BEST Underrated Christmas Movies List

Last Updated: March 6, 2024By
Best Underrated Christmas Movies List - New England Innkeeper

It’s undeniable that in recent years, our screens have been inundated with an overwhelming number of Christmas movies, not all of them of the highest quality. Let New England Innkeeper help you navigate the holiday movie avalanche with our annual list of the BEST Underrated Christmas Movies You Need to See.

20 of the BEST Underrated Christmas Movies!

Hallmark Channel alone premieres a multitude of new holiday movies each year, and “It’s A Wonderful Lifetime” follows suit with an equally extensive list of new festive films. Add to that the influx of Great American Family Christmas movies PLUS the ever-expanding world of streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, Vudu, Amazon Prime, Apple TV, Max, Starz, Paramount Plus, and many more, and you’ve got a holiday movie bonanza. In 2022, there were a staggering 172 new holiday films released – and that’s just for one year. While the strikes from WAG and SAG-AFTRA may reduce the number of premieres in 2023, rest assured there will still be a blizzard of new Christmas movie releases, not all of which will be cinematic masterpieces. Just the idea of navigating the huge volume of new moves, alone, makes it tough for anyone seeking to locate the best underrated Christmas movies that may have flown under the radar.

Don’t get us wrong; we love Christmas movies, and having options is a wonderful thing. However, the challenge arises when you’re faced with the daunting task of selecting which Christmas movies to invest your precious holiday viewing hours in.

Amidst the holiday hustle and bustle, how do you discern the must-watch gems from the not-so-great ones? That’s where New England Innkeeper comes in. We’ve compiled a list of the lesser-known and best underrated Christmas movies, presented in no particular order, that are well worth your time. These are the hidden festive films you may not have stumbled upon or even heard of before, but trust us, they deserve a place in your holiday movie lineup.

While everyone’s familiar with the perennial classics like “White Christmas,” “It’s A Wonderful Life,” and “A Christmas Carol,” it’s important to sift through the holiday movie landscape to discover the true hidden treasures. For every “Miracle On 34th Street,” there seem to be at least 20 films like “A Boyfriend for Christmas” that, in our humble opinion, may not merit your precious holiday hours.

In the spirit of giving, we’ve taken it upon ourselves to curate a list of Christmas movies that are well-worth your time and perfect for those moments when you’re seeking a holly-jolly film that’s refreshingly different. These films may not have crossed your radar yet, but we’re here to point you in the right direction. Get ready to discover some hidden holiday gems certain to add a touch of magic to your Christmas season.

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Here Is Our List Of 20 of the BEST Underrated Christmas Movies (in no particular order)

An American Christmas Carol (1979)

Best Christmas Movies - An American Christmas Carol (1979)

It’s snowing for you, Buddy!

“An American Christmas Carol” (1979) is a serious-minded effort to put an Old New England spin on the Old English Christmas Carol. We have to say, The Fonz really brought his A-Game for this production. Who knew? Keep your eyes peeled — this won’t be Arthur Fonzarelli’s only mention in our Christmas movie collection!

SUMMARY: This loose adaptation of the classic Charles Dickens tale moves the story to New England, where stingy elderly businessman Benedict Slade (Henry Winkler) ruthlessly collects debts and makes life miserable for everyone around him. His unscrupulous behavior warrants a Christmas Eve visit from his ghostly former partner and other spirits that show him the error of his ways. Can Slade turn his life around and become a better person before it’s too late? You’ll definitely want to seek out this entry on our best underrated Christmas movies list.

November Christmas (2010)

November Christmas (2010) is a made-for-TV holiday drama powered by a couple of very strong performances by Sam Elliott and (then) child actress Emily Alyn Lind. Keep the Kleenex handy! If you can make it through this one without crying, you’re stronger than we are!

SUMMARY: A father whose daughter is seriously ill fears she will not live through the year. He is determined to make sure her remaining time is happy, and with the help of his neighbors, he arranges to celebrate Halloween and Christmas months ahead of schedule so she can enjoy both holidays.

Surviving Christmas (2004)

Tony Soprano playing an extremely grumpy Christmas-season dad opposite a better-than-it-should-be goofball performance by Ben Affleck? Uhhhmmm, where do I sign up? Yeah, there may be a few Christmas Movie Snowflakes out there vocally opining that this Surviving Christmas (2004) is probably lesser-known because it almost derailed Ben Affleck’s career. All we can do is agree to disagree and shout out: “Sweet Jim Jiminy! Cold corn in the mornin’!“ We’re not certain what the problem was with these so-called critics – and that’s precisely why we’re dedicated to resurfacing this film on our list of the best underrated Chritsmas movies.

SUMMARY: A wealthy executive, Drew Latham (Ben Affleck) has no close relationships and becomes nostalgic for his childhood home as Christmas approaches. When he visits the house and finds another family living there, he offers the residents, Tom Valco (James Gandolfini) and his wife, Christine (Catherine O’Hara), a large sum of money to pretend they are his parents. Soon Drew tests the couple’s patience, and, when their daughter, Alicia (Christina Applegate), arrives, things get increasingly tense.

29th Street (1991)

Think “Goodfellas” with a dollop of “It’s A Wonderful Life”! We have absolutely no idea how 29th Street (1991) has flown under the radar for so long – that’s why we’ve included it here on our best underrated Christmas movies list! Admittedly, the fact that it’s not streaming anywhere (and needs to be watched via physical media) certainly isn’t helping out. But, who knows — if you get lucky, perhaps a YouTube search will turn up a full copy? Somebody needs to start Danny Aiello a holiday movie fan club, or something! Also, look for another mostly-unseen Christmas flick featuring the criminally-underrated yuletide-facing side of Danny Aiello a little later on in this list!

SUMMARY: 29th Street is a forgotten feel-good film that deserves to be recognized as a Christmas classic. In this fact-based film, happy-go-lucky Frank Pesce Jr. (Anthony LaPaglia) is lucky from the day of his birth, when his mother (Lainie Kazan) gives birth to him in a different hospital than planned — only to have the first facility burn down. Growing up in an Italian neighborhood in Queens, Frank’s irresponsible ways and good fortune irritate his hard-working but luckless father, Frank Pesce Sr. (Danny Aiello). But when Frank Jr. wins the $6.2 million in the first New York State Lottery and then makes a deal with local mobsters, will his lottery prize be his unluckiest break ever? Fuhgeddaboutit!

The Spirit of Christmas (2015)

Strange premise here, but once you get over the head-scratching notion of a time-traveling Christmas ghost who has no idea how he died – what you’re left with is 91 minutes of seasonally-appropriate entertainment hitting well-above standard holiday movie averages! NEW ENGLAND INNKEEPER BONUS FACT: Filming of “The Spirit of Christmas” took place primarily at two historic inns in Massachusetts — The Harding Allen Estate in Barre and The Proctor Mansion Inn in Wrentham — as well as additional locations in Worcester.

SUMMARY: Attorney Kate Jordan is sent to broker the sale of Hollygrove Inn, but she is told that her appraiser has left because of a ghost. Sure enough, it s not long before she meets Daniel Forsythe — a man who mysteriously died 95 years ago. The two strike a deal if she can help him discover the truth behind his death and why he is cursed to return to the inn for Christmas each year, he will leave and allow Kate to finish her job. As they work together, Kate can’t help but fall for this dashing Christmas spirit, and a romance develops that will alter the course of both their lives.

Holiday Engagement (2011)

Sugar-cookie sweet + bordering on the cartoonish – we know this going in – but Holiday Engagement (2011) is still an enjoyable holiday date-night watch!

SUMMARY: Hillary Burns (Bonnie Somerville) gets engaged, only for her fiance to leave her just before she is due to head home for the holidays. Rather than face parental disapproval, she hires an actor to pose as her future husband. With (Cheers alum) Shelley Long, Jordan Bridges, Sam McMurray.

Noelle (2008)

Best Christmas Movies - New England Innkeeper - Noelle (2008)

A meandering movie with some very heavy themes questionably juxtaposed against lots of small town quirkiness – but the atmospheric filmography in Noelle (2008), shot on location in an off-season Dennis (and surrounding areas) on Cape Cod, bring a certain cold-New-England coziness to bear!

SUMMARY: Shortly before Christmas, Father Jonathan Keene (David Wall) arrives to shut down the church of a fishing village’s dwindling parish. Though he is usually dispassionate and efficient when working on such tasks, events take a different turn when he becomes entangled in the lives of the town’s eccentric residents.

Tree Man (2016)

Interesting, to consider the lives of those who, through their own discomfort, make it possible for us to have live Christmas trees in our city homes! This documentary would make an excellent triple feature with the similarly themed movies: Christmas, Again (2014) AND All Is Bright (2013). All of these films offer a unique perspective from the lives of the individuals who have made it their job to make certain that we all have easy access to Christmas trees for the holiday season — that’s why they’re here on our list of the best underrated Christmas movies of all time.

SUMMARY: The story of Christmas tree salesmen who journey to the sidewalks of New York City every holiday season.

The Family Stone (2005)

The Family Stone (2005) is full of middle-class American family dysfunction during the holiday season! “Christmas is not “clothing optional” this year, we have a guest.

SUMMARY: An uptight, conservative businesswoman accompanies her boyfriend to his eccentric and outgoing family’s annual Christmas celebration and finds that she’s a fish out of water in their free-spirited way of life. With Dermot Mulroney, Sarah Jessica Parker, Rachel McAdams, Claire Danes, Diane Keaton.

One Christmas (1994)

Best Christmas Movies - New England Innkeeper - One Christmas (1994)

And thus, with One Christmas (1994), The Fonz makes a coveted second appearance on our list of the best underrated Christmas movies list! This time with some notable literary heft behind him (in the form of Truman Capote’s storytelling) and alongside 4-time Oscar Winner, Katharine Hepburn! Plus, there’s always room for another Christmas Miracle in the Big Easy! Still scratching for a little more Fonziness on your holiday menu? After this one, try The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year (2008)!

SUMMARY: A young man is sent to visit his estranged father for Christmas in 1930 in New Orleans. Based on an autobiographical short story by Truman Capote. Starring Katharine Hepburn (in her final television role), Henry Winkler and Swoosie Kurtz.

Joyeux Nöel (2005)

Oh, so we heard you were looking for a Christmas movie with some subtitles, a few explosions, PLUS a theme that’s a little more substantial? Maybe Joyeux Nöel (2005) will keep your husband’s attention 🙂

SUMMARY: An epic war drama film based on the Christmas Truce of December 1914, depicted through the eyes of French, Scottish, and German soldiers.

The Christmas Candle (2013)

Another exceedingly pleasant surprise in the feel-good category — The Christmas Candle (2013) is complete with a notable performance by viral Britain’s Got Talent alum, Susan Boyle!

SUMMARY: In 19th-century England, a minister’s quest to modernize his village puts him at odds with people who believe that whoever lights the candle that an angel touched will receive a miracle on Christmas Eve.

The Fitzgerald Family Christmas (2012)

Do you have some extra time this Christmas season for a slightly-gritty Long Island Irish family drama set during the holidays? We did 🙂 — and if you also give Fitzgerald Family Christmas a view, you’ll easily see how it has earned (and retained) its spot on on best underrated Christmas movies list.

SUMMARY: The siblings of the Fitzgerald family must decide if the dad who abandoned them 20 years ago can come home for Christmas. Can the big Irish clan get past their grievances to be a family again? Starring Edward Burns.

The Christmas Cottage (2008)

You’ve certainly seen some of Thomas Kinkade’s paintings on collectible plates, and the like, over the years. Now’s your chance to learn a little more about the man behind those ten-trillion signed and numbered Giclée prints.

SUMMARY: A semi-autobiographical look at the inspiration behind Thomas Kinkade’s painting The Christmas Cottage, and how the artist was motivated to begin his career after discovering his mother was in danger of losing their family home. Starring Peter O’Toole, Jared Padalecki, Marcia Gay Harden, Aaron Ashmore, and Richard Burgi.

Midnight Clear (2006)

We’re guessing Candace Cameron Bure passed on this one. But we’ve included it here because, let’s face it, Christmas can’t be all gingerbread and candy-canes all the time! This one’s a downer more often than not, but a few of the performances keep it chugging along – and in the end there’s something in there about how it’s important to do little nice things as we move through our lives, like when you throw your spare pennies in the cup near the cash register at the gas station, or something. We think. “Got a fiver?“

SUMMARY: ‘Twas the night before Christmas in the Southwest, and for five strangers spread out across town, it’s the most depressing time of the year. As the night progresses, they randomly cross paths, and in unique and subtle ways, change each other’s lives forever. Featuring incredible performances by veteran actors such as Stephen Baldwin, K Callan, and Kirk B.R. Woller, as well as newcomers Mary Thornton and Mitchell Jarvis, MIDNIGHT CLEAR is a quiet tapestry of lonely people trying to connect in the midst of pain. The film also features terrific and surprising guest work from Victoria Jackson and Richard Riehle.

A Holiday For Love (1996)

A Holiday For Love - Christmas Movie

“Little House on the Prairie’s” Melissa Gilbert in a love triangle with Tim Matheson and a truly badass Travis Tritt (isn’t he always) with some equally bad hair (doesn’t he always)! Yeah, we’re going to put this one in the ‘keeper’ pile! This corn-syrup-sweet rom-com romp is somehow seemingly out of print – and (unbelievably) hasn’t found its way to the streaming universe. All the better for those few who were smart enough to purchase a DVD back in the mid-90s to jack up their prices on eBay and Amazon!

SUMMARY: Warm holiday drama in which an executive forced to cut the jobs of many people working at a small-town tractor factory gets a big surprise when he’s mistaken as the savior of the local economy. Melissa Gilbert, Tim Matheson, Travis Tritt, Michelle Trachtenberg star. AKA: “Christmas in My Hometown.”

Truman Capote’s A Christmas Memory (1966)

Truman Capote - A Christmas Memory Movie

Another Truman Capote connected rarity finds its way onto our list! We have a soft spot for this legendary piece of glistening vintage glee!

SUMMARY: Narrated by Truman Capote. Emmy Award winning adaptation of Capote’s recollection of his youth in the rural South during the Depression. Living with a slightly dotty but loving “cousin,” Capote remembers back to when he was about 10 years old and it was suddenly decided that “it was fruitcake weather.” The task of baking 30 cakes for mostly far away friends and other rituals of Christmas time are painted with such loving and nostalgic strokes, this becomes a truly beautiful Christmas experience. The poverty of the 1930s fails to stop or even slow down a loving relationship at a loving time of the year. An Emmy Award well deserved!

The Christmas Card (2006)

The Christmas Card Movie

Not sure what it is about The Christmas Card — but this movie has some unexpected staying power on our annual Christmas watch-list. As you watch it, you may think: 1. Some of this dialogue is laughable; 2. Some of these performances are stilted; 3. This male lead (John Newton) is emotionally absent; and 4. OMG with the fiancé character (played as annoying-as-can-be by the guy from THAT Gas-X Thin Strips commercial, Ben Weber). But I’ll be damned if, somewhere between a boisterous Ed Asner and “a chicken salad sandwich on rye, with curly fries made extra crispy, and a hot cocoa with mini-marshmallows“, if you don’t begin to feel the same high levels of Christmas comfort that keeps us coming back to The Christmas Card year after year!

SUMMARY: Once in a while; a movie comes along that reminds us how powerful love can be. In the midst of war in Afghanistan; Captain Cody Cullen (John Newton; “Desperate Housewives”) is touched by a lovely card sent by Faith Spelman (“The Chris Isaak Show”) from the small picturesque town of Nevada City; California. As months pass; the card never leaves his side; giving him the strength to survive and setting him on a mission to find her. When Cody returns to the States; he finds himself coincidentally welcomed by her family and friends; but he remains hesitant to reveal the fateful connection that brought him to her. As a new Christmas approaches; Cody has one last opportunity to prove his courage – by taking a chance on love and finding the woman; the home; and the life he’s always wanted.

Brooklyn Lobster (2005)

Danny Aiello as a crustacean monger PLUS a helium filled Santa Claus riding a giant lobster? Take my money. Please! But all jokes aside, there’s some really good stuff, here. A nice (and necessary) break from the nonstop Fa-La-La-La Lifetime parade of hot chocolates with extra marshmallows! This is actually one of the original movies that spurred our creation of the best underrated Christmas movies list.

SUMMARY: Giorgio’s Lobster Farm has been a Brooklyn tradition for 65 years, with an eclectic mix of customers and bragging rights. But the restaurant faces financial trouble and as they face the possibility of losing their business during the Christmas Season, the Giorgio family members find it difficult to balance their personal lives with the pressures of reestablishing the eatery. Presented by Martin Scorsese. With Danny Aiello, Jane Curtin, Daniel Sauli, and Marisa Ryan.

The Man Who Invented Christmas (2017)

Quite impressive, indeed! Captures the magic of circumstances surrounding the writing of Dickens’ Christmas masterpiece in an amazingly engaging, literate, and visually attractive fashion. Christmas was one thing before Dickens, and something altogether different after. We’re glad this MUST-WATCH CHRISTMAS MOVIE got made!

SUMMARY: In 1843 London, author Charles Dickens finds himself in financial trouble after writing three unsuccessful novels in a row. Desperate for a hit, Dickens relies on real-life inspiration and his vivid imagination to bring Ebenezer Scrooge, Tiny Tim and other classic characters to life in “A Christmas Carol,” forever changing the holiday season into the celebration known today.

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