When it comes to Christmas classics for today’s viewers, Elf ranks with It’s a Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th Street. However, what additional holiday-themed films deserve to join the ranks? Films like Carol, Happiest Season, and Tangerine, which center on the love stories of LGBTQ+ people, stand out among this year’s holiday fare. Modern holiday movies, meanwhile, sometimes incorporate other genres into their celebration of the season, such as horror and fantasy (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Krampus).
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Modern Christmas movies, in contrast to the old classics, often feature musical numbers or focus on the legend of Santa Claus. Is there a modern holiday film that is challenging Elf for supremacy?
1. Happiest Season (2020)
Love tales with diverse protagonists are a common theme in contemporary holiday films. Coming out to family may be challenging, especially during the Christmas season. Kristen Stewart resumes her stellar post-Twilight career as Harper Caldwell’s (Mackenzie Davis) long-distance lover, Abby Holland, as she battles with her family to come out as gay.
In this heartwarming love story, LGBTQ+ characters take center stage, giving viewers a Christmas romance that anybody can root for this year. Many Happyest Season devotees are hoping for a follow-up film for the holiday season.
2. Bad Santa (2003)
Anti-holiday film Bad Santa is loaded with violence, swearing, and an unlikable lead character. A holiday mischief-maker masquerading as a mall Santa is unleashed by Billy Bob Thornton in Willie T. Stoke. A foul-mouthed criminal with no redeeming qualities, Willie is on the (extremely) naughty list.
The movie “Bad Santa” may not be suitable for the entire family, but it’s excellent for those who aren’t particularly fond of the holiday season.
3. Love Actually (2003)
Love Actually has the largest cast of any modern Christmas movie. An ensemble cast of Londoners discovers the true meaning of Christmas through nine interconnected stories. However, despite the film’s title, “Love” is not a clichéd romantic comedy.
This Christmas film is more concerned in the inner workings of the human spirit than any commercialized version of the holiday. Love Actually contains a few real touching moments.
4. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang marks the directorial debut of dark humor enthusiast Shane Black, as well as Robert Downey Jr.’s comeback. It’s Christmastime, but the detective caper avoids giving any seasonal cheer. Instead, it focuses on the sarcastic exchanges between the two main characters as they struggle to escape perilous situations.
There are many Die Hard fans, but why not try something a little more modern and just as clever?
5. Tokyo Godfathers (2003)
Satoshi Kon’s Tokyo Godfathers is a visually gorgeous and lushly animated film. Perfect Blue, Millennium Actress, and Paprika, to name a few, were among Kon’s many thought-provoking anime productions during the past three decades. Most of his films dealt with morality and self-identification as central concerns.
As a backdrop for Tokyo Godfathers, Kon chose the holiday season to analyze how modern cinema depicts heroes and villains while also honoring the human desire for goodwill.
6. Tangerine (2015)
When it comes to character studies, Tangerine employs the holiday season as a subdued backdrop. On Christmas Eve, the two main protagonists visit a diner, a washeteria, and a bar in their search for an unfaithful boyfriend. The film’s storyline is witty and poignant at the same time.
Trans individuals of color are underrepresented as protagonists in Hollywood films for a variety of reasons. Tangerine, on the other hand, is one of the best revenge/redemption stories of the last decade.
7. The Polar Express (2004)
Tom Hanks has been a reassuring presence on screen for most of his illustrious career. As a result, a Hanks-starring Christmas film is a true gift to audiences everywhere. The Polar Express is a film adaptation of Caldecott Medal-winning author Chris Van Allsburg’s picture book of the same name.
The best part in the film is when the train reaches its final destination and the children on board (and the audience watching) are introduced to a beautifully portrayed North Pole.
8. Carol (2015)
In Carol, filmmaker Andrew Niccol takes advantage of the creative freedom that the holiday season affords those eager to experiment. “Some people change your life forever,” said the slogan for this significant lesbian period piece. This also applies to the film’s central love narrative, which alters the audience’s expectations of what constitutes a Christmas movie.
The picture was shot in 16mm, capturing the look and feel of the era in which the movie was set, by director Todd Haynes. Phyllis Nagy’s alluringly unadorned script and Cate Blanchett’s steadfastly tremulous portrayal as a society woman with much to lose capture the thrills, tears, and terror of forbidden love, according to Rolling Stone critic Peter Travers.
9. Krampus (2015)
Krampus, a holiday horror-comedy starring Adam Scott and Toni Collette, manages to successfully merge the two genres. Campy horror-comedy Krampus evokes the same Christmas mood. They’re not so scary that you lose the overall festive spirit of this movie…. It’s easy to get scared when Krampus embraces horror, thanks to the slow reveal that character brings to the film.
Those who have been wicked during the year are doomed to be punished by Krampus, a horned and hoofed ancient spirit.
10. A Christmas Carol (2009)
Another director has reimagined the beloved A Christmas Carol tale every decade or so, it seems. The 2009 version, on the other hand, stands out due to star Jim Carrey’s major performances (yes, numerous times), who brings to life this legendary magical tale.
Actor Jim Carrey does an excellent job portraying Ebenezer Scrooge and the three ghosts who visit him and transform his life. The Muppets’ version may be preferred by some, but this adaptation stands out.