A collage featuring some of the best non-Christmas holiday movies: 'The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe,' 'Encanto,' and 'When Harry Met Sally'

Our Favorite Non-Christmas Holiday Movies

While Christmas dominates conversations in December, there are a lot of non-Christmas movies that are perfect to watch and rewatch during the holiday season—classics, films set in the winter, and more!

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You know what’s not going to be included? Those movies that people love to debate over whether or not they’re considered Christmas movies. So, no Die Heard, The Shining, or Gremlins. Also, those series sometimes dubbed Christmas movies but that are also rewatched at the first sign of autumn won’t make the list either. These films include the Harry Potter series and some of the more popular Tim Burton movies.

Little Women (2019)

Little Women
(Columbia Pictures)

Any faithful retelling of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women is the best version of Little Women. For something written in 1868, many of the themes are still relevant today. I grew up watching the version from the 1990s starring Winona Ryder and Christian Bale. However, I’ve become exceedingly partial to the 2019 version by director Greta Gerwig starring Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, and Timothée Chalamet. It feels the most honest and real to me. Little Women is the perfect holiday movie (or any other time of year movie) and it just makes you feel good. It’s rated PG (or G, in the case of the black and white versions), so the entire family can watch.

Little Women focuses on the four March sisters growing up in Massachusetts during the 1860s. Throughout the story, they go from children to women. The sisters may be close and share deep connections, but each one is very much her own person. Forget zodiac signs—you can tell a lot about a person by knowing which March sister they identify with. I don’t think anyone can watch the movie without falling for Laurie, the boy across the road, just a little bit. There are a few Christmas scenes, yet the movie is more about the relationships we have with those around us and how to appreciate the good things in our lives while never settling. (D.R. Medlen)

The Lord of the Rings: Extended Edition (2001-2003)

Elijah Wood and Sir Ian McKellen, as Frodo Baggins and Gandalf the Grey, ride through Hobbiton in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
(New Line Cinema)

From Diwali to New Year’s Eve and every major celebration between, the winter is marked by extended time off for many. (Except those in retail and essential services.) That makes November and December perfect for rewatching your favorite movie series. My family’s version of this is watching the extended edition of The Lord of the Rings trilogy. This year is the perfect year to watch it yourself as it’s the 20th anniversary of Return of the King!

Not including credits, the extended cuts of all three films have a combined runtime of roughly 11 hours. That’s definitely doable at other points in the year. However, that’s a weekend commitment with a need for planning bathroom breaks and sleep time. The few weeks off afforded to many in the winter allows for this relaxation at a stress-free pace. Also, there’s something special about snuggling up with hot cocoa and watching this epic journey with fellow nerdy loved ones. (Alyssa Shotwell)

When Harry Met Sally (1989)

Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan celebrate New Year's Eve in "When Harry Met Sally"
(Columbia Pictures)

There are few romantic comedies as warm, cozy, and genuinely funny as this classic. When Harry Met Sally was written by rom-com royalty Nora Ephron, who went on to pen Sleepless in Seattle, You’ve Got Mail, and other enduring favorites. Ironically, Ephron was inspired to write this love story by the divorce of her two friends, Penny Marshall and Rob Reiner, the latter of whom also directed the film.

When Harry Met Sally is the story of Harry (Billy Crystal) and Sally (Meg Ryan), two jaded New Yorkers who meet by chance right after college. They keep running into each other over the years and become friends, setting up their mutual pals (Carrie Fisher and Bruno Kirby), and comforting each other through breakups. It takes them 12 years to admit that they’re more than friends, and there are tons of relatable laughs along the way. Who could forget that iconic diner scene (you know the one), or the cringeworthy yet hilarious moment when Harry’s ex catches them singing an embarrassing showtune in public?

Manhattan provides a beautiful seasonal backdrop for the action, and the whole thing culminates with a New Year’s Eve bash to remember. (Beverly Jenkins)

Rent (2005)

A colorful poster with the main cast of the movie 'Rent.'
(Columbia Pictures)

For a movie that begins and ends on Christmas Eve, Rent isn’t much of a Christmas story. It is all about how we care for one another. Rent started as a Broadway musical that took the world by storm with its honesty about classism, LGBTQ issues, and HIV/AIDS. In 2005, it was made into a movie starring several of the actors from the musical and some new faces. Long before Idina Menzel voiced Elsa in Frozen, she played my favorite bisexual chaotic queen, Maureen Johnson, in Rent.

Rent may cover some seemingly heavy topics, but it balances it out with amazing songs and characters with heart. You’ll have at least one song stuck in your head after watching it. The lyrics are so perfect. It’s a story about a group of friends dealing with a lack of money while struggling to make their dreams come true as they try to pay rent. It’s all about how you measure a year, measure it in love. (D.M.)

Encanto (2022)

Pepa, Felix, and Maribel definitely not talking about Bruno in 'Encanto.'
(Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

Like many films on this list, Encanto remains an incredible work of art enjoyable year round. Still, it just hits different during those times of the year where you’re around a lot of family. The generation tea that’s spilled, the tensions between people whose only commonality is blood and marriage. The best example of this dynamic comes in the hit song “We Don’t Talk About Bruno.” Everyone has a very different interpretation about why that one family member or friend doesn’t come around. Some see Encanto‘s queer allegories while others feel those dualities of familial ties. Also, tell me there’s not at least one person in each generation of your family that doesn’t identify with “Surface Pressure.” (A.S.)

Eight Below (2006)

Paul Walker in red parka with husky dog in Eight Below
(Buena Vista Pictures)

Eight Below is a blood-pumping adventure through the arctic with something the whole family can love: dogs! Paul Walker stars as Jerry Shepard, an outdoor guide hired to help a UCLA professor find bits of meteor in Antarctica. They take a team of eight sled dogs onto the tundra, but are quickly called back due to an approaching storm. The men are forced to leave the dogs behind, and the rest of the movie follows two stories: the dogs’ and Shepard’s, who spends six months working tirelessly to get back to them.

Frank Marshall directed this survival film, somehow managing to highlight the individual personalities of each dog without a lick (pun intended) of dialog. This is a story about loyalty versus greed, love versus loss, and ultimately, how the will to live can pull us through just about anything. (B.J.)

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (2005)

Four children stand in a snowy landscape, looking around them in wonder.
(Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

Based on the children’s classics written by C.S. Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe takes place during World War II when the four Pevensie children are sent from London to the English countryside to be safe from bombings. While staying at the sprawling house, the youngest sibling finds an entrance to a fantasy world called Narnia through a wardrobe.

When Peter, Edmund, and Susan also go through, they find a land cursed into perpetual winter by an evil witch and do all they can to help the mystical creatures that live there. It’s a sprawling fantasy epic for families to enjoy. (For some reason, Santa Claus shows up and gives the children weapons. It’s a choice.) It’s a fun story to watch during the winter and remember that warmer weather shall return—one day. (D.M.)

If Beale Street Could Talk (2018)

Brian Tyree Henry, Stephan James, and KiKi Layne in If Beale Street Could Talk (2018)
(Annapurna)

Based on the James Baldwin book of the same name, this Barry Jenkins movie is stunning. You could probably watch If Beale Street Could Talk on mute with just the memorable soundtrack and have a good time. Set in the 1970s, Tish (Kiki Layne) and Fonny (Stephan James) are in the early stages of spending the rest of their lives together. After Fonny is falsely accused of rape and incarcerated awaiting trial, their dream gets derailed and deferred. Much of their relationship is shown through flashbacks and glass, as Tish offers updates on Fonny’s case.

Meanwhile, Tish and their families work together to get Fonny out and prepare for a surprise baby. These actors (relatively new at the time) manage to shine in a film with a stacked cast. While very little of If Beale Street Could Talk is set during the winter, there are a lot of seasonal themes—messy in-laws, retail hell, longing for those we can’t be with (incarcerated, in this case), and gathering for the birth of a child. This movie isn’t just an adaptation, but a love letter to Black people and love itself. (A.S.)

For Your Consideration (2006)

Actors wearing Purim hats in For Your Consideration
(Warner Independent Pictures)

Christopher Guest is a master of understated ensemble mockumentary movies, including Best in Show and A Mighty Wind. He directed For Your Consideration and co-wrote the script with Eugene Levy, who joins Guest and their usual troupe of quirky character actors. The story is sort of a play-within-a-play; the action centers on a group of C-list actors (Catherine O’Hara, Harry Shearer, Parker Posey, and Christopher Moynihan) making a ludicrous low budget film about the Jewish holiday Purim. Someone starts an unfounded rumor that the film is generating Oscar buzz, which sets off a frenzy of demands, paranoia, and egoism from the cast and crew.

Like Waiting for Guffman, Guest uses this film to explore (and mock) selfish actors, delusional directors, and clueless producers. The cast is a who’s who of celebs like John Krasinski, Sandra Oh, Jane Lynch, Fred Willard, Ricky Gervais, and Jennifer Coolidge as the heiress to a diaper fortune. (B.J.)

The Phantom of the Opera (2004)

Christine and the Phantom hold each other in 'The Phantom of the Opera' movie.
(Universal Pictures)

The Phantom of the Opera is based on a book that turned into the longest-running Broadway show ever. The movie, made in 2005, may not be as powerful as the live show was, but it is still good. The Phantom trains the singer Christine in music until she gets her break in the opera house. At the same time, Christine’s childhood friend Raoul returns to her life. She’s drawn to both men for very different reasons, but which one is the love of her life? (I think it’s the Phantom, hands down, but I also read dark romances.) Minnie Driver hilariously steals every scene she’s in as opera diva Carlotta.

Most of the story takes place during the winter. One shot of Christine in a snow-covered graveyard epitomizes the bleak beauty of that time of year. During the holidays, I love watching epically long musicals. What else should you be doing in the cold weather? Make sure you can turn the volume up really loud to properly enjoy the music from this movie. (D.M.)

Eight Crazy Nights (2002)

Davey, Whitey, and Benjamin at the basketball court.

I might have said no Christmas movies, but I didn’t say anything about other holidays this month! Named after the eight nights of Hanukkah, the movie follows alcoholic and ne’er-do-well Davey Stone (Adam Sandler) as he’s given his last chance to reform before a lengthy prison sentence. After his old basketball referee Whitey Duvall (also Sandler) intervenes, Davey is sentenced to perform community service as Whitey’s assistant. A lot of people complain about the product placement, but I don’t really care. The animation is so well done for a holiday movie aimed at adults that I don’t see how it could’ve been made without it. Did I mention this is a musical?

It is a Happy Madison production made over 20 years ago, so there’s quite a few ableist and fat jokes—even if you discount everything said by Davey because he’s supposed to be an asshole. Per usual, Rob Schneider plays a minor racist character and there’s at least one cringy transgender joke. As a very crude movie even beyond what I’ve warned, Eight Crazy Nights definitely isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Still, it holds a special place in my heart. This might be because of the number of times I watched it and shouted the phrase “TECHNICAL FOUL!” (A.S.)

Beauty and the Beast (2017)

The Beast and Beauty dancing in Beauty and the Beast (2017)
(Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

We don’t have to tell you the plot of this “tale as old as time,” because you likely spent your childhood watching the Disney animated version from 1991. In this live action/CGI remake, Emma Watson steps into the role of Belle opposite Dan Stevens as the Beast. Thanks to modern technology, the film has a dreamy, ethereal quality, adding to the magic of an already whimsical setting. Snow gently flutters to the ground outside, but inside Beast’s palace there are full plates, roaring fires, and a library that’s to die for.

All of the songs you know and love are here, along with a fun scene with Gaston (Luke Evans) and Le Fou (Josh Gad) that brings new laughs to a modern yet classic fairy tale. (B.J.)

(featured image: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures / Columbia Pictures / Illustration by The Mary Sue)


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Alyssa Shotwell
(she/her) Award-winning artist and writer with professional experience and education in graphic design, art history, and museum studies. She began her career in journalism in October 2017 when she joined her student newspaper as the Online Editor. This resident of the yeeHaw land spends most of her time drawing, reading and playing the same handful of video games—even as the playtime on Steam reaches the quadruple digits. Currently playing: Baldur's Gate 3 & Oxygen Not Included.
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D.R. Medlen
D.R. Medlen (she/her) is a pop culture staff writer at The Mary Sue. After finishing her BA in History, she finally pursued her lifelong dream of being a full-time writer in 2019. She expertly fangirls over Marvel, Star Wars, and historical fantasy novels (the spicier the better). When she's not writing or reading, she lives that hobbit-core life in California with her spouse, offspring, and animal familiars.
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Beverly Jenkins
Beverly Jenkins (she/her) is a contributing writer for The Mary Sue. She writes about pop culture, entertainment, and web memes, and has published a book or a funny day-to-day desk calendar about web humor every year for a decade. When not writing, she's listening to audiobooks or watching streaming movies under a pile of her very loved (spoiled) pets.