Some of the best films with a holiday backdrop don’t center around Santa Clause or elves but are so incredible we loop back around to view them yearly during the holidays. Here is a list of some of our favorites, including Mean Girls, Catch Me If You Can, Edward Scissorhands, Carol, and more!
Mean Girls (2004)
The scene where the Plastics (Lindsay Lohan, Rachel McAdams, Amanda Seyfried, and Lacey Chabert) dance to “Jingle Bell Rock” at the winter talent show may be one of the most hilarious Christmas scenes ever made, and it’s not even a holiday film! The chain of events that ensues is outlandishly entertaining, from Amy Poehler’s appearance as the proud mom simultaneously busting out the moves to the absolute smack the guy in the crowd receives as a stereo gets kicked into his face. While we don’t need an excuse to watch Mean Girls, calling it a Christmas movie is a good one.
Catch Me if You Can (2002)
Leonardo DiCaprio stars in this drama based on a true story as con man Frank Abagnale Jr. as he scams his way into millions of dollars while falsifying his identity as a pilot, lawyer, and doctor. The film follows FBI Agent Carl Hanratty, played by Tom Hanks, as he pursues the DiCaprio in the cat and mouse game. The film begins at the end as Hanratty finally seizes the thief on Christmas eve in France. The film, directed by Steven Spielberg, was also initially released on Christmas Day 2002.
Edward Scissorhands (1990)
The fantasy romance directed by Tim Burton and starring Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder may not be the most overt Christmas film, but still, the last third of the film takes place during the holiday. The scene in which Kim (Ryder) walks out to find ice shavings similar to snow cascading down on her as Edwards sculpts a stunning snow angel is tragically beautiful and very Christmas-y.
Carol takes place in 1950s New York during the holiday season, starring Cate Blanchett as Carol Aird and Rooney Mara as Therese Belivet in this poignant tale of forbidden romance. The profound love that develops throughout the film begins when Carol steps into the department store Therese works in search of a Christmas gift for her daughter. While the holidays seem to be the perfect backdrop for the film, it’s not essential to the storyline, making it the ideal non-Christmas Christmas movie. The film is melancholic and hopeful at the same time, and the film was incredibly well-received, winning 77 awards and being nominated for over 250.
Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
The dark thriller starring Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise follows the long-married couple and the husband’s twisted journey into a seedy erotic world after his wife’s confession of longing. The film is set in December, and the Christmas lights are an integral theme in the movie, making this the perfect alternative Christmas viewing for a more mature audience. Written, produced, and directed by Stanley Kubrik shortly before his death, the work is dark, hypnotic, and captivating.
Little Women (2019)
There are several film adaptations of Louisa May Alcott’s 1868 novel, focusing on the four daughters of the March family. The 2019 version, directed by Greta Gerwig, comes out on top with the new life it breathes into the adaptation. The film earned six Oscar nominations, more than any previous adaptations. Some of the film’s most significant scenes occur during Christmas, with the theme of love and family; the film is perfect for watching during the holidays.
Phantom Thread (2017)
The film follows a famed dressmaker Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis), in 1950s London, along with his sister Cyril (Lesley Manville) and muse Alma (Vicky Krieps). The award-winning Paul Thomas Anderson, director of Punch Drunk Love and Inherent Vice, taps into his skills to create a visually captivating and prolific film that is entertaining, uncomfortable at times, and, most of all, a work of art. While it is not an overt Christmas film, it features scenes during Christmas and New Year’s Eve and is a holiday movie at heart, with the original release date being December 25, 2017.