Television networks bombard consumers every year during the holiday season with the same old Christmas movies that contain the same repetitive plots. Films such as Elf, Home Alone, The Santa Clause, and The Polar Express play multiple times a day, every day during the month of December. While there is no denying the classic status of many of these holiday staples, the oversaturation of these films during the holiday season makes them tiresome.
There are a plethora of excellent Christmas films in existence that are not as well-known as the likes of A Christmas Story, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, or A Christmas Carol. Many of these lesser-known Christmas films feature unique plots that may be refreshing for those craving alternatives to the standard cycle of holiday films.
10It Happened On 5th Avenue Examines The Postwar American Dream
Released in 1947, It Happened on 5th Avenue is a comedy with a dash of pathos starring Don DeFore, Gale Storm, and Victor Moore. The film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Story but ironically lost to another seminal Christmas classic, Miracle on 34th Street.
It Happened on 5th Avenue’s plot centers around two homeless men who sneakily move into a mansion during Christmastime while the owners are out of town. One of the men, played by DeFore, is a former soldier struggling to reacclimate to civilian life. Released less than two years after the conclusion of World War II, It Happened on 5th Avenue examines the hardships many soldiers faced in a postwar society that promised the American Dream for all.
9The Bishop’s Wife Captures The Spirituality Of The Christmas Season
The Bishop’s Wife is a 1947 romantic comedy-drama fantasy film based on the 1928 novel of the same name. The film earned five Academy Award nominations, and won for Best Sound Recording. It was nominated by the American Film Institute for its lists of greatest movie passions and most excellent movie cheers.
Starring Cary Grant as an ever-so-charming angel, The Bishop’s Wife centers on a bishop who asks for divine guidance in order to help build a new cathedral. His prayers for assistance are answered in the form of Grant’s angel, who takes the bishop on a journey of unexpected spiritual guidance. Set during Christmastime, The Bishop’s Wife demonstrates the dangers of unchecked ambition and its adverse effects on those we love most.
8Babes In Toyland Is One Of Laurel And Hardy’s Most Popular Films
First teamed together in the mid-1920s, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy were among Hollywood’s premiere comedy duos during the 1920s and 1930s. One of their most popular and enduring films is Babes in Toyland, a musical Christmas film released in 1934.
Set in Toyland, inhabited by famous nursery rhyme and fairy tale characters, Babes in Toyland features Laurel and Hardy as workers who craft gifts for Santa Claus. Babes in Toyland was a staple on American television during the holiday seasons throughout the 1960s and 1970s. However, its appearances over the years have sharply declined, now only occasionally showing on channels such as TCM.
7Christmas In Connecticut Morphs The Screwball Genre With The Christmas Film
Christmas in Connecticut is a Christmas-themed romantic comedy starring Barbara Stanwyck and Dennis Morgan. The film was released on August 11, 1945, just three days before V-J Day, effectively ending World War II.
Christmas in Connecticut’s release date is significant due to its central plot point, which concerns a returning war hero gifted an elaborate Christmas dinner by a prominent magazine publisher. Morgan plays the war hero who eventually falls in love with Stanwyck, a famous magazine writer that has adopted a false persona claiming to be a perfect housewife. The film’s narrative about a soldier returning home deeply resonated with wartime audiences, leading to a huge box office success.
6Klaus Offers A Unique Take On The Santa Claus Origin Story
Klaus is an animated Christmas film that revolutionized how traditionally animated films could be made. The film is the first traditionally animated film to utilize 3D lighting techniques such as volumetric lighting, giving Klaus a unique visual aesthetic, unlike any other animated film.
In terms of its narrative, Klaus offers an alternative origin story to Santa Claus set in Norway and focuses on a reclusive woodsman struggling with grief over the death of his wife. Klaus is the quintessential Christmas film that would thrive on television, but its streaming-only distribution prevents the film from reaching a wider audience.
5Remember The Night Was The First Of Four Movies Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray Made Together
Remember the Night is a romantic comedy Christmas film written by the legendary Preston Sturges and starring Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray. This was Sturges’ final film shot by another director, for after Remember the Night, Sturges began directing his own scripts.
MacMurray stars in Remember the Night as a lawyer who takes pity on a shoplifter, Stanwyck, during the Christmas season. Instead of sentencing her, MacMurray postpones the trial and invites Stanwyck on a trip to their hometown of Indiana after realizing she has nowhere to go for Christmas. The two eventually fall in love, and the palpable chemistry between MacMurray and Stanwyck led the two to star in three more films together.
4Holiday Affair Features Robert Mitchum Cast Against Type
Robert Mitchum was one of the most popular actors during Hollywood’s Golden Era. He was frequently cast in tough guy roles across genres such as film noir, westerns, and war films. However, in the Christmas comedy Holiday Affair, Mitchum plays the romantic lead alongside Janet Leigh. Mitchum excels in the role, displaying his versatility as an actor.
Holiday Affair features Janet Leigh as a young widow torn between her longtime suitor and a ne’er-do-well she recently met, played by Mitchum. Most movie love triangles feature one clearly toxic character, allowing the audience to root for two of the three characters. Holiday Affair is unique in that all characters involved are good people, making Leigh’s decision to choose a partner difficult.
3Holiday Inn Gave The World The Greatest Selling Single Of All Time
Holiday Inn is a musical starring Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire as two entertainers who operate an inn that only opens for holidays. The film is set across many holidays, including Independence Day, Thanksgiving, Valentine’s Day, and multiple presidents’ birthdays. However, the film’s most notable sequences are its Christmas scenes.
Many people mistakenly associate the song “White Christmas” with the movie White Christmas. However, the song “White Christmas” was first written and included in Holiday Inn. Written by Irving Berlin and sung by Bing Crosby, “White Christmas” remains the greatest-selling single of all time, with over fifty million records sold.
2The Lubitsch Touch Meets The Christmas Film In The Shop Around The Corner
Directed by influential auteur Ernst Lubitsch, The Shop Around the Corner is consistently ranked as one of the greatest films of all time. The film was inducted into the National Film Registry in 1999 and has been declared one of cinema’s greatest works by the BBC, American Film Institute, Sight & Sound, and Time magazine.
The Shop Around the Corner stars James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan as co-workers who cannot stand one another. The catch is they are both unknowingly falling in love with one another as the result of being anonymous pen pals. The film served as an inspiration decades later for the Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan romantic comedy You’ve Got Mail.
1Meet Me In St. Louis Features Judy Garland At Her Very Best
One of Judy Garland’s career-defining roles, Meet Me in St. Louis, depicts a year in the life of the Smith family at the turn of the twentieth century. The film is divided into seasonal vignettes. However, its Christmas sequence contains the movie’s most memorable moments.
Meet Me in St. Louis is responsible for giving the world the iconic Christmas song “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” The melancholic song originally had even darker lyrics which Garland refused to sing to child actor Margaret O’Brien.