9 (Lesser Known) Alternatives To Popular Holiday Movies
Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy in a scene from Babes in Toyland, from 1934. Photo: Bettmann/Contributor/GettyImages
Everyone loves curling up with their favourite Christmas classic. But what about those lesser known gems we often forget about?
We all have our go-to holiday favourites—everything from It’s a Wonderful Life to Home Alone. But what about those other Christmas movies that don’t get the same attention we give to others around this time of year? There’s a wealth of other holiday-set movies out there—so many, in fact, that we often forget they exist.
For those looking to try something new this year, we took some of your all-time best holiday picks and paired them with an equally enjoyable alternative.
If you love: It’s A Wonderful Life (1946)
Try: The Bishop’s Wife (1947)
Frank Capra’s 1946 gem It’s a Wonderful Life is a holiday staple: Christmas just isn’t Christmas unless you’ve watched George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) joyously running through the snow. It’s also the rare holiday flick that earned itself a trip to the Academy Awards with five Oscar nominations, including Best Picture. With a premise that pulls some of its themes of redemption from A Christmas Carol, a suicidal George Bailey is shown (with the help of an angel) what life would have been like had he never existed. Its heartwarming climax could warm even the grinchiest of Grinches.
If you love: A Christmas Carol (1951, or any of the other countless adaptations)
Try: 3 Godfathers (1948)
When it comes to A Christmas Carol, you can take your pick of the litter as to which one is your favourite. (But can anyone really top Alastair Sim in the lead role of the 1951 version? Unlikely.) At last count, there are a whopping 45 screen incarnations of the Charles Dickens classic, be it TV specials, silent movies, short films or big screen adaptations. It’s hard not to love watching Ebenezer Scrooge find love, respect and a renewed purpose in life, just in time for the chiming bells on Christmas morning.
If you love: White Christmas (1954)
Try: Babes in Toyland (1961 or 1934)
Nothing rings in the holiday season better than Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen gathered together at the lodge in Pine Tree to sing “Snow” and “White Christmas.” With catchy songs written by the legendary Irving Berlin, vibrant costumes and exciting choreography, White Christmas is often heralded as the must-watch holiday musical.
If you love: A Christmas Story (1983)
Try: A Child’s Christmas in Wales (1987)
“You’ll shoot your eye out!” At least, that’s what little Ralphie Parker (Peter Billingsley) is told whenever he asks for a Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-shot Range Model Air Rifle. But Ralphie’s one Christmas wish is thwarted at every turn, by everyone from his mother to the department store Santa. With scenes involving family outbursts, puffy snowsuits and tongues frozen on flagpoles, A Christmas Story became an instant holiday classic for its nostalgic portrayal of early childhood in a simpler time.
If you love: Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
Try: It Happened on 5th Avenue (1947)
You wouldn’t think “Christmas” and “court proceedings” would go hand-in-hand when it comes to fun and wholesome family entertainment, but this holiday classic is anything but dull and dreary. Starring a pint-sized Natalie Wood as Susan Walker and Edmund Gwenn as old Kris Kringle, much of the setting takes place inside a courtroom as Mr. Kringle defends himself against accusations that he’s insane for believing he’s the real Santa Claus. There’s no denying Miracle on 34th Street is a real heart-warmer.
If you love: Love, Actually (2003)
Try: The Shop Around The Corner (1940)
Love, Actually is one of the more recent holiday classics, and it’s replayed endlessly on TV during the month of December. With its huge ensemble cast, from Hugh Grant to Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman to Liam Neeson, it has no shortage of star power. Each character (and there are a lot of them) has their own dilemma that is neatly resolved at the end—just in time for Christmas!—and we dare you not to reach for a tissue during the finale.
If you love: Home Alone (1990)
Try: Remember the Night (1940)
You’ve watched it a million times with your kids and grandkids, but there’s no denying the lasting charm of Home Alone (and it’s equally hilarious sequel, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York). It’s one of those perfect holiday classics, appealing to both adults and children alike. And the wacky antics of little Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin) and those treacherous Wet Bandits (Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern) still get us laughing every time.
If you love: Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
Try: Holiday Inn (1942)
In this rousing Vincente Minelli musical, the four Smith daughters (led by Judy Garland) learn lessons about life and love as they reluctantly prepare for their family’s move to New York. Taking place over the span of a year, the final quarter of the film is set during the celebratory days of the Christmas holidays and includes Garland’s beautiful rendition of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” Sure, it’s only one-fourth of a holiday movie, but it’s so wonderfully magical that it’ll leave you feeling warm and fuzzy on the inside.
If you love: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)
Try: Christmas in Connecticut (1945)
Oh, that zany Griswold clan…can they ever do anything right? For fans of this manic comedy starring Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo, Christmas isn’t complete without watching Clark and company ruin their seasonal celebrations with wild antics and a streak of really bad luck. The holidays can sometimes be a little uncomfortable with extended family around, but the Griswold’s take it to a whole other level.
Speaking of wacky holiday celebrations: Christmas in Connecticut stars Barbara Stanwyck as a food writer who lied (in print) about being the perfect housewife and head of her family, when in reality she’s a single mom who can barely fry an egg. Now she has to scramble to cover her tracks as both her boss (Sydney Greenstreet) and a returning war hero (Dennis Morgan) unceremoniously invite themselves over on Christmas Day to experience the perfect traditional family meal.