It’s the Christmas season again, which means it’s time for anther Holiday themed countdown. In the past I’ve posted lists of my favorite Christmas specials, my least favorite specials, but now I’m going to look at the stuff in between. Have you ever noticed that select classic Christmas movies and specials have little to do with the holiday itself, yet we still watch them every year? Then there’s also those select films that aren’t even mandatory to watch around the holiday season, but feel the most appropriate to view around this time of year. So, with all that said, here are my personal top 10 alternate Christmas Specials.
#10 The Nightmare Before Christmas (1994)
In this stop motion holiday classic, the king of Halloween town is sick of his usual holiday, so he decides to take a shot at Christmas resulting in the strait forward story of “The Night Before Christmas”, just with a dark Halloween edge. Even though this is one of my favorite holiday movies of all time, I’ve only ever watched it around Halloween. Outside of one musical number and the ending, the majority of the film is spent in Halloween town, with monstrous creatures taking up the scenery. However, while visually the film will get you in the mood for Halloween, the story is still 100% centered on Christmas, so it works. Even with its dark visual style there are still some stand out Christmas moments. The musical number in which Jack Skeleton discovers Christmas town is one of the most colorful and detailed I’ve ever seen in a holiday movie. The best way to describe this film is Halloween dose Christmas ... which is awesome.
#9 Snow Day (2000)
I can’t make any persuasive argument that this is a “good” movie by any means, but I will say that I love the concept and would love to see it done right. The movie play’s out like an anthology movie that’s set during one really snowy day as we watch various groups of characters going on separate mini winter themed adventures. We see a group of kids waging war with a nasty snowplow man, teenagers in love, snowball fights, and parents forced to stay home from work. While neither the jokes or the multiple stories are that memorable, there is still a great set up here for some fun winter themed shenanigans, and the film at least looks wonderful with lots of snowy landscapes and terrific winter visuals.
#8 Home Alone (1990)
When a young boy is accidentally left at home during a family vacation, he finds himself protecting his house from two burglars, which leads to lots of slap stick comedy and a small scale child hood adventure. In sort, the movie has nothing to do with Christmas at all, yet it’s become a celebrated holiday classic. Obviously the film takes place during Christmas, and there’s definitely a warm holiday atmosphere that resonates from seeing all the decorations and the music. Beyond the visual presentation, the film dose embrace some subtle themes and morals that are commonly associated with the holiday season, that of family togetherness and youthful innocence.
#7 Krampus (2015)
Christmas themed horror movies have been around for years, but it’s the 2015 movie “Krampus” that surprisingly feels like something to watch during the holiday season. The premise revolves around an evil Santa which descended from English folklore, who terrorizes a family snowed in during Christmas eve. Even though this is a gory monster film, it features a great selection of various holiday themed creatures including snowmen, gingerbread men, elves, toys and of course Santa himself. It’s a very tongue-in-check horror comedy, that’s as over the top as they get, but highly entertaining and full of fist rate holiday thrills.
#6 Disney’s Frozen (2013)
Much like “Snow Day” the film has zero connection to Christmas, but visually it’s so rich in winter imagery and a magical atmosphere that it still feels right for the holiday season. I don’t think I need to say too much else about this one, the music is great, the animation is great, the artistry is great, the characters are great, and it’s just another “cold” themed movie that just warms the heart with repeated viewings.
#5 Disney’s The Little Match Girl (2006)
Despite the fact that this is only a seven minuet short, it still stands strong as a wonderful holiday gem. No, it’s not aimed at Christmas, but it’s set during the holiday season, and it's simply Disney at its finest. It’s got great animation, and lots of drama focusing on the fragile nature of human life. It's a truly heartwarming story that focuses on the importance of hope, dreams and helping the innocent. “Little Match Girl” has always been one of my favorite Christmas stories and has always deserved its own holiday special, thankfully in the absence of a motion picture we have this terrific little short film.
#4 Dragons: Gift of the Night Fury (2011)
Well ... DreamWorks “How to Train Your Dragon” is personally one of my favorite animated movies of all time, so naturally the holiday special is a personal favorite that I just couldn't keep off my list. It revolves around its own fictional holiday, yet it feels like a Christmas special thanks to its colors and themes. It’s a terrific continuation of their story, it's funny, and it has more than enough warm feel good moments that you just love seeing in holiday specials of this sort.
Here it is, the true classic Christmas Horror movie that had no business being a holiday film, but is still a yuletide treasure all the same. The plot revolves around a bunch of nasty little monsters that terrorize a local town during Christmas, and by terrorize, I mean they just want to let loose and have fun and the cost of humanity. It’s funny, it’s scary and visually it really looks and feels like a Christmas film. There’s lots of little details that set the holiday mood perfectly, and the creature effects are outstanding. “Gremlins” is definitely an offbeat little film, but it just works somehow alongside all the other classic’s we watch around the holiday season.
#2 Die Hard (1988)
In this action adventure, a group of bad guys take over a building, hold occupants hostage, and aim to collect a lot of money, but one lone cop is loose in the complex and dose all in his power to free the hostages, while also defeating the terrorists. Obviously the movie is only set during Christmas, it really has nothing to do with the holiday at all, but at least other films like “Gremlins” and “Home Alone” look and feel like Christmas. Die Hard doesn’t even have that going for it, and has little that makes me think of the season, that is with the small exception of the end credits in which we hear the song “Let it Snow”. Yet with all that said, this film is widely regarded as a holiday classic, and one of the greatest of its kind. Whether or not you see this as a good Christmas movie, it’s undeniably one of the greatest action movies ever made, and a staple of 80’s popcorn entertainment.
#1 It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
Oh yeah, it’s one of the greatest holiday classics of all time, and yet, in truth it has nothing to do with Christmas at all. Don’t get me wrong, I love this movie and watch it every season, but the movie doesn't even take place during the holiday season until the third act. Heck, even "Die Hard" took place entirely on Christmas eve. Having said that, "It’s a Wonderful Life", is still the timeless story about how one man’s life could have such a huge impact on the lives of others, which is just as inspiring as it is enduring, and I suppose there are some themes that can be attributed to Christmas. In the end, this film reminds us what a wonderful and beautiful life we truly do have. With a solid direction from Frank Capra, an outstanding lead performance from James Stewart, and a brilliant premise, “It’s a Wonderful Life” still proves to be a near flawless film, and even though it's not directly centered on Christmas, it still deliverers the biggest impact during the holiday season.