You don’t need anyone to recommend those same-old, same-old perennial Christmas movies, e.g., “It’s A Wonderful Life,” “White Christmas” or any of the many versions of, or variations on, “A Christmas Carol.” If you’re looking to shake up your seasonal viewing or freshen things up for the kids, here are some recommendations, grouped by different moods you might be in, whether joyous or Grinchy.   

That heavenly feeling

“Beyond Tomorrow” (1940, all ages): This nugget is an oddball fairy tale recommended for its delightful casting of Harry Carey, C. Aubrey Smith and Charles Winninger as three elderly, wealthy industrialists who cause a young man and woman to fall in love over Christmas. When the old men are killed in a plane crash, their spirits return to rescue the teetering romance. (Amazon Prime Video)

“The Bishop’s Wife” (1947, all ages) and “The Preacher’s Wife” (1996, PG-13): Cary Grant plays a pretty convincing angel in “The Bishop’s Wife,” sent to Earth to help out a starchy pastor (David Niven) as Christmas approaches, but unexpectedly falling for the latter’s lonely wife (Loretta Young). Penny Marshall’s update, “The Preacher’s Wife,” finds a supernal Denzel Washington in the Grant role, joined by Whitney Houston and Courtney B. Vance. (Both on Amazon Prime Video, iTunes and Apple TV)

Pining for family (though actually not so much)

“Nothing Like the Holidays” (2008, PG-13): A terrific cast (Alfred Molina, Elizabeth Peña, John Leguizamo, Debra Messing, Luis Guzman) stars in this ensemble drama about a Chicago-based Puerto Rican family that comes together for what was supposed to be a merry Christmas, but which quickly devolves into conflicts, grudges, accusations and talk of divorce. Director Alfredo de Villa keeps the temperature hot. (Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV, iTunes)

“A Christmas Tale (Un conte de Noel)” (2008, mature audiences): Catherine Deneuve plays Junon, the strong-willed matriarch of a sprawling family that lives under the shadow of the eldest son’s death from leukemia at age 6. When Junon is told she now has leukemia, the many usual tensions crisscrossing between her grown children sharpen over Christmas dinner as it turns out few, if any, of them will make suitable bone-marrow donors. (Amazon Prime Video, Criterion Channel, IFC)

Misanthropic musings

“Gremlins” (1984, PG): Quite possibly the most subversive holiday movie of all, Joe Dante’s horror-comedy concerns  nasty little creatures that overrun a small town over Christmas. The gremlins, who look like knee-high devils, are less lethal than they are full of insurgent mischief. Swinging from ceiling fans, noisily occupying a movie theater and tearing through a toy store, they are as scary as they are funny. (Amazon Prime Video, iTunes)


“The Apartment” (1960, mature audiences): Billy Wilder’s grown-up comedy, set between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, stars Jack Lemmon as a passive guy trying to climb the corporate ladder by letting his bosses use his bachelor pad for trysts with their mistresses. Lemmon’s doormat of a character slowly stands up for a higher principle when he discovers an elevator operator (Shirley MacLaine) he fancies is one of the women being exploited in his apartment. (Amazon Prime Video)

Turn on the romance

“The Shop Around the Corner” (1940, all ages): Here’s an idea so simple it’s genius: Two gift-shop employees (James Stewart, Margaret Sullavan) who can’t stand one another have been secretly falling in love for months as anonymous pen pals. With Christmas coming, the feud between the employees ratchets up while the pressure’s on for the lovebirds to meet face-to-face. Ernst Lubitsch (“Ninotchka”) directs with his sublime, wry grace. (Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV, iTunes)

“Christmas in the Clouds” (2005, PG-13): This low-key charmer is set during the holidays on a contemporary Native American reservation in Utah. The story centers on a struggling ski resort whose manager, Ray (Timothy Vahle), falls for a young widow (Mariana Tosca) he mistakenly assumes is a hotel ratings scout. M. Emmet Walsh and Graham Greene (who makes a couple of “Dances With Wolves” jokes) are on hand. (Amazon Prime Video)

Young or perhaps young at heart

“Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey” (2020, PG): Beneath the special-effects razzmatazz and busy musical numbers in this original is the irresistible casting of Forest Whitaker and Keegan-Michael Key as adversarial toymakers. The arrival of a little girl (Madalen Mills) on the scene escalates the threat Key’s malevolent thief represents to Whitaker’s all-but-broken inventor. (Netflix)