Posted on December 17, 2021

Ah, the holidays. So many good movies, so little time. Being a season of comfort foods, places and people, we get why viewers don't tend to wander away from their tried and true classics. Everyone knows ELF is hilarious, THE GRINCH will always be a hit  and you can guarantee a tear out of mom with IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE. But, in the interest of widening your cinematic horizons, the CIFF staff have picked out some underrated holiday films for all CIFF fans to enjoy! Take a look at our unconventional picks below...

AAAABa DsMZJlE5p2xPi5VT5ZMsiQSkP9kk5bQLMHGHWTEE7bWpzgbQjceOmRpCDz  QvMfSwx9NIPvJ2uOhRnamC8NI6inI

Brian Owens, Artistic Director

KLAUS (2019)

Sergio Pablos's beautifully old-fashioned animation is one of the few films that actually gets me into the Christmas spirit. While I typically find most holiday films to be overly treacly (or on rare occasions, overly cynical), KLAUS finds the happy medium. Visually, it's a feast for the eyes and the story is often as funny as it is moving. It might seem weird to say an Oscar-nominated film seen by over 40 million people on Netflix is "underrated," but I would argue until it found its place in the pantheon of the annual Christmas viewing, it is. It deserves to be seen as a classic.

Available on Netflix

Eight Crazy Nights

Brenda Lieberman, Lead Features Programmer


As someone Jewish, surrounded by Christmas films, hallmark movies and so much holiday content to get the spirits up over December, I’ve always been so surprised there aren’t more Chanukah films!!! Not just for the rest of us- I say this lightly with a chuckle because I love all holiday films-but also for kids and other adults to get a better sense of various holidays and traditions through film. So, each year, a few months before December, I do a deep dive, or hope those comedic filmmakers on the other side of the border like Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg, Ben Stiller, Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg (so many to list) will plan for another one. Not that it must be a comedy, of course, but I suppose I always look to these various filmmakers and writers to come through for us all when it comes to thematic films such as this.

Each year-and I have already begun watching them-my go-to Chanukah films have and always will remain (until more come out):

8 CRAZY NIGHTS is a classic! This film is an animated film from 2002, directed by Seth Kearsley and starring Adam Sandler, with great style, songs and story that always makes me cry and has a great message, too. This is a quintessential Chanukah film through and through. I think this would be hard to beat to be honest, when or if more come out.

Available on Amazon Prime

THE NIGHT BEFORE is such a fun, light (slightly debaucherous) holiday film directed by Jonathan Levine (produced by Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg), about a group of friends around Christmas tradition, with the Jewish friend in the mix! I love watching this one over and over. I was always the Jewish friend in the mix growing up, so maybe that reminds me of it! This is so far on the opposite side of storytelling from 8 CRAZY NIGHTS!

Available to rent on Youtube, Amazon Prime and ITunes


pfi28eZ7Ebw5bW5LtjWJ0PlDoEg 1200 1200 675 675 crop 000000

Adam Keresztes, Shorts Programmer


Ok, so a priest wants to commit as many sins as possible before Christmas so that Satan will reveal himself on that day and the priest can slay him once and for all. The twist is that a priest doesn't know how to commit any sins. Insert Jose Maria, a satanist and heavy metal enthusiast who runs a record store. The duo works together committing sins around the holiday season. Director of CIFF selection from 2012 AS LUCK WOULD HAVE IT. 
Available on Tubi, Kanopy, Shudder and AMC+

C15700E6 E9D4 46AE 9CA7 3FCDBDEDABF5
Morgan Cairns, Marketing Manager


Taking place in L.A. on Christmas Eve, this excellent film follows two trans women sex workers, Sin-Dee Rella and Alexandra, as they roam around the city looking for Sin-Dee's cheating boyfriend, Chester. This stunning film was shot using three iPhone 5S smartphones, and features incredible performances from Kitana Kiki Rodriguez and Mya Taylor and an A+ screenplay by Sean Baker.

Available to rent on Youtube and iTunes

mickey 1 4

Gaby Aguilar, Marketing Content Coordinator

Mickey's Once Upon a Christmas (1999)

It would be all too easy to dismiss MICKEY'S ONCE UPON A CHRISTMAS as yet another direct to VHS Mickey film. However, I urge you this holiday season to find the youngest member of your family and watch this movie. In its three parts, this film has everything great about the MCU (the Mickey Cinematic Universe) with the added surprise of deep and truthful empathy. The first of the three parts feature the cast of Ducktales (ah-woo-hoo) who have gotten themselves into a groundhog day situation. Classic Disney hijinx ensues, ending in a simple but welcome lesson about bratty, ungrateful children. The second part focuses on Goofy and his son Max, a duo I have not gotten enough of since 2000's AN EXTREMELY GOOFY MOVIE, which is stellar and you should watch immediately. There is single father representation, delightful tomfoolery, and a surprisingly heartfelt look at father-son relationships.

This film really shines in its last part, where Mickey and Minnie are broke and in love, trying to find each other's perfect Christmas gift. They did a surprisingly realistic job of portraying a working-class couple; in one particularly devastating scene, Minnie thinks she will be saved by her holiday bonus but finds instead that her very wealthy boss has given her but a lumpy fruitcake, leaving her with no money to pay her overflowing bill drawer. The couple spends the film scrambling to save up, working odd jobs in the hopes of making anything at all but are ultimately unable to make ends meet. The last scene leaves not a dry eye in the house when they exchange gifts and realize that Mickey pawned his beloved harmonica to get Minnie a chain for her grandmother's watch but Minnie, in turn, had pawned her watch to get Mickey a case for his harmonica. You are crying reading this, you will cry when you watch it, you will cry 10 years later just thinking about it. It is a pro-worker masterpiece and should be watched every day in December. 

Available on Disney+

Comfort films are great and they should rightfully be enjoyed during the comfort season, that being said, try something new with one of our unconventional picks, you never know, your new favourite holiday film could be waiting for you on this list!

We at CIFF want to wish you a very merry holiday season and a happy new year! A sincere thanks to all for supporting us in 2021, we can't wait to see you in 2022. 

Back to blog listing