25 of the best alternative Christmas movies

Deck the halls with barbed wire – here are the best films offering a skewed take on the season of goodwill

Whether you've been good or not, here's our present to you: The 25 best alternative Christmas movies, in no particular order.

Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang (2005)

Director Shane Black's fast-paced, postmodern action film was unjustly overlooked on its release, but it's built up a cult following in recent years. Robert Downey Jr stars as Harry Lockhart, a small-time crook who's mistaken for an actor and paired with Val Kilmer's exasperated Hollywood private eye "Gay" Perry.

What follows is an entertaining, self-aware romp through the cliches of film noir, complete with femme fatale (Michelle Monaghan sporting a Santa hat) and more twists and turns than a Curly Wurly.

Children of Men (2006)

There isn't a Christmas tree, jolly Kris Kringle or loop of tinsel in sight, but director Alfonso Cuaron's dystopian sci-fi nonetheless has a festive theme. As Clive Owen's Theo – get the religious reference? – struggles to protect a young pregnant mother bearing the first child to be conceived in 20 years, there are clear echoes of the Nativity story.

Brazil (1985)

Terry Gilliam's Orwellian satire opens on an idyllic Yuletide scene – a mother telling her child about Santa's impending visit down the chimney.  "But Father Christmas can't come if we don't have a chimney," says the youngster. Whereupon paramilitary police descend through the ceiling, grab the kid's father (and put him in a sack, of course) before hauling him off for questioning.

Later scenes savage the consumerist nature of Christmas, before Gilliam wheels out a Santa who advises the luckless Sam Lowry (Jonathan Pryce) to give in to his torture at the hands of Brazil's faceless bureaucrats.

The Thin Man (1934)

Husband-and-wife detective duo Nick and Nora Charles investigate a missing person case over the Christmas holidays – but the sleuthing takes a back seat to the banter between the couple in this screwball classic. "The next person who says Merry Christmas to me, I'll kill 'em," says Myrna Loy's Nora, perhaps not getting entirely into the spirit of goodwill to all men.

Johnny Depp's planning a remake of the series. He'd better not mess it up.

Die Hard (1988)

Bruce Willis at his best in a vest, wading about knee-deep in dead terrorists. Nakatomi Plaza didn’t know what hit it when – full of bad guys – it got between John McClane and his family Christmas dinner.

C4 explosives, Steyr machine guns and a rocket launcher later and a sequel was inevitable. Plus Run D.M.C’s Christmas In Hollis brought the streetwise Ho, Ho, Ho to this all-time action great.