Film

10 best Christmas films that aren't all about family

From How the Grinch Stole Christmas to Die Hard here are 10 festive films that don’t focus on nuclear family.

Bruce Willis in Christmas film Die Hard

Bruce Willis in 1988 film Die Hard. Image: Moviestore/Shutterstock

When you’re in the festive spirit there’s nothing better than finishing a long day by putting your feet up and watching a feel-good Christmas movie on the TV.

But so many Christmas films tend to focus on nuclear families, which can be rough if you’re spending the festive season alone.

Whether you’ve suffered a bereavement, are estranged, or are simply just far away from your loved ones this year, here are some Christmas films you can enjoy that focus on the holidays over family.

Klaus (2019)

This cheerful and atmospheric alternate Santa Claus origin story has 95% on Rotten Tomatoes and is beloved by children and adults alike.

The uplifting tale follows a postman who is sent to the fictional 1800s town of Smeerensburg, where he meets a toymaker named Klaus.

The movie won a BAFTA for Best Animated Film and was Netflix’s first animated movie to be nominated for an Academy Award.

The Holiday (2006)

For all you rom-com fans out there, this is a must watch. Two women spend Christmas in completely different countries, away from their families when they decide to swap houses for the holidays.

Starring an A-list cast of Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet, Jude Law and Jack Black, this originally modest hit in cinemas has become a modern Christmas classic.

The Polar Express

This fantasy children’s story takes viewers on an extraordinary train ride straight to the North Pole for a magical coming-of-age adventure.

Our protagonist, a young pre-teen boy, is nearing the end of his childhood and has grown sceptical about the existence of Santa. But thanks to a mysterious train conductor, and a group of new friends, he starts to believe again. Oh, and also multi-Academy Award winner Tom Hanks voices six different characters in the film.

From the sparkling snowscapes to the sweeping soundtrack, no Christmas is complete without a ride on the Polar Express.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas

It’s been over two decades since Jim Carrey’s mean, green portrayal of the Grinch hit cinemas in November 2000.

Based on the 1957 book by Dr Suess, the film follows a tall furry green creature living near the town of Whoville. The Grinch hates Christmas and decides to ‘steal’ the holiday from the neighbouring town.

What follows is a classic camp caper of misadventures and comedy, as Carrey proves he is the perfect choice for the role over and over. Whilst families do appear in the film, the Grinch learns the importance of a chosen family, and highlights that Christmas isn’t about traditions, but rather a state of mind.

Operation Christmas Drop (2020)

Unlike Klaus, this “nauseating” film scored a much lower 41% on Rotten Tomatoes. But who doesn’t love to hate-watch a predictable Christmas movie over the holidays?

Our protagonist is a workaholic businesswoman (where have we heard this before…?) who gets sent to Guam to monitor the US’ Operation Christmas Drop humanitarian mission. Once there she is met by a buff Air Force captain; sparks fly and so do they…

With her loved ones back home, the film reminds us that with good enough wifi, we can still be connected with family and friends no matter how far away they may be.

Nativity! (2009)

This British staple follows a primary school teacher as he competes with a rival academy to put on the best nativity possible. The result? An all-singing, all-dancing musical which might be heading to Hollywood…

Starring Martin Freeman, the BAFTA-winning actor is arguably outshined by the film’s incredibly talented child cast, which includes two former Britain’s Got Talent semi-finalists.

For such a family-friendly film, you’d think there’d be more family-centred scenes in the movie, but instead, the children are given a chance to shine as the mini protagonists of this truly feel-good musical comedy.

Office Christmas Party (2016)

Unlike quite a few of the previous films, this is without a doubt, not a kid’s film.

Rated 15 and starring a handful of Saturday Night Live cast members, Jennifer Anniston plays the interim CEO of an internet company, who is sent to shut down her brother’s branch due to cuts.

Instead of telling his employees about the potential layoffs, her brother organises an epic office Christmas party to lure in a new client which could save the office. Despite the main characters being brother and sister, the theme of family is completely overshadowed by office drama and the sharing of Christmas spirit (and alcoholic spirits) with your coworkers.

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

Ignoring the 30-year-old debate of whether this is a Halloween or Christmas film, Tim Burton’s ghoulish tale is a surprising feel-good fan favourite of the festive season.

With a plot centring around the abduction of Santa Claus, this musical fantasy follows Jack Skellington, the King of Halloween Town as he discovers the holiday of Christmas for the first time.

With catchy songs, dark humour, and that Burton je nais se quois – make this your only Christmas nightmare this year.

Catch Me If You Can (2002)

Tom Hanks makes his second appearance on this list with this Steven Spielberg-directed masterpiece, Catch Me If You Can. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks plays an FBI agent tracking our protagonist’s movements across the world after he commits multiple acts of identity fraud.

Despite not being set at Christmas for a large part of the film, Catch Me If You Can cements its name on this list due to the relationship between DiCaprio and Hanks. Every time their characters converse during the tale, it’s on Christmas Eve, and their chats are accompanied by the fantastical dressing you’d expect from a festive film.

The film also explores the loneliness both characters feel on Christmas, as neither has a family to go back to. By the end, however, they both somewhat find a family in each other.

Die Hard (1988)

It’s Christmas Eve, you’re at an office party with your ex-wife in LA, and the festivities get interrupted by international terrorists fond of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. What do you do?

Well if you’re anything like John McClane, you’ll be barefoot, down to a vest and inside a ventilator shaft before you can say Yippee-Ki-Yay.

With a whistled rendition of jingle bells by Bruce Willis, a festive (if gory) shirt that reads ‘Now I Have A Machine Gun Ho Ho Ho‘ and snowfall in LA, Die Hard is the ultimate action-packed Christmas film.

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