Every year Hollywood cranks them out -- saccharine remakes of A Christmas Carol or It's a Wonderful Life, with minor plot tweaks and overused actors. They've ruined the dial, filling it with cinema's version of re-gifting. Meanwhile, original movies that were great the first few hundred times play on a never-ending loop until we can't be bothered to care about that leg lamp from France or what happens when that damn bell rings. It's the holidays, over saturated.
Still, there are a few that nail it. These 11 movies provide a needed alternative to the tinsel cliche of those overcooked turkeys.
11.) It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia Christmas Special The gang got together a few years back and put together one of the best Christmas specials, ever. We discover why each of them harbors so much holiday angst when their childhood triggers are addressed, but the best of them all is Charlie. It takes a mall Santa to make it happen, but when he finally faces up to his mother's seasonal prostitution, the North Pole by the food court becomes a war zone.
10.) Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang
If you have a weakness for trashy detective pulp, set at Christmas, this is the film for you. It debuted at Cannes in 2005, but never grew beyond a sleeper hit. That's because the very things that make it great -- like the campy inclusion of unnecessary plot twists, haphazard shootout scenes and stockpile of hidden weapons -- speaks to a niche, paperback-collecting audience.
9.) Gremlins Whether this movie was set at Christmas to contrast the darkness of its villains, (the original shape-shifting lizard people of the fourth dimension), or to market the still-cuddly Mogwais as must-have holiday gifts, is unclear. What we do know is that there hasn't been a stranger concept movie sold to children before or since, and the fact that it was successful? Well that's due to the experimental, freaky nature of our Betamax generation. You couldn't introduce this film in 2012.
8.) Love, Actually
No, it's not a chick flick. It's THE chick flick. Love, Actually has become the movie that lady gangs base their annual gift exchanges around, and that's because it doesn't go near the terrible holiday cookie cutter build-a-plot method that other rom-coms abuse. In it, every heart is vulnerable to love and loss, not just "workaholic women who need to find a man by Christmas."
We get a nice heavy hand of Richard Curtis' twisted humor in this one (he was a writer for Blackadder and Mr. Bean, and worked on the cinematic box office super hitters Notting Hill, Bridget Jones' Diary and Four Weddings and a Funeral). The film's got all of the ingredients you want: a love-destined Laura Linney, romance sprung on the set of a porno and a dusted-off copy of the Troggs jam "Love is all Around," performed by a crooning Bill Nighy.