5 Great Christmas Movies You've Probably Never Seen

5 Great Christmas Movies You've Probably Never Seen
Image credit: Legion-Media

If you're tired of the same old holiday flicks, try unwrapping one of these hidden gems.

The Shop Around the Corner (1940)

Ernst Lubitsch's romantic comedy is a gift you should give to yourself this Christmas. The director had been filming in Hollywood for quite a few years before doing this movie, so The Shop Around the Corner showcases his unique style in its absolute finesse. All action takes place in a small gift shop in Budapest, which is where the film's main characters Klara and Alfred work as sales staff.

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The two don't get along, but they don't realize that they have known each other before meeting at the store: Klara and Alfred have been exchanging romantic letters, and Alfred is going to propose to his mysterious correspondent. When he finds out that Klara is his pen friend, Alfred decides to play a good trick on his beloved lady. Among its other merits, the movie is notable for the character of Mr. Hugo Matuschek, the shop's brilliant boss who can effectively cancel an employee's dismissal, give out holiday bonuses, and even feed the young errand boy who's left alone in town for Christmas.

Cinema Paradiso (1988)

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It's New Year's Eve: people throw plates out of their windows for good luck and set off fireworks, while a sad kid walks down a Sicilian street back to his favorite movie theater. The character's story is told in flashbacks as he recalls his childhood years and friendship with the cinema's projectionist, which sets him on his way to becoming a famous director. On Christmas Eve, Paradiso becomes the place where the filmmaker meets his beloved — and there's no better gift he could wish for this Christmas. Giuseppe Tornatore's Cinema Paradiso was awarded the Best Foreign Film Academy Award in 1988.

The Apartment (1960)

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A beautiful girl named Fran is weeping beside an ornate Christmas tree: she was left alone in a secret apartment by her lover who rushed off to spend the evening with his suburban family. The apartment belongs to Mr. Baxter — a nice guy who has been trying to make himself noticed at his insurance corporation by letting his four managers use the apartment for their extramarital affairs. But on New Year's Eve, Baxter realizes his work ambitions cost him too much, and Fran also gets to reconsider her choice of boyfriends. Billy Wilder's film won five Oscars in 1960 and undoubtedly deserves the attention of today's viewers.

Phantom Thread (2017)

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Reynolds Woodcock is a brilliant dressmaker well known in social circles. Big movie stars of post-war London, along with members of the royal family, turn to the famous couturier to fill their wardrobes with new outfits. One day, Reynolds meets Alma — an ordinary girl who becomes his muse. On New Year's Eve, the woman asks his genius lover to come with her to a party, but the designer is consumed by his work and refuses to go. Strong-willed Alma goes on her own, and Reynold must join her eventually: after midnight, he will find his lover in the motley crowd and take her for a dance. Phantom Thread is directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, and the leading roles are played by Daniel Day-Lewis and Vicky Krieps.

Quai des Orfèvres (1947)

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Henri-Georges Clouzot's film is the most unusual in this list of Christmas movies. Maurice Martineau notices his wife flirting with an old businessman and goes to his house with the intent to murder him. However, Maurice discovers that the old man has been killed earlier that evening by someone else. Inspector Antoine conducts an investigation, and all the evidence is found to be against Maurice and his alibi. As bells ring in the final scene, the desperate character bids farewell to his life.

Despair is a theme that comes up in Christmas movies far more often than it might seem: even in Frank Capra's number-one Christmas hit It's a Wonderful Life, the suicidal protagonist is saved by an angel from heaven. Director Henri-Georges Clouzot, who had been called the French Hitchcock, rarely gave his stories a happy ending — but this Christmas-themed drama is a lucky exception.