This is the second installment of a three-part series about holiday movies. The first part of this series broke down the best classic holiday movies, and this part will break down the best indie holiday films. Readers will have the opportunity to vote on their favorite films from each category via a poll on The Heights’ Instagram. The results from each poll will inform the third and final installment of the series: the best all-around holiday movie.
This holiday season, I’m urging the Boston College community to break tradition by branching out from their usual choices when watching holiday movies. Plenty of holiday films fly under the radar, and they deserve the same attention as the more well-known movies.
Here are four indie holiday films that deserve a chance this December.
Carol began development in the 90s, making it a long-awaited film by the time it was released in 2015. That being said, critics agree that it was worth the wait. The period piece is based on the 1953 romance novel The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith and has sets and costumes emulating the era.
The film stars Cate Blanchett in the titular role, and Rooney Mara opposite her as Therese. Rather than focus on the meaning of Christmas, Carol concentrates more on what it means to find love during the holiday season. Carol and Therese enter a forbidden love in a time where LGBTQ+ rights were limited. Both characters are forced to deal with the ramifications of their affair as their respective lives and relationships begin to deteriorate. While it is emotional for a holiday film, its satisfying conclusion provides the audience with a feel-good ending.
The film premiered at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival—where it reportedly received a 10-minute standing ovation—and is consistently ranked as one of the highest-rated romance and LGBTQ+ films.
Black Nativity is a multi-genre film with the spirit of the holidays at its center. Directed by Kasi Lemmons, the musical movie is based on Langston Hughes’ play of the same name. Hughes was known for his ability to uplift black culture in his written works, and Black Nativity is no exception.
The film version of Hughes’ play features a star-studded cast, including Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett, Jennifer Hudson, and Mary J. Blige. The film follows Langston (Jacob Latimore) who receives a watch from Martin Luther King Jr. during the holiday season. After learning about the watch’s significance and meaning, he finds a strong connection with his family and his church after a journey of self-discovery.
Black Nativity stands as a prominent film within the genre of holiday movies, which primarily contains predominantly white casts. Its wholesome message of the importance of family and unity during the holiday season is one that people should rally behind at this time of the year.
Horror and the holidays don’t typically intersect, causing there to be few movies like Black Christmas. Director Bob Clark, a pioneer in the slasher film genre, envisioned this frightfully festive holiday movie. Released in 1974, the film reemerged in the 21st century as a landmark film within the horror genre, and it should receive the same prominence within the holiday genre.
Black Christmas is about a group of sorority girls who are killed one by one as a serial killer runs about their house. Many critics attribute Black Christmas as one of the first “slasher” films, and some believe that the Halloween franchise used Black Christmas as a mold. Two remakes of the film have been made. Together, the three Black Christmas movies grossed nearly $45 million at the box office worldwide.
The movie draws its inspiration from both urban legends and real-life murders. Although there are no scenes with Santa Claus or family gift wrapping, the scenery depicts wintery landscapes and Christmas-themes settings with an eerie twist, establishing it as an irrefutable member of the holiday film category.
The Lunch Date
Unlike the rest of the movies on this list, The Lunch Date is a short film posted on YouTube. Written and directed by Adam Davidson, this 12-minute short authentically represents all aspects of the holidays, both the stressful and pressure-filled moments and the joyous and exciting ones.
The film stars a woman (Scotty Bloch) who misses her train in Grand Central Terminal after holiday shopping. She decides to sit down at a diner instead, where a man (Clebert Ford) steals her salad. The short film is filmed in black and white to give it a retro feeling, and the coloring works to make the movie feel authentic and genuine by emphasizing the film’s simplicity in both concept and message.
Instead of focusing on vivid colors or scenery, the viewer can listen closely to the dialogue and analyze the mannerisms of the actors.
The Library of Congress added The Lunch Date to the National Film Registry in 2013. The short film received numerous awards upon its release, including an Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film in 1991. It might not get the attention it deserves because of its short runtime, but it’s easily accessible and worth considering for a quick watch this holiday season.