Underrated holiday movies that deserve way more credit
‘Tis the season for getting cozy by the fire with a gallon of mulled wine and a marathon of your fave holiday flicks. It’s a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street, A Christmas Story — oh yeah, we got ’em. But, sometimes, it’s nice to mix it up a little with some lesser-known seasonal films — ones that don’t always get the love they deserve this time of year. (Or, um, ever.) To keep those chilly nights from being so ho ho ho-hum (Sorry, had to.) we rounded up some underrated classics you should add to your rotation.
Black Christmas (1974)
Not the sentimental type? Like a little blood and guts with your eggnog? Cuddle up by the fire for this delightfully schlocky slasher flick (generally considered to be one of the first of the genre. Slashers, that is. Not Christmas movies). A deranged killer returns to his childhood home, now a sorority house, to pick off the sisters in inventively bloody fashion over Christmas break. Pro tip: Make sure to rent the ‘74 original, not the mediocre 2006 reboot.
Santa Claus (1985)
No, not the one where Tim Allen accidentally offs the big guy and has to step in and fill the red suit. (Though, let’s be honest, that’s a certified gem.) This little-known ‘80s flick stars David Huddleston (aka The Big Lebowski) as the title jolly one in a rather odd origin story telling the tale of how Santa came to be (turns out, he started as a pretty ordinary dude) and a defecting elf who tries to sell his ex-boss’s toymaking secrets to a corrupt corporation. Bonus: John Lithgow as the evil exec trying to steal Christmas.
The Christmas Toy (1986)
This made-for-TV movie (later released on VHS) might just be the most underappreciated and unsung Muppet movie of all time. The premise: Rugby Tiger is his human’s favorite toy but, this Christmas, he’s afraid of being replaced by a newer, cooler toy. So, he schemes to sneak into the biggest box under the tree (containing a super rad futuristic space hero toy) so that he can be unwrapped anew. The only problem is, humans can’t know that toys move, so it’s all a sticky business. Yeah, it’s basically the premise for Toy Story, an admittedly awesome family film that nevertheless robbed The Christmas Toy of its well-deserved thunder. Robbed, we say!
OK, we know this one isn’t underrated in general. But as a Christmas movie? Most definitely. Lest you forget, all the campy shenanigans surrounding a mysterious breed of cuddly creatures that transform into terrorizing hell beasts if you feed them after midnight happen around the holidays — sort of like your Uncle Lou after his tenth post-Christmas dinner beer.
As for crotchety old Ebenezer, here’s a Christmas Carol adaptation that often gets left off of the annual round of Best Holiday Movies. Two words: Bill Murray. A few more: Murray plays the title miserly curmudgeon, here a high-rolling TV exec who has a ton of money but not a whole lot of friends, due to being sort of a dick. It’s a comically dark take on the classic tale.
The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
Here’s another Muppet movie (and another Christmas Carol adaptation) that should be visited heavily in your holiday movie viewing. There have been countless film adaptations of Charles Dickens’ classic novella, but Jim Henson’s take remains our hands down favorite. Michael Caine joins a classic Muppet crew as the Scrooge to Kermit’s Bob Cratchit. Plus, it’s got a really good soundtrack!
Home Alone 2 (1992)
Sure, everyone loves the original and we too will likely watch it at least three times before December 25. However, everyone always overlooks the sequel, which, in our humble opinion, is also pretty damn good. This time Kevin is lost and alone in the Big Apple for the holidays (someone call Child Services on these people, for crissakes) fending off old nemeses with the help of a kindly, bird-loving hobo lady and a kindly old toy store worker. (Ed note: Home Alone 3, however, for which they swapped out Macaulay Culkin for some kid actor with a lot less charisma, can’t hold a candle.)
To Grandmother’s House We Go (1992)
Oh, you know we had to get a shoutout to the Olsen twins in here. (OK, we didn’t have to, but it’s the holidays, people. If not now, when?) Mary-Kate and Ashley star as two precocious tykes (didn’t they always) who strike off on their own to spend Christmas at their grandma’s house, after deciding their mom needed a little break. The usual G-rated chaos ensues. You know what? Maybe watch this one with an extra mug or four of ‘nog and wash it all down with a viewing of Black Christmas, as a palate cleanser.