10 Offbeat Holiday Movies You Can Stream Right Now


Happy Christmas Eve Eve! Last-minute gifts are getting wrapped, later-minute gifts are being bought, cookies are baking, eggnog’s getting spiked, and chances are, there’s a holiday movie on your television/laptop/watch/whatever. If you’re looking for something traditional, there are plenty of options (you’ll find several in our Holiday Canon). But if you’d care for something off the usual menu, we’ve got a few suggestions — all of them ready to watch, at this very moment.


I know, I know, you’re tired of being told to go watch Tangerine on Netflix, but seriously, it’s like right there. In addition to all of the previously noted attributes of Sean Baker’s raucous, freewheeling picture – it’s funny, it’s zazzy, it’s humane, it’s got the quick-tempo storytelling sense of a good screwball comedy – it’s also set entirely on Christmas Eve, so there ya go. (On Netflix.)

Happy Christmas

The holiday wishes are right there in the title (albeit their British iteration), and Joe Swanberg’s indie comedy/drama is set during the holiday season, as a perpetual fuck-up (Anna Kendrick) visits her brother (Swanberg) and his family. Warm, funny, and thoughtful, with one of the cutest kid performances in recent memory (from the director’s own son, no less). And besides, who wouldn’t wanna spend the holidays with Kendrick, Melanie Lynskey, Mark Webber, and Lena Dunham? (On Netflix.)

Trading Places

Dan Aykroyd makes a very good pre-Bad Santa Bad Santa in this razor-sharp comedy of class from director John Landis. Brought to his lowest point by a millionaires’ bet that swaps his station with that of street hustler Billy Ray Valentine (Eddie Murphy at his cocky funniest), a smelly, boozy Aykroyd ends up sneaking into his former company’s Christmas party as Old Saint Nick, with uproarious results. (On Netflix.)

The Ref

There are endless reasons to recommend this 1993 holiday comedy, which tanked in its theatrical run (in March, what in the actual fuck) but found a small yet loyal audience on video: the quintessential Denis Leary performance, a whip-smart Richard LaGravenese screenplay, copious Christine Baranski eye-rolls, and Kevin Spacey and Judy Davis as a miserable married couple whose family gatherings are like a performance of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. But mostly, it’s worth a watch for the short clip above; I recommend memorizing the “you know what I’m gonna get you next Christmas” line, to keep in your back pocket for your Christmas get-togethers, just in case. (On Netflix.)

The French Connection

This one’s kind of a stretch, but look – you’ve seen Santas as drunken louts and psycho killers, but this is about the only movie where a street-corner Santa chases down a perp, roughs him up, and asks him if he ever picked his feet in Poughkeepsie. And if we’re not really watching Die Hard for the Christmas cheer but as another excuse to enjoy a good action flick, then I’ll take any reason I can muster to give that subway/car chase a spin. (On Netflix.)

Rocky IV

With Creed raking in bucks and warming all our hearts, I’d like to gingerly remind you that in Sylvester Stallone’s fourth installment of the franchise, the climactic Balboa v. Drago bout takes place on Christmas Day. Rocky IV is, technically, by definition, a “Christmas movie.” It’s also a soulless jingoism machine and the worst movie in the series by leaps and bounds, but hey, it’s got some boss music videos and an ending where Rocky brings down the Berlin Wall. Beats watching The Santa Clause. (On Netflix.)

Annie Hall

In the eyes of protagonist Alvy Singer – and, obviously, writer/director Woody Allen – the sins of Los Angeles are legion, from their vapid parties to their laugh-track television shows to their reliance on cars. But nothing seems to earn his ire more than the SoCal Christmas he witnesses while making an awards-ceremony visit, encapsulated in a sunny montage to the strains of Christmas carols. “Santa Claus will have sunstroke!” Alvy quips. (On Amazon.)

Full Metal Jacket


Roger & Me

Christmas movies are full of heartwarming climaxes: the letters pouring out in the courtroom in Miracle on 34th Street, George Bailey sprinting down the street to wish Bedford Falls a merry Christmas in It’s a Wonderful Life, Kevin reuniting with his family in Home Alone, whatever the fuck people like at the end of Love, Actually. Well, here’s a Christmas moment that’ll stick in your throat, as Michael Moore concludes his breakthrough documentary with a scene of GM head Roger Smith reading his heartwarming holiday message, intercut with a Christmas Eve eviction in Flint, Michigan, a town decimated by his company’s cutbacks and closures. It’s a tough, angry scene, and a reminder that, for many, the holidays are neither merry nor bright. (On Amazon)

Bringing Out the Dead

Credit where due: Writer Ryan Estrada first pointed out how, in their eagerness to situate it next to director Martin Scorsese and screenwriter Paul Schrader’s earlier driving-through-madness-in-Gotham classic Taxi Driver, critics and audiences totally missed this 1999 drama’s closer cousin: Dickens’ Christmas Carol, which it shadows in structure, theme, and character. That’s one reason to check it out; another is that it’s one of Scorsese’s most unfairly underrated works, a haunting yet visceral flick with a scorching, punk-heavy soundtrack and one of the best Nicolas Cage performances on record. (On Amazon.)