Exploring the Grey Area of 10 Unconventional Christmas Classics

Grab some hot cocoa, deck the halls, and prepare to question what truly defines a Christmas classic.

Exploring the Grey Area of 10 Unconventional Christmas Classics


  • 'Tis the season to be jolly, and what better way to embrace the festive spirit than with a classic Christmas movie marathon?
  • Venture beyond the snow-laden streets of Bedford Falls and the warm, familial gatherings of the Cratchit household.
  • We peel back the layers of tinsel and uncover a selection of films that have managed to claim the hearts of those seeking a different kind of Christmas magic.
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‘Tis the season to be jolly, and what better way to embrace the festive spirit than with a classic Christmas movie marathon? While many yuletide enthusiasts flock to the tried-and-true classics like It’s a Wonderful Life and A Christmas Carol, there exists a realm of films that dance on the edge of the mistletoe-adorned precipice—movies that some staunch traditionalists might argue have no place in the hallowed halls of holiday cinema. In this exploration of the cinematic festive landscape, we venture beyond the snow-laden streets of Bedford Falls and the warm, familial gatherings of the Cratchit household.


We peel back the layers of tinsel and uncover a selection of films that, despite lacking sugarplum fairies and sleigh bells, have managed to stake a claim in the hearts of those seeking a different kind of Christmas magic. From caped crusaders saving Gotham to creatures causing chaos in small-town America, join us as we navigate the intriguing world of unofficial Christmas movies. Are these films merely impostors, infiltrating the holiday season under false pretenses, or do they possess a genuine and unexpected connection to the festive spirit? Grab some hot cocoa, deck the halls, and prepare to question what truly defines a Christmas classic.

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10. Tangerine (2015)

Tangerine (2015)

Shot entirely on iPhones, Tangerine unfolds on Christmas Eve in the sun-soaked streets of Los Angeles, primarily following two transgender sex workers, Sin-Dee Rella and Alexandra. The film takes viewers on a frenetic journey as Sin-Dee discovers that her boyfriend and pimp has been unfaithful during her recent incarceration. The narrative unfolds against the backdrop of the city’s transient motels, donut shops, and public transportation, offering a raw and unfiltered look at the lives of marginalized individuals.

While Tangerine doesn’t offer the warmth and sentimentality of more conventional Christmas films, its setting during the holiday brings an unexpected layer of humanity and vulnerability to the characters. The juxtaposition of the festive atmosphere with the harsh realities of the characters’ lives creates a poignant and memorable Christmas experience, albeit in a non-traditional way. In this case, Christmas becomes a symbolic time for reflection, redemption, and unexpected connections in the midst of the characters’ struggles.

9. Edward Scissorhands (1990)

Edward Scissorhands (1990)

A modern fairy tale that tells the story of Edward, an unfinished artificial man with scissor blades for hands, created by a brilliant inventor who passes away before completing him. Left isolated in a Gothic mansion, Edward’s life takes an unexpected turn when he is discovered by Peg Boggs, a kind-hearted Avon saleswoman. She brings Edward into her suburban community, introducing him to a world of pastel-colored houses and manicured lawns.


Beyond the setting, the film explores themes of acceptance, kindness, and the warmth of human connection—elements often emphasized in traditional Christmas movies. Edward, with his scissorhands and outsider status, represents an unconventional yet touching figure reminiscent of classic holiday tales, like The Ugly Duckling or A Christmas Carol. The film’s conclusion, set against the backdrop of a snowy Christmas scene, reinforces the idea that love and compassion can triumph over societal differences. As a result, Edward Scissorhands has earned its place as a unique and emotionally resonant Christmas movie.

8. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)

A sharp and darkly comedic neo-noir crime film that blends elements of mystery, action, and satire. The story follows Harry Lockhart, a small-time crook who stumbles into an audition and unexpectedly finds himself paired with a private investigator, Gay Perry, as part of his preparation for a movie role. Set against the glitzy backdrop of Hollywood, the duo becomes entangled in a complex murder mystery involving a childhood friend of Harry’s, Harmony Faith Lane.

Although Kiss Kiss Bang Bang may not immediately scream Christmas movie, the holiday season plays a noteworthy role in the film. The events unfold during the Christmas season, with scenes featuring holiday decorations, Christmas parties, and even a memorable chase sequence through a holiday-themed party. The Christmas setting in the film serves as both a backdrop and a contrast to the dark and cynical events of the plot.


7. Carol (2015)

Carol (2015)

Set in the 1950s and adapted from Patricia Highsmith’s novel The Price of Salt. The film follows the complex and forbidden love affair between Carol Aird, an elegant and wealthy woman going through a divorce, and Therese Belivet, a young photographer and aspiring set designer. The story unfolds against the backdrop of societal expectations and the challenges faced by individuals navigating a love that defies the norms of the time.

The Christmas setting in Carol serves as a metaphor for the contrasts and conflicts within the characters’ lives. The holiday season, traditionally associated with joy and togetherness, becomes a poignant backdrop for a love story that defies societal expectations. The film subtly explores the idea of finding warmth and connection in unexpected places, even when faced with societal norms that seek to dampen the spirit of unconventional love.

6. L.A. Confidential (1997) 

L.A. Confidential (1997) 

A neo-noir crime thriller set in the glamour and corruption of 1950s Los Angeles. The film revolves around three very different LAPD officers—Ed Exley, a by-the-book idealist; Bud White, a brutal but effective enforcer; and Jack Vincennes, a celebrity-hungry detective. The trio becomes entangled in a web of corruption, scandal, and murder as they investigate a series of interconnected crimes, revealing the dark underbelly of the City of Angels.


The use of Christmas as a backdrop in L.A. Confidential adds a layer of irony, emphasizing the dissonance between the season’s themes of joy and the grim, morally compromised world inhabited by the characters. The holiday setting subtly underscores the moral conflicts and personal struggles faced by the protagonists, making it an integral part of the film’s atmosphere.

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5. Trading Places (1983)

Trading Places (1983)

A classic comedy that revolves around the lives of Louis Winthorpe III, a successful and wealthy commodities broker, and Billy Ray Valentine, a street-smart hustler. The two characters come from vastly different socio-economic backgrounds but find their lives unexpectedly intertwined as part of a social experiment orchestrated by the wealthy Duke brothers. The Dukes decide to switch the lives of Louis and Billy Ray to test the nature versus nurture debate, leading to hilarious and chaotic consequences.


Christmas serves as a thematic element that highlights the contrasts between the lives of the characters. The film features iconic Christmas scenes, including a memorable sequence set in a gorilla costume during a holiday party. The spirit of generosity and redemption, often associated with Christmas, becomes a central theme as characters undergo a transformation and discover the true meaning of wealth beyond monetary value.

4. Lethal Weapon (1987)

Lethal Weapon (1987)

An action-packed buddy cop film that follows the unlikely partnership between two LAPD detectives, Martin Riggs and Roger Murtaugh. Riggs, a volatile and grief-stricken former Special Forces soldier, is paired with the seasoned and family-oriented Murtaugh. Together, they investigate a drug-smuggling ring linked to a young woman’s apparent suicide.

The narrative unfolds during the days leading up to Christmas, with scenes featuring holiday decorations, festivities, and a memorable Christmas tree lot shootout. Christmas in Lethal Weapon becomes a symbolic element that amplifies the emotional depth of the characters. Riggs, grappling with the loss of his wife, finds himself drawn into Murtaugh’s family festivities, creating a poignant contrast between his internal struggles and the external warmth of the holiday season.


3. Gremlins (1984)

Gremlins (1984)

A dark fantasy-comedy that follows the misadventures of a young man named Billy Peltzer who receives a unique and adorable creature called a Mogwai as a Christmas gift from his father. The Mogwai, named Gizmo, comes with a set of crucial rules: avoid bright lights, don’t get him wet, and never feed him after midnight. However, when these rules are inadvertently broken, chaos ensues as the small, cuddly Gizmo spawns a horde of mischievous and destructive creatures known as Gremlins.

Gremlins may not be a traditional feel-good Christmas movie, but it is undeniably set during the holiday season. The film takes place in the idyllic small town of Kingston Falls, which is beautifully decorated with Christmas lights, ornaments, and festive cheer. The contrast between the quaint Christmas setting and the havoc wreaked by the mischievous Gremlins adds a layer of dark humor and irony to the film.

2. Batman Returns (1992)

Batman Returns (1992)

The second installment in Burton’s Batman film series. The film follows Gotham City’s enigmatic vigilante, Batman, as he faces off against a trio of iconic adversaries: the devious Penguin, the seductive but dangerous Catwoman, and the corrupt businessman Max Shreck. The story unfolds against the backdrop of Gotham City’s Christmas season, as the villains hatch nefarious schemes that threaten the city’s peace.


The film is set during the holiday season, and Burton uses Christmas as an integral part of the film’s aesthetic and thematic elements. The snowy streets of Gotham are adorned with Christmas decorations, and holiday festivities are woven into the fabric of the narrative. While Batman Returns may not embody the typical warmth associated with Christmas movies, its use of the holiday season as a thematic and visual element adds a layer of complexity to the superhero narrative, making it a distinctive entry into the realm of unconventional Christmas films.

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1. Die Hard (1988)

Die Hard (1988)

An action-packed thriller that redefined the action genre and introduced us to the indomitable John McClane. The film unfolds on Christmas Eve as McClane, a New York cop visiting his estranged wife in Los Angeles, becomes the lone hope for a building full of hostages seized by terrorists led by Hans Gruber. The iconic film is known for its intense action sequences, memorable one-liners, and a compelling narrative set against the festive backdrop of the holiday season.


The debate surrounding Die Hard as a Christmas movie has become almost as legendary as the film itself. While it may lack the overt sentimentality of traditional Christmas fare, Die Hard is undeniably set during the Christmas season. Yet, the ongoing debate has become a part of the film’s legacy, with fans relishing the discussion every holiday season. Whether you view it as a Christmas movie or not, Die Hard has undeniably carved out its own unique niche in the festive cinematic landscape, ensuring that the debate surrounding its holiday credentials will continue for years to come.

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Written by David Moya

Articles Published: 242

A lot of appreciation for Marvel. Big love for DC Comics!