Many Christmas movies indulge in everything the holiday season has to offer. From start to end, they're a celebration of all things Christmas, so you never forget what time of year it is. But other movies have a more subtle seasonal vibe, so much so that you might actually forget they took place during the holidays. Here are 11 Christmas movies you didn't realize were Christmas movies.
A few of these movies take place over the course of a full year, so Christmas is but one (important) chapter in the overall story. Others have so much going on in the plot that the tinsel-strewn setting may have slipped your mind. But at some point in all of their runtimes, carols are sung and presents exchanged, making each and every one undeniably a Christmas movie.
If you've had enough of corny Christmas romances (sounds fake, but okay) or traditional holiday fare, perhaps one of these films could be the perfect viewing choice for you. They span so many genres that no matter how you're feeling come Christmas morning — whether you're sentimental or nostalgic; in the mood for seemingly counterintuitive horror or action — you can probably find something on this list to suit what you're looking for.
So here they are: 11 unexpected Christmas movies.
Though some may debate Die Hard being deemed a Christmas movie, it is indisputable for screenwriter Steven de Souza. As he told NBC News, he filled the script with Christmas jokes. Even though it was originally released in July, it's still all about the holiday season.
While You Were Sleeping
In While You Were Sleeping, Sandra Bullock's Lucy spends her days dreaming about the handsome stranger she sees every morning while collecting train fares at work. An accident introduces her to his family, who mistakenly believe she's his fiancée and immediately fold her into all their holiday celebrations. For Lucy, who gets so lonely at Christmas that she'd rather work, that family connection proves even more appealing than Peter Gallagher's eyebrows. If there wasn't a holiday framework to keep her in their orbit, she might never have fallen for Bill Pullman.
If your '80s action needs weren't met with Die Hard, then perhaps Lethal Weapon can be your unexpected Christmas classic. There are yuletide touches throughout, including the strains of "Jingle Bell Rock" and a family holiday finale.
You've Got Mail
You've Got Mail begins in the autumn and ends in the spring, but it takes a detour through Christmas somewhere in the middle. Ornaments are placed and parties attended, which makes it a Christmas movie in my book. Plus, it's based on The Shop Around The Corner, one of the greatest Christmas romances of all time.
While Christmas may not have a huge impact on the plot, the fact that Gremlins takes place during the holidays makes it a Christmas movie. If you need a little silly horror comedy this year, then it's the perfect choice.
Little Women opens during Christmas, with the March sisters gathered around the piano singing carols. Though it cycles through many other holidays as years pass, that cozy feeling of candlelight, fir tress, and snow are a definitive part of the film.
The Apartment focuses more on the melancholy aspect of the holidays: how people can feel lost and alone without the connection of family and friends. Jack Lemmon's C.C. Baxter and Shirley MacLaine's Fran Kubelik find each other amongst that holiday sadness, which makes this one of the more poignant Christmas films.
Sleepless In Seattle
Christmas sets off the plot in Sleepless in Seattle: when little Jonah calls a radio station on Christmas Eve, worried about his widower father finding love again, Meg Ryan's Annie becomes intrigued. While the movie does move past the holiday, it's what starts everything.
Bridget Jones's Diary
Christmas bookends Bridget Jones's Diary and highlights how much changes over the course of a single year. When Bridget meets her very own Mr. Darcy, it couldn't go worse (see: reindeer jumper), but just twelve months later she couldn't possibly imagine herself with anyone else.
Less Than Zero
Look, I wouldn't put on Less Than Zero if I was in need of cheering up, but it's yet another film where the entire plot is set in motion by Christmas. Clay Easton returns home for the holidays during his first year of college to find everything he left behind in total disarray. And spoiler alert, it doesn't get better from there.
Though it may seem an incongruous for Batman and Catwoman to be brawling in the middle of Gotham while surrounded by twinkle lights, Christmas actually suits the campy tone of Batman Returns perfectly. It also lends itself well to delightfully creepy flirting about poisonous mistletoe.
Hopefully one of these Christmas movies will be the perfect addition to your holiday celebrations, even if it didn't seem like it would be at first glance.
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