The wintry films to watch if you’re not into Christmas
It’s the most wonderful time of year – unless, of course, you’re not the Mariah Carey-singing, bauble-wielding, eggnog-drinking type. If you’re feeling less Will Ferrell in Elf, more “bah humbug” this Christmas, this is the movie guide for you. From warped love stories to snowy slasher movies, these films bring the wintry atmosphere while giving […]
It’s the most wonderful time of year – unless, of course, you’re not the Mariah Carey-singing, bauble-wielding, eggnog-drinking type. If you’re feeling less Will Ferrell in Elf, more “bah humbug” this Christmas, this is the movie guide for you. From warped love stories to snowy slasher movies, these films bring the wintry atmosphere while giving you a break from the usual festive fare.
For twisted romance: Phantom Thread
Phantom Thread is the story of renowned dressmaker Reynolds Woodcock (played by the legendary Daniel Day-Lewis), who lives with his sister Cyril in 1950s London and spends his days making exquisite dresses for royalty, movie stars and socialites. When the perpetual bachelor meets the beautiful Alma, his controlled existence is turned upside down. The film was released on Christmas Day in 2017 and — heads up — it does feature Christmas and New Year’s scenes but its melancholy tone and twisted plot sets it apart from the typical holiday fare.
For family fun: Frozen (& Frozen 2)
A modern Disney classic, Frozen has it all: stunning animation, a script that’s both witty and genuinely moving, and — of course — songs that no children’s party (or karaoke booth) should be without. While Frozen has some classic Christmas motifs including reindeer, snow and family bickering, the film isn’t centred around the festive season. That makes it the perfect choice for a heartwarming winter watch, no matter which holidays you do or don’t celebrate. And when you’ve finished belting out Let It Go, you can move straight on to Frozen 2.
For sisterly bonding: Little Women
Little Women is another non-Christmas Christmas movie. Yes, there are Christmas Day scenes but the film’s scope stretches far beyond the festive season as it follows the lives of the four March sisters over the course of their adolescence. While there are a number of adaptations of the classic Louisa May Alcott novel, with Saoirse Ronan and Timothée Chalamet’s chemistry and Florence Pugh’s fiery turn as Amy, Greta Gerwig’s 2019 version is hard to beat. The cinematography and set design gives an old-fashioned festive flavour (think crackling fires and snowy fields) without beating you over the head with Christmas cheer. Prepare to wonder whether you can pull off a waistcoat as successfully as Saoirse Ronan.
For quirky humour: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Ralph Fiennes is on glorious form in this film as Monsieur Gustave, the legendary concierge of the Grand Budapest Hotel in the 1930s who befriends Zero, a junior lobby boy. When one of Gustave’s lovers dies mysteriously, Gustave and Zero get swept up in a conspiracy alongside a cast of colourful characters. Set in the fictional mountainous European town of Zubrowka during a snowy winter, director Wes Anderson creates a magical, immersive world with painted backdrops and colourful costumes.
For a gothic fairy tale: Crimson Peak
Written and directed by Oscar-winner Guillermo del Toro, Crimson Peak is a 19th century gothic melodrama. The story centres on Edith (played by Mia Wasikowska), a young author haunted by the ghosts of her past who impulsively marries Thomas (Tom Hiddleston) and moves to his crumbling English mansion, Crimson Peak, where he lives with his sister (Jessica Chastain). Before long, Edith realises that the house holds more than one menacing secret. Spooky, twisted and definitely suitable for a chilly night.
For classic sci-fi: Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back
Star Wars might not be the first thing that springs to mind when you think “winter movie” but hear us out. The first chunk of The Empire Strikes Back takes place on the ice planet Hoth, complete with a soothing blanket of snow in the background. There’s even a battle with a snow monster (the wampa)! More sinister but more involving than A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back took the Star Wars series to heightened emotional levels. The perfect excuse to revisit a classic.
For gory action: The Hateful Eight
The Hateful Eight is both a Western and a signature Quentin Tarantino movie, blending action, humour and over-the-top violence. Set during a snowy Wyoming Winter, the film follows a group of strangers who find themselves waylaid by a blizzard and stranded at an inn on the mountain pass. As the storm rages on and the characters remain trapped, secrets begin to emerge and the tension threatens to spill into bloodshed. With an all-star cast including Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell and Jennifer Jason Leigh, it’s a claustrophobic and entertaining watch.
For an old-school mystery: Knives Out
Rian Johnson sparked a revival of the Agatha Christie-style whodunit with the release of Knives Out, a classic murder mystery starring a host of household names from Christopher Plummer to Jamie Lee Curtis. A family gathers in a sprawling country mansion to celebrate their patriarch’s birthday. When tragedy strikes, it’s up to detective Benoit Blanc (a delightful Daniel Craig) to find the culprit – if, indeed, there even is one. The film is set in late autumn, with chic knitwear and falling leaves creating a moody atmosphere that complements the black comedy of the script.
For snowy horror: The Shining
A Christmas classic for horror fans, Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of Stephen King’s novel is a chilling winter watch. The Shining is about Jack Torrence, who takes a job as a winter caretaker for the Outlook Hotel. When Jack and his family move into the empty, snow-blanketed building, strange and unsettling events begin to unfold. If you’re sick of saccharine festive offerings, The Shining could be the antidote: just be prepared to sleep with the lights on afterwards.
For dark humour: In Bruges
In Bruges follows two Irish hitmen, Ray (played by Colin Farrell) and Ken (Brendan Gleeson) who are exiled to Bruges after Ray’s first job for crime boss Harry (Ralph Fiennes) ends in tragedy. Against the stunning backdrop of Bruges at Christmas time, Ray grapples with his guilty conscience and becomes increasingly out of control. At times hilarious, at times depressing (and often both), In Bruges is packed with one-liners and brilliant comic performances. Just make sure you keep any young kids out of the room.
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