The Underrated Christmas Movies You’ve Never Heard Of

This article contains spoilers. 

Home Alone. The Santa Clause. It’s a Wonderful Life. When we think of Christmas movies, it’s titles like these that come to mind. But what about the underdogs of the Christmas cinematography world? Here are, in no particular order, some lesser known – but still highly enjoyable – holiday movies.


While You Were Sleeping

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Popular in its time – but mentioned exceedingly less often today – While You Were Sleeping (1995) stars Sandra Bullock as Lucy Eleanor Moderatz in a romantic comedy centered around the Christmas holiday.

Lucy is a token collector at a Chicago train station whose day is brightened by seeing the handsome Peter Callaghan. On Christmas, Lucy witnesses Peter being pushed onto the tracks, and, with everyone else around acting only as a bystander, Lucy rushes out of her booth to help. She jumps down onto the tracks to rescue him from an oncoming train, doing so without injury – but Peter is revealed to be in a coma resulting from the initial fall.

After staying with Peter during his journey to a hospital, Lucy murmurs to herself that she had planned to marry him. A nearby nurse, not knowing that Lucy’s comment was merely a theoretical one, assumes that she was Peter’s fiancee – and proceeds to tell Peter’s family just that. 

Not able to get a word in edgewise, Lucy is forced to go along with the family’s assumptions and congratulations, and as she becomes increasingly enthralled with and accepted into the family, she loses all ability to reveal the truth without creating immense drama. The story follows Lucy’s experiences within the Callaghan family and her struggle in revealing the truth – all while centering around the holiday season.

While You Were Sleeping is a lovely, lighthearted film that incorporates the holiday spirit – love, the good of family, etc. – in an incredible way. Even if you are not interested in the romantic aspects of the film, it is still deserving of your time for its well-executed performances and its unique, intriguing and charming plot.


Arthur Christmas

Sony Pictures Entertainment

How about an animated option? Released in 2011, Arthur Christmas tells the story of Santa Claus as a title which is continuously passed down from father to son. In a yearly operation revealed to be much larger than one man on a sleigh, viewers see the combination of the movie’s interpretation of gift-giving along with the usual connection to themes of family and tradition.

An especially good option for young viewers, Arthur Christmas is sure to put a smile on the face of kids and parents alike. While it may be lesser known, it has exceptionally positive reviews from critics and fans, and is worth a watch if you’ve never had the experience of seeing this unique film.


Comfort and Joy

‘Comfort and Joy’ is a classic made-for-TV Christmas movie to check out this holiday season. (Lifetime – Comfort and Joy (2003))

2003’s Comfort and Joy makes the other movies on this list look like blockbuster hits – but the little known film is an interesting entry into an endless list of low-interest Christmas movies. The movie centers around Jane Berry, a single, successful businessperson who lives very comfortably. On Christmas, while driving home from work, she gets into an accident and wakes up to find herself being greeted by an unfamiliar man who claims to be her husband.

Confused, but still too mentally compromised to fight the situation, she is cared for by the man, who introduces himself as Sam, and his family as she regains her mental acuity and realizes her situation. To Jane, her situation is completely new, and has no recognition of the people that claim to be her family – but knowing that she was involved in a crash that resulted in head trauma, she reluctantly accepts the explanation of amnesia and attempts to live the life that she is told she has.

A strange concept indeed, but Comfort and Joy handles its interesting storyline well, wrapping things up in a neat and satisfying way while providing a Christmas movie experience that fulfills the expectations of exemplifying the holiday spirit. It’s a great choice for someone looking for a lowkey Christmas movie that you have probably never even heard of. 


Christmas with the Kranks

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Imagine for a moment a holiday comedy movie starring Tim Allen together with Jamie Lee Curtis, scream queen who gained fame from horror films such as Halloween. What would that even look like?

As it turns out, you don’t need to imagine: The 2004 movie Christmas with the Kranks is exactly that. At the beginning of the holiday season, Luther and Nora Krank say farewell to their daughter Blair, who is heading off on a Peace Corps assignment in Peru. Dissatisfied at the idea of spending the holiday without Blair, Luther formulates an idea to use the money that would usually be spent on various holiday-related goods and services to instead go on a Caribbean cruise during Christmas, on the condition that everything related to the holiday is avoided. Nora initially spurns the idea, but her attitude quickly changes to one of interest when she is stunned to learn that the plan would actually save the Kranks money compared to their usual holiday spendings.

However, things quickly take a turn as the couple (especially Nora) is forced to deal with the social repercussions of “skipping” Christmas. As friends and neighbors become increasingly aware of the Kranks’ plan, they attempt to encourage the usual holiday traditions back onto the couple. Even after some awkward moments, the two hold firm to their plan to embark on a cruise and avoid the holiday festivities.

Matters change rapidly, however, when Luther and Nora receive a phone call from daughter Blair, who is making a surprise trip home for Christmas with her fiancé Enrique. Not wanting to reveal their plan to Blair, Nora tells her that the Kranks’ usual Christmas Eve party is planned for that night, and comedy-fueled chaos occurs as the couple must now change course and make up for a month of ignored holiday preparations in less than a day.

Despite poor ratings, Christmas with the Kranks is a movie which is surprisingly entertaining, and has become a cult classic for some. Anyone interested in an entertaining movie experience with acting performances that defy expectations for the better is sure to get a kick out of watching the film this holiday season.


Die Hard

Do you seek excitement in your Christmas movies?  Look no further than Die Hard, the critically acclaimed 1988 action movie starring Bruce Willis and Alan Rickman. An otherwise beloved film, its most controversial aspect is perhaps the debate over whether or not it is actually a holiday movie. But it is indeed: Not only does the setting of the movie revolve around Christmas, it contains a soundtrack, characters, plot and themes of said holiday and its festivities. 

Die Hard is not a happy-go-lucky movie about the meaning of family (though the presence of such a theme could actually be argued). And no, it’s probably not the right movie to show the youngest members of the family – but for a staggering number of people, watching this excellent movie is a December tradition, and it’s without a doubt an excellent movie to watch during the holiday season.