These Dark Holiday Movies Will Bring Out The Inner Grinch

If an alien were to exclusively watch Hallmark Christmas movies, it would walk away with the impression that the holidays were a magical and enchanted time in the human calendar. Surely, the alien would conclude, human beings are only capable of falling in love between the short period between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Santa's sleigh brings presents for kids, and romantic miracles for adults. Everything is fine for one month.
But as any human would tell you, the Christmas season can actually be kind of sad. Once you're an adult, the holiday season is a time of reflection, more than it is a time of present-giving. It's a time when we turn inwards, towards each other. We regularly watch movies that will make us cry, just to expunge those emotions.
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So it's fitting not all Christmas movies are Hallmark movies. The movies on this list pluck the dark, disturbing undercurrents of the holiday season — and as a result, some of these are the most moving (and hilarious) holiday movies of them all.
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A Bad Moms Christmas (2017)

The sequel to Bad Moms is set during the most high-pressure season of the year for many mothers: Christmas. The three protagonists (Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell, and Kathryn Hahn) have it even worse when their own moms drop in.
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It's a Wonderful Life (1946)

It's a Wonderful Life is an enduring Christmas classic precisely because it doesn't shy away from the melancholy feelings of the holiday season. When a struggling businessman, George Bailey (James Stewart), contemplates suicide, an angel named Clarence (Henry Travers) is sent to show George just how crucial his existence has been to the individuals around him. After taking a tour of the dark events that would have occurred without his interventions, George sees the impact his own little life has really had. The rest of us aren't as lucky as George — we have to wander around the Christmas season burdened by unanswerable existential concerns.
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Black Christmas (1974)

There's a slasher movie for every major holiday – Halloween, My Bloody Valentine. Black Christmas is the Yuletide version. The movie centers on a group of sorority sisters during the holiday season, who don't realize that a killer is living in their attic. Not a merry Christmas. Not so merry at all.
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Life of Brian (1979)

Life of Brian is not quite a Christmas movie, but it touches upon the story of Christmas. In this hilarious satire set in 33 A.D, Monty Python retells the Biblical story of Jesus. Brian Cohen (Graham Chapman) is born on Christmas day, in the stable over from baby Jesus. He grows up in the shadow of his more famous, more miraculous neighbor. Given their biographical similarities, some people actually start mistaking him for the Messiah. Expect some blasphemous humor that only Monty Python could pull off, including a row of people on crucifixes singing the song, "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life."
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Gremlins (1984)

Randall Peltzer (Hoyt Axton) thinks he's being father of the year when he traverses through Chinatown to find his son the most unique Christmas present ever: A delectably cute animal called a mogwai. The store owner warns him that mogwai must be taken care of according to three strict rules: No food after midnight, no exposure to sun, and no exposure to water. Randall's son doesn't do a good job of taking care of his new pet, and soon, their true nature is exposed. The little gremlins wreak havoc on the Peltzers' small town.
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Scrooged (1988)

There's something inherently dark in Dickens' story "A Christmas Carol." Scrooge is so awful that he needs three ghosts to make him aware of his own behavior. Scrooged brings Dickens' classic story into the modern age. The Scrooge character is Frank Cross (Bill Murray), an unfeeling, miserly TV executive. You'll walk away from Scrooge wanting to shake your hand at every high-rise office building, where similarly selfish people may lurk, without the hope of three ghosts to bring redemption.
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The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

Is it a Halloween movie? Is a Christmas movie? Does it matter? No, because Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas can satisfy the needs of both holiday movies: It's spooky, and it's sentimental. Jack Skellington (Chris Sarandon) has lived his entire life in Halloweenown, so imagine his surprise when he discovers nearby Christmastown. Instead of scaring humans, as creatures do in Halloweentown, the residents of Christmastown just spread cheer and light. So, Jack tries to take over, and ends up wreaking havoc on the very notion of a holiday spirit.
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Jack Frost (1998)

When you watched Jack Frost as a kid, did you realize how ridiculously tragic it was? Before being reincarnated as a snowman, Jack Frost (Michael Keaton) was a traveling musician who would go long stretches without seeing his wife and son. He dies in a tragic car accident. A year later, his son, Charlie (Joseph Cross), plays his harmonica and conjures him up — in snowman form. Though Charlie and Jack get to be together during Christmas, eventually snowmen must melt.
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Stepmom (1998)

Cinema's most wrenching Christmas gathering happens at the end of this movie, which is about a contentious relationship between a divorced woman Jackie (Susan Sarandon) and her ex-husband's new fiancée (Julia Roberts). Why's it so sad? Because Jackie is terminally ill, and is looking at the woman who will mother her children after she's gone.
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Family Man (2000)

Like Scrooged, the protagonist of this movie is a miserly man who prioritized his job over the Things That Matter: family, true love, kindness. Jack (Nicolas Cage) has an opportunity to "redo" his bad decisions one Christmas evening, when, after a robbery, he wakes up next to his lost love (Tea Leoni). So, what's it going to be? A career as an investment banker or life as a family man?
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8 Women (2002)

If you've already seen (and loved) Murder on the Orient Express, then you'll be excited by the prospect of this French murder mystery that takes place in a similarly lavish locale. At the start of the movie, a family gathers in a large mansion in the French countryside for the holidays. And then — the master of the house is stabbed to death overnight. Suddenly, the eight women staying in the house all become murder suspects.
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Bad Santa (2003)

You never really know the identity of the man behind the mall Santa costume — and as Bad Santa proves, you don't really want to. For the past eight years, Willie T. Sokes (Billy Bob Thornton) and his literal partner-in-crime (Tony Cox) have run the same hoax: Willie dresses up as a mall Santa, and they rob nearby stores. The year Bad Santa takes place, Willie's alcoholism and sex addiction reach new levels of depravity. We're talking getting drunk on the job, telling kids about his STDs, and sleeping with mall customers in dressing rooms. Is redemption for Willie possible? Maybe, but either way — you'll laugh.
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Sint (2010)

Watch this Dutch horror film, and you'll never look at Santa Claus the same way. Sint rethinks the mythology of Santa Claus. Instead of a jolly old man on a sleigh, the harbinger of the Christmas season is St. Nicholas: a monstrous murderer who snatches children while they're walking beneath the twinkling Christmas lights of Amsterdam.
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