It’s that time of year again! When your television doesn’t leave the Hallmark Channel and listening to anything other than Christmas music is considered criminal. It seems that the world is pushing for Christmas celebrations earlier and earlier every year. This year I saw Christmas decorations sharing display space with Halloween costumes…in early October. But when it comes to Christmas movies, you should start early if you want to get to all the films on your “must watch” list.
As you try to plan out how exactly you are going to watch them all, consider adding these five underrated Christmas movies to your list.
1. Christmas with the Kranks (2004)
This movie fits right in the time-tested Christmas movie mold of the scrooge that has a change of heart just in time to celebrate. The difference here is that we get to enjoy Tim Allen’s cynical sense of humor and over the top antics. After years of rigorous Christmas celebration, the Kranks are finally off the hook when their daughter decides to spend Christmas away from home and Mr. Krank doesn’t appreciate his neighbor’s efforts to force him into a jolly mood. If ridiculous comedies like A Christmas Story and Home Alone can rank among the all-time Christmas favorites, then Christmas with the Kranks is certainly underrated.
2. The Year Without a Santa Claus (1974)
Ask most people reading this article and they won’t be able to remember a December before movies like Elf dominated the Christmas season. But there was a time, before Will Ferrell, even before other holiday staples like A Christmas Story, where claymation movies ruled the countdown to Christmas. The best of these classics is The Year Without a Santa Claus. In it, Santa is sick and considering taking a year off when two bumbling elves (along with Mrs. Claus) try to change his mind. It’s hard to imagine Christmas without the Miser brothers, and if you don’t know who they are, then you need to put this movie on your watch list.
3. Once Upon a Christmas (2000)
As soon as Thanksgiving ends, millions of TVs across the nation are locked on one of several Christmas movie marathon channels. There are more made-for-TV Christmas movies than any one holiday nut can count, but a gem can be found here and there. Once Upon a Christmas is one such gem. In it, Santa is concerned with the lack of Christmas spirit in the world, and his evil oldest daughter is ready to take over the “family business.” Enter the sweet, younger sister, who is begging for a chance to change the hearts of some particularly spoiled kids to prove that the Christmas spirit is still alive and well.
4. Eloise at Christmastime (2003)
Christmas 2003 gave us one of the highest-grossing Christmas movies of all time, Elf, and straight-to-TV movie Eloise at Christmastime was lost in the noise. This movie is based on a popular book with the same title. Eloise enjoys a charmed life at the Plaza Hotel and is looking forward to a Christmastime wedding between the daughter of the hotel owner and a handsome businessman. However, when Eloise finds that this businessman has ulterior motives, she puts on her best meddling face and turns the Plaza on its head. If you enjoy the Home Alone movies or even TV shows like The Suite Life of Zach and Cody, then this movie is for you.
5. The Polar Express (2004)
It might surprise some that this movie made a list of underrated Christmas movies, but in this humble writer’s opinion, The Polar Express doesn’t get its due praise. This movie received surprisingly chilly reviews from top critics, who cited problems with the animation and the story quality as reasons for poor scores. It only received a critic score of 55% on Rotten Tomatoes, and the audience score wasn’t much higher. However, if you can look past the animation and the sometimes-unnecessary action scenes, you’ll find the inspirational story of how two boys who grew up too fast were called back to a time of wonderful innocence and a belief in the magical tales of Christmas. The Polar Express is a movie that most certainly deserves another chance.