7 cult Christmas movies for people who hate Christmas
From horror films to lighthearted classics, if you're feeling anxious about the holidays this year, we recommend finding comfort in these films.
Christmas is everywhere. All the channels are playing A Christmas Carol or Home Alone. Every brand you’ve ever interacted with is sending a steady stream of pesky emails about the gifts you should buy your friends for the holidays. ‘Tis the season, and it is inescapably upon us. But that doesn’t mean that we have to like it. As Covid cases rise once again, it’s beginning to feel more like a replay of 2020’s holiday season than the promise of a new beginning. If you’re feeling a little holiday reluctant, or shall we say anti-holiday this year — maybe you’re stuck at home, isolating, or choosing to spend this Christmas alone — we’ve got you covered. These are the best cult movies to watch right now, whether you want to get yourself out of the holiday funk or sink deeper within it. Enjoy.
My Night at Maud’s (1969)
We’re just a few days away from 2022, and so you’re bound to find yourself dissecting every decision you've made right up until this moment — that risky text you sent, the work emails you keep avoiding, the New Year’s dress you bought on a whim during Cyber Monday. Enter My Night at Maud’s. Éric Rohmer’s essential 1969 philosophical foray into the myriad paths life and relationships can follow takes place in a stark black-and-white winter devoid of the usual holiday sheen. Strict Catholic Jean-Louis (Jean-Louis Trintignant) has just moved to a new city when he meets a beautiful young woman at church, and without knowing her, vows to make her his wife. But after a chance encounter with an old friend, Jean-Louis finds himself spending the night with another woman, the enigmatic Maud, a sensual and daring divorcée who threatens to topple his rigid moral principles. Available on Criterion Channel and HBO Max.
Bell, Book, and Candle (1958)
It’s a Wonderful Life might be Jimmy Stewart’s most well-known holiday movie, but it’s not his best one if you’re not in the mood for holiday cheer. Released on Christmas 1958, Richard Quine’s successful rom-com Bell, Book and Candle centers around a modern-day witch’s (Kim Novak) crush on her neighbor (James Stewart) and her attempts to get rid of his fiancée. Filmed in vivid Technicolor, from Kim Novak’s peculiar New York apartment to an eye-catching Greenwich village nightclub, the film is a charming tale of love and acceptance. Plus it’s a stunning visual treat. Available on TCM, Spectrum on Demand.
Night of the Comet (1984)
Scene: the Earth passes through the tail of a comet 11 days before Christmas and successfully wipes out most of humanity. Two valley girl sisters, Regina and Sam, are left to save the planet and fight the other survivors, who just so happen to have turned into zombies. But of course, they have to go shopping and play video games too. Thom Eberhardt’s 1984 Night of the Comet is an extremely 80s movie that captures all the chaos of the holidays with a surprising amount of humor, and without really being about the holidays at all? The apocalyptic comedy gets most of its zany humor from its leads, so it’s no surprise to learn that Regina and Sam served as key inspiration for Joss Whedon’s Buffy. That’s reason enough to add this movie to this season’s watch list. Available on Tubi TV.
‘R Xmas (2001)
While some of the films on this list are fun and lighthearted, this is not the case with ‘R Xmas. Referred to as a quintessentially Abel Ferrara remake of A Christmas Carol, ‘R Xmas takes place in New York in 1993. The first 20 minutes of the film sketch out an idyllic, upper-class Latino couple looking to buy the perfect “Party Girl” doll for their daughter. Of course, their plans are interrupted when the reality of their other life settles in: the drug-dealing husband is kidnapped by a corrupt cop and his lackeys, while his wife is forced to accumulate the ransom money to set him free. Ferrara knows that whether it’s drugs or dolls, if it’s Christmas in America, you’re consuming something. Available to rent on Amazon Prime and Google Play.
Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
Over the last few years, Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut has become a creepy cult holiday classic, and with good reason. From its twinkling red and green lights around every corner to shelves threatening to overflow with toys, it’s difficult to point to a movie that makes the holidays feel quite as oppressive — and consumerist — as this one. Eyes Wide Shut follows wealthy Dr. Bill Hartford after his wife Alice admits to having sexual fantasies about another man. Sensing his masculinity threatened, Bill becomes obsessed with having a sexual encounter of his own. The overwhelming amount of Christmas trees and absence of the spiritual aspects of the holiday serve to parallel Bill’s transactional, money-oriented existence. Available on Hulu.
Black Christmas (1974)
Bob Clarke, director of both 1974’s Black Christmas and 1983’s A Christmas Carol, must have some interesting — if not conflicting — ideas about the holidays. But it's the former’s lush reds and verdant details coupled with bloody murder that contrast most sharply with the holiday spirit of birth and renewal. In this horror of a holiday movie, a stranger terrorizes a sorority house during Christmas break, making frightening phone calls and killing off the girls one by one. While it was John Carpenter’s Halloween that popularized horror’s “final girl” trope, Black Christmas’ protagonist Jess is an equally significant contribution to the list. In fact, Carpenter loved Black Christmas so much it inspired Halloween. Available on Hulu and HBO Max.
The Box (2009)
You might know Richard Kelly as the director behind angsty cult classic Donnie Darko or the absolutely bonkers (and timely) Southland Tales, but you probably aren’t familiar with The Box, which is incidentally the strangest holiday movie on this list. Kelly’s latest filmis a Twilight Zone-esque suffocating absurdist nightmare that follows a suburban couple and their young child after they receive a wooden box as a gift from an enigmatic stranger. The box promises to honor the family with $1 million dollars with the press of a button. Of course, things are never as simple as they appear. Once the button is pressed, a person somewhere in the world dies. Talk about one hell of a present. Available on Hulu.