The 7 Best Holiday Movies that Aren’t Holiday Movies (and Where to Stream Them Right Now)

published Dec 24, 2020
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At the risk of sounding like a total, well, Scrooge, sometimes you’re simply not in the mood to watch a holiday-themed movie, even in the deepest days of December. Bah, humbug. Sometimes you want a movie that isn’t about the holidays, but feels like the holidays, you know what I mean?

There is no metric for what makes a holiday-movie-that-isn’t-technically-a-holiday-movie—it’s really about what you feel. Sometimes the film features some element, like snow, that jettisons it into territory. Other times, it’s set on or around a holiday like Christmas or New Year’s, or at least features a major scene around that time. (For years, I swore that, given how Gomez, Morticia, & Co. pour tar on a band of jolly carolers in the opening scene of “The Addams Family,” it is technically a holiday movie.) Or perhaps what cements a film’s status as a holiday movie is ritual: If you and your family watched it over the holiday break, or if you sat through a movie marathon on cable TV, it counts.

We rounded up seven movies to stream right now when you’ve worn out “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” and repeats of the “Great British Bake-Off” holiday episodes.

Credit: Taryn Williford

“Bridget Jones’ Diary”

The 2001 film starring Renee Zellweger opens by putting Mark Darcy (Colin Firth) in a not-that-bad-all-things-considered reindeer sweater, and only gets more festive from there. If you’re spending the holidays alone this year, why not remake Bridget’s solo holiday plans for yourself and belt “All By Myself” loud enough for the neighbors to hear? Stream it on Hulu and Amazon Prime

“Die Hard”

You knew it was going to be on this list. Come for the classic tale of John McClane (Bruce Willis) thwarting Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman), stay for the tender bromance between McClane and Sergeant Al Powell (Reginald VelJohnson), which is the real relationship of the film. Stream it on HBO and HBO Max.

“Little Women”

Whether you opt for the 1994 classic starring Winona Ryder, Kirsten Dunst, and Christian Bale; or stream Greta Gerwig’s adaptation with Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, and Timothée Chalamet, you’re bound to get emotional over Louisa May Alcott’s enduring tale. Stream the 2019 version on Hulu and Amazon Prime.


Any movie in which snow could be called a main character belongs on this list. The kids in your life have probably see this instant hit hundreds of times—what harm is there in hearing “Let It Go” one more time? Stream it on Disney+.

“Batman Returns”

The decor is certainly darker than usual, but you can’t deny the power that the Christmas tree and other assorted decorations bring to the camp-filled story. This one is a personal favorite—my brother and I watch it every Christmas and howl with laughter at the now-dated special effects. Stream it on HBO Max.

“When Harry Met Sally”

Maybe it’s the sweeping New Year’s Eve conclusion to Nora Ephron’s enduring rom-com, maybe it’s the extremely good use of sweaters throughout the film. It doesn’t hurt that several scenes involve hauling Christmas trees down New York City sidewalks. Either way, have what she’s having. Stream it on HBO Max.

Any multi-movie marathon

Whether it’s “Harry Potter,” the “Hunger Games” franchise, or “Lord of the Rings,” you can do worse than to spend a day or two powering through a sweeping epic. One friend told me they always associate the “Star Wars” movies with the holidays because each new installment typically comes out in late December if you’re looking to recreate the cineplex experience at home. Stream “Star Wars” on Disney+, “Lord of the Rings” on Hulu and HBO Max, and “Hunger Games” on Hulu and through the Freefrorm app. The “Harry Potter” movies are available for rent on Amazon Prime.