For the most part, watching Christmas classics with family brings everyone together, giving you that warm, fuzzy feeling inside. There’s always a happy ending, and they’re completely appropriate to watch with your parents, nieces and nephews, and even grandma and grandpa. But what if you’re just not feeling the holiday cheer too strongly this year, or you can’t make it to your parents’ place for the holidays? Or, maybe you’re just fed up with the commercialism of Christmas and want to protest it any way you know how?
Fear not, friend. There’s a Christmas movie out there for you too. The majority of these films don’t necessarily classify themselves as “Christmas films,” but rather happen with the backdrop of Christmas, although a few are of the Christmas horror genre. There’s something out there for everyone, whether you’re craving comedy, drama, horror, sci-fi, or even a musical. Despite the differences in genre, they all share one commonality: you sure as hell can’t watch them with the folks.
Here are 15 Christmas Movies You Can’t Watch With Your Parents.
15. Bad Santa
While Billy Bob Thornton’s first go round as a sex-addicted, alcoholic mall Santa has all the makings of a Christmas classic for the dirty-minded, it’s not something you’d want to watch with your mother. Thornton plays Willie T. Soke, a professional thief who uses a mall Santa routine as a ruse for ripping off department stores after hours. He’s just about every parent’s worst nightmare of who they’re really letting their children sit on.
Along with his major lack of redeeming qualities, Willie also has a penchant for crazy women. Sue, played by Lauren Graham, meets him at a local bar and also just happens to have a Santa fetish. Sex maniac that he is, Willie indulges Sue’s fantasy, even in public places like the dressing room of a department store. His love of a good romp doesn’t stop there, however. Between Willie and the other main characters of the film, there are exactly 164 uses of the F-word in the film, as tallied up by Swear Count on YouTube. If you thought your Mom was offended by one slip of the tongue, she’d lose her mind watching Bad Santa.
14. Love Actually
At first glance, Love Actually seems like the perfect rom-com/Christmas film to enjoy with the in-laws. It’s the heart-warming story of eight couples during the holidays and how their lives intersect, right? Maybe on the surface that’s true, but not all of the couples lead such squeaky clean lives or get their perfectly happy ending.
Alan Rickman plays Harry, a married man and the director of a design agency who indulges in a casual flirtation with his secretary. He even goes so far as to purchase an expensive necklace for her, much to the chagrin of his wife, Karen (Emma Thompson). Nothing like a bit of infidelity in a Christmas film to make grown-ass adults squirm with guilt at their own indiscretions. So that’s why your girlfriend’s parents got divorced. Whoops.
Equally awkward are the scenes with John (Martin Freeman) and Judy (Joanna Page), who actors/body doubles for the sex scenes in a film. Their pornographic poses are almost as awkward as the immensely polite conversations they engage in while simulating sex with each other. Asking for a Christmas drink while pretending to engage in oral sex? That sure takes some balls.
13. L.A. Confidential
Masquerading as a neo-noir crime drama, L.A. Confidential has all the makings of a Christmas film, at least for those of you who are disillusioned with the lights and cheer of the holiday season. Each of the three featured cops in the film — played by Guy Pearce, Russell Crowe, and Kevin Spacey — spread a bit of Christmas cheer in their own unique, convoluted ways.
Pearce’s character, Sergeant Exley, unsuccessfully prevents a prison brawl dubbed ‘Bloody Christmas’ by the newspapers, resulting in scandal and embarrassment for the department. Meanwhile, Officer Bud White kicks a wife beater’s ass after luring him outside by tearing down his Christmas decorations. Then there’s Kevin Spacey’s sleazy character, Detective Vincennes, who accepts a bribe from a tabloid newspaper to do a drug bust that’ll feature two movie stars.
L.A. Confidential is full of hot-tempered, trigger-happy cops, racism, violence, and plenty of despicable corruption. That may fly any other time of the year with your family, but everyone knows you don’t talk about politics during the holidays.
12. The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas
Another potentially awkward film set with a Christmas backdrop is the musical comedy starring Dolly Parton and Burt Reynolds, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. Even if your parents can get past the fact that the movie has “whorehouse” in the title — which was censored in many states around the U.S when it came out — it’s still a film about prostitution, no matter what you call it. Dolly, as Miss Mona, and her charming gang of working girls parade around in lingerie and are seen engaging in sex acts with clientele. They also perform a slightly depressing Christmas tune called “Hard Candy Christmas,” after they’re forced to leave their home.
Aside from female T&A however, there’s also a fair share of man ass in the famous locker room scene featuring a group of Texas A&M football players. In what is probably the most homoerotic scene of the ’80s aside from Top Gun‘s volleyball game, the men strip naked while dancing and singing their way through the locker room and its showers. If that’s not enough to make your Dad uncomfortable, we don’t know what is.
Look at that; even sci-fi auteur Ridley Scott has a film full of the Christmas spirit. His 2012 prequel to Alien, Prometheus, takes place during Christmas time, and some would say that it references the Christian nativity story. Prometheus’ crew wakes up from stasis on Christmas Day and proceeds to decorate their own little Christmas tree. Then, a barren woman ends up pregnant after having sex with a man infected by some alien space goo. Behold, alien Jesus!
Unlike the story of Jesus’ birth, however, the Mother of God is none too pleased with her miraculous creation. In one of the most graphically disturbing scenes in the movie, Dr. Elizabeth Shaw gives herself a caesarean section, a virgin birth if you will, removing the alien baby from her womb without any sort of anesthesia. If mom and dad are vehemently pro-life, rest assured that Prometheus will offend the hell out of them.
10. Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale
Finland has a long history with Santa Claus. Lapland houses Santa’s Office, where children can visit Father Christmas any day of the year, Rovaniemi is considered Santa’s hometown, and Coca Cola’s depiction of Santa was also designed by a Finnish man, Haddon Sundblom. You’d think that with all their connections to Saint Nick, they’d have a positive opinion on the guy, but then along comes a film that turns everything on its head.
Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale doesn’t sound nefarious in the least, but it has one of the creepiest depictions of Santa and his elves in modern filmmaking. Instead of cute little creatures with pointy ears, the elves actually look more like Santa than Santa does; they’re a bunch of old men with white beards. While that by itself might not seem all that offensive, all of the elves are naked for most of the film. That means a screenful of full frontal old man junk, which isn’t appealing to anyone. Pair that with their child eating habit and Santa’s horned, demonic form, and you’ve got yourself a majorly unconventional Christmas film.
9. Less Than Zero
This 1987 drama, loosely based on Bret Easton Ellis’ novel of the same name, definitely won’t give you many warm fuzzy feelings. Andrew McCarthy stars as a college freshman, Clay, who returns home for Christmas break only to find the lives of those he holds dear are falling apart due to drug abuse. It was one of the last films Robert Downey appeared in before his nearly decade-long battle with substance abuse. The future Tony Stark plays Julian, an addict with a huge debt that’s forced into prostitution to pay it back. As Downey commented in a 2003 interview with The Guardian, “the role was like the ghost of Christmas future.”
There’s a scene where Clay finds Julian in a hotel room about to perform oral sex on another man. On the wall, someone has scrawled “Julian give great head…and is Dead.” Unfortunately, this doesn’t bode well for him, as is often the case with addicts who don’t get help. His downward spiral throughout the course of the film might hit a little too close to home for many families who’ve experienced addiction first hand and all the depressing fallout it leaves behind.
8. Christmas Evil
Falling under the Christmas horror category, Christmas Evil tells the story of a deranged man obsessed with Santa Claus. Aside from keeping track of who’s naughty or nice, Harry Stadling dresses as Santa on a regular basis and covers his apartment in Christmas decorations. To add to the creepiness factor, he also drives a white van (take what connotations from that that you will) which he painted Santa’s sleigh on. While none of those things sound particularly menacing, eventually he cracks and becomes convinced he’s actually Santa Claus.
Stadling’s breakdown leads to some of the best Christmas kills in the genre. First, he stabs a guy in the eye with a toy soldier. Then he hacks another to death with a candy cane-decorated ax. Even with a slew of gloriously kitschy Christmas deaths, Christmas Evil‘s ultimate offense in the too-messed-up-for-mom-and-dad category is revealed at the very beginning of the movie. Little Harry just wanted to catch a glimpse of Santa Claus in his living room as a kid. Instead, he saw Santa doing something a little more sexual than just kissing his mom by the fireplace. That’d scar just about anyone for life.
7. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is one of those films you know you love, but might not remember vital details of until it’s too late. Ultimately, it’s the story of a small-time crook who accidentally becomes an actor after a botched robbery. That’s not exactly the kind of story Christmas dreams are made of, but it’s entertaining nonetheless.
Robert Downey Jr. plays Harry Lockhart, the thief who’s partnered with Val Kilmer’s character, Gay Perry, a consultant for the film Harry auditioned for and a private detective. There’s also a love story between Harry and his former childhood friend, Harmony Faith Lane, an aspiring actress whose sister is murdered. Harmony ends up at the same Christmas party as Harry, dressed in a rather skimpy Santa dress, which isn’t even the most scandalous outfit there.
While there is sex scattered throughout the film, and even a mention of incest between Harmony’s father and sister, it’s the constant violence that ultimately makes it unfriendly for family get-togethers — that and lines like, “Merry Christmas, sorry I f***** you over.” Everyone knows you don’t apologize during Christmas; you wait until New Year’s, when people want to start fresh.
Although looking for ecstasy on Christmas Eve sounds like a path to enlightenment, when that feeling comes in pill form, it’s bound to be full of misadventures. Told from three different perspectives, Go manages to touch on everything you avoided telling your parents about during high school and college, including raves, threesomes, strip clubs, and drugs — lots of drugs.
The events of the film take place within the 24 hours between Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, following a drug deal by Sarah Polley’s character Ronna, a supermarket cashier desperate for rent money. As you might suspect, things go awry, but as Katie Holmes’ character Claire says, “you know what I like best about Christmas? The surprises.” Go is full of them as things hit the fan and the characters react under pressure. There’s a lot to love about the movie, which feels like an updated version of Pulp Fiction, but it’s one that’s best saved for reminiscing with your college roommates, not watching after Christmas dinner with the ‘rents.
How about this for an unconventional Christmas film? Freshly released from jail on Christmas Eve, a trans prostitute journeys across Los Angeles searching for her pimp, the man who broke her heart. Tangerine plays like real life, from the way it was shot to the people involved and the settings they find themselves in. Director Sean Baker shot the entire movie on three iPhones in 2014, and, in all seriousness, actually hired real people as actors. Much of the story was taken from the actual lives of the “actors”, who really are prostitutes.
The film deals with all the typical things about life where conflict may emerge — sex, relationships, prejudice, drugs — only everything is magnified because it’s a story about prostitutes. As you might imagine, the sex and language about sex in the film is quite graphic, and certainly won’t make you feel comfortable around your parents. Even though it has one of the best Christmas-related opening lines in film history, “Merry Christmas Eve, b****“, Tangerine definitely won’t be showing up on a family-friendly channel like Freeform anytime soon.
4. Black Christmas
Black Christmas is pretty much the precursor to the 1996 horror classic, Scream, but set during Christmas time. A group of sorority girls begins receiving lewd and disturbing phone calls from an anonymous caller. After provoking the man, they become the victims of a series of grisly murders, the first of which occurs during a Christmas party. The film also features one of the most creative kills in a horror film: the use of a glass unicorn to stab a victim to death.
One of the creepiest aspects of the film is the killer’s phone calls. He’s heard moaning and making almost inhuman torture sounds, followed by obscene comments about the girls’ private parts. There’s also an allusion to the killer possibly having a sexual relationship with his sister, for which he seems to feel some guilt, probably because it also led to her death. In short, the backdrop of Christmas only makes this fact more horrifying as families and friends gather together for what it supposed to be a joyous time for celebration and renewal.
3. Eastern Promises
No one would argue that a film about the Russian mob doesn’t exactly scream good tidings, even if it is set during Christmas. David Cronenberg’s Eastern Promises is a roller coaster of intensity, centering around the death of a pregnant, underage prostitute named Tatiana, whose diary threatens to reveal a series of dirty little secrets. In typical Cronenberg fashion, there are extremely disturbing moments of psychological terror and gory violence. In particular, the bathhouse scene takes things to an extreme, with both male nudity and violence.
If that wasn’t enough to put you off from watching Eastern Promises with the folks, there’s also Tatiana’s diary. Passages are read aloud that detail the horrible rape and abuse she went through, both before and during her pregnancy. It’s revealed that her baby was the product of rape, and one of the men tied to the mob tries to throw the baby into a body of water on orders from the father. Some of the men in the film also visit a whorehouse, where there are many underage girls like Tatiana. It’s definitely not a family-friendly film — it is a Cronenberg joint, after all — even if the baby does get a happy ending.
2. Silent Night Deadly Night
Silent Night Deadly Night is not for the faint of heart. Another Christmas horror film, the amount of kills and sexual violence far exceeds most of the other films on this list. Like Christmas Evil, the killer’s backstory is revealed at the beginning of the movie, which involves someone dressed as Santa Claus. A man murdered Billy and Ricky Chapman’s parents in cold blood right in front of them while dressed in a Santa suit. Also, like Christmas Evil, the killer goes on to work for a toy-related company and snaps after he witnesses an act of wrongdoing that he believes deserves severe punishment.
Although Silent Night Deadly Night is a Christmas classic of its own accord, making it a cult favorite among horror buffs, its reality is quite bleak and bloody. Victims are hung by Christmas lights, impaled by a set of antlers, shot with a bow and arrow, stabbed, decapitated; the list goes on and on. It definitely has appeal if you’re into that sort of thing, but is best left for those moments of introspection around the anti-commercialism of Christmas, and not something that the people who raised you need to be subjected to. That is, unless they’re into that sort of thing.
1. Eyes Wide Shut
It’s easy to forget that Stanley Kubrick’s last film, Eyes Wide Shut, takes places entirely during Christmas. Even though almost every shot features Christmas lights and decorations, most people just remember all the nudity, sex, and that weird secret society ritual Tom Cruise’s character, Dr. Bill Harford, stumbles upon. Granted, those things make up the most scandalous scenes. After all, the film centers on the depths of human sexuality and what happens when you embrace your own dark desires.
It’s no secret that the film’s producers struggled to get the film down from an NC-17 rating to a hard R. In fact, many images within the orgy scene were censored using CGI for the American release of the film. Aside from all the simulated sex scenes, a young girl is sold into prostitution by her father, and another young woman nearly overdoses while having sex with the wealthy host of a Christmas party that Bill and Alice attend at the beginning of the film. There’s nothing wholesome or good about the Christmas interactions in Eyes Wide Shut. Instead, it serves as the emotional backdrop for Bill to finally rekindle things with his wife and come together, literally and figuratively. Merry Christmas indeed.
What other Christmas flicks are best left off the viewing queue when your folks are in town? Let us know in the comments.