Top 10 Underrated Christmas Movies

Last Updated on August 3, 2021

During Christmas, people usually stick to the classics like MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET, ELF, A CHRISTMAS STORY, IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE and so many other great movies. The holidays also offer a lot of off the beaten path or underseen movies that deserve a spot in your December rotation. Here is my top ten ranking of the ten best underrated Christmas movies that should be added to your list to watch in the next few weeks. You probably have seen most of these movies, but maybe you didn’t think of them as Christmas appropriate. Let us know if we missed any in the talk backs below.

#1 – IRON MAN 3

Another superhero movie set during the Christmas season, IRON MAN 3 is often lamented for many reasons. But, it works as a wonderful seasonal redemption story and features a couple of jolly Xmas songs. Plus, Tony Stark in the snow is a perfect reminder of how his story parallels the Grinch and Scrooge. That’s it, I am going to go watch IRON MAN 3 right now with a glass of eggnog.

#2 – THE REF

Another personal favorite, THE REF is one of my favorite funny movies that also happens to be a great Christmas movie. Denis Leary is at the height of his douche-bag best as a thief who has to pose as the therapist for the worst couple ever (Judy Davis and Kevin Spacey). The vitriol is brutal as everyone treats everyone else like utter shit. But, in the end the film finds some happiness for these miserable characters which will make you feel better about spending Christmas with your messed up family.


Romantic Christmas movies abound, but JUST FRIENDS is the one a lot of people have not seen and absolutely should. Ryan Reynolds does not exactly have the most solid filmography prior to DEADPOOL but this gem deserves to be seen more. Reynolds plays a friend-zoned guy who loses a ton of weight and returns home to face his family and friends. What ensues is absolutely one of the funniest movies of the last fifteen years with great turns by Amy Smart, Chris Klein, and Anna Faris.


Maybe it is just me, but I like crime flicks set during Christmas. Like KISS KISS BANG BANG, THE ICE HARVEST is a neo-noir that uses the cold of December and the jovial mood of the masses to tell a dark and serious crime tale. THE ICE HARVEST is a jet black comedy on top of being a noir so it has it’s fair share of blood and violence. Billy Bob Thornton and John Cusack are great but the eternally sexy Connie Nielsen steals the show.


Christmas movies tend to be relegated to a niche box office market so when a superhero film elects to tie their plot to the holiday it could spell financial doom. BATMAN RETURNS works because it does not rely on Christmas to work as a movie but still makes it an integral part of the story. The massive christmas tree, the giant presents, and the decorations all set the film in a very specific tone and style that makes it feel unique in the rest of the original BATMAN films.


This one takes me back. I have a soft spot for this movie because I grew up with it. Ernest may not resonate as well with younger audiences, but children of the 80s know how ridiculous the redneck character could be. After his first films, a slew of holiday themed Ernest films were made of which this is the best. It is stupid, absolutely, but in a wholesome and fun way that only Ernest could achieve. Know what I mean, Vern?


Dreamworks Animation rarely missteps but when they do it often dooms the beginning of what could be a great franchise. Audiences didn’t quite click with RISE OF THE GUARDIANS despite a series of tie-in novels that had the potential to really showcase the legendary world of these characters. Santa Claus himself has a badass origin story and looks really cool on screen, too. Alec Baldwin rocks as St. Nick with tattoo sleeves and some serious fighting skills. A great action flick to watch during the season that will appeal to boys and girls alike.


Another Christmas horror film, this Scandinavian flick plays more like ALIENS or PREDATOR. Santa Claus is a villain here and a pretty vicious one at that but it is the elves you have to watch out for. I completely did not expect this movie to be as good as it is. Some may have avoided it because of fear of subtitles, but I promise you will not regret checking this one out.


Just released last year, KRAMPUS comes from the mind of TRICK R TREAT creator Michael Dougherty and features a cast of talented funny actors. KRAMPUS is absolutely funny but is also pretty damn scary, too. This movie is not for the faint of heart but has made North Americans much more aware of the legend of the anti-Santa that has been a staple of the season in Europe for hundreds of years. This is a great flick that deserves to be in your holiday rotation.


Aardman Animation has proven to be a very talented group of claymation movie creators but they have stumbled a bit when it comes to computer animation. But, their 2011 holiday themed film ARTHUR CHRISTMAS retains that same charm and wit as the Wallace and Gromit movies while also telling a unique Santa Claus story. A very British sensibility may have kept American audiences from checking this movie out, but it will surely please kids and adults alike.


About the Author

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Alex Maidy has been a editor, columnist, and critic since 2012. A Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic and a member of Chicago Indie Critics, Alex has been's primary TV critic and ran columns including Top Ten and The UnPopular Opinion. When not riling up fans with his hot takes, Alex is an avid reader and aspiring novelist.