Everyone loves Hollywood holiday classics – from It’s a wonderful life and A Christmas story to Alone at home and die hard (yes, it’s also a classic – don’t get us started).
But after the 100th replay, the holiday spirit can start to wane and nostalgia for those festive evergreens can turn toxic.
So The Hollywood ReporterThe international team of created this alternate list of holiday favorites outside of the United States
Our eclectic Dirty Dozen, featuring a French murder mystery, a Canadian horror classic, and a lively retelling of the Christmas story, is the perfect counter-programming for anyone looking for new ideas this festive season.
Christian Carion’s World War I drama about the real Christmas truce that broke out on the Western Front in 1914 – amidst the horrors of war, a veritable holiday miracle – features Diane Kruger, Daniel Brühl, Guillaume Canet and Andor star Alex Fougeres. Rarely has the absurdity of war and faith in the basic kindness and decency of humans been expressed so poignantly.
Anime pioneer Satoshi Kon cuts right to the heart of the Christmas story with this modern-day animated update, which revolves around three homeless people: an alcoholic with a gambling addiction, a trans woman always optimistic and a runaway teenager with anger issues, who on Christmas Eve discovers a little girl abandoned in a pile of trash. Heartbreaking and heartwarming in equal measure, this adult cartoon isn’t for kids, but it’s a nice addition to any movie lover’s holiday canon.
Baltasar Kormákur’s explosive debut is an Icelandic comedy as dark as Nordic winter nights. Named after the postcode of the city, 101 Reykjavík tells the story of Hlynur, a 30-year-old slacker and barely functional alcoholic (Hilmir Snær Guonason, seen in last year’s favorite film from the festival Lamb) whose life of drinking and online porn is turned upside down when her mother (Hanna María Karlsdóttir) comes out as a lesbian and kicks Hlynur out of the house so she can spend quality time with her pregnant lover, Lola (the phenomenal Victoria Abril of Pedro Almodovar Tie me Up! Tie me up!). Some might quibble calling it a Christmas movie, but all the action takes place during the holidays, so that makes the list.
Not to be confused with the awful 2006 remake, this Canadian holiday slasher predates the original Halloween and Friday 13 and set the blueprint for low-budget terror with its combination of dark humor, prowling cameras, and tense backdrops built on top of a fairly pedestrian plot involving a psychopath stalking and killing college sorority sisters. Director Bob Clark would continue to direct A Christmas storybut this festive first entry deserves to be revisited on any dark winter’s night.
From mass murder to murder mystery, this kitschy delight from French master Francois Ozon is Agatha Christie to Hollywood OTT musicals. The eight women in the title are a who’s who of French cinema: Fanny Ardant, Emmanuelle Béart, Danielle Darrieux, Catherine Deneuve, Isabelle Huppert, Virginie Ledoyen, Firmine Richard and Ludivine Sagnier. Everyone gathers in a snowy cottage to celebrate Christmas, when a troublesome corpse comes to spoil the party. Cue the plot bonanza, jaw-dropping scenery from a cast obviously having a ball, and no less than six song-and-dance numbers.
This Spanish animated tale from Netflix is probably the most conventional and certainly the most family-friendly film on our list, but directors Sergio Pablos and Carlos Martínez López manage to avoid Yuletide clichés with their Santa Claus origin story that plays like an anti-Grumpy. Here, Santa Claus is a reclusive, slightly misanthropic homemade toymaker (voiced in English by JK Simmons) who gets tricked into becoming the big guy bringing joy to the children of the world. The cynical tone – greed and self-interest give rise to these beloved holiday traditions – may not be to everyone’s taste, but as an invigorating alternative to the sentimental molasses of the season, it is hard to beat.
The irony of fate or enjoy your bath!
This slimy Soviet-era rom-com is set on New Year’s Eve and features a crazy plot, liters of booze, and some pretty catchy songs (with lyrics by Doctor Zhivago the writer Boris Pasternak), The irony of fate or enjoy your bath! has been a staple of Russian vacations since it first aired on January 1, 1976. Andrey Myagkov stars as soon-to-be married Zhenya, who, after a traditional steam bath with friends, accidentally boards a plane from Moscow to Leningrad and , fainting during the flight, does not realize that he has changed town. On his arrival, he gives the taxi driver his Moscow address, 3rd Street of the Builders, but finds himself on Leningrad Street of the same name in an apartment with the same Soviet layout. He passes out, only to be discovered by the real tenant, Nadya (Barbara Brylska) when she comes home to prepare a New Year’s meal for her fiancée.
There aren’t many laughs in Maria Sødahl Hope, which takes place during the holiday season but focuses on a couple, Tomas and Anja – played by Andrea Braein Hovig and Stellan Skarsgard – going through a crisis after Anja is diagnosed with life-threatening cancer. Based on the director’s real-life experience, the Norwegian feature eschews sentimentality and melodrama to tease an intimate, grown-up portrait of love tested, and ultimately strengthened, and the hope that can emerge when things seem the most dark.
The Match Factory Girl
This deadpan comedy-drama from Finnish director and writer Aki Kaurismäki might be the ultimate anti-Christmas flick. Inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s harrowing fable – about a girl who froze to death on a cold Christmas Eve – it transfers the story to a seedy, soulless match factory with the “girl” played by Kati Outinen, a regular at Kaurismäki, who dreams, not like in the original of a hot iron stove and a glorious Christmas tree, but of revenge. A minimalist masterpiece – there can’t be more than 10 lines of dialogue in the whole film, The Match Factory Girl is by turns hilarious and ruthless but always engrossing.
Survival Style 5+
And now for something totally different. Gen Sekiguchi’s omnibus cult classic is as aesthetically in your face – a pop culture explosion of neon pinks and comic book greens and blues, like a Wes Anderson movie about acid – as Kaurismäki The Match Factory Girl is distant and restrained. The anthology’s five storylines – including a man caught in an endless cycle of murdering his wife, only to see her return, slightly miffed, every night; Vinnie Jones as a serial killer who asks people what their purpose in life is before pulling the trigger; and one involving a successful hypnosis session that turns a man into a bird, permanently – doesn’t make much sense, but it’s impossible not to keep watching. The movie doesn’t revolve around Christmas, but each story has a pivotal Christmas chapter, making it the ultimate alternate watch for the holidays.
call me by your name
Non-American Hanukkah movies are rare, and admittedly that expands the definition of the holiday movie to include Luca Guadagnino’s romantic classic in our list. But the climax of the film’s assignment comes on the seventh night of Hanukkah as Elio (Timothée Chalamet), after discovering that his lover, Oliver (Armie Hammer), is engaged, pauses briefly in front of a lit menorah before sit in front of his family’s fireplace. and cry for nearly three full minutes. You could say this scene embodies the themes of celebrating endurance and believing in a better future. Either way, it’s a great movie, and it’s got Hanukkah in it, so it sticks.
Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale
Our list of dirty dozen holiday movies ends with the cinematic equivalent of a nasty lump of coal pushed down the Christmas lore. At Jalmari Helander Rare exports blends a Santa Claus origin story with John Carpenter’s plot The thing to create a dark, fantasy horror movie that will forever change the way you think about jolly fat men in red suits. And reindeer. This might be the Christmas classic you didn’t know you needed.