6 Christmas Movies You Might Have Missed
Everybody loves "White Christmas" and "Elf," but here are a few cinematic Christmas diamonds in the rough.
Not a subscriber? Time to join the club:
Now that we’ve entered that gloriously festive period between Christmas and New Year’s in a year when we shouldn’t really be going anywhere anyway, it’s the perfect opportunity to spend some time curled up in front of your TV watching classic Christmas movies. But what if you finish all of the classics and you still want some more Christmas cheer? Well, here’s a list of 6 Christmas movies you might not be that familiar with. Have yourself a merry little watch party!
The Family Man (2000)
This list starts as all good lists should, with a movie featuring Nicolas Cage. Say what you will about his odd career choices and the neverending stream of bad action flicks on his resume, but the man is a decent actor when the material is good and has a true talent for comedy (not just when he’s making fun of himself).
I remember seeing The Family Man with my family when it was released in theaters (20 years ago?!) and enjoyed it so much that we have watched it repeatedly around Christmas in the intervening years. A modern takeoff on It’s A Wonderful Life (best movie ever…I will fight you on it), the movie thankfully manages to be a reimagining without trying to be a full-fledged remake, and features solid performances from other A-List stars like Teá Leoni, Jeremy Piven and Don Cheadle. Briefly, the premise is that Nicolas Cage is a self-centered businessman who chased a career over marrying the girl of his dreams (Leoni), but is given a Christmas Eve glimpse of what his life would be like if he had chosen love over money. I’m sure some people think this movie is too schmaltzy, but if you don’t enjoy a little schmaltz, you probably shouldn’t be reading a list about Christmas movies!
The Lemon Drop Kid (1951)
This movie is a fairly run-of-the-mill 1940s-50s Bob Hope comedy (if you’re familiar with that genre), but the plot centers around Christmastime and how a con man (Hope) enlists other local hoodlums to dress up like Salvation Army-style Santas to raise the money he needs to get a mobster to spare his life.
While this movie definitely won’t change your life and might not be worth annual viewings, it is notable for introducing the song “Silver Bells” for the first time ever, which you can see in the clip below. You will probably recognize William Frawley (Fred Mertz from I Love Lucy) as a curmudgeonly Claus. My wife and I watched this movie while we worked on a Christmas puzzle, and it served as festive and amusing background entertainment.
The Man Who Invented Christmas (2017)
I remember having low expectations and very young children when this movie came out, so I knew there was no way I would go see it in a theater. When I noticed it on Amazon Prime this year, I made a mental note to check it out when the time was right, and I’m so glad I did! I love a good retelling of A Christmas Carol, and this one offers a unique spin on that theme, as it focuses on Charles Dickens’ efforts to write the novella in 1840s London.
Much like Scrooge is visited by three spirits, Dickens is visited by Scrooge himself (inhabited delightfully by Christopher Plummer) as he tackles writer’s block, family issues and the looming deadline for his manuscript. As both a big fan of all things Christmas and a writer myself, I really enjoyed this one.
I happened to have a Netflix trial last Christmas, so my wife and I thought we would give the newest animated Christmas flick a try. I’m so glad we did! The biggest draw for this one is the animation, and it is a true crime that it lost at the Oscars to Toy Story 4. The heartwarming plot offers an origin story for Santa Claus, fueled by great voiceover performances from celebs like Jason Schwartzman, J.K. Simmons, Joan Cusack and Norm MacDonald. It’s definitely worth your time!
Trapped in Paradise (1994)
I understand if you’re questioning my sanity, but yes, Virginia, there is another Nicolas Cage movie on my list. Trapped in Paradise is everything you could want from a 1990s screwball romantic comedy. Nic Cage is the straight man in a trio of brothers (rounded out by Jon Lovitz and Dana Carvey at the height of their SNL-era powers) who decide to rob a bank on Christmas Eve in the small town of Paradise, Pennsylvania.
My family rented this movie from Blockbuster when I was a kid, and it has been viewed nearly annually since then. We quote it frequently and I still laugh heartily at so many scenes. Sure, the plot is pretty bonkers and the love interest for Cage develops literally out of nowhere, but it’s all worth it to watch the three brothers interacting and enjoy this 1990s time warp. Florence Stanley also steals each of her scenes as their foul-mouthed mother.
Arthur Christmas (2011)
I watched this movie for the first time this year and can’t believe that I never saw it sooner. I vaguely remember when it was released, but really had no opinion on it, and only tried it this year after a friend was raving about it. My friend was right! This delightful animated romp offers its own version of how the whole Santa Claus thing works and features several generations of the Claus family living together at a state-of-the-art North Pole. Overseen by the current Santa Claus’ self-important older son, the elves use all manner of inventive technology to optimize Christmas Eve gift delivery. The film focuses on Arthur, Santa’s starry-eyed-but-hapless younger son, whose main job is answering letters to Santa and staying out of the way of the Christmas operation—until one gift accidentally goes undelivered and he makes it his mission to deliver the present before sunrise Christmas morning.
I fell in love with the world this movie creates within the opening two minutes, and my admiration grew as it shifted into high gear. The script is hilarious, the vocal performances are wonderful and the numerous sight gags and hidden jokes demand a second viewing to take it all in. I could see this one becoming a somewhat annual tradition for me, especially when my kids are old enough to watch.
OK, your turn! Reply with a comment or email firstname.lastname@example.org with yoru suggestions for must-see, under-the-radar Christmas movies! Forward this to anyone who might enjoy it and thanks for reading!