Christmas movies are a much-loved part of the season, and holiday movie marathons are a mainstay of many families’ annual traditions. Despite the merits of classics like “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “Miracle on 34th Street,” you might be craving a little variety in your holiday viewing. If so, you should dig a little bit deeper into Santa’s bag and pull out one of these oft-forgotten holiday and holiday-adjacent films.
“Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale”
For some people, the relentless nature of Christmas cheer can become cloying. Enter “Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale,” an R-rated independent film out of Finland by director Jalmari Helander. The movie takes a much darker view of Santa and draws on the Central European folk character of Krampus, a horned half-demon creature that is associated with Santa Claus. The film’s plot follows a small community in the Finnish mountains that is turned upside down when a digging crew uncovers something sinister in a nearby hill. To save the settlement’s livelihood and children, a father and son set out to capture the unleashed monster and sell it to the company that hired the digging crew in the first place.
“Yogi’s First Christmas”
You can be forgiven if you didn’t realize Yogi Bear had a Christmas movie, because “Yogi’s First Christmas” never left the little screen after its syndicated television debut in 1980. This nostalgia-fest follows Yogi Bear and Boo-Boo when they are accidentally awoken from their winter hibernation, allowing them to experience their first-ever Christmas celebration. Animator Ray Patterson, famous for his work on classics like “Fantasia,” “Tom and Jerry” and many others, directed this enjoyable retro romp.
“The Long Kiss Goodnight”
If you’re the sort who tries to argue that “Die Hard” is a Christmas movie, then you’ll likely have a soft spot for the over-the-top action of “The Long Kiss Goodnight.” From filmmaker Renny Harlin, this film follows the story of Samantha Caine, a woman who washed up pregnant on the shore in New Jersey with no memory of her past. One Christmas, her life changes as she begins to remember her former identity as a CIA assassin, and she decides to go on a mission with P.I. Mitch, played by Samuel L. Jackson, to settle an old score.
“Meet Me in St. Louis”
“Meet Me in St. Louis” may not seem like a Christmas movie at first, as it follows a year in the life of the Smith family leading up to the St. Louis World’s Fair. Esther, played by Judy Garland, falls in love with her next-door neighbor John just as her father announces that the family will be moving to New York the day after Christmas. The film’s exciting climax plays out on Christmas Day and sees Garland singing a memorable rendition of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”
Christmas movies run the gamut from light, family-friendly features and heartwarming stories to dark comedies and horror. Introducing a few new films into your holiday canon can break up the monotony of the old and well-loved classics, potentially giving your family a unique new tradition to look forward to each year.