Top 10 Alternative Christmas Films

Whimsical, feel-good festive fun. Sing-a-long musicals and family entertainment. Bumbling cartoon characters, flying reindeer, talking animals, elves making toys, angels getting wings, they are all part of the Christmas movie. But there’s another side to a Christmas sat in front of the telly. The Dark Side. Pitch black film noir, offbeat comedy, sadistic horror. Killer snowmen, drunk Santa’s, capitalist in-fighting, sex fetishes and rampant orgies, terrorists, lunatics, Christmas tree robbers, murderers hiding in the attic, marriage breakdowns and the curse of the mother-in-law. No songs in sight, no talking animals (do Gremlins count?), and maybe no happy ending. There is another way to enjoy the holidays. This is the top 10 alternative Christmas films list.

mixed nuts film steve martin

10. Mixed Nuts (Ephron, 1994)
What’s in the Christmas Cracker: Black comedy
Christmas cheer provided by: Lunatics, paranoid social workers, Christmas tree stealers, and a dead body
Christmas dinner speech: “May I put you on hold while I run to my desk? You’re not calling from a bridge or holding a weapon, are you?”

kiss kiss bang bang kilmer downey

9. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (Black, 2005)
What’s in the Christmas Cracker: black comedy/film noir
Christmas cheer provided by: An openly gay private investigator and a self-referential small-time criminal
Christmas dinner speech: “Its hard to believe it was just last Christmas that Harmony and I changed the world. And we didn’t mean to and it didn’t last long. You know a thing like that can’t.”

lady in the lake film

8. Lady In The Lake (Montgomery, 1944)
What’s in the Christmas Cracker: Film-noir
Christmas cheer provided by: Hard-boiled private detective
Christmas dinner speech: Perhaps you’d better go home and play with your fingerprint collection.

gremlins film christmas

7. Gremlins (Dante, 1984)
What’s in the Christmas Cracker: Horror-comedy
Christmas cheer provided by: little creatures that get very nasty when wet
Christmas dinner speech: “The worst thing that ever happened to me was on Christmas. Oh, God. It was so horrible. It was Christmas Eve. I was 9 years old. Me and Mom were decorating the tree, waiting for Dad to come home from work. A couple hours went by. Dad wasn’t home. So Mom called the office. No answer. Christmas Day came and went, and still nothing. So the police began a search. Four or five days went by. Neither one of us could eat or sleep. Everything was falling apart. It was snowing outside. The house was freezing, so I went to try to light up the fire. That’s when I noticed the smell. The firemen came and broke through the chimney top. And me and Mom were expecting them to pull out a dead cat or a bird. And instead they pulled out my father. He was dressed in a Santa Claus suit. He’d been climbing down the chimney… his arms loaded with presents. He was gonna surprise us. He slipped and broke his neck. He died instantly. And that’s how I found out there was no Santa Claus.”

eyes wide shut kubrick

6. Eyes Wide Shut (Kubrick, 1999)
What’s in the Christmas Cracker: Neo-noir mystery
Christmas cheer provided by: Upper-class sex maniacs
Christmas dinner speech: “When she is having her little titties squeezed, do you think she ever has any fantasies about what handsome Dr. Bill’s dickie might be like?

deep red film dario argento

5. Deep Red (Argento, 1975)
What’s in the Christmas Cracker: horror
Christmas cheer provided by: moulding corpses, music teachers who think they’re detectives, and psychic mediums who can’t foresee their own death
Christmas dinner speech: “Gianna! Gianna! There’s someone in the house… absolutely trying to kill me, ya’know?”

the ref film hostile hostages kevin spacey

4. The Ref (Demme, 1994) (aka Hostile Hostages)
What’s in the Christmas Cracker: black comedy
Christmas cheer provided by: retiring cat burglar, bickering married couple, mother-in-law from hell, inept police officers, blackmailing son
Christmas dinner speech: “From now on, the only person who gets to yell is me. Why? Because I have a gun. People with guns get to do whatever they want. Married people without guns – for instance – you – do not get to yell. Why? No guns! No guns, no yelling. See? Simple little equation.”

die hard film

3. Die Hard (McTiernan, 1987)
What’s in the Christmas Cracker: Action-thriller
Christmas cheer provided by: heroic cop, German terrorists, overzealous FBI agents
Christmas dinner speech: “Nine million terrorists in the world and I gotta kill one with feet smaller than my sister.”

black christmas film

2. Black Christmas (Clark, 1974)
What’s in the Christmas Cracker: Slasher horror
Christmas cheer provided by: mysterious phone caller and a killer hiding in the attic
Christmas dinner speech: “These broads would hump the Leaning Tower of Pisa if they could get up there!”

bad santa film

1. Bad Santa (Zwigoff, 2003)
What’s in the Christmas Cracker: black comedy
Christmas cheer provided by: a drunk, fake Santa Claus and his scheming sidekick
Christmas dinner speech: “Good night, Santa. Good night, Mrs. Santa’s sister.”

Discover More:
For a more traditional Christmas movie have a look at these:
The Mug Rack
Movie Mos Christmas Favourites
The Culture Beat
Kulturblog

Check out the Christmas film coverage on Top 10 Films:
Top 10 Christmas Films of the 1980s | 1990s | 2000s
Top 10 Crazy Christmas Film Titles | Top 10 Film Versions of A Christmas Carol | Top 10 Alternative Christmas Films

About the Author
Editor of Top 10 Films, Dan Stephens is usually found pondering his next list. An unhealthy love of 1980s Hollywood sees most of his top 10s involving a time-travelling DeLorean and an adventurous archaeologist going by the name Indiana.

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  1. Paul Reply

    Good and varied choice over there, Daniel, especially Eyes Wide Shut and… Deep Red! Somehow I can’t imagine that turning up on our beloved Freeview service over the festive period. Ah, at least we have beloved DVD to fill the gaps…

  2. Dan Stephens Reply

    Although I haven’t checked I don’t think Deep Red will turn up on TV this Xmas, unless Film4 can be persuaded to add it to their schedule.

  3. Jay Simon Reply

    Great list, many I wouldn’t have thought of. I remember catching The Ref on TV late at night once – great little comedy. It was called Hostile Hostages when I saw it, as you mention, I think it’s the title they use in Europe.

  4. Terminatrix Junior Reply

    It’s called Hostile Hostages in Europe to prevent people automatically thinking it’s a sports movie which they do anyway here in the states so go figure! Good film though. Leary rocks!

  5. babybuddha Reply

    Thanks for this inspired and thoughtful list, with a range of genres.

  6. Angie Reply

    Good choice to include Black Christmas, one of those underrated slasher films that is much better than many of those that came out in the 1980s.

  7. Ross McG Reply

    there could be only one number one i guess
    i had completely forgotten eyes wide shut had a festive setting – such a great film, really underrated
    ignore the stupid orgy stuff and treat it as the mystery flick that it is and its enjoyable fare

  8. David Offutt Reply

    Quite an eclectic list. I particularly liked your choice of “Eyes Wide Shut.”

  9. Josh Reply

    Love the list… If it was a Top 12 list then I would’ve included Silent Night Deadly Night and Christmas Evil. Both worth checking out if you like twisted Christmas movies.

  10. Heather Reply

    The Ref, Gremlins, and Die Hard are awesome picks. I still watch Gremlins every year around Christmas.

    “Do you hear what IIIIIIIIII hear?”

    Brilliant movie.

  11. Paragraph Film Reviews Reply

    Great shout on Bad Santa being No.1!!

    Would check out Japanese Crazy Flick ‘Survive Style 5+’ for a bit of a crazy Alternative Christmas. It’s not the biggest theme in the film, but definitely worth checking out.

    • Dan Reply

      Cheers for the heads up on Survive Style 5 – never heard of it but if I see it coming up on late-night TV I’ll certainly check it out!

  12. M. Carter @ the Movies Reply

    I would like to shake your hand for selecting as No. 1 THE ONLY APPROPRIATE FILM for the honor, “Bad Santa.” I watch this every year at Christmas; it is my “It’s a Wonderful Life.” But with more sex.

  13. Lisa-Ann Reply

    Bad Santa is still the funniest film I’ve ever seen!

  14. Dan Reply

    Cheers M. Carter – Bad Santa is great isn’t it! Could watch it on repeat over Christmas.

  15. Fitz Reply

    Some others to include: The Proposition, and In Bruges.

    • Dan Reply

      …can’t say I’ve ever thought of either film as a Xmas movie but “In Bruges” is excellent.

  16. Rodney Reply

    Bad Santa I agree with, and Gremlins should have been higher up the list, but Deep Red? Man, I wasn’t aware that my favourite Argento flick was a Christmas one…. I think I’ll have to watch it again….

    Great list though, some I haven’t seen yet so can’t comment, because I normally don’t like to watch Christmas films, but plenty here to think about….

  17. Richard Reply

    Brilliant list, Dan! I toyed with the idea of an alternative Christmas movie list, but there’s a few here I never would have thought of. When I saw Deep Red there, for instance, I slapped my head and exclaimed ‘of course!’ Inspired. :-D

    Gremlins remains my favourite Christmas movie. Great post. :-)

  18. amy Reply

    I watch Bad Santa every year xD

    For some very odd reason, my mother loves that movie and she doesn’t find it crass at all.

  19. Paragraph Film Reviews Reply

    Recently watched KKBB again ad forgot how great a film that wee gem is. Another solid shout! Again, PFR is all about Bad Santa this season.

    Hoping to catch Rare Exports this winter too, although don’t know if it’ll reach the N of Scotland.

  20. Fitz Reply

    Bad Santa has become a X-mas favorite for my family as of late.

  21. sundryandco Reply

    Gremlins definitely gets my vote – A festive favourite! Who wouldn’t want to look at Gizmo’s face every Christmas :) I used to be terrified of Stripe – A little like I was terrified (yearly) of John Lithgow in the Santa Claus movie.

  22. Jaccstev Reply

    Great list! Must check some of these films this Christmas day.

  23. Mitchel Ross Reply

    2011 is going to be a great year for Christmas Movies, I cannot wait!

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