8 Films to Watch During the Holidays That Aren’t Holiday Movies

Winter is here. But it hasn’t brought White Walkers. It’s brought holiday joy and merriment. Bah. Humbug. What if you want to watch a movie that reflects the cold world, and you don’t want to watch a holiday movie? Well, there are some alternatives. After you’ve watched all the mandatory holiday classics like Die Hard and Trading Places, you’ve got these movies to keep you warm on a cold night.

1. The Hateful Eight


I mean, the reason they’re all trapped out there together is that they’re snowed in by a ferocious blizzard. And Hateful Eight was nominated for an Oscar in cinematography, cause they made that snow look good. You can’t help, but feel lucky that you aren’t as miserably cold as the 8 psychopaths in the film (and O.B. Poor O.B.). And that you don’t have to literally nail the door closed behind you every time you walk inside.

The only whisper of Christmas in the whole move is when Bob sits down at the piano to play an instrumental rendition of “Silent Night.”

2. Hugo


This movie is Christmas/holiday magic incarnate without Christmas actually making an appearance. Happy, heartbreaking, and hopeful. Every reason that those hairs on the back of your neck would stand up are accounted for. Also a really good pick for movie fanatics and ex-film students. It’s based on the book The Invention of Hugo Cabret, but is really about movie magic (which is a very real thing).

It’s nice to watch while all bundled up and wishing you could lend Hugo a blanket (and maybe a ladder) while he’s out recreating Safety Last on a clock face high above Paris.

3. The Shining


I bet some of you jumped the gun and watched this before Halloween, didn’t you? Tsk tsk. Far as I’m concerned, The Shining is a dark comedy masquerading as a horror movie.

The movie is basically just about a family who spends the holidays in a probably haunted hotel and get royally screwed when the dad goes a little stir crazy and is maybe the reincarnation of a former murder, or is possessed by such a person, or has some weird ghost illness thing, and his son maybe has some sort of superpowers. It’s a little unclear, but it’s a lot of fun, and in the end, the only way to stop the evil is to lead it outside and try to lose it in the snow. So…winter movie.

4. Misery


AGAIN. You probably skipped ahead and watched this too early. I will concede, this is a horror movie, though there are comedic elements.

It’s a great premise for anyone spending the night in. There are basically only two characters in the whole film. A writer who was in a terrible accident and can’t move around freely and his adoring fan who quickly twists into a psychotic warden, who keeps him handicapped. He can’t escape because a) inability to do much walking and b) fucking snow. The latter one is the thing tying most of these movies together.

It will definitely have you giving the side eye to people you’d usually find very pleasant and leave you wondering who the hell names a character Misery.

5. Fargo


This one’s a nice mix of delightful and gruesome (two things I love). All about money and crime and justice, but set with a winter wonderland backdrop. It does a good job of establishing just how isolated people are, as well as allowing them to be tracked. Sure, the holidays are happening, but the characters all have bigger fish to fry and any Christmas activity winds up as background static.

The characters are all odd and intriguing. Some likeable, some not. How they react when the chips are down can be unexpected.

Speaking of chips…that wood chipper scene.

6. Hanna


Hanna is slightly fringier than most of the other films on this list. But it was made by a bunch of very capable filmmakers. It’s an interesting film about a  young girl who has been trained to be an assassin. It’s quieter than some action/thriller movies. Not boring, just quieter. I guess that’s the thing about assassins. They don’t want to make to much of a fuss. And like in Fargo, the snowy backdrop works both to illustrate the isolation of the character as well as prove useful  for tracking.

It’s definitely work checking out. Plenty of winter fun without a lot of holiday fuss. Slightly more on the artsy side. But, you know, in a fun bloody way.

7. Submarine


I’ve talked about this movie before. Really you should just go read my post on Richard Ayoade’s directing if you’re interested in this one.

We’re moving away from Christmas and into New Year’s. This film was released (at least, in the U.S.) during the summer. And as such, paired with so much of it taking place near the ocean, I used to think of it as a summer movie. But in actuality, the penultimate scenes take place on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Heartbreaking and utterly charming. And, judging by the gear those kids are trekking around in, freezing.

8. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind


This movie begins (and therefore ends) a few days into the new year. So it’s a good one to end your winter viewing (there are plenty of fun spring movies to move on to).

Though the nature of the movie takes you through many different seasons, much of the movie is cold and dreary and muddles together. And the most iconic moments are probably Joel and Clementine lying side by side on the ice, and them lying in the bed on the beach in the snow. I’ve talked about this movie before too, in the Independent Dramadies post. It’s a really interesting and unique movie. And good. And sad. And happy.


About Risa Romano

Writer type thing. I work on stories for kids when I'm on the clock and screenplays quite a bit less for kids when I'm not. I have a blog: rambleonnerdyponderings.wordpress.com I'm also the creator and moderator of the Doctor Who vodcast/podcast A Disused Yeti: https://adisusedyeti.wordpress.com/
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