McClane (Bruce Willis) join his estranged wife (Bonnie Bedelia) during her company’s annual Christmas party in a corporate Los Angeles skyscraper.

Though the party begins with a somewhat rocky start between McClane and his wife, things take a dramatic turn when a group of terrorists (led by one of cinema’s best villains, Hans Gruber [the late, great Alan Rickman]) seize control of the tower, with McClane the only one escaping capture.

On his own and cut off from help, McClane enters an intense game of cat-and-mouse to stop the terrorists and rescue the hostages (his wife among them).

One of the most iconic action movies ever made, Die Hard is a genre-defining movie that continues to remain influential to this day, prompting numerous movies that took its central premise (an underdog hero caught in a restricted environment with an overwhelming number of bad guys to battle) and tweaked it to new settings.

No matter how many Under Siege, Air Force One, or Speed movies there are, though, no film comes quite as close to capturing the humor and suspense of the original Die Hard.

It’s a modern classic that absolutely everyone should see, and what better time of year is there to check it off the bucket list than Christmas?

Streaming on Prime Video and Peacock

Image Credit: 20th Century Fox. 

Gremlins

gremlins

The first of a few horror movies that appear on this list, Gremlins is also strangely one of the more lighthearted (albeit still incredibly creepy) horror movies to watch during the holiday.

Struggling inventor Randall Peltzer (Hoyt Axton) searches to find the perfect gift for his son, which he eventually finds in the form of a cute, furry, small creature called a mogwai.

As the Peltzers soon learn, however, these creatures make anything but ideal pets, multiplying and transforming into disgusting, mischievous little monsters that wreak havoc on the town amid the holiday season.

More of a dark comedy than a straight horror movie in the same vein as Black Christmas, Gremlins is a fun, nightmarish adventure movie, equally as funny as it is disturbing.

Directed by cult filmmaker Joe Dante, it’s also one of the movies responsible for the MPAA altering their rating system (along with Temple of Doom) and creating the PG-13 rating.

From that exciting little piece of trivia alone, Gremlins is well worth seeing, in addition to it being a wonderfully offbeat, fan-favorite movie perfect for those looking for something darker than your average, family-friendly holiday movie, but that’s not as dark as some of the other Christmas horror movies out there.

Streaming on HBO Max

Image Credit: Warner Bros. 

Krampus

Krampus

Like Gremlins, Krampus portrays a unique blend between horror and comedy (though it features plenty of scenes far darker than in Gremlins). Mere days before Christmas, a dysfunctional family gathers to celebrate the holiday.

When their constant bickering and arguing causes them to lose sight of the true meaning behind Christmas, an ancient evil spirit (the titular, folkloric Krampus) is summoned to punish the naughty family, whose only hope of survival is to band together.

Krampus may not be the best Christmas horror movie ever, but it does offer a fun, fresh depiction of the holiday, turning many holiday traditions on its head in unexpected, comedically scary ways (killer gingerbread men, man-eating jack-in-the-boxes, and so on).

For those who enjoyed director Michael Dougherty’s other holiday-centric film, Trick ‘r Treat, this is a must-watch, and contains a few stylistic similarities to the director’s previous film. (Both movies delve deeply into the mythology and traditions of their respective holidays, and feature characters from folklore who punish non-believers [Samhain in Trick ‘r Treat, and the eponymous Krampus in this movie]).

It may not be as sharp or original as Trick ‘r Treat, but Krampus still manages to deliver plenty of genuine frights and a few campy laughs, balancing its comedy with added horror elements incredibly well.

Streaming on Hulu (premium subscription required)

Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

Black Christmas

Black Christmas

One of the most underrated and influential horror movies of all time, Black Christmas easily presents the most frightening depiction of the holiday season out of any film on this list.

The movie begins with a classic ‘70s horror plotline and setup: a group of sorority sisters continuously receive threatening, obscene phone calls from an unknown caller.

Initially, they brush these calls off, thinking them the work of some prankster. They eventually realize the calls are from a deranged serial killer, preying on the girls and picking them off one by one.

One of the key movies credited the establishing the modern slasher (John Carpenter credits it as the main inspiration for Halloween), Black Christmas may begin with a somewhat cheesy, stereotypical opening act and premise, but the last half hour or so will leave you legitimately wanting to turn off the TV and check every closet in the house to make sure no one’s hiding there waiting to murder you.

Its stark minimalism and realistic nature made it a movie truly ahead of its time: a Hitchcockian thriller that maintained an air of mystery that is never fully resolved. (The killer’s face is never explicitly shown and his motives remain a complete mystery. He seemingly happens upon these sorority girls and decides to start killing them–which, given the premise’s resemblance to so many real-life serial killer cases, gives it an all-too-real, terrifying basis in reality.)

A cult classic today, it remains an absolute must-watch for those who enjoy especially creepy tales set during the holiday.

Streaming on Peacock

Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

Better Watch Out

Better Watch Out scaled

Another horror movie, but one far removed from the proto-slasher Black Christmas, Better Watch Out offers a wonderful plot twist-heavy blend of horror and suspense to create an engrossing, edge-of-your-seat psychological thriller.

Seventeen-year-old babysitter Ashley (Olivia DeJonge) is hired to watch over precocious 12-year-old Luke (Levi Miller), who harbors some not-so-subtle romantic feelings for her.

As the two settle into a quiet night in the suburbs around the holiday, they soon discover that someone is trying to break into the house, forcing Ashley to protect Luke against the would-be home invaders.

It's soon revealed, however, that this is anything from the normal break-in it appears to be.

In a movie with plenty of dramatic reveals and plot twists, Better Watch Out offers a fresh, bold thriller, using its relatively simple setup to catapult the plot forward continuously with new, didn’t-see-that-coming scenes.

It may be light on genuine scares or holiday cheer (although there is one incredibly twisted moment where the villains reenact the paint can scene from Home Alone to test its feasibility), but Better Watch Out never slows down. It feels like an all-in masterclass thrill ride carried by an extremely talented young cast.

Streaming on Prime Video and Peacock

Image Credit: Storm Vision Entertainment.

Scrooged

Scrooged

As a general rule, a movie featuring Bill Murray in his comedic prime (the 80s and 90s) is a movie well worth watching. Just look at any one of his numerous hits from that time period, and you’re likely to find either a groundbreaking comedy classic (Ghosbusters, Caddyshack, Stripes) or a cult favorite that only continues to appreciate in value (Scrooged).

A modern take on A Christmas Carol, Scrooged tweaks Charles Dickens’ immortal classic with a contemporary spin, setting it in the yuppie world of New York business, with Murray playing Frank Cross, a miserly Ebenezer Scrooge stand-in.

An extremely successful though amoral television executive, Frank has long since forgotten the meaning of Christmas, having grown selfish and misanthropic since his rise to the top.

As he leads an effort to stage a live, televised performance of A Christmas Carol, Frank is visited by three ghosts that take him on a journey through his past, present, and future to try and help him regain his humanity.

Though it received a mixed reception initially (critics and audiences believed it was too unsentimental and mean-spirited for a Christmas movie), Scrooged’s legacy has endured over time, with many now praising it as an interesting satirization of everything from cutthroat business ethics and the entertainment industry to the commercial nature of Christmas.

A fascinating and clever twist on A Christmas Carol, Scrooged remains a thoroughly enjoyable and unique take on the traditional holiday movie.

Streaming on Pluto TV

Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

Bad Santa

Bad Santa

One of the greatest dark comedies ever made, Bad Santa is a cult favorite among those looking for a hilariously off-kilter heist movie, featuring the absolute worst mall Santa you’ll ever see in film.

Willie Soke (Billy Bob Thornton) is a cynical, alcoholic thief who is hired every year as a mall Santa across the country.

Alongside his partner Marcus (Tony Cox), the two plan elaborate robberies at the mall that Willie is employed at, although their plans soon come under fire when Willie meets a good-natured, naive young boy (Brett Kelly) who believes Willie is the real Santa Claus.

Like many movies on this list, Bad Santa is not for everyone. It’s mean-spirited, dark, and has comedic moments you feel somewhat guilty laughing at.

But it's the kind of movie where the cast and crew go all in on the dark comedy and don’t hold anything back, presenting a movie that may offend those who love more flattering, friendlier depictions of Santa, but is sure to make everyone else in the audience chuckle.

Streaming on Pluto TV

Image Credit: Columbia Pictures. 

Joyeux Nöel

Joyeux Noel

Most of us know about that fabled moment in mankind’s history known as the 1914 Christmas truce, a triumph of human spirit and brotherhood that saw soldiers on opposing sides of the WW1 trenches cease fighting and come together to celebrate a shared Christmas together.

It’s a moment that lives on in history, an unprecedented moral victory in which the Great War paused for one joyous, peaceful day of the year, a feat unmatched in any war before or since.

In Joyeux Nöel, the events of this historic moment are replicated through a somewhat fictionalized lens, telling the story of the famous truce through the eyes of various German, French, and British soldiers who participated in the event.

A wartime Christmas movie (how many of those exist?), Joyeux Nöel may be a little dark in some of its scenes (especially its opening charge), but it manages to send an incredibly tender, endearing message about pacifism and goodwill towards others (you know, one of the hallmark lessons the holiday teaches us to abide by).

Not currently streaming, but available to rent online

Image Credit: Sony Pictures Classics. 

Edward Scissorhands

Edward Scissorhands

Like many films on this list, upon first glance, it may seem like a stretch to count Edward Scissorhands as a Christmas movie (its style and gothic tone is pretty much the exact opposite of what you would expect in a traditional Christmas movie).

Because several key scenes place the story near the holiday, however, it remains a Christmas movie by default.

Set in a 1950s-esque suburban neighborhood, a traveling saleswoman (Dianne West) happens across an artificially-made young man named Edward (Johnny Depp) with scissors for hands.

Taking him home and unofficially adopting him, Edward tries to adjust to life in this strange new world he finds himself in, eventually falling for a young woman (Winona Ryder) and learning how to use his hands to trim hedges, sculpt ice, and cut women’s hair.

One of Tim Burton’s greatest movies (also one of his most tender and tragic), Edward Scissorhands showcases all of Burton’s regular collaborators at the top of their games: Ryder and Depp bring an unbelievable amount of romantic chemistry on screen, and Danny Elfman’s fairytale-like soundtrack will leave you practically weeping.

In direction, set design, and its thematic plot (a modern retelling of Frankenstein set in sunny California suburbia), Burton crafts a modern romance story like no other, depicting a love that cannot be.

It’s an amazing film to watch, and one that makes for a perfect viewing experience at any time of the year, but most especially during Christmas (mainly for the hauntingly beautiful ice dance scene near the film’s climax).

Streaming on Prime Video and Disney+

Image Credit: 20th Century Fox. 

Batman Returns

Batman Returns

We don’t know what it is with Tim Burton and Christmas. It’s almost like any time the holiday rolls around, he takes it as a personal challenge to inject as much of his signature gothic sensibility into it as possible.

Just as he’d managed to provide his own version of a Christmas story with Edward Scissorhands, Burton used his next project, the 1992 sequel to his earlier Batman film, once again to portray Christmas in his famous gothic light.

Unlike the exaggerated satirization of 1950s era suburbia, this time around, Burton presented a far stranger depiction of the holiday, taking the already seedy, unsettling atmosphere of Gotham City he’d established in the original Batman and dialing it up to 11.

The movie begins with a pair of wealthy socialite parents (the Cobblepots) waiting for the birth of their firstborn son, Oswald, on Christmas Day. When they see the baby’s disfigured appearance (pale skin and webbed hands) and observe his wild behavior, they abandon the infant, casting him into Gotham’s sewers, where he eventually grows up to become the villainous Penguin (Danny DeVito) and plans to murder all of Gotham’s firstborn sons.

The only person standing in his way is Gotham’s Caped Crusader (Michael Keaton), who is also busy investigating the appearance of the mysterious Catwoman (Michelle Pfeiffer) and a corrupt tycoon (Christopher Walken) she seems to be targeting.

As with Edward Scissorhands, Christmas barely figures into the film’s plot, although there are several scenes that set the story around the holiday (including its opening scene). One of the colder and stranger movies among Burton’s filmography, the movie possesses a far chillier atmosphere than Burton’s first Batman movie, utilizing a much starker, more muted color palette (virtually no colors appear aside from black, white, or grey).

When it first hit theaters, the movie’s initial reception was mostly positive, though some felt it was too dark and violent for a Batman movie.

That's perhaps the main reason Batman Returns remains worth seeing. Never before had a mainstream superhero movie been pushed to such weird lengths, presenting a fascinating blend between the already Gothic tone of the original Batman comics with Burton’s characteristic creative vision for Batman.

Streaming on HBO Max

Image Credit: Warner Bros. 

Final Thoughts

LongKissGoodnight

There are so many movies to watch around the Christmas season, it can be difficult to know where to start.

For those looking for something unconventional when it comes to their holiday viewing, though, we recommend these 10 outside-the-box Christmas movies. They all feature far darker tones than traditional Christmas movies like Rudolph, Frosty, or Home Alone.

For other non-traditional Christmas movies to watch this December, we also really enjoyed Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Trading Places, In Bruges, and The Ref.

Image Credit: New Line Cinema.

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This post was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.

Image Credit: Elevation Pictures. 

Featured Image Credit: Universal Pictures.


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Richard Chachowski is a freelance writer based in New Jersey. He loves reading, his dog Tootsie, and pretty much every movie to ever exist (especially Star Wars).