It’s that time of year again, folks. The leftover turkey has run out and you’ve got a short break between awkward family gatherings to regain your composure and carefully craft the perfect response to the Thanksgiving edition of your uncle’s ignorant political ramblings. Unfortunately, meticulously planning to assert your intellectual dominance over an elder member of your family during Christmas dinner is exhausting work. The kind of work that makes you want to curl up on the couch with a glass of grown-up eggnog and dive head first into a Netflix hole (hold the chill). Never fear, I’ve compiled the perfect list (in no particular order) of some of the more unconventional Christmas films that Netflix has to offer, all of which are guaranteed to help put the peppermint back in your step just in time for a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
1) “Gremlins” (1984)
First thing’s first, a Gremlin doesn’t start off as a Gremlin. It starts as an adorable fuzzball reminiscent of a Furby, called a Mogwai. They only become a Gremlin when you break the third of three rules for Mogwai ownership, which is to never feed them after midnight. The first rule is to keep them out of direct light and the second is to not give them water, even to drink. Gremlins is a fantastic movie, whether or not you watch it during the holidays. Subjectively cute alien creatures multiplying faster than rabbits and participating in outrageous shenanigans makes for nothing but a good time for any group, on any occasion. As for why it’s a particularly good movie to watch around Christmas time, the entire reason the Gremlins infest the Peltzer household in the first place is that Randall, the patriarch of the family, stole a Mogwai because he thought it would make a good Christmas present for his son, Billy. A mistake that quickly gets out of hand for the entire family, and a hilarious movie to take your mind off of holiday stress.
2) “Tree Man” (2016)
If all you want for Christmas is for this list to include an obscure documentary about Christmas themed Canadian entrepreneurs, then you’re pretty weird. I like that about you. Keep it up. You’re also in luck. Tree Man is an interesting flick. It’s informative, funny, and heartwarming all at the same time. Without giving too much away, the star of the film, Francois, is a Quebecois that travels from Canada to Manhattan every holiday season to sell Christmas trees to some of the more than 8.5 million native New Yorkers. Living in a van in the Big Apple to support his wife and children back in Canada, Francois creates a temporary home and even develops relationships with locals that, at times, lead to moments that are more touching than even a scripted drama could pull off. What makes this documentary even cooler is that it explains a bit of the history behind why he does what he does and how long and far the tradition spans. Apparently, people from as far as Europe make the annual trek to the United States to sell us trees and capitalize on our seemingly unrivaled Christmas spirit.
3) “The Search for Santa Paws” (2010)
Oh no! Santa has lost his memory and can’t remember which kids have been naughty and which have been nice. What will happen to the little boys and girls around the world? Will naughty kids get presents while good little boys and girls have to go without? Not a chance! As long as there is a talking dog and a little girl with an undeniable amount of holiday spirit to help Santa sort out the mess he’s found himself in, the children of the world can rest easy on Christmas Eve knowing that those who have been good all year will get the gifts their hearts desire. The Search for Santa Paws is an enjoyable romp through the snow for the whole family. Even the dog will like it. Cats probably won’t enjoy it much, but they’re notoriously harsh film critics. Besides, they have The Aristocats and half of Milo and Otis and to ask for anything more than that would just be selfish.
4) “Power Rangers Samurai: Christmas Together, Friends Forever” (2011)
Alright, you caught me. I haven’t actually watched this one, yet. In fact, I put it on this list almost entirely because of the title. I like almost every thing about it, individually. Throw all those words together and there is absolutely no chance I’m not watching this along with (SPOILER ALERT) the OTHER Power Rangers Samurai Christmas Special that somehow exists. If you’re like me and grew up in the ‘90s, you probably know a thing or two about the Power Rangers. What you may not know is that between 2011 and 2012, there was a short-lived series called Power Rangers Samurai in which the Rangers had to defeat their enemy, the evil Master Xandred before he achieved his goal of flooding the planet with the Sanzu River and ending civilization as we know it. In Christmas Together, Friends Forever, the group looks back on their first year as a team and learn a lesson about holiday spirit along the way.
5) “Fireplace and Melodies for the Holidays” (2011)
Okay, so this isn’t technically a “movie”, but it’s still one of my favorites. It’s great for people who live in apartments or homes without a genuine fireplace to get that holiday spirit jump started. It has all of the sentimental feel of a real fireplace without any of the actual heat of a real fireplace, so you’ll probably still need to bundle up. Fortunately, that’s just another excuse to get close to someone you care about. For that reason alone, I think this title more than earns its place on this list.
6) “Trailer Park Boys: Xmas Special” (2004)
This one is probably best watched after the little ones are put to bed, mostly due to it’s adult language. If you’re not familiar with the Trailer Park Boys, let me help get you acquainted. Bubbles is a vision-impaired cat collector that lives in a storage shed in Sunnyvale Trailer Park. Julian is an entrepreneur at heart. He’ll do anything to try and make a quick buck as long as he can hold his drink and show off his cool muscle car in the process. Finally, there’s Ricky. Arguably the show’s breakout star, Ricky is a lovably uneducated ne’er do well trying to skate through life on as little effort as possible. These three get together in this Xmas Special to learn lessons like friends can be family, it’s important to grow up, and in Ricky’s case, that Santa isn’t real and he will unfortunately have to buy (steal) his girlfriend and daughter presents for the holiday. The special culminates in Ricky realizing that Christmas isn’t about trees, decorations, church, or even presents. To him and to the people he shares the Sunnyvale community with, the true meaning of Christmas is being with the people you love and care about, having a few (too many) drinks, and relaxing after having to deal with all of the things he previously decided were not the true meaning of Christmas. At least I think that’s the point he was trying to make. He has a hard time expressing himself with words.
There you have it. A few lesser watched Christmas movies to replace the same old films that play every holiday season. Not that there is anything wrong with Claymation or lamps shaped like legs. In fact, the classics were the inspiration for many of the films on this list. These are a few of my favorites, a couple of weird ones, and a few that even I haven’t watched yet. All of them are sure to either make you laugh, make you cry, or help you learn something. Isn’t that what Christmas is all about? More importantly, how can one show up their uncle during Christmas dinner? Asking for a friend.
By Bill L. Wallis