These 23 Underrated Holiday Movies Will Make Your Christmas Season Merry & Bright
When it comes to Christmas movies, it's easy to get stuck in a rut. Perennial favorites like Love Actually, The Holiday, It's A Wonderful Life, and A Christmas Prince are basically required viewing at this point, but they're far from the only holiday movies out. It's not hard to argue that the list of underrated holiday movies is much longer than the ones that get trotted out year after year. And you know what, Christmas movie fans? You've been missing out long enough.
It's time to open yourself up to the possibility that there's a world of amazing holiday movies out there that just don't get enough love. From Mark Ruffalo's 1997 Lifetime masterpiece On the Second Day of Christmas to the Idris Elba starring This Christmas, the sheer breadth of holiday movies that simply don't get the love that they deserve is astonishing. Just because the amount of underrated titles seems daunting, that's no reason not to make this the year you add a new film to your rotation of December must-sees.
There's plenty of time to watch your tried and true favorites, while also throwing some love to these 23 underrated holiday movies that just want to help you add a little more holiday magic to your Christmas movie nights this season.
1. The Family Man
Is The Family Man simply a modern update of It's a Wonderful Life? Mostly, but it also packs an emotional whammy as you watch Nicolas Cage's Jack become enamored with his life as a husband and father even as you know he can't keep it.
2. This Christmas
There's so much warmth in this story of a family coming together at Christmas and bringing a whole lot of secrets with them. It also has an all-star cast that includes Loretta Devine, Idris Elba, and Regina King. (You can also check out the sequel, Almost Christmas.)
Love Actually and Sherlock actor Martin Freeman stars in Nativity!, the hilarious tale of a school teacher who tells a huge lie about Hollywood coming to his small British town to see the students' nativity play. There's lots of heart, precocious kids, and holiday cheer to keep you grinning through this British gem.
4. On The Second Day Of Christmas
Once upon a time, Mark Ruffalo made a Lifetime Christmas movie, and it's a modern masterpiece. Ruffalo stars as a mall security guard who handcuffs himself to a woman caught trying to shoplift. He soon realizes he's in way over his head when he ends up spending the holiday with her and her adorable niece.
5. Christmas Every Day
Your '90s heartthrob, Erik von Detten, stars in this movie where a teen gets caught in a Groundhog Day loop where Christmas comes every day — until he gets it right.
6. Bachelor Mother
In 1939, Ginger Rogers starred in this sweet, but also daring, film about a single woman who takes home a baby she finds on the steps of an orphanage at Christmas right after losing her job. Everyone assumes the baby is hers, which leads to a drastic change in her bad luck.
7. A Diva's Christmas Carol
Vanessa Williams plays a pop star, gender-swapped Scrooge. This movie deserves to be iconic. (And just in case that's not enough awesome for you, Kathy Griffin stars as the Ghost of Christmas Past.)
8. The Nutcracker Prince
If you grew up in the '90s, then The Nutcracker Prince may very well be one of your childhood favorites. Sadly, the movie is rarely mentioned these days, but it's still one of the best animated Christmas movies out there.
9. The Man Who Invented Christmas
There are lots of adaptations of A Christmas Carol, but there are precious few about Charles Dickens writing A Christmas Carol. The Man Who Invented Christmas isn't exactly historically accurate, but it does capture the joy of the season, which is all holiday movie fans could possibly ask for.
10. Love The Coopers
Getting the whole family together for the holidays can be tricky for a host of reasons — all of which the Coopers experience in this sweet movie that flew under the radar when it was released. Starring Diane Keaton, John Goodman, Ed Helms, Olivia Wilde, and — yes — Timothée Chalamet, this movie deserves to be a holiday favorite.
11. Call Me Claus
Whoopi Goldberg discovers that she's next in line to be Santa and hilarity ensues, but also lots of heartwarming moments and a soaring musical scene that will bring tears to your eyes.
12. A Smoky Mountain Christmas
There's music, adorable kids, and Dolly Parton. What else could anyone possibly ask for out of a Christmas movie?
Based on Terry Pratchett's Discworld series of books, Hogfather is perfect for anyone looking to add a little fantasy to their holiday movie rotation. The movie is unabashedly weird and wonderful, and it also gets extra bonus points for starring Michelle Dockery.
14. Holiday In Handcuffs
Holiday in Handcuffs has a wild, totally not OK premise: a woman kidnaps a man and forces him to be her Christmas date to please her family. And yet, thanks to the combined charms of Melissa Joan Hart and Mario Lopez, this movie that really shouldn't work is a total guilty pleasure.
15. Jack Frost
Is this the saddest movie about a dead dad coming back as a snowman to bond with his son ever made? Absolutely. And just because it's also likely the only movie with that description shouldn't discount this weird weepie from being a classic.
16. A Christmas Star
Let's see, this charming movie is narrated by Liam Neeson, and it's about a little girl who can perform miracles. And she's trying to use her gift to save her village from being taken over by a snow globe factory. It's sweet, heartwarming, and sure to give you all of the holiday feels.
17. The Bishop's Wife
Some classic holiday films are nearly universally beloved — think It's a Wonderful Life — but others remain relatively obscure. The Bishop's Wife falls into the latter camp, and it's a shame. Any movie that features Cary Grant as a cheeky angel should be seen by everyone.
18. It Happened On Fifth Avenue
Every Christmas season, a rich businessman leaves his New York mansion behind for sunny Florida. While he's a way, a homeless man quietly moves in, only this year he has company. It's basically the best Frank Capra movie that Capra didn't make.
One little girl's belief in Santa is strong enough to save Christmas and Prancer. Yes, you will need tissues to mop up your tears.
20. I'll Be Home For Christmas
Jonathan Taylor Thomas gave the world the gift of a Christmas road trip movie, and it should be appreciated. JTT is the big draw here, but this is a genuinely funny holiday movie that has just enough melancholy to make it brilliant.
21. The Family Stone
Filled with unexpected hook-ups and lots of family squabbles, The Family Stone isn't the first film you might go to for a dose of Christmas magic. But that's exactly why it's so great — the holiday is ultimately the backdrop for a whole lot of life to happen to this family at once, which is so often true in reality, too.
22. Christmas Inheritance
A Christmas Prince dominated the Netflix holiday movie conversation last season, but Christmas Inheritance was every bit as much fun. The tale of the heir apparent of a major company finding joy in life outside the spotlight has every Christmas movie trope you could ask for and then some.
23. All I Want For Christmas
Thora Birch stars as a precocious young girl whose determination to get her parents back together before Christmas will make you melt. This early '90s classic is rarely ever mentioned anymore, but it still holds up.
Watching your favorite Christmas movies on repeat is a time-honored tradition, but why not make some room in your heart for these underrated holiday movies this year? After all, this time of year is all about sharing the love.