7 Holiday Movie Alternatives You’ll Love
Everyone has a favourite beloved Christmas classic. Expand your repertoire with our alternative list of the mistletoe movies you probably forgot were holiday classics.
You already love: Bad Santa
Try: The Silent Partner
Christopher Plummer plays one sort of villain this Christmas: he replaces ousted Kevin Spacey as the skinflint in Ridley Scott’s upcoming Getty kidnap drama All the Money in the World. In the 1978 sleeper classic The Silent Partner, Plummer plays a sociopath with blistering menace. And Toronto plays itself. Written by Curtis Hanson, this clever and truly suspenseful thriller was filmed on location around the city, including scenes in Cabbagetown, on Captain John’s at Queen’s Quay, in the Silver Dollar, on the subway and several key sequences in the gleaming newish Eaton Centre.
You already love: Christmas in Connecticut
Try: The Thin Man
A Manhattan murder mystery where solving the crime is almost beside the point, Dashiell Hammett’s detective story The Thin Man originally appeared in the December 1933 issue of Redbook magazine, the same month the U.S. repealed Prohibition laws. Where that story was hard-boiled and lonely, the film version is upbeat and effervescent. (And boozy: Don’t dare try to keep up with their copious cocktail consumption.) It was co-written by married writing couple Albert Hackett and Frances Goodrich (Easter Parade, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers), who lighten the mood considerably with an affectionately zany married couple, early screwball elements, one-liners and martinis. It was released the following spring to boffo box office and was nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Picture, but lost that title to another underdog of 1934: It Happened One Night.
You already love: Home Alone
The parents are just as absent in director Whit Stillman’s 1990 debut but there’s no slapstick or pratfalls — the deadpan comedy here is all verbal. Set during Christmas break among a preppy Manhattan college set—or UHBs, as this urban haute bourgeoisie prefers to call itself—it moves between the front steps of The Plaza and Upper East Side living rooms, where “snobbery is looked down upon” without a trace of irony and, as cocky Nick (Chris Eigeman) later declares: “The cha-cha is no more ridiculous than life itself.” This movie is essential to truly understand where Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach got some of their moves.
You already love: Die Hard (and Die Hard II)
Try: Ocean’s 11
Hotly anticipated for 2018, in Ocean’s 8 wisecracking all-female dream team of Rihanna, Cate Blanchett, Mindy Kaling, Sandra Bullock, et al. target the Met Ball red carpet mavens. Lay the groundwork by watching the swinging original. The dapper Christmas caper takes place in a still-young Las Vegas, with Frank Sinatra as leader of the pack Danny Ocean. You already know the gist: he gathers a few old air force buddies to apply their military precision in planning the ultimate casino heist.
You already love: Love, Actually
Try: Peter’s Friends
You can’t choose your family at Christmas, but you can pick your friends. A group of Cambridge graduates who were once part of an acting troupe reunite at a country house and talk about where life has taken them so far; think a Big Chill, in Britain.
You already love: Carol
Try: My Night with Maud
Like Todd Haynes’ magnificent Carol is a snow globe of melancholy, Ma nuit chez Maud is about the dance of two people around one another. Filmed in a wintry French city in crisp black and white, the tale of a former womanizer and newly devout Roman Catholic mathmatician (Jean-Louis Trintignant, from A Man and a Woman) begins at mass on Christmas eve and continues through Christmas dinner at the apartment of his friend Vidal’s occasional lover, the sophisticated divorcée Maud (Françoise Fabian). Eventually, Vidal leaves Jean-Louis with a nudge and a wink to spend the night. In lieu of foreplay, the devout and the worldly hash out their ideas and ideals about love, sex and probability in an intense, all-night conversation that challenges his beliefs, and hers. Released in 1969 as part of filmmaker Eric Rohmer’s six moral fables and Oscar-nominated for Best Foreign Film, it’s a talky, intellectual movie that never feels mannered. It’s an intimate and naturalistic chamber piece and spiritual ancestor to Before Sunrise.
You already love: Sunset Boulevard
As her faded diva Norma Desmond famously said, “We didn’t need dialogue—we had faces.” This pre-Code comedy of manners is just Gloria Swanson’s third sound picture but it proves the icon of the silent cinema also had a talent for talking while giving side-eye. Swanson, then 32, plays a single gal named Gerry who, on New Year’s Eve, throws over her latest fickle cheating beau and is determined to begin the New Year properly: “I’m starting it with myself!” Gerry is a dress designer, naturally, and lounges around her Art Deco apartment overlooking Manhattan in flutterings capelets and slinky slipdresses; all by longtime Swanson costume designer René Hubert (even her terrycloth robe is chic). Gerry’s independence is relatively short-lived when she falls for clean-cut self-help author Tony (Ben Lyon) and wants to show him she’s an old-fashioned girl. It’s equal parts Sex and the Single Girl and the kind of romantic comedy Kate Hudson used to make.