Not all of us here at Fangirlish are Hallmark movie fans (raises hand). No shade on those who enjoy them. It’s just not my preference. I’ve always been a little off-beat, and that’s how I like my Christmas movies and TV. I asked our staff here to share their favorites with me and I’ve included some of my own. Here are a few movies and shows you can cue up this time of year, even if you’re not feeling so jolly.
Let’s start this list off with a bang, shall we? I’m going to draw my line in the sand. Die Hard is a Christmas movie. It’s not up for debate here. It takes place at a Christmas party on Christmas Eve. There’s Christmas music, and some genius out there created an Advent calendar based on the movie. Seriously though, what I love the most about Die Hard is that there’s some sense of justice. The bad guy gets it in the end and the world is made right. Isn’t that what we all want out of a Christmas movie anyway?
Die Hard is available for rental or digital download from your favorite digital video service.
I’ve watched Hawkeye twice already this season and I won’t be surprised if I watch it a third time. Not only is it an excuse to watch one of my favorite Marvel shows again, but ultimately Hawkeye is about measuring our expectations around the holiday season. Things may not always go according to plan or how we want them to. Family may disappoint us. And that’s okay. We make the best of it and we find our joy where we can. Sometimes, we spend our holidays in unexpected ways, and that might make it our best Christmas yet. Hawkeye also is just a dang fun action show. Great stunts, great comedy, and the introduction of Kate Bishop, one of the best newcomers to the MCU. It’s a show I plan to revisit every year.
Hawkeye is streaming now on Disney+.
ER episode 4×10 “Do You See What I See?”
“ER was always known for holiday specials. Even though the show was about medicine and emergencies, it also knew how to make us care about the characters and couples. “Do You See What I See?” was one of the show’s best holiday episodes. Doug and Carol, one of our favorite TV couples ever, make their relationship public at the Christmas party. Of course, pretty much everyone already knew they were together. But then Doug asks Carol to marry him. It was such a special moment for the couple and the fans.
The episode also gives us a Christmas miracle with Peter Benton helping a blind man see. While somewhat cheesy, that’s what you want in a Christmas special, right? And it’s funny that it happened to Benton because he was about the last doctor to believe in miracles. A few other amazing Christmas episodes on ER are ‘Homeless for the Holidays,’ ‘The Miracle Worker,’ and ‘I’ll Be Home for Christmas.’” – Jessica
ER is streaming now on HBO Max and Hulu.
Yes, this 1984 creature feature is a Christmas movie. This is a Christmas gift gone awry that’s definitely worth a watch. Gremlins walks the line between horror and comedy with excellent precision. What really makes Gremlins a fun holiday watch for me is the chemistry between Zach Galligan as Billy Peltzer and Phoebe Cates as Kate Beringer. These two are great fun and the puppetry used for the Gremlins is fantastic. None of this is even to mention the top notch score by Jerry Goldsmith, one of the best film composers of the 20th century. One watch and you’ll be humming “The Gremlin Rag” like it’s an old Christmas carol.
Gremlins is streaming now on HBO Max.
Seinfeld episode 9×10 “The Strike”
For years, I’ve heard the phrase, “Festivus…for the rest of us!” I knew it was from Seinfeld and the only other thing I knew about it was the “airing of grievances.” I rather like that idea. Who doesn’t want an excuse to air their grievances under the guise of holiday tradition? Heck, some folks make it part of their holiday tradition without celebrating Festivus. If you’ve never seen this classic episode, definitely add “The Strike” to your watch list. In addition to the airing of grievances, you’ve got the Festivus pole, and feats of strength! Sound wild enough to you? You’ll have to watch to find out.
Seinfeld is streaming now on Netflix.
The West Wing episode 1×10 “In Excelsis Deo”
“‘In Excelsis Deo’ is still considered to be one of the best episodes of The West Wing. It’s loved so much because of Toby’s plot, in which he takes responsibility for a homeless Vietnam veteran’s body to ensure he gets a proper burial. But the episode blows me away each time I see it because of Kathryn Joosten’s acting when she explains how she lost both her sons on Christmas Eve is a masterclass in understated grief. Her matter-of-fact delivery of,
‘It’s hard when that happens so far away, you know because, with the noises and the shooting, they had to be so scared. It’s hard not to think that right then they needed their mother… Anyway, I miss my boys.’
Guts me every time, and it’s somehow more powerful than it would have been if she’d been emotional when she delivered it. Another of their Christmas episodes, ‘Noel’ is also amazing in how it depicts PTSD.” – Jade
The West Wing is streaming now on HBO Max.
I mentioned in my #WayBackWednesday review a couple of years ago that Home Alone is one of my favorite Christmas movies. While yes, it’s a bit sentimental in the end, what differentiates Home Alone from other Christmas movies is its slapstick. When I was a kid, I dreamt of coming up with the kinds of traps that Kevin had rigged up to protect his home. Not that I would ever have occasion to use them, but I definitely liked the idea of being able to hold my own against the bad guys. If you prefer your Christmas movies with more com than rom, you should definitely add Home Alone to your watch list.
Home Alone is streaming now on Disney+.
The Nightmare Before Christmas
Can you believe I never actually saw The Nightmare Before Christmas until last year? Part of the reason why is that I could never decide if it was a Halloween or a Christmas movie, and I’m one of those people that can’t watch Christmas movies until the day after Thanksgiving. Turns out, it’s both, but maybe more of the latter. If you’re wanting to inject a bit of dark humor into your holiday, you should definitely cue up The Nightmare Before Christmas. Also, this stop motion animated film is a true piece of art. What’s Christmas without some stop motion animation? They sure don’t make them like that anymore.
The Nightmare Before Christmas is streaming now on Disney+.
Star Trek: Voyager episode 5×22 “11:59”
If you’re already ready to put the old year behind you, you’ll want to check out this episode of Star Trek: Voyager. You don’t need to know much or really anything about Star Trek in order to follow this episode. Captain Janeway is telling the crew about her ancestor, Shannon O’Donnell who inspired her to join Starfleet. But Shannon’s history isn’t quite what she thought. “11:59” is an episode about clean slates and taking stock, which feels right as we close out the year.
Star Trek: Voyager is streaming now on Paramount+.
It’s wild. It’s a bit wacky. It’s a bit dark, but it takes place at Christmas, so that makes it a Christmas movie, right? With a landmark performance by Michelle Pfeiffer as Selina Kyle aka Catwoman, Batman Returns is a film you should definitely add to your holiday watch list. It’s a bittersweet tale of justice and outcasts and the macabre, and it’s definitely worth your time.
Batman Returns is streaming now on HBO Max.
Doctor Who episode 6×0 “A Christmas Carol”
“The Doctor may have met Charles Dickens, but it wasn’t truly Christmas on Doctor Who until The Doctor met a real life Scrooge. When Kazran Sardick refuses to help a crashing spaceship, The Doctor travels into Kazran’s past to find out where his heart went. He finds it in a young woman named Abigail who has been put onto a cryosleep and is on loan to Kazran’s father. Abigail saves the day and wins over Kazran’s hearst. The Doctor promises to wake Abigail every Christmas Eve just for Kazran to be happy. But Abigail is dying and her clock frustrates Kazran, but with the power of song and Christmas cheer, she reminds Kazran that being good to others is okay. The highlight of this episode is the sleigh ride on a space shark with The Doctor, Abigail and Kazran.” – Julia
Doctor Who is streaming now on HBO Max.
Okay, let me caveat Lethal Weapon before we get started. Yes, Mel Gibson is in this, but this was before we all knew he was anti-Semitic. Everyone has different lines on separating the art from the artist, so no judgment if you want to skip this one. However, if you want to add another action movie to your off-beat Christmas movie playlist, Lethal Weapon is a solid choice. Danny Glover owns this film and just like him, when it comes to drama around the holidays, I’m getting too old for this shit.
Lethal Weapon is available for rental or digital download from your favorite digital video service.
The X-Files episode 6×06 “How the Ghosts Stole Christmas”
If you prefer more ghosts in your Christmas present, definitely check out “How the Ghosts Stole Christmas” from The X-Files. In this episode, Mulder and Scully stake out an alleged haunted house occupied by a mysterious married couple on Christmas Eve. This episode is also notable for outstanding guest performances by Ed Asner and Lily Tomlin. I’m always down for a bit of spooky, so this is an episode I’m going to revisit this year, and I think you should too.
The X-Files is streaming now on Hulu and Amazon Prime Video.
A Charlie Brown Christmas
Finally, I want to close out our list with the one holiday special I have to watch every year. Now, I know this list is supposed to be “off-beat,” and A Charlie Brown Christmas is a classic. However, I would propose that Charlie Brown’s holiday blues are the very definition of off-beat. His frustration with commercialism and the superficialness behind the traditions around the holiday are very relatable. If you find yourself in the same boat as Charlie Brown, you feel a bit out of step with the rest of the world. Charlie Brown learning the true origins of the holiday doesn’t necessarily cure his holiday blues, but it does give him hope. And I don’t know about you, but I could always use a little more hope. And that’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.
A Charlie Brown Christmas is streaming now on Apple TV+ and is available for free to non-subscribers from December 22 – 25, 2022.
Did your favorite off-beat Christmas movie or TV show make our list? Leave me a comment and tell me all about it.