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5 Unusual Movies to Watch this Christmas

If you’re tired of watching the same tired, cliché Christmas movies, then this list will surely help make for a unique holiday season!

Happy family in checkered pajamas: mother father and children watching projector, film, movies with popcorn in christmas holiday evening at home — Photo, Credit: evgenyataman/depositphotos

Christmas time is here! The stresses of college are over just in time for the stresses of the holidays – otherwise known as “Christmas Humbug.”

One of the more tedious holiday traditions is watching the same Christmas movies you’ve watched at least ten times already. A Christmas Story, White Christmas, those stop-motion specials like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, stuff like that. There are good Christmas movies, but it’s unlikely you haven’t seen the usual ones.

Sometimes, it’s good to watch a movie that’s not part of the Christmas Canon, maybe even a tad bit unusual.

This list of 5 unusual Christmas movies will hopefully help you get your “Ho ho ho!” on this holiday season.

1. “Anna and the Apocalypse” (2017)

"Anna and the Apocalypse" (2017)
Anna (Ella Hunt) walks through a little neighborhood in Little Haven, seemingly unaware of the zombie apocalypse taking place around her. Credit: Blazing Griffin Pictures

You know what Christmas musicals need? Zombies!

Anna and the Apocalypse from 2017 is a Scottish musical that also features a zombie apocalypse. As Anna, played by Ellen Hunt, is worrying about her life outside of high school, the apocalypse happens.

What? It takes place during Christmas. The Sound of Music doesn’t take place during Christmas. That’s commonly seen as a Christmas movie. Why not this?

Besides, the music is actually really good, like damn good. Like, the music on its own is enough reason to seek out this movie. Listen to the song “Turning My Life Around” and tell me you’re not at least curious.

It’s a very trope heavy movie, with all the trappings of comedy, horror, and musical fare. It’s nothing unique or groundbreaking, but it has more heart than any Hallmark special you can find.

It’s also rather surreal seeing this move post 2020. It’s a movie where a senior in high school is worrying about their life after high school, and it’s ruined by a virus. It’s almost ominous really.

If you’re looking for something that still feels Christmasy with a little twist, this wouldn’t be a bad start.

Available on Amazon Prime Video and Apple TV

2. “Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence” (1983)

"Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence" (1983)
Jack Celliers (David Bowie, center), in a WWII prison camp, is preparing for torture at the hands of Commander Yonoi (Ryuichi Sakamoto, behind Bowie). Credit: Asahi National Broadcasting

Somewhere around the world, someone’s Christmas isn’t so merry and bright.

Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence is a 1983 WWII film that takes place in a war camp in Japan-occupied Java. The story follows Jack Celliers, played by David Bowie, as his defiance takes the attention of a stern Japanese commander.

The movie is based on the novel The Seed and the Sower by Sir Laurens Van Der Post. The director is Nagisa Ōshima, a radical and taboo breaker known for his bold and challenging films. Bold and challenging? A perfect description and more.

This is a very rough movie to sit through. It’s not particularly unique in its depiction of Japanese treatment of P.O.W.s in WWII, but it’s still rough. Wrought with abuse, torture, war crimes, and suicide, this one is not for the faint of heart.

It is a tough film, but an important one and one that deserves a recommendation for any lovers of film. It’s also an important story of finding the light and humanity in the darkest of times.

It’s also surprisingly a love story. It can be read as a love story between Celliers and the Japanese commander, played by Ryuichi Sakamoto. While it’s nothing explicit, it’s still there and is refreshing of a movie made in the 1930’s. Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence is raw and disturbing, but it’s also beautiful. There’s more in this war film about peace on Earth than there are many safe and vapid Christmas specials.

Available on Amazon Prime Video

3. “Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale” (2010)

"Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale" (2010)
A group of men with Riley (Per Christian Ellefsen, center-left) standing in front of a cage containing a wild Santa Clause. Credit: Cinet Film

Is it really Christmas without a little dismemberment?

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale is a 2010 action horror comedy from Finland. It follows the aftermath of when a company fracks the local mountain: Korvatunturi.

In Finnish folklore, it is said that Korvatunturi is the location of Santa’s workshop. After the fracking, the secrets of Santa and Christmas are revealed, and what follows is a bloodbath.

I mean, imagine this as a film pitch: hunting wild Santas. Yes. There is a company captures wild Santas to be trained and delivered as mall Santas around the world. Tell me that isn’t amazing.

It’s based off the short film Rare Exports Inc. from 2003, and its sequel The Official Rare Exports Inc. Safety Instructions – all three directed by Jalmari Helander. They are all worth the watch, but not everyone wants to watch a short film.

The full-length film can be grizzly, but it’s in no way a bore and is a pure delight. It’s the kind of movie horror fans will love, because it does the traditional horror elements while being aware how silly it is.

It’s perfect for not just fans of horror movies, but also people sick of kid-friendly Christmas specials. If it’s something deadly and a little silly you’re looking for, head on down to Korvatunturi.

Available on Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV, and Peacock

4. “Santa Claus” (1959)

"Santa Claus" or "Santa Claus vs. the Devil" (1959)
Santa Claus (José Elías Moreno) is handed a doll of a devil in his workshop. Credit: Churubusco-Azteca Studios Mexico

Now, something for the “so bad it’s good” crowd.

Santa Claus is a 1959 Christmas movie made in Mexico with a rather mediocre English dub. Alongside the titular Santa Claus are also Merlin the Magician and a devil named Pitch. Yes, this is real.

Of course, it’s not as infamous as the other “so bad it’s good” Christmas movie Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. However, what other Christmas movie do you know that are also called Santa Claus vs. the Devil?

Honestly, the less said about this movie, the better. There are far too many moments where the casual may be watching this and ask themselves “What the fuck?” Even if the viewer makes the mistake of being sober watching this movie, there will be moments of doubt.

What other Christmas movie has Santa’s workshop in space with poorly-aged stereotypes of people from other countries? What other Christmas movie has a dance number of two-faced doll’s in a child’s dream? What other Christmas movie has Santa shoot a dart from a toy cannon at a demon’s butt?

Even if this movie hasn’t aged well and is really bad, the trash is simply too good, sober or otherwise.

Available on Tubi

5. “Tokyo Godfathers” (2003)

"Tokyo Godfathers" 2003
Gin (bottom right), Miyuki (top right), and Hana (center) are trying to catch a falling baby, Kiyoko (top left). Credit: Madhouse

It’d be criminal not to recognize one animated movie.

Tokyo Godfathers is a 2003 animated movie, and one of the four by legendary Satoshi Kon. The story follows three unhoused people in Tokyo and their makeshift family. There’s the middle-aged alcoholic Gin, the runaway teenager Miyuki, and the former drag queen Hana.

The three unhoused people find an abandoned baby during the holidays and begin searching for the child’s family. Hijinks ensue including an old man and his windmills, and a Yakuza hit, while our main threes’ pasts come crawling back.

Of Satoshi Kon’s four movies, this one is probably his most grounded. He often blended reality with fantastical elements, and that is definitely present at times. It could be easy to see this as grounded as live action, but it wouldn’t be the same without the animation.

What is most stellar about this movie is the animation, and how it paints a picture so beautiful and snappy. The characters are all dynamic while still being completely human. There’s not a bad frame here, just paintings.

There’s never a moment where the story stops or slows down, it just keeps building and building. Each scene and line of dialogue is more than enticing, it demands your focus and attention.

The story masterfully blends comedic banter, nail-biting action, and tear-jerking sentimentality into a beautiful work of art. This movie is astounding, and it’s a shame how little recognition it gets.

Available on Amazon Prime Video and Apple TV

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