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17 Non-Christmas Films that Capture the Holiday Spirit

holiday spirit
Jude Law and Cameron Diaz in The Holiday. (Credit: Columbia/Universal Pictures)

It’s a Wonderful Life has been a Christmas staple now for many years.  Though if you watch it, you’ll notice that there isn’t actually very much about Christmas in the film.  What makes it a holiday classic is its great atmosphere and wonderful message.  There are times during the holiday season when you don’t want to see a film that can only be watched at Christmas. Sometimes a retelling of A Christmas Carol or other standard holiday fare can get a bit repetitive. That is when we turn to films like these.  Heart-warming, feel good films that capture the holiday spirit without necessarily focusing on or being set around Christmas.  So here are some recommendations for those who want to gear up for the holiday with something a little bit different than usual. So without further ado, here is a list of non-Christmas films that capture the holiday spirit.



#1 Peter Pan (2003)

holiday spirit
Jeremy Sumpter as Peter Pan. (Credit: Universal)

It is pantomime season after all. The 2003 live action version is notable for many reasons, not least of those being its adherence to the text and the nontraditional decision to cast a boy as Peter Pan.  It is a glorious flight of fancy managing to capture the joy and sadness of the original play with all the magic in between.

Most Uplifting Moment: The ‘I do believe in Faeries’ sequence/Wendy finally gives Peter  a ‘thimble’.

#2 Little Women (1994)

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The March Women (Credit: Columbia Tristar)

While there are several Christmas scenes portrayed in this adaptation, the entire film radiates warmth and charm even in its saddest moments.  It is a film that cannot fail to make any day substantially better.

Most Uplifting Moment: Jo and Laurie try to Tango while laughing at her burnt dress at the ball/Jo receives a printed copy of her manuscript.

#3 Ever After

holiday spirit
Happily ever after? (Credit: 20th Century Fox)

A beautiful story that breathes new life into the story of Cinderella.  Drew Barrymore stars in this lovely tale of Danielle who after her father’s death is forced to work for her stepmother.  One day she meets an escaped prince, not knowing who he is, she pelts him with apples because he’s trying to steal her father’s horse.  So begins a charming and witty romance.  But this is not an ordinary fairy tale as it has real historical figures, an awesome heroine, a rebellious love interest, beautiful costumes and a really good story.  It also has one of the most satisfying endings ever committed to film.

Most Uplifting Moment: Danielle escapes Pierre le Pieu and meets Henry just as he is coming to rescue her.

#4 While You Were Sleeping

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Lucy (Sandra Bullock) rescues Peter (Peter Gallagher) from an oncoming train. (Credit: Hollywood Pictures)

Lucy, a lonely young woman who has recently lost her father, finds her life turned upside down when she saves the life of a handsome stranger and through a simple misunderstanding is mistaken for his fiancée. A funny, lovely film.

Most Uplifting Moment: Jack (Peter’s brother) walks Lucy home and they keep slipping on the ice outside her apartment building.

#5 Penelope

Penelope (Christina Ricci). (Credit: Momentum Pictures)

A young woman is cursed with a pig nose from birth and her well-meaning family set her up with a succession of wealthy suitors in the hopes that they will break it. A gender swap of the traditional Beauty and the Beast tale that really sparkles.

Most Uplifting Moment: Penelope accepts herself as she is.

#6 The Holiday

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Iris and Miles enjoy bantering. (Credit: Columbia/Universal Pictures)

Penned by Nancy Meyers, this delightful romantic comedy follows two young women, Iris and Amanda, who are not particularly happy with their lives especially where love is concerned.  By chance, both decide they need a holiday and find each other on a house swapping website.  One from America, one from England; both women soon find exactly what they needed to move forward during their impromptu getaways.

Most Uplifting Moment: Arthur enters the hallway he is to give his speech in and realizes that he has not been forgotten after all.

#7 A Little Princess

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Sarah (Liesel Matthews). (Credit: Warner Brothers)

Sara Crewe has always lived in India with her father but when he is called up during the Great War she must be sent to live in a boarding school in America.  After so much freedom, Sarah is unused to the strict regime of a proper school for young ladies and clashes with the bitter headmistress.  Sarah will not allow herself to lose hope even when her father is presumed dead and she is forced to start work as a servant to keep a roof over her head.

Most Uplifting Moment: Sarah’s Princess Speech/When Sarah’s father finally remembers her.

#8 Some Like It Hot

Some Like it Hot
‘Josephine’ (Tony Curtis) and ‘Daphne’ (Jack Lemmon). (Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer/ 20th Century Fox)

A well loved madcap adventure that follows two musicians on the run from gangsters. They disguise themselves as women in an all-female jazz band and much hilarity ensues as they try to keep their identities secret.

Most Uplifting Moment: ‘Josephine’ reveals himself by kissing Sugar, unable to bear her sadness any longer.

#9 Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone/Sorcerer’s Stone

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Hermione, Ron  and Harry  (Credit: Warner Bros)

Though all of the early Harry Potter films have a somewhat Christmassy feel to them, it was the first film that makes it the most notable. It has a warmth that later gave way to a darker tone in the more recent installments.

Most Uplifting Moment: Dumbledore awards the last minute points that allow Gryffindor to win the house cup for the first time in years.

Go to Page 2 for more movies that capture the holiday spirit!

By on December 14th, 2015

About Elinor Cackett

Elinor is a writer and semi-recent graduate of English and Creative Writing at Aberystwyth University. She has been writing ever since she could hold a pen but her love affair with fiction started when the entirety of David Eddings’ 'The Belgariad' was read to her at age four. She currently has a couple of books and half a dozen short stories on the go. She spends her free time writing, analysing media and knitting very colourful scarves.

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16 thoughts on “17 Non-Christmas Films that Capture the Holiday Spirit”

  1. I love several of the movies you listed here, including “Ever After”, “Little Princess”, “Little Women”, “The Ghost & Mrs. Muir”, and the “Harry Potter” series. They do have a holiday feel and fit right into the season! Another movie I would add to your list is “The Trouble With Angels” starring Hayley Mills & Rosalind Russell. It is not strictly a Christmas movie, but has a couple of Christmas scenes during the timeline of the story (spans a 3-4 year timeline). This is a must watch movie for my daughter & I during the Christmas season! 🙂

  2. Aw, so many of these are among favorites! I particularly adore ‘Little Princess,’ ‘Ever After,’ ‘Little Women,’ ‘Penelope,’ ‘Peter Pan’ and of course ‘The Holiday.’ That’s one of my biggest “guilty pleasure” watches! 🙂

  3. Almost the entire first page was some of my favorite movies (though I need to see “While You Were Sleeping”), and the stuff on the second page that wasn’t favorites are things that I now need to watch, so thank you!

    I saw “Some Like it Hot” recently for the first time, and I was not prepared for either how much I loved it or how much it made me laugh. Great list!

  4. Some excellent choices here. These versions of Peter Pan are among my favourite. I’ve been wanting to see “The Ghost and Mrs Muir, and your description makes me want to watch it even more. I’d like to add The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. There’s a feel of Christmas magic to it though.

    • I’d definitely recommend giving ‘The Ghost and Mrs Muir’ a try. You’re right. I can’t believe I forgot about Narnia!

  5. Another movie that fits into the holiday spirit is “Serendipity” with John Cusack & Kate Beckinsale., released in 2001. Very nice film, and it definitely has the Christmas feel to it. 🙂


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