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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Seven Christmas(ish) Movies Streaming Free For Your Holiday Pleasure

Like most of you, I spend many holidays quietly wishing there was something, literally anything, that could stop me from having to listen to my uncle tell me where Obama was really born. Thanks to the magic of the Internet(™), we finally have endless distraction at our fingertips! Of course, the Christmas movies we all know and love are mostly unavailable streaming for free. Sorry, no It's A Wonderful Life, Die Hard, Christmas Vacation, or Gremlins for you on this list. That said, there are a lot of great options still available.

So, as we did with Halloween and the Fourth of July, here's a list of some great, holiday-appropriate films on popular streaming services. Enjoy!

Bad Santa

Available on Netflix Instant

Terry Zwigoff's pitch-black comedy about a drunk, druggy mall Santa and his misadventures trying to rob a department store can be a turnoff for viewers not expecting something quite so bitter and bracing. But Billy Bob Thornton turns out to be fantastically funny, and he's joined by an excellent Lauren Graham, Bernie Mac, John Ritter and more. Bad Santa is vulgar, mean-spirited, and bleak as hell. For a lot of folks, that alone makes it the perfect Christmas movie.

Love, Actually

Available on Netflix Instant

I get it. You're too hip for Love, Actually. No, it's okay. It's a cheesy movie, big and goofy and earnest, and it kicked off a genuinely crappy trend in romantic comedy storytelling that has damn near killed the genre on the big screen. And yet, despite all that, it's a movie that is very, very easy to love. Like an anthology film, everyone will have certain segments that speak to them more than others. Whether you're into Bill Nighy's segment on male friendship or the sweet-natured romance between a pair of body doubles played by Martin Freeman and Joanna Page, there's something for everyone.

The Nightmare Before Christmas

Available on Netflix Instant 

Don't pretend like you haven't seen this movie before. Doesn't matter, watch it again. It's charming, the songs are great, and the animation is gorgeous. While often credited to Tim Burton, it was actually directed by Henry Selick, who would later go on to do Coraline, among others, and it fits perfectly with Selick's beautiful, elaborate style of stop-motion animation. If you want fun for the whole family this holiday season, you clearly want The Nightmare Before Christmas.


Available on Netflix Instant

Scrooged is a sloppy movie, and given the quality of the crew - a lead performance from Bill Murray, direction from Richard Donner (Superman), and a script from legendary Saturday Night Live writer Michael O'Donoghue - it shouldn't be. That said, this modernization of Dickins' A Christmas Carol remains a strong Christmas movie, thanks in large part to the fact that Dickins' story remains an absolute joy to watch. It doesn't always work, but when it all comes together, you'll fall in love.


Available free on Hulu+

This B-list thriller has all but vanished from the popular consciousness, but it is at least vastly superior to most single-location horror movies (like the abysmal Devil or the somehow-even-worse ATM). What's more, it has a strong performance by Rachel Nichols (Continuum), some pleasantly surreal touches from writer Alexandre Aja, a couple fun kills from the psychopathic parking garage attendant played by Wes Bentley. P2 is going to be precisely no one's favorite movie, but horror fans looking for something a bit under the radar this Christmas will probably dig this one.

The Hebrew Hammer

Free with Amazon Prime; $3.99 to rent otherwise
Yes, The Hebrew Hammer is basically a one-joke film: What would a Jewish Shaft look like? And yet, hey, for some people, that joke just flat-out works. The Hebrew Hammer, the most happenin' PI in his neighborhood, is a Jewish legend, and only he can save Hanukkah from a power-mad Santa (Andy Dick) bent on destroying the holiday once and for all. Toss in Judy Greer as a Jewish femme fatale and a small roll from blaxploitation icon Mario Van Peebles you've got a goofy cult comedy that speaks to everyone who grew up feeling divorced from the omnipresence of the Mandatory Christmas Machine.

Joyeux Noël

Free with Amazon Prime; $7.99 or more to purchase otherwise

Perfect if you're looking for something just this side of saccharine, 2006 Oscar Nominee for Best Foreign Language Film Joyeux Noël tells the story of a cease-fire during World War I when German, French, and Scottish troops all bonded over a shared love of Christmas before being forced to return to combat against men who had become all too human to them. It's heavy-handed and a little maudlin, but hey, 'tis the season. Christian Carrion's film gets pretty preachy in the end, but until then it's a charming, warm-hearted story about the power of shared culture overcoming the arbitrary nature of war.

And there you have it. Happy Holidays from the Geek Rex crew, and thanks for reading!

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