Best Indie Christmas Movies
Seasonal films have become a staple of the American movie landscape. From It’s a Wonderful Life to Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, televisions are alight with holiday blockbusters throughout the winter season. These types of films have become so widespread that Holiday Movies are now considered a subgenre of Family Films (this subgenre also includes films centered around other holidays like Easter and Thanksgiving too). This Christmas Holiday Film has seen countless iterations, subversions, and hits, and its impact has been felt throughout the world of film. Even the indie scene has dipped its toes into the Christmas holiday lineup, so this year, while you prepare for your festive get-togethers, why not turn on one of these Christmas indie movies.
1: Carol (2015)
This 2015 film was directed by Todd Haynes with a screenplay composed by Phyllis Nagy, based on the 1952 romance novel Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith. Outstanding visual direction and cinematography combined with the stellar performances of Cate Blanchet and Rooney Mara, Carol is a profoundly touching and visually stunning holiday piece. It is a period-focused film about the blossoming illicit romance of Carol Aird (Patricia Highsmith) and Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara) in 1952s Manhattan. Carol is a somber, romantic film for the holidays, filled with longing, perfect chemistry, subtle glances, and visual performances that speak volumes.
2: Christmas Again (2014)
Charles Poekel directs this microbudget masterwork; it depicts a struggling Christmas tree salesman named Noel (Kentucker Audley) who is slowly creeping into despair around the holiday season. He comes to the aid of a mysterious woman (Hannah Gross) who helps him find a small spark of joy in a cold, lonely holiday. This film is a quiet, subtle character study of Noel steeped in nuanced performances and a hauntingly melancholic mood.
3: Ice Harvest (2005)
This dark-comedy-thriller is a stark but delightful departure from traditional holiday fare. Directed by Harold Ramis, with a screenplay written by Richard Russo and Robert Brenton, this dark raunchy romp combines outlandish gore with goofy comedy to a surprisingly pleasant effect. The story follows mob lawyer Charlie Arglist (John Cusak) and pornographer Vic Cavanaugh (Billy Bob Thorton) through a Christmas Eve highest. Unfortunately, things go awry when they are stopped by freak weather, resulting in them having to keep ahold of the money while the roads clear; bloody funny hijinks ensue. This film brings quirky comedy alongside excellent deliveries from Cusak and Thorton; if you’re looking for something that’s outside of the standard Xmas fair, we recommend giving this neo-noir a watch.
4: C.R.A.Z.Y. (2005)
This Canadian coming-of-age story stars Marc-André Grondin as Zachary Beaulieu dealing with the homophobia of his family as he discovers his sexuality. Born on Christmas, the film follows Zach through time, showing his personal growth through various family Christmases through the ’70s and ’80s. The film presents a family drama with a rockstar soundtrack featuring hits from The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, David Bowie, and Patsy Cline. A winner of multiple awards, this film has been rated one of the top 10 Canadian films of all time by the Toronto Film Festival.
5: Tangerine (2015)
This 2015 comedy-drama directed by Sean Baker tells the story of two transgender sex workers, Sin-Dee Rella portrayed by Kitana Kiki Rodriguez and Alexandra by Mya Taylor, as they track down Sin-Dee’s cheating boyfriend and pimp throughout Hollywood. Their madcap, wild goose chase through the mean streets on Christmas Eve presents a strange, surreal, buddy comedy. Baker’s comedy odyssey brings a technicolor aesthetic, dreamy synth soundtrack, and surprising heart to this indie gem.
6: Black Christmas (1947)
An oldie but a goodie, while today Black Christmas has received critical re-acclaim, many forget its origins as a humble Canadian independent film. Black Christmas is now famous for being a pioneer film in the slasher genre and one of the significant driving influences and inspirations in John Carpenter’s Halloween. This yuletide horror was directed by Bob Clark, written by Roy Moore, and stars Andrea Martin, John Saxon, Keir Dullea, Margot Kidder, and Olivia Hussey. It follows a troupe of college sorority girls who are plagued by violent phone calls and hunted by a vicious killer on the night of Christmas Eve. While relatively standard for a slasher movie, it should be appreciated for its innovative techniques and direction for its time.
7: Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010)
Following the theme of seasonal terror, Rare Exports is a Finnish action-horror piece written and directed by Jalmari Helander. The film follows a local reindeer slaughterer Rauno Kontioin (Jorma Tommila), and his son Pietari Kontio (Onni Tommila). They discover the origins of Santa in the small town of Korvatunturi after a British research team wakes up an ancient jolly evil. This film is a wacky, gory, wild ride that is fun and horrifying.
For decades, Christmas and holiday films have been a genre staple across the American film landscape. Beyond hosting timeless classics, the holiday film genre acts as a medium for innovation and invention, as seen with many of the entries on this list. Indie films, uniquely, can take the seasonal trapping of the holiday genre and use them to tell genuinely unique and artistic stories; many of which that subvert traditional the tropes and themes of the genre, such as Ice Harvest or Rare Exports, while others expertly delve into traditional holiday themes from a fresh perspective, like Carol or C.R.A.Z.Y. Ultimately, indie films, as they often do, act as inspiring expressive pieces, which present new and exciting ideas, regardless of the genre they’re in. If you are interested in more articles about indie filmmaking and indie film festivals, you can read more about them on our main blog here; or if you’re interested in hosting your indie movie on a platform designed for and catered to indie filmmakers, you can host through filmhighway.net by contacting us here.
Evolve with the future of Digital Cinema
It’s a new world.
Film Festival Services
Archive & Deployment