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The original Die Hard is the Rosetta Stone of 'is X a Christmas movie?' debates.Twentieth Century Fox

With movie theatres reopening, and then closing and then who-knows-what, there is comfort in knowing that, thanks to streaming and video-on-demand, we can all program our own double (or triple, or quadruple) bills at home. And as we’re now in December, what better time to indulge in Christmas movies? Or, rather: movies that are sort of Christmas-themed or -timed, but don’t feature any obligatory family-life lessons, Griswold family members, or twinkly Silent Night renditions. Let’s call them “Christmas-ish Movies.”

Die Hard, Crave

Yes, you better believe that the first John McClane thriller is on here, it being the Rosetta Stone of the “Is X Movie a Christmas Movie?” debate. The evidence is clear for both sides of the argument: Die Hard takes place during Christmas, it features copious amounts of Christmas decorations, and there are lots and lots of bad guys dying brutal, non-Santa-approved deaths. Ho-ho-ho to all the machine gun-twirling vigilantes out there.

Batman Returns, Crave

Sleek and powerful Batmobile in the 1992 film Batman Returns, starring Michael Keaton.

Not everyone’s idea of Christmas involves Michelle Pfeiffer’s S&M-ready Catwoman and an army of murderous penguins (well, maybe in my house), but Tim Burton’s enjoyably macabre and bizarre Batman sequel is just one of those singular holiday-timed visions that is just crazy enough to work.

Little Women, Amazon Prime Video

Saoirse Ronan and Timothée Chalamet in a scene from Little Women.Wilson Webb/The Associated Press

Greta Gerwig’s 2019 adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s beloved novel – the seventh to make it to the screen – was originally acclaimed for its unique chronology, and for ending on a rather meta note. That praise still holds true a year after the hype wore down, but Little Women 7.0 also holds up as a delightful Christmas-adjacent movie, too.

Gremlins, Crave

Joe Dante's Gremlins gets better every Christmas.

Joe Dante’s first mogwai-centric adventure isn’t as deliriously entertaining and self-referential as the superior, still vastly underrated sequel, but it is a uniquely horrifying and riotous concoction all its own – a bloody take on Frank Capra that gets better every Christmas season, no matter how much Baby Yoda has usurped Gizmo as the cute monster of the moment. Just maybe keep it away from your kids until they’re old enough to properly use a blender.

You’ve Got Mail, Netflix

Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan in a scene from You've Got Mail.Warner Bros.

Christmas only plays a small part in the middle of Nora Ephron’s ages-better-every-December rom-com, but the holiday section of You’ve Got Mail is crucial to establishing the film’s charm. As Seth Rogen once famously monologued, You’ve Got Mail is the epitome of calming, warm cinema – watching the Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan coupling is as pleasant as watching waves wash over a beach. I can think of no better a holiday diversion.

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