Courtesy of the Criterion Collection
Courtesy of the Criterion Collection
“Fanny and Alexander” is the last film Ingmar Bergman directed.
If you’ve already watched “Elf” five times this month, here are nine international Christmas movies to add to your viewing list.
By this point in December, you’ve probably “traveled” across the United States rewatching classic American holiday movies. Maybe you’ve revisited New York with Elf, remembered the panic of rushing through Chicago’s O’Hare airport with Home Alone, or pretended you’re snowed in up in Vermont with White Christmas. If you’ve journeyed abroad, it’s likely you’ve hopped the pond to London with Love, Actually or Last Christmas.
But if you’re itching to add some new stamps to your hypothetical Christmas movie passport, you can stream these nine international Christmas movies from Finland, France, and even French Canada. Whether they’re free with your existing Hulu or Criterion Channel subscription or available to rent for a few dollars on Amazon Prime, each one of these films can be streamed online right now. So get ready to scratch your holiday travel itch quicker than you can say Joyeux Noel, Feliz Navidad, or God Jul.
Set in early 20th-century Sweden, this Ingmar Bergman film won multiple Academy Awards in 1984, including best costume design and cinematography. The first hour is set during Christmastime and follows the wealthy Ekdahl family’s celebrations: attending a Nativity play, eating a massive Christmas meal together, dancing through the house and singing songs. It feels like there’s a Christmas tree in nearly every room lit up with real candles, per Scandinavian tradition. The following two hours (it was originally filmed to be a miniseries) are more grim when the titular Ekdahl children’s father dies and their mother remarries hastily. Spoiler alert: While we wouldn’t call it a fairy tale ending, the children and their mother do escape their evil stepfather by the end.
In Un Conte de Noel—or A Christmas Tale in English—Catherine Deneuve stars as the matriarch of a family that gathers for the first time in years for Christmas after Mom receives a dire cancer diagnosis. While the setting is cozy and festive, the drama might make your own family’s dysfunction seem like good behavior.
This anime film is about three houseless people—a middle-aged alcoholic, a former drag queen, and a runaway teen—who find an abandoned baby girl on Christmas Eve in Tokyo. As they attempt to reunite the child with her parents, they end up on a harrowing adventure through the city, complete with run-ins with the Yakuza, a hitman, and long-lost friends and family.
Set in the 1940s in a mining town in Quebec, the titular character of Mon Oncle Antoine (My Uncle Antoine) runs the village’s general store and also acts as the undertaker to make ends meet. His ward, a young teenager named Benoit, assists him. The main action of the film takes place on Christmas Eve as they decorate the storefront and celebrate with local townspeople after a couple announces their engagement. While this is Benoit’s coming-of-age story, it’s also a fascinating look into rural Canadian life in the past.
What if Santa Claus was an evil demon hellbent on punishing naughty children instead of a jolly old man who rewards the good kids? This is the question that Rare Exports answers. Set in a remote village on the Russian and Finnish border, the action of this over-the-top Christmas tale starts when a crew excavates the site where the real Santa Claus has been imprisoned in ice for years. After he’s released, it’s up to a handful of villagers armed with hunting rifles and dynamite to stop the demon and his horde of evil elves.
Christmas has nothing to do with the plot of this horror film about an aging antiques dealer in Mexico discovering a 400-year-old device that helps you live forever—at an extreme cost. But Guillermo del Toro’s first feature film is set during the holidays and one of the most eye-opening scenes takes place at a New Year’s Eve party, so we’re including it.
Joyeux Noel is based on real events during World War I when British, French, and German troops on the Western Front agreed to an unofficial cease-fire on Christmas Eve. The movie is light on trench warfare and focuses more on the soldiers coming together to celebrate their similarities—their Christian faith and love of music and French wine—in spite of it all. Just as in real life, the soldiers and commanding officers were all punished later for fraternizing with the enemy.
This dark comedy follows a poor man named Plácido who is hired to help deliver food for a holiday charity drive based on the idea of “seat a poor man at your table.” When the town’s upper class actually invite homeless people to dinner at their houses on Christmas Eve, it becomes abundantly clear how performative these supposedly pious and well-off families are.
People who consider Die Hard a Christmas movie should watch The Tower. Both movies begin with a fancy Christmas Eve party in a skyscraper where all hell breaks loose. Just swap Hans Gruber and his band of terrorists for a fiery helicopter accident, and instead of John McClain, you get a whole team of firefighters and the building’s head of maintenance as the heroes who save the day.
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