10 Non-Christmas Movies That Everyone Watches Around The Holidays

The holidays are a special time of year. If you're not opening presents or stuffing your face with leftovers, you're glued to the TV, soaking up some cozy seasonal viewing. As Christmas fast approaches, sites like ours are usually flooded with listicles highlighting the best ways to spend your Christmas downtime and wring out every last drop of precious festivity. After all, there are some movies that it just wouldn't be Christmas without. That said, not all of them feature snow, Santa, or even Christmas.

Odds are, you have your own unique selection when it comes to this particular corner of subjective viewing. When broadcasters know families will all be under the same roof, oftentimes, it feels like they use it as an opportunity to air solid family favorites that never fail to please. Maybe it's to help break up the near-constant repeats of "Home Alone" or maybe it's a ploy to help us avoid an awkward conversation with that one difficult family member. Either way, there are some films that have absolutely nothing to do with Christmas that are regularly dusted off every December, making them honorary Christmas movies despite their lack of festive trappings.

This is a celebration of those films. If we've missed a staple of your seasonal schedule, let us know. In the meantime, here are 10 non-Christmas movies that everyone watches around the holidays.

Jurassic Park

Genetically engineered dinosaurs, theme park mayhem, life finding a way ... Let's be honest, there's nothing about "Jurassic Park" that makes it a Christmas movie. It doesn't have a "Die Hard" festive ambiguity about it. The T-rex wasn't on its way to a Christmas party with its ex when all hell broke loose. This is a family adventure that was not only a box office smash but a film that helped herald a new wave of CGI-enhanced filmmaking. Last time we checked, there wasn't a Santa hat in sight anywhere on Isla Nublar.

Yet, for many, Christmas Day just wouldn't be complete without a big family viewing of Steven Spielberg's 1993 classic. Maybe it's down to a mixture of nostalgia and the pure dependability of both its storytelling and execution. Any movie fan worth their salt is likely unable to resist its genetically engineered charm when they catch it during a channel-hopping spree — and broadcasters certainly seem to realize this. In the United Kingdom at least, you can pretty much guarantee "Jurassic Park" (or one of its sequels) will be featured in the TV listings at least once during the Christmas season, most likely on Christmas Day afternoon or late evening when viewers are in a post-Christmas dinner food coma.

Its seasonal ubiquity has even been referenced in some of the UK's finest Christmas specials, including the "Father Ted" classic "A Christmassy Ted" and Dawn French's brilliant "The Vicar of Dibley" one-off, "The Christmas Lunch Incident."

E.T: The Extra-Terrestrial

Some of the movies on this list pull double duty when it comes to seasonal viewing. One of the key sequences in Spielberg's 1982 blockbuster takes place on Halloween night, complete with kids in fancy dress and trick or treating, so it makes sense that "E.T: The Extra-Terrestrial" is a movie that's brought out every October 31. Even its alien-themed focal point lends itself to this Autumnal high point. However, it's also a movie that makes occasional appearances throughout the Christmas season, too.

Perhaps this is down to its unrivaled ability to pull on the heartstrings and renew your faith in friendship and humanity. Let's not forget that this classic slice of modern cinema was such a mammoth hit on its initial release, it stayed in the number one box office spot for a whopping 16 weeks, a then record-breaking feat. Needless to say, audiences, particularly families, connected with this tale of a young boy who helps his new alien friend return to his home planet. This could be why the film is brought back during one of the most family-focused times of the year. If there's an overriding message underpinning the Christmas season, it's the importance of helping those in need — even if they're not from Earth.

Big brands have even cashed in on the film's cockle-warming qualities, with Elliott himself, actor Henry Thomas, reteaming with his pudgy alien pal for a Christmas-themed Sky advert back in 2019.

Back To The Future

"Back To The Future" is the perfect all-rounder. Don't get us wrong. The full trilogy is one of the most well-thought-out trilogies ever, but the first movie has its own special magic that sets it apart. Maybe it's because almost everyone can relate to how bizarre it'd be to bump into your parents as kids. Any fan will remember Marty staring wide-eyed at his teenage dad at Lou's Cafe in 1955, and we'd all likely be acting the same way if we found ourselves in a similar situation.

This could be why the film is often repeated around the holidays. By combining a compelling story with some techy special effects, director Robert Zemeckis made a film that family members young and old can enjoy. Even its star, Michael J. Fox, has admitted to revisiting it over the festive period, confirming that we're not alone in our attempts to brand "Back to the Future" as an unlikely Christmas classic.

Speaking to CBS Mornings, Fox revealed that he sneaked away to watch the movie while putting up the family Christmas tree: "I went to get something in the other room and it was on," he said. "It was 'Back to the Future,' it was right at the beginning ... after about 20 minutes [my family] realized I was gone. They said, 'What are you doing?' I said, 'Watching Back to the Future.' ... I'm really good in this.' I hadn't realized."

Raiders Of The Lost Ark

Steven Spielberg has cornered the market when it comes to churning out compelling movies that the entire family can enjoy. From "Hook" to his most recent eye-popping adventure, "Ready Player One," any number of his films could constitute perfect family viewing when the whole brood is back together at Christmas.  However, some Spielberg classics have that lazy afternoon feel to them that makes them all but impossible to resist. Throw in a post-Christmas-dinner belly and some miserable weather making your sofa feel extra cozy in the twinkling tree lights, and we guarantee you won't be able to resist a rewatch of "Raiders of the Lost Ark." 

What's more, it often airs around the festive period. Just a few years ago a selection of disgruntled fans took to social media to vent their outrage when a broadcaster had the audacity to air Spielberg's first Indiana Jones adventure before its pre-expected Christmas period slot. Needless to say, they weren't happy. As reported by the UK outlet JOE Media, viewers were left angry that the BBC had decided to air it while many were still at work and not yet on their Christmas break. "Why are we at work when 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' is on the TV? Why?" the outlet quoted one user as saying. It's a valid point.

Paddington

Many of the films featured on this list have that warm, cozy feeling to thank for helping them pass as Christmas classics despite their lack of festive baubles. However, in recent years, a newcomer has emerged from left field and swiftly shot straight to the top of this unusual area of comfort-food viewing. Of course, we're talking about the charming, red-hat-wearing, marmalade sandwich-loving little bear known as "Paddington."

Lovingly directed by Paul King and brought to life via a wholesome performance from Ben Wishaw, both 2014's "Paddington" and its 2017 sequel, "Paddington 2," have quickly established themselves as the cream of the crop when it comes to family viewing. With Withshaw's bear keeping the little ones wrapt and fun performances from the likes of Nicole Kidman, Hugh Grant, Sally Hawkins, and Hugh Bonneville there for older audiences to enjoy, it's no wonder that both of these very British films have found themselves on regular rotation in the UK throughout the festive period.

Dig a little deeper and it looks like this might have been the plan all along. After all, both of Paddington's big-screen adventures so far received November theatrical release dates, cueing them up nicely for big family cinema trips as the Christmas season approached.

The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy

When it comes to Christmas viewing, what you really want is a film (or films) that lasts long enough for you to absolutely demolish an entire box of Quality Street sweets or a tube of Pringles in one sitting without actually noticing that you've brought shame upon your dojo by indulging in your own festive greed. With this important factor in mind, the longer the film is, the better. And films don't get much longer or absorb quite as much of your attention as Peter Jackson's epic "Lord of the Rings" trilogy.

Sweeping in scale and mind-bending in its attention to detail, it's almost impossible not to be swept away with Frodo and the Fellowship when you stumble upon this trilogy on the small screen. As with "Paddington," many have proposed a similar argument for relabelling the quest to destroy the One Ring as a trilogy that has a right to call Christmas its home. The key? The theatrical release dates.

"When 'The Fellowship of the Ring,' 'The Two Towers,' and 'The Return of the King' movies were released, they all arrived in theaters in the week leading up to Christmas in 2001, 2002, and 2003, respectively," said TIME writer Megan McClusky back in 2020. "Clearly, that can only mean that Peter Jackson and New Line Cinema intended the saga to be essential holiday season viewing." We couldn't agree more!

Wallace And Gromit

Forget Santa and Rudolph. Over in the UK, Christmas hasn't properly arrived until we've seen Wallace and Gromit grace our television screens. We're not quite sure why, but over the years these two plasticine characters created by Nick Park and Aardman Animations have become a familiar sight each Christmas. It all started with their first formal short film, "A Grand Day Out." Released in November 1989, the film, which saw plucky inventor Wallace and his silent dog, Gromit, take an impromptu trip to the moon, struck a chord with fans, and from there, each of their subsequent short film adventures have had release dates right in the middle of the Christmas period.

As a result, 1993's "The Wrong Trousers," 1995's "A Close Shave," and most recently, "A Matter of Loaf and Death" have each become staple seasonal viewing, despite none of them having anything to do with Christmas. The company behind the shorts, Bristol's Aardman Animation, has even helped produce festive idents for the BBC, further linking their colorful brand of stop motion animation with the season of goodwill. Eventually, their team seemingly caved into the pressure and gave Wallace and Gromit their own festive adventure with "Wallace & Gromit's Magic Christmas" in 2021. Such is the love for these cartoon creations, even their monster-themed first movie, "The Curse of the Ware-Rabbit," can be found on regular rotation around the holidays.

When Harry Met Sally

In a way, "When Harry Met Sally" is a Christmas movie ... and a summer, autumn, and break-up movie. Such is the all-encompassing nature of director Rob Reiner's classic rom-com. We meet Harry (Billy Crystal) and Sally (Meg Ryan), who start the film as young adults sharing a car ride to a university campus. While the conversation flows throughout their trip, it's safe to say that the duo isn't exactly simpatico at that point in their lives and emotional maturity. Cut to a few years later when the pair randomly re-enter each other's lives. Their battles with love and relationships eventually lead them to believe that what they've been looking for might have been in that car all those years ago.

This film is undeniably one of the finest romantic comedies ever made. Everything from its cozy, jazzy soundtrack by Harry Connick Jr to its time-hopping narrative that sends audiences skipping throughout the seasons make it a film that automatically pairs well with a tub of ice cream and a nice comfy sofa. It's no coincidence that both of these add-ons are often synonyms with Christmas excess, nor is it an accident that, despite all of its season-hopping, Reiner decides to have his love-struck pair finally get together during the festive season. Okay, okay ... we're aware that this technically happens during a New Year's Eve party, but hey, it's close enough to count.

The Sound Of Music

We know what you're thinking. Santa and the Nazis don't typically show up in the same sentence, especially one relating to much-loved Christmas films that families return to time and time again. However, over the years, the classic movie musical "The Sound of Music" has somehow emerged as an unlikely component of festive television schedules across the world.

Starring Julie Andrews in one of her most legendary, recognized, and celebrated roles, and directed by Robert Wise, the film follows Maria (Andrews), a young woman who is sent to look after the seven children of retired naval officer Capt. Von Trapp (Christopher Plummer). Despite a troubled start, her new wards soon come to look up to and respect Maria, while the Captain slowly falls for her, too.

Released in 1965, the film is considered a modern masterpiece by many and has been shown every December on ABC since 2002 without fail. "The Sound of Music's universal themes of love, family, and overcoming hardship in the face of adversity are exactly what we're all thinking about over the holiday season, particularly this year," ABC Entertainment's executive VP of programming strategy Andy Kubitz, told TV Insider back in 2020. "It's a beacon to gather around with the family and sing along to songs that transcend time." As it turns out, the hills aren't only alive with the sound of music, there's a distinct note of "Jingle Bells" in the mix too.

Mary Poppins

From one iconic Julia Andrews performance to another, "Mary Poppins" was released a year before the star's appearance in "The Sound of Music," and yet, it also manages to capture that special quality of being considered a Christmas movie despite having no Christmas links whatsoever.

Released in 1964 and directed by Robert Stevenson, this classic Disney family film first introduced audiences at large to its eponymous magical nanny with the ability to whip unruly kids into shape, hang out with animated animals, and fly through the air with her trademark umbrella. Over the years, "Mary Poppins" has had regular repeats both on Christmas Day and in the lead-up to the festive period. In 2018, the reboot sequel "Mary Poppins Returns" received a December 19 theatrical release date, setting it up nicely for festive family cinema trips.

"Mary Poppins is definitely a film about the joy of being a kid, or never growing up. Mary's magical powers don't just impress the kids but they also establish the film as one of the most enchanting and amusing of the Disney Films," reasons independent movie site Unsung Films, arguing for its Christmas credentials. "Add some singing penguins, a full-on musical number by chimney sweepers on the smoky rooftops of London town, and over-effective time-signaling cannons and you have a movie more mischievously funny, charming, heartwarming, and full of magic than the best Christmas movies out there!"

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