Have you ever noticed that there are certain movies you find yourself watching to get into the holiday spirit every year, despite them actually having nothing to do with the holidays? Of course, there are classics like Christmas Vacation, A Christmas Story, and The Grinch that are musts to hunker down and queue up for a cozy fireside marathon. But what about the holiday movies that aren’t actually holiday movies?
While they may not be technically holiday-themed, these sorts of films still somehow manage to get viewers in the Christmas mindset year after year, whether because they’re set during the winter season or simply because they’re always on TV during that time. Even violent, action-packed films like Die Hard and Lethal Weapon are considered Christmas-y by some, merely because their plots unfold during the most wonderful time of the year (despite all of the butt-whooping happening on-screen). Musicals like Rent and Meet Me in St. Louis also have a holiday feel to them, as well as fantastical films like the Harry Potter franchise and the cult classic Gremlins.
When Christmas is around the corner, nothing is off limits when it comes to getting into the holiday spirit, especially these non-holiday holiday films.
1. Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone (2001)
The Harry Potter franchise is pretty much guaranteed to be on during the holidays, but it’s definitely not Christmas-themed. In fact, the first holiday celebrated in the first film is a festive Halloween at Hogwarts (even though it does have a beautifully-shot Christmas scene later on). Perhaps it’s the whimsical nature of the films, and their considerably long run times, that make them a perfect choice for a cozy winter night. Or nights, if you’re up for a marathon.
2. Die Hard (1988)
Debates over whether or not Die Hard is a Christmas film have broken the internet almost as much as Kim K. The action-packed Bruce Willis film may include romance, cheesy lines, and a chimney, but it isn’t actually about the holidays. The film just happens to be set during Christmas Eve.
3. Batman Returns (1992)
There may be a Christmas party explosion, candy cane rockets, snowy streets, and deadly mistletoe, but Tim Burton’s Batman isn’t actually a Christmas movie. Like Die Hard, it’s just set around the holiday season… but in Gotham, of course.
4. Gremlins (1984)
Known as a cult classic and often labeled as a horror film, this fantasy tells the story of uncontrollable little toys that come to life. Like Batman, it’s often associated with the holidays because Gizmo and his gang of Gremlins wreak havoc on Christmas Eve.
5. Rent (2005)
This musical, based on the acclaimed play, chronicles a group of New Yorkers in the ’90s navigating love, life, and their dreams amid the AIDS epidemic. Since this film is so jam-packed with storylines and emotional arcs, fans may forget that it begins on Christmas Eve and ends a year later on Christmas.
6. Lethal Weapon (1987)
Like Die Hard, fans have debated how Christmas-y Lethal Weapon actually is because of its holiday setting — so much so that star Mel Gibson weighed in himself during an interview with E! last year. He joked that directors in the ’80s would say, "Set it at Christmas! Lots of snow, funny little songs, music to kill by, you know?" That explains a lot.
7. Toy Story (1995)
Not that we need an excuse to watch the Toy Story franchise, but the holidays seem to be a favorite time of year to do so. Though the films aren’t set around Christmas, this year, they’re part of Freeform’s iconic 25 Days of Christmas. Maybe it’s because viewers associate toys with presents, or they love the warm, fuzzy family feelings the story captures.
8. Ice Age: Continental Drift (2012)
Another selection on this year’s 25 Days of Christmas lineup by Freeform is Ice Age. The animated adventure film may not be about the holidays, but its icy setting is definitely enough to get viewers under the blanket with some hot chocolate for a winter movie experience.
9. Snow Day (2000)
This 2000 Nickelodeon film was a staple for ’90s kids. Maybe it’s the joy and freedom of a snow day, the winter setting, or the romance that gets people in the holiday spirit when they watch, but Snow Day definitely isn’t a Christmas film. (It does, however, star Chevy Chase, who of course is the face of one of the most iconic holiday films of all time: Christmas Vacation.)
10. Serendipity (2001)
This fan favorite rom-com has all the staples of a holiday movie, from a snowy ice skating scene to frozen hot chocolate at, well, Serendipity. And although the film opens with the chaos of last-minute Christmas shopping in a bustling NYC department store, the story continues long after the Christmas festivities have ended.
11. Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
This classic musical starring Judy Garland takes place over the course of a year, but is perhaps associated with Christmas because of its "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" scene.
And if that’s enough, you can always simply flip on the TV — the "holiday" marathons will be going strong from now through the end of the year.
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