Modern Holiday Movie Classics

in Just for Fun by Roxie Leigh

Our Top 10 Holiday Movies that Aren’t Necessarily About Christmas

No matter how you feel about the silly season and the traditions your family may or may not force you to endure every year, we all have a weird soft spot for the holiday movies that somehow find their way into our Netflix queue (and our hearts) every December.

This list of well-worn but modern holiday movie classics from the last 40 years has something for everyone to enjoy. Non-stop laughs, action, horror, and a few heartfelt moments rounds out our top 10 list of not-too-sappy holiday films.

So grab a hot mug of cocoa and curl up in front of the fireplace – it’s time to laugh and cry while digging into these gems.

Gremlins (1984)

This holiday movie right here is the #1 reason why it has become a rule today that live pets are a terrible gift idea. Especially when said pet comes with a confusing and hard to enforce list of non-negotiable care instructions. An adorable little mogwai turns the holidays into chaotic madness by way of fried chicken and a swimming pool. Sounds insane, but let’s be honest, more than a few 80s kids named their pets Gizmo.

Planes Trains and Automobiles (1987)

What do you get when you throw two of the 80s’ best comedy actors into a buddy-cop style road trip movie? You get the highly quotable PT&A. Technically a Thanksgiving movie, it endures as a holiday classic. John Candy is exhaustingly chipper and Steve Martin is insufferably uptight, what could possibly go wrong? Arguably career best performances from both actors catch you out with a surprisingly moving ending. I’m not crying, you’re crying.

Scrooged (1988)

An SNL alumni tries his hand at a new twist on the classic Scrooge tale and manages a slam-dunk with a lot of tongue-in-cheek black humor and more than a sprinkle of slap-stick physical comedy. Bill Murray’s deadpan delivery as a hilariously smug TV executive gets some spooky visitors who waste no time in dishing out his comeuppance – past, present and future.

Die Hard (1988)

We obviously land in the “Die Hard is too a Christmas movie” camp. Evidence: It’s Christmas Eve, the offices are decked out in holiday décor, multiple references to Santa Claus (Now I have a machine gun, ho ho ho!), and Alan Rickman – who is absolutely the gift we didn’t know we needed. Gun fire, explosions, and plenty of laughs, this is the perfect Christmas movie for people who don’t actually like Christmas movies.

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)

Everyone’s favorite dysfunctional family is back. The Griswold’s are descending on the holidays and they are bringing all the crazy with them. Everything that can go wrong, does, and the laughs just never stop. Chevy Chase is a comedy legend for a reason, and he is in top form here. Not sure if he put enough lights on the house though.

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

Who else but Tim Burton could dream up such a beautifully twisted and appealingly dark cast of characters? There’s something ethereal and incredibly lovely about first rate stop-motion work, and this gorgeous holiday movie musical about the dream of a Halloween-Christmas mash up hits just the right spot.

Bridget Jones’ Diary (2001)

Hideous jumpers and madcap love triangles aside, this movie will smack you directly in the feels. We follow Bridget as she navigates insane holiday family gatherings, dating, new job awkwardness, and all manner of embarrassing hijinks. Whether you are team Daniel or team Darcy, you will be cheering for Bridget to triumph. Hint: It requires stamina, some karaoke, and lots and lots of wine.

Love Actually (2003)

Another polarizing entry on this list – love it or hate it, Love Actually is here to stay. Jam packed with the British a-list and multiple intertwined plot lines, there is a lot to see here. In the end, no matter how you feel about Joni Mitchel or cheating husbands, Emma Thompson’s performance will absolutely leave you in bits.

Elf (2003)

The cutest holiday stowaway ever gets raised as an elf with Santa and crew at the North Pole. When he decides to track down his dad, we join Will Ferrel’s naïve green and yellow man-child on a cheerful search through New York city. On its face, it sounds ridiculous, but this holiday movie is so full of heart and soul you can’t help but fall in love.

The Holiday (2006)

Nothing about this cutesy romantic-comedy should work – the story lines are a bit twee, the premise is not ground breaking – but there is something deeply charming about The Holiday. We can probably boil it down to the extra loveable a-list cast (all in top form) and the secondary plot of a deeply moving friendship between Kate Winslet and the late Eli Wallach. It brings a Golden Age of Hollywood feel to this modern holiday classic, and it’s irresistible.

Looking for more movie recommendations? Check out our list of Halloween’s spookiest movie fireplaces.

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