20 More Christmas Movies That Have Little To Do With Christmas

Movies like this are proof that you can have your cake and eat it too. Watching movies like In Bruges, Tangerine, or 12 Monkeys is just as effective in July as they are in March, but if you want to furnish the holidays with a little bit of supplementary “cheer”, pop in one of these little gems and you might find yourself with a marginal increase in holiday cheer.

Bear in mind this is the second installment, before you start saying “hey you missed so-and-so” check out the first list of untraditional Christmas movies here. 

1. In Bruges

20 More Christmas Movies That Have Little To Do With Christmas
In Bruges (2008) – source: Universal Studios

As far as incidental Christmas movies Martin McDonough‘s breakout picture takes the cake.

Take the “fish out of water” premise but make those fish contract killers, make the water a peaceful Belgian town, and set it during the holidays and what do you get? The killing of children and priests, drug use, various philosophical musings, suicide, and the perils of having to kill one of your friends at the behest of your sociopathic boss, of course, only it makes sense In Bruges.

Beyond ironic juxtaposition, McDonough‘s utilization of holiday furnishings makes for a unique and unforgettable movie that he’s yet to surpass.

2. Prometheus 

20 More Christmas Movies That Have Little To Do With Christmas
Prometheus (2012) – source: 20th Century Fox

While Ridley Scott‘s Prometheus continues to be a divisive topic among fans of the Alien series, this epic return to intergalactic discovery and the dubious Waylun Utani corporation offers some compelling insights regarding creation and the nature of god.

Given the presence of rebirth and redemption, as well as the myriad existential woes, does it seem like a mere coincidence that the central action of Prometheus takes place at Christmas?

Amongst a cast of stalwarts Idris Elba‘s old school, cigar-chomping captain males for well-placed levity, and his holiday cheer is another appreciated avenue of contrast.

3. Tangerine

20 More Christmas Movies That Have Little To Do With Christmas
Tangerine (2015) – source: Magnolia Pictures

Tangerine was one of the most unexpected films of 2015, but what we didn’t anticipate is that Sean Baker‘s breakthrough feature would turn out to be a contemporary Christmas film.

Baker‘s naturalistic film is bolstered by its holiday backdrop, while the city is aflutter with lights, decorations, family dinners, and various seasonal affectations the hustle on the streets doesn’t break for jolly St. Nick. But Tangerine’s strength lies in its unemphatic compassion for its contrasting wealth of characters, and the richly contextual design bolstered by a street born sense of realism. The holiday backdrop contributes another layer of depth to a movie already spilling over the edges.

4. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

20 More Christmas Movies That Have Little To Do With Christmas
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969) – source: United Artists

So there’s a lot of things that don’t age well in the Bond universe. And On Her Majesty’s Secret Service still, has a lot working for it in terms of structure and atmosphere; plus, it has some Christmas folded into the mix as well.

Much of the film’s action takes place during the holiest of days of the year, at one point, you get to see Telly Savalas’ Blofeld decorate a tree – oh joy to the world!

While this might seem like a cheat (or the result of a marketing strategy since the film was released on December 18th, 1969), the snowy Swiss Alps, ski chases, and ice skating are enough to drive in that toasty seasonal feeling, not to mention the biggest surprise of all, Bond gets married.

5. The Shop Around the Corner 

20 More Christmas Movies That Have Little To Do With Christmas
The Shop Around the Corner (1940) – source: MGM

One of the more holiday forward narratives here, The Shop Around the Corner, is quintessential viewing not just because it’s an unimposing holiday movie but is the prototype for the romantic comedy as we know it. 

Margaret Sullivan and Jimmy Stewart are positively radiant, and the punctuating sentiment of its Christmas setting serves the perfect layer of dramatic emphasis. 

Ernst Lubitsch is one of the most influential directors, and his movies are some of the most imitated, and for a good reason, they’re practically perfect. 

6. Stalag 17

20 More Christmas Movies That Have Little To Do With Christmas
Stalag 17 (1953) – source: Paramount Pictures

Billy Wilder‘s no stranger to contrast, and over the years wasn’t afraid to throw in a little Christmas “cheer” juxtaposed with a dash of adultery and the occasional suicide attempt. Yuletide cheer would pop up in Sunset Boulevard, The Apartment, and, most notably, Stalag 17. Here’s a perfect avenue for Wilder‘s darkly mature comedic bent, American soldiers prisoners behind Nazi lines, escape is futile, rations are scarce, and worst of all, someone in the camp is a stoolie, selling out his fellow GIs to the enemy. So what better place for a comedy?

Of Course, Stalag 17 would be one of many pivotal classics for Wilder, and while there are many classic moments to revel in, the most memorable is the Christmas party the gang cobbles together. Signing “O Come on ye Faithful” around a ragged tree decorated with dog tags and candle bits, plus it’s this spirit of Christmas cheer that ushers in a riveting climax peppered with Wilder‘s spicy dialogue that sounds just as good today as ever.

7. Tales from the Crypt

20 More Christmas Movies That Have Little To Do With Christmas
Tales from the Crypt (1972) – source: Amicus Pictures

This one might seem like a cheat, or is it? While the Christmas theme is restricted to the first story, it’s that first one that stands as one of the best in the film. The Amicus horror anthologies are a treasure trove of playfully garish horror films. 

Among the five tales of terror, the first segment (which is usually the weaker one in these films) features a sinister Joan Fontaine working out some “family issues” on Christmas eve only to be heckled by an escaped lunatic in a Santa Claus outfit. This seasonally inspired opening narrative not only sets the bar for the fun, scary tone of the film but spins a new type of horror by contrasting the happiest time of the year with macabre thrills.

8. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang

20 More Christmas Movies That Have Little To Do With Christmas
Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang (2005) – source: Warner Bros. Pictures

Shane Black just can’t resist inoculating his narratives with some of that Christmas magic and contrasting it with action, pitch-black humor, and some quirky characters. 

In what many ways feels like a warm-up to Black‘s 2016 film The Nice Guys, Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang has the crackling chemistry of its cast (Val Kilmer, Robert Downey Jr. Michelle Monaghan) and enough spirited dressings to qualify it as a Christmas movie. 

Bonus points if you’re a Pauline Kael fan, and the derivations of the film’s title are indicative of the director’s affection for the medium.

9. Female Trouble

20 More Christmas Movies That Have Little To Do With Christmas
Female Trouble (1974) – source: New Line Cinema

“Nice girls don’t wear cha-cha heels!” An endlessly comical line from John WatersFemale Trouble, an inciting incident at Christmas morning where Dawn Davenport (Waters‘ muse Divine at her finest) goes from delinquent High Schooler to a life of glamorous crime.

Waters’ notoriety lies in his schlocky camp infused revisionist look at American culture with a tendency toward filthiness for filth’s sake, and Female Trouble, coming after Pink Flamingos is Waters at one of his many creative peaks. And what better way to subvert traditional family values and Americana by smearing Christmas cheer with some schlocky family feuding?

10. Conjuring 2

20 More Christmas Movies That Have Little To Do With Christmas
Conjuring 2 (2016) – source: Warner Bros. Pictures

Horror cinema received a jolt of inspired genre filmmaking in 2013 with James Wan‘s The Conjuring, but would he return to the same levels of greatness with the second installment? While The Conjuring 2 isn’t as inspired as the first one, it’s ambitious and enjoyable with a liberal disbursement of scares, but there are some moments of contrasting levity as well, (hard to resist the subheading “A Very Conjuring Christmas”).

It’s a unique stride to hit, and James Wan is proficient enough to make it work. Patrick Wilson‘s Elvis impersonation, supernatural team-building, and of course, the climactic action taking place during Christmas. In some ways, it elevates the dramatic urgency and reinforces the familial bond of the Hodgson’s against and the unrelenting power of their poltergeist.

11. Die Hard 2

20 More Christmas Movies That Have Little To Do With Christmas
Die Hard 2 (1990) – source: 20th Century Fox

It happened again, everyman turned super cop John Mcclane is going about his life, trying to reconcile his relationship with his wife and family and “bam” terrorist shenanigans get in his way, and on Christmas of all times too, how dare they?

Die Hard 2 (Die Harder) might not have the propulsive pace and originality of its predecessor, or the bombastic wit of its successor but the action and energy is visible throughout- making the return of John Mcclane a formidable sequel in a franchise that would soon descend into lazily formulaic mannerism after its third installment.

Renny Harlin‘s direction doesn’t match up to that of John McTiernan (who helmed the first and third Die Hard movies), but Steven E. de Souza (who penned the original) tailored a screenplay that is wise to retain the holiday backdrop. Plus, all the action takes place in an airport, what’s more stressful than flying during the holidays?

12. Carol

20 More Christmas Movies That Have Little To Do With Christmas
Carol (2015) – source: Studiocanal

Todd Haynes is one of the great contemporary American directors, and Carol is easily one of his most accomplished efforts. In the tradition of his work, which draws from New German cinema, namely Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Hollywood melodrama a la Douglas Sirk, Haynes applies his distinctive interpretation of American culture with deft precision in Carol.

The extra pierce of emotional longing is emphasized in the way Haynes pierces the vein of the holidays and all that goes with it, commercialization, familial alienation, and that roiling desire to find love no matter the cost.

13. Meet Me in St. Louis 

20 More Christmas Movies That Have Little To Do With Christmas
Meet Me in St. Louis (1944) – source: Loew’s, Inc.

Vincente Minnelli‘s classic musical spans a lot of time, but is there anything more unforgettable than the “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” scene? Meet Me in St. Louis features a team of superstars behind and in front of the camera, and every one of them is in top form. Whether it’s Vincente Minnelli, Arthur Freed, Judy Garland, Mary Astor, George Stoll, but it’s one undervalued player costume designer Irene Sharaff who makes this Christmas set aglow with the beautiful artifice synonymous with the studio era.

 Meet Me in St. Louis has many accolades, but for many, its resonance lies in its sumptuously mounted Christmas arc.

14. 12 Monkeys

20 More Christmas Movies That Have Little To Do With Christmas
12 Monkeys (1995) – source: Universal Pictures

Terry Gilliam would serve up a healthy dish of biting satire with Brazil, and in aping consumerism, technology, and the Orwellian trajectory of eighties culture, it only felt natural to incorporate the holidays to underline the film’s sardonic bent. 

While 12 Monkeys is still a solid Gilliam outing, it doesn’t have the same punch as Brazil, however, it’s an appropriately mounted and mature science fiction film that holds up over the years. And if you want to smuggle something funnier than A Christmas Story through a movie night, you might get away with this one.

15. ‘R Xmas

20 More Christmas Movies That Have Little To Do With Christmas
‘R Xmas (2001) – source: Artisan Entertainment

Abel Ferrera isn’t exactly the first name that comes up when you talk about the holidays and Christmas cheer, so the very prospect of a film that evokes the holiday in the very title is enough to arouse curiosity in anyone familiar with his diverse body of work.

Naturally ‘R Xmas is the antithesis of a Christmas movie, but a studied and measured examination of crime and corruption within the NYC police department and the drug market during the cities Dinkins period. A husband and wife drug-dealer team played by Sopranos alumni Drea de Matteo and Lillo Brancato face off with a moralizing kidnapper (played with chilly malice by Ice-T) who demands a ransom from Matteo in exchange for the release of her husband.

Ferrera not only challenges notions of morality and the thin line between criminals and police but the seasonal backdrop evokes the irony of counterfeit happiness and the turmoil that a family can experience, regardless how close we are to a visit from jolly old St. Nick.  

16. Blast of Silence 

20 More Christmas Movies That Have Little To Do With Christmas
Blast of Silence (1961) – source: Universal Pictures

This hammy low-budget b-noir is a curioso for fans of the genre and a decent complement if you want an incidental Christmas movie. We follow a contract killer stomp through the streets of New York on his way to rub out a mob boss, and it just so happens this was filmed during the holidays. The film itself is fun, and while it’s not necessarily a “Christmas movie,” the action of the story occurs during the holidays, which gives it some added flair.

The streaming voiceover narration is a bonus; the film received a renaissance thanks to a Criterion release some years back.

 17. Goodfellas

20 More Christmas Movies That Have Little To Do With Christmas
Goodfellas (1990) – source: Warner Bros.

Martin Scorsese is a multifaceted director, and among his many talents, he’s a whiz at making time fly in his narratives (and runtimes). His Catholic guilt makes for some interesting commentaries regarding themes of religion, redemption, loyalty, and martyrdom. 

The film’s midsection takes place throughout the Christmas season shortly after Henry’s crew pulls off the infamous Lufthansa heist, which historically occurred December 11th, 1978. Scorsese handles this massive, detailed chronicle with his trademark propulsive, pacing, and eye for period detail. Remember when Ray Liotta comes barging in the door, “Karen, I bought the most expensive tree they had!”, it’s enough to fill you with Christmas joy, and serve as a Sisyphhusian reminder that what goes up must come down. And what better way to emphasize the golden days than seeing our doomed protagonists revel in some indulgent and superficial holiday cheer?

18. Tokyo Godfathers

20 More Christmas Movies That Have Little To Do With Christmas
Tokyo Godfathers (2003) – source: Sony Pictures

Two things we don’t frequently associate with anime are westerns (especially those of John Ford) and, of course, Christmas. Despite taking place on Christmas eve, with reverberations from the tale of the Three Wise Men, Tokyo Godfathers is an informal remake of John Ford‘s 1948 western 3 Godfathers (a film that was remade twice before in the silent era)

While Satoshi Kon is frequently associated with the paranoid psycho-thriller Perfect Blue, his more sentimental and lightly comedic Tokyo Godfathers is a pleasant companion to the holidays if you’re in the mood for something different.

19. Cronos 

20 More Christmas Movies That Have Little To Do With Christmas
Cronos (1993) – source: October Films


Despite the film’s comparative slight holiday connection, Guillermo del Toro‘s most unlikely vampire story can double as one of the most unbelievable Christmas films. However, it’s a testament to the maverick director’s spirited original interpretations of familiar material, and Cronos is evidence that del Toro arrived fully formed with vision and tenacity from the start. 

20. American Psycho

20 More Christmas Movies That Have Little To Do With Christmas
American Psycho (2000) – source: Lions Gate Films

“Mistletoe Alert!” Patrick Bateman says and does a modicum of horrible things throughout American Psycho. Yet, his rigorously artificial affection toward his unassuming (and superficial) girlfriend is just as off-putting as his other abhorrent activities. 

Mary Harron‘s takes the work of douchebag Bret Easton Ellis and formulates a compelling satire that benefits from a Christmas narrative but isn’t entirely reliant on it either.

Wrapping Up

I’m sure this was fun for some and frustrating for others, bear in mind these are movies that rely little, in some cases not at all on the holiday in question.

I’m sure there are more movies of this ilk that aren’t included, sound off in the comments or stick around, there might be a third list.

What do you think? Are there any that you would add? Let us know in the comments below!

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