There are plenty of people who love Christmas and everything that comes with it. They love the great Christmas movies they can stream, the Yule logs, the seasonal dishes, and of course, the spirit of the holiday itself. If you’re someone who hates Christmas, though, or at the very least hates the cloying, overly sentimental nature of most Christmas movies, then this is the list for you.
We’ve gathered the least conventionally festive holiday movies ever made for those of you who want to acknowledge the season, but aren’t necessarily down for all the weepies that sometimes go along with it.
Although it’s set during the holidays, Batman Returns has none of the festive energy that you might normally associate with a Christmas movie. Instead, it’s a tale of corruption and mistreatment that follows three weirdos (Michael Keaton’s submissive Batman, Michelle Pfeiffer’s kinky Catwoman, and Danny DeVito’s horny Penguin) as they face off with one another.
Tim Burton’s one and only Batman sequel is much closer to the kinds of movies the director would make in the decades that followed. It’s about a bunch of loners who battle and lash out over the way the world has treated them, and it features a fairly dark, twisted imagining of what the holiday season can be like.
Bad Santa is, admittedly, one of the more conventional holiday movies on this list, but it’s the Christmas movie for the cynic in your life. Telling the story of a con man who runs an annual con in which he poses as Santa, the movie is really a redemption story about whether a man who uses Christmas to get over on other people can be saved.
Billy Bob Thornton is outstanding in the central role, and Bad Santa benefits from being much more clear-eyed about the nature of Christmas than your typical holiday fare. It may end happily, but at least it’s willing to acknowledge the holiday’s seedier underbelly.
A delightful horror comedy that twists the meaning of holiday joy, Krampus imagines a much more punitive seasonal home guest than Santa Claus. When family bickering causes a young boy to lose his holiday joy, the family gets a visit from Krampus, an evil spirit hell-bent on punishing the entire family.
The movie’s genius comes from the way it plays with the tropes of a Christmas movie to its own ends. If you’re someone who has a deep-seated desire to tip Christmas trees over whenever you see them, Krampus is going to be just the evil spirit you’re looking for this holiday season.
Your typical Christmas movies are all about uplift and hope, but the original Black Christmas plays into opposite feelings. Telling the story of members of a sorority on the eve of the holiday who are called and harassed by someone who becomes increasingly hostile, the film spirals into violence after one of the sorority members goes missing.
The movie’s genius is in the way it twists our understanding of holiday spirit into something dark and perverse. If you’re someone who revolts against the notions the holiday season typically inspires, then Black Christmas may be right up your alley.
Another wistful, sad movie set during the holidays, Carol tells the story of a young store clerk and the older woman who seduces her in 1950s New York. The two women eventually fall in love with one another, but because of when they’re living, they realize that it will be almost impossible for them to be together.
Thanks to riveting central performances from Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, Carol is a love story about a love that never gets a chance to be. The fact that it’s also Christmastime only seems to add to the melancholy of the central story, and ultimately makes the whole affair feel a little more depressing.
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