Shropshire Star

From Gremlins to Lethal Weapon: Top 15 non-festive Christmas films to enjoy this year

There’s no shortage of Christmas-themed films out there, every year brings a fresh flurry of snow-capped stories of merriment and kindness of the soul.

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Top non-Christmas festive flicks to enjoy this season

But not everybody necessarily wants to have their spirits warmed and their goodwill to all men replenished when they choose a flick to watch at winter time.

Fortunately, there are many films out there that tick everybody’s boxes – both those who want something with a smattering of seasonal spirit and those who fancy a flick that embraces themes beyond tinsel and turkey.

Here’s our selection of some of the best non-Christmas, Christmas films...

Trading Places

Trading Places Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy Paramount Pictures

Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd at their absolute best, as a down-and-out beggar and a wealthy stockbroker respectively, whose lives are swapped when two millionaires make a bet on how they would turn out.

Exploring themes such as whether nature or nurture is the dominant influence on somebody’s life, greed, and corruption, it is a fantastic film that’s played out against the backdrop of the New York Stock Exchange at Christmas time in the 1980s.

The centrepiece of the film is surely the glitzy Christmas party at which Aykroyd, cast out onto the street and abandoned by those he loves, hits rock bottom, all while dressed as Father Christmas and with a whole side of salmon stuffed into his fake beard.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Another 80s masterpiece which is not about Christmas, but is ideal viewing for the time of year, Planes, Trains and Automobiles stars John Candy and Steve Martin as two men who are forced together in their attempts to cross America after bad weather leaves them stranded in Wichita three days before Thanksgiving.

Candy’s loud-mouthed curtain ring salesman drives advertising executive Neal, played by Martin, to the edge of distraction, as they attempt to get back to Chicago.

The real journey, of course, is a spiritual one, but watching two comedy masters bickering their way across a snow-clogged USA is wonderful to watch.

Lethal Weapon

Lethal Weapon

The age-old discussion of whether Die Hard truly counts as a Christmas film purely because it is set on Christmas Eve will surely never be settled, but let’s throw another action movie into the mix.

Lethal Weapon pitches mismatched cops Mel Gibson and Danny Glover together on the tail of a drug gang, in a fast-paced script handled with ease by Shane Black.

The fact that this all takes place at Christmas time is almost irrelevant, but it doesn’t half inject a festive feel into the panoply of explosions, gun-fights and sharp-tongued dialogue.

About A Boy

About a Boy

Hugh Grant began his adaptation from foppish ladies’ man to foppish-but-slightly-devious ladies’ man with this Nick Hornby adaptation in 2002.

Also starring a young Nicholas Hoult – who has since grown to become a star in his own right with roles in Mad Max and X-Men – it tells the story of a feckless womaniser who accidentally becomes tangled up in the lives of an unfortunate youth and his depressed mother, played by Toni Collette.

The final scene around the Christmas tree gives this film a festive air, and is has just the weepy, feel-good quality of a good winter warmer.

Ghostbusters II


Not quite up to the standard of the peerless first film, but when the Ghostbusters are charging about the streets of New York in Santa hats, this is a blockbuster that fits very nicely into the festive theme.

Even though the film was released in June, it was set in the deep midwinter, and has the cockle-warming climax of seeing the Statue Of Liberty coming to life after being covered in sentient slime, and marching to the rescue by drawing on the goodwill of the people of New York.

You’ve Got Mail

You've Got Mail

Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan reunited in 1998, five years after the box office-botherer that was Sleepless In Seattle, in this Nora Ephron-directed remake of The Shop Around The Corner.

The chemistry between the characters elevates this above the cheesy rom-com pack in a film about the owner of an independent bookshop and the heir to an empire in the same sector, who correspond online without ever realising one another’s true identity.

When Harry Met Sally

When Harry Met Sally

More set around New Year’s Eve than Christmas, the final scene in another Nora Ephron classic captures the romantic spirit of the Christmas season.

Starring Billy Crystal and – once again – Meg Ryan, it’s a romantic comedy that tracks the passing encounters between the two characters over the course of several years, during which they delight and frustrate one another in equal measure before finally coming to terms with their true feelings just in time for the closing credits and the last glass of festive Prosecco.

Bridget Jones’s Diary

Bridget Jones Diary

A film that is more explicitly Christmas-oriented, Renee Zellweger took on the role of the enormous pants-wearing London loser who is hunting for love.

Colin Firth’s horrendous Christmas jumper plays an important role in the plot development of this early-00s classic, based on the books by Helen Fielding, and which also starred Hugh Grant as the other man, predatory boss Daniel Cleaver.

In Bruges

In Bruges

Certainly not one to watch with the kids, Martin McDonagh directed this gangster comedy long before he landed an Oscar nomination for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri last year.

It finds disgraced hitman Colin Farrell packed off to the Belgian city during the Christmas period along with a more seasoned colleague, played by Brendan Gleeson.

Strangely heart-warming for a film based on the actions of a group of amoral gun-slingers, the wintry scenes and twinkling lights of Bruges make this a film that has a festive feel in spite of its blood-stained plot.

Edward Scissorhands

Edward Scissorhands

Jonny Depp’s early collaboration with Tim Burton is this oddly domestic story of an artificial man called Edward who has scissor blades instead of hands.

Peculiar, alive with colour, and a springboard for a truly colossal career for Depp, the film is set at Christmas time, during which Edward finds time to create a beautiful ice sculpture which creates a snowy effect in the usually sun-kissed neighbourhood in which the movie is set.



A Christmas classic that is not about Christmas, Gremlins is one of Steven Spielberg’s much-loved early works.

It’s about a small furry animal – Gizmo – which is taken home by a local boy, under strict instructions not to feed it after midnight.

When it gets a late-night snack, however, it multiplies and causes havoc – much of which is achieved while wearing Father Christmas hats and by climbing up Christmas trees. Delightfully grotesque, fantastic fun, and ceaselessly entertaining, it’s the perfect blend of non-Christmas-themed action and festive backdrop.

Batman Returns

Batman Returns

Danny DeVito is a distinctly chilly Penguin in this Christmas-set outing for the Caped Crusader.

Tim Burton was in the director’s chair and Michael Keaton in the Batmobile in what is a graphic and at times violent action adventure which probably isn’t one to share with young children as you wait for the turkey to settle after dinner.

Michelle Pfeiffer and Christopher Walken are also part of an all-star cast.

The Long Kiss Goodnight

Long Kiss Goodnight

A delightfully-bonkers action film starring Geena Davis as a woman who has forgotten her identity after washing up on a beach in New Jersey eight years hence.

After she is attacked by an assassin during the Christmas holidays, Samuel L. Jackson turns up to help Davis’s school teacher character piece together her identity, and take on the bad guys, with utterly explosive consequences.

Another one that’s probably not ideal for showing to the kids before bedtime.

The Great Escape

The Great Escape

Memorable for so many reasons – the theme tune, Steve McQueen’s motorbike escape attempts, the ball-against-the-wall isolation scene – The Great Escape isn’t a film that’s really about Christmas.

But part of the holiday has always involved sitting down to watch a black and white war film, and this is usually option number one, ahead of the likes of The Dam Busters and The Dirty Dozen.

A cheer-at-the-screen number that’s sure to delight.

LA Confidential

LA Confidential

When Russell Crowe introduces himself as The Ghost of Christmas Past at the beginning of this fabulous 1930s epic, you know this is a film that hangs itself on the season of goodwill, but won’t be decking itself in sparkling fairy lights.

A twisting, brooding mystery involving drugs, crooked cops, and Kim Basinger as the femme fatale to end them all, it is one of the finest films in its genre of all time.

Not exactly jolly, but definitely seasonal.

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