I hate Christmas. In general I hate any time of year that has forced traditions to it, or where you need to make plans far in advance and are a loser if you don’t participate. Things like Carnival, New Years, and Christmas.
Since moving to Germany Christmas has become worse, as the Germans take Christmas way too seriously. Where before it was just a matter of taking a train down south, having dinner and going back home the next day. Now Christmas involves raclet, presents for everyone, and singing around a tree. YES, THEY SING AROUND THE TREE!
Berlin is deserted around Christmas, as everyone goes back home, and there are barely any native Berliners. So every Berliner goes back to the Ruhrgebied, Freiburg, Aachen, Dublin, Viborg, Bremen, Durban, the Midlands, Antwerpen, Susztra, California, Illinois, Riga, and Barcelona.
So what is better than watching great unChristmas Christmas movies?! These are movies where neither the subject nor the setting is on or around Christmas, you have seen them at least five times, and you still enjoy watching them. This might sound vague and subjective, but an added factor is when the story is in a way the antithesis of what the standard Hollywood Christmas movie plot is. No Home Alone, Love Actually, Frozen, or Jingle all the Way.
When discussing this type of movies most people will go for Die Hard, Pulp Fiction or Rocky. Which I understand as go to options. You don’t want too complicated films as the Holiday season have an element of escapism to them. You don’t want to be bothered too much, and only pay half attention, while day drinking with relatives.
Putting this list together, I tried to focus on evergreens, and added a dash of personal all time favorites. I am clearly a child raised in the 90’s, with a soft spot for Gen X, but born too late to be part of that. And yes, it goes without saying by setting this list as an anti-tradition this in itself is a tradition. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that these are great movies to watch while stuck at home during the Holiday season, or any other time you are stuck inside for that matter.
- The Big Lebowski (1998) — Ethan and Joel Coen
We all saw this coming a mile away! The Dude is good any time, when you are sick, a long rainy weekend (or lockdown) inside, or the Holiday season.
2. True Romance (1993) — Tony Scott
Tarantino was paid $50,000 for True Romance, which he used to fund Reservoir Dogs. It might come as a big shocker but beside Holidays I am also not a fan of Romantic Comedies, but this one is an exception. The Sicilian Scene is a perfect marriage between brilliant actors and great writing.
3. The Fifth Element (1997) — Luc Besson
I could have added Casablanca as this point. But let us be honest, yes it is a classic for a good reason. But the Fifth Element, is camp, classic, and I can watch it at any time, again and again. And I know I am not the only one.
4. Heathers (1988) — Michael Lehmann
The high school movie to kill all high school movies, literally.
5. Go (1999) — Doug Liman
There was a period that every other film had a interconnected stories structure. And this one really celebrates the form and feels like an ultimate nineties movie, completed with a rave.
6. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) — George Miller
Who doesn’t enjoy an epic chase through the desert with a freaky guitar player and some feminism sprinkled on top.
7. Dazed and Confused (1993) — Richard Linklater
“Alright, alright, alright”
The trailer doesn’t do it justice.
8. Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) — Jim Sharman
Another thing that I am not a fan of: Musicals (except for maybe Hamilton ¯\_(ツ)_/¯). Much like the makers of infamous Rocky Horror Picture Show intended they made the ultimate anti-musical musical. If there is a post-pandemic screening I will get my Magenta costume ready.
9. The Arbor (2010) — Clio Barnard
A documentary and one of my personal favorite films ever. It is a prime example of where the subject and the form blend in a perfect way. It tells the story of playwright Andrea Dunbar, who wrote about the difficult life she endured growing up in England’s Bradford housing projects. In the documentary her plays are intertwined with actors lip-syncing to interviews of her family members. Telling the story of Dunbar’s life and the story of her daughter Lorraine, who led a similarly troubled life.
10. Chungking Express (1994) — Wong Kar-wai
Two haunted love stories in Hong Kong, that leave you wondering how they relate if anything and what the film is trying to say or do. Every time you see it you see it differently. Plus I have a crush on Takeshi Kaneshiro, but that is besides the point...
11. A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (2014) — Ana Lily Amirpour
Residents of a worn-down Iranian city encounter a skateboarding vampire (Sheila Vand) who preys on men who disrespect women.
12. Empire Records (1995) — Allan Moyle
Meanwhile back in the nineties, a group of young people working in a record store (who remembers those), have a crazy life changing day at work that ends up in the block party, and to save their place of work.
13. Fay Grim (2007) — Hal Hartley
Who says sequels are bad? Maybe it is cause this isn’t a sequel in the true sense of the word.
Sequel [ see-kwuhl ] noun. An underdeveloped ploy to make more money by repeating the same trick.
Fay Grim isn’t one of those. Besides the fact that the first film is more of a cult classic, for the folks who adore Hal Hartley’s work. I would argue that this film is the better of the two. Parker Posey’s character is more developed and engaging. And you still don’t fully get what is going on, and that is a good thing.
14. Almost Famous (2000) — Cameron Crowe
Yes, I have seen this one I don’t know how many times, including the director’s cut, and with director’s commentary (which also features the director’s mother). But if any asks me to go watch it, I will be game.
“It is all happening”
15. Moonlight (2016) — Barry Jenkins
As Brian Tallerico put it:
“Moonlight” is a film that is both lyrical and deeply grounded in its character work, a balancing act that’s breathtaking to behold. It is one of those rare pieces of filmmaking that stays completely focused on its characters while also feeling like it’s dealing with universal themes about identity, sexuality, family, and, most of all, masculinity. And yet it’s never preachy or moralizing. It is a movie in which deep, complex themes are reflected through character first and foremost.
16. The Doom Generation (1995) — Gregg Araki
6 — 66, queer, violence, looming doom, and a cameo by B.D. Wong. Don’t watch this with your nan.
17. Only Lovers Left Alive (2013) — Jim Jarmusch
Another vampire movie, but an unconventional one. Battling with the question what life is when you live eternally? Is there a reason to do anything if there isn’t the existential angst of death hanging over you? As Heidegger would say “Sein Zum Tote” (Being-toward-death).
18. Queen & Slim (2020) — Melina Matsoukas
To me this film is already a classic.
19. Humboldt County (2008) — Darren Grodsky, Danny A. Jacobs
This always happens, you have an one night stand, go for a drive, and end up getting stuck at a hippy stoner community for a wile. This movie will give you a minor obsession with Radical Face, Big Sur and Fairuza Balk for a week or so.
20. Boy (2010) — Taika Waititi
“kia ora, my name is Boy”
A story from a child’s perspective that isn’t patronizing and one of the few stories in the ‘kid-who-lost-a-parent’ category that felt real and that this (half-)orphan can relate to (sorry, not sorry Full House).
21. The Darjeeling Limited (2007) — Wes Anderson
Anything Wes Anderson is a beatific stylized dreamscape. This train movie of a dysfunctional family ticks all my boxes.
I recommend watching the main movie first, and then go back and watch the prologue Hotel Chevalier.