Noovie 9: Movies That Are Not Holiday Movies...But Really Are

Instead of reaching for the obvious holiday movie choices this year, choose from these off radar, but still perfect picks.

Matt Lissauer

By Matt Lissauer

A scene from "The Nightmare Before Christmas."

© Buena Vista Pictures / courtesy Everett Collection

Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years. 'Tis the holiday season and there's no better time than now to find the perfect movie for each holiday. Instead of reaching for the obvious holiday movie choices, here are some picks that are a little off the radar, but still perfect as you get that fireplace cackling.

  • 1The Nightmare Before Christmas
    A scene from "The Nightmare Before Christmas."

    ©Buena Vista Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection

    Tim Burton's spooky, family-friendly, stop-motion-animated classic can fit in with two holidays. The film is most often associated with Christmas, since the hook of the story revolves around "Pumpkin King" Jack Skellington bringing Christmas to Halloween Town (not to mention the holiday being called out in the title). But, most of the story takes place in Halloween Town and features the wonderfully creepy townsfolk, thereby making this not only a perfect film for you and your young'uns on Halloween, but also one that successfully bridges two holidays – themes, and all – into one.

    The Nightmare Before Christmas Poster

    The Nightmare Before Christmas

    Animated / 1993 / PG

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  • 2The Crow
    A scene from "The Crow."

    © Miramax/Courtesy Everett Collection

    Say what you will about superhero movies in the 90s, but between this and "Blade," it would be wrong to think studios at the time didn't take risks on bringing comic book heroes from the page to the screen. Sure none were more bankable than Batman, but critics and fans were taken aback with Alex Proyas' dark superhero movie, controversy aside (the tragic real-life death of star Brandon Lee – son of Bruce – after an accidental shooting on set). If the "Hot Topic" aesthetic didn't seal it for you as a perfect Halloween movie, the film itself opens on October 30th, often referred to as Devil's Night, an unofficial holiday in which kids can play pranks, tricks and partake in other forms of mischief. It's on this night that Eric Draven (Lee) and his fiancee are murdered by a street gang; the next day, on Halloween, the two were to wed. One year later a mystical crow helps Eric rise from the grave, so he can exact revenge on those that slayed him and his lover.

    The Crow Poster

    The Crow

    Action / 1994 / R

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  • 3E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
    A scene from "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial."

    © Universal/courtesy Everett Collection

    If there's one common thread between the two movies in our list so far, it's that all the characters make for perfect Halloween costumes. In 1982, the same could be said about Steven Spielberg's out-of-this-world kid adventure. Not only that, but the entire film culminates on Halloween, with the act of dressing up in costume allowing the kids to successfully sneak their new-found alien friend out of harm's way. E.T. even meets, and seemingly recognizes, a kid dressed up as Yoda from "Empire Strikes Back." It's a playful nod from Spielberg to his director-friend George Lucas – one that Lucas pays back in 1999's "Star Wars: The Phantom Menace" – so that does mean "E.T." and "Star Wars" are set in the same universe?

    E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial Poster

    E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial

    Children / 1982 / PG

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  • 4Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
    A scene from "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone."

    © Warner Bros./Courtesy: Everett Collection

    Wizards, witches, goblins, and a whole lot of magic. If that doesn't make for a good Halloween story then I don't know what does. While any of the eight "Potter" films (and the two "Fantastic Beasts" prequels) can fit this mold, none captures the awe of it all as the first one, where Harry gets introduced to the wonderful, wizarding world, meets his friends, and starts to learn all the secrets at Hogwarts, his new school.

    Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone Poster

    Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

    Children / 2001 / PG

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  • 5Planes, Trains and Automobiles
    A scene from "Planes, Trains and Automobiles."

    © Paramount/courtesy Everett Collection

    From Halloween we move on to Thanksgiving. The John Hughes comedy finds high-strung and burnt out executive Neal Page (Steve Martin) just yearning to get back to his family in time for turkey dinner. It should have been a simple two hour flight from New York to Chicago. But, when the flight is rerouted to Wichita due to a Chicago-area blizzard, Neal finds himself stuck on a two-day odyssey home with pestering salesman Del Griffith (John Candy). This road trip from hell plays out to perfect comedic effect as the two take to various modes of transport to get back by any means necessary. There might not be a central Thanksgiving dinner, but the film's theme of longing to be with the ones you love on the holiday makes this a perfect holiday film.

    Planes, Trains and Automobiles Poster

    Planes, Trains and Automobiles

    Comedy / 1987 / R

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  • 6Batman Returns
    A scene from "Batman Returns."

    ©Warner Bros./courtesy Everett Collection

    Tim Burton makes our list once again. With the Gothic Batman you would think we'd be throwing this superhero-costume-classic in the Halloween category, but "Batman Returns" actually is a Christmas movie! As the film opens, we see grotesque child Oswald Cobblepot getting tossed out of his house on Christmas Eve. A snow covered Gotham, adorned in holiday tidings, is then ever-present as the film moves 30-years later and the plot of grown-up Penguin and Catwoman unfolds; and let's not forget those penguins with candy-cane themed rockets attached to their backs.

    Batman Returns Poster

    Batman Returns

    Action / 1992 / PG-13

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  • 7You've Got Mail
    Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan in "You've Got Mail."

    © Warner Bros./Courtesy Everett Collection

    The 90s were all about seeing Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan fall in love, and their trilogy of rom-coms ended with this light-hearted love story set in a growing online world. Here, through a series of online chats, an indie bookstore owner (Ryan) ends up falling in love with a family member (Hanks) of the very family whose large chain bookstores threaten her very existence. In true romantic terms, however, their love story blossoms, just as the seasons do behind them. They first engage in chat as Fall turns to Winter, and then they finally realize their true love by Spring. And, in perfect Hollywood form, the "big reveal" of the entire movie occurs, when else, but at Christmas time.

    You've Got Mail Poster

    You've Got Mail

    Romantic Comedy / 1998 / PG

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  • 8Iron Man 3
    Robert Downey Jr in "Iron Man 3."

    © Walt Disney Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection

    If there's one thing that director Shane Black loves, it's Christmas. The cheerful holiday makes its way into the background of most of his movies (see: "Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang"). And when the indie director was given the reigns to MCU's flagship superhero, for the first follow-up to 2012's "Avengers," Christmas is right there in the background as Tony Stark learns to deal with his post-traumatic stress following the Battle of New York. The debate as to whether this superhero drama, set during the "most wonderful time of the year" was in fact a Christmas movie, was finally settled once-and-for-all with Marvel admitting as much in a tweet. Grudgeful Stark, after all, comes out the other side finding peace and happiness after seeing the error of his ways -- it's the Scrooge arc, and the true spirit of Christmas.

    Iron Man 3 Poster

    Iron Man 3

    Action / 2013 / PG-13

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  • 9Die Hard
    Bruce Willis in "Die Hard."

    © 20th Century Fox Film Corp. All rights reserved. Courtesy Everett Collection.

    Speaking of long-standing debates as to whether or not a movie is indeed a "holiday movie," "Die Hard" probably stands as the one film that embodies this all (see also: "Gremlins," "Lethal Weapon," and "Rocky IV"). Look at it this way: "Die Hard" is set during an office Christmas party, the main character finds his redemption, evil spirits are vanquished, and good is finally in place at the end of the tale (and multiple holidays tunes play on the soundtrack). Is "Die Hard" a Christmas movie? We think so, but you be the judge.

    Die Hard Poster

    Die Hard

    Action / 1988 / R

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Noovie 9

About the Author

Matt Lissauer

Matt Lissauer

Matt Lissauer is a writer & data manager for Noovie. When he is not busy writing listicles, Matt is enjoying life in New Jersey with his lovely wife and three kids.

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