On a lazy winter weekend afternoon, nothing is quite as nice as curling up under a warm blanket, sipping a cup of hot chocolate and watching a snowy movie to remind you how cozy you are indoors.
The challenge for chilly cinema connoisseurs is finding a flick that doesn’t mention the c-word: Christmas.
Christmas movies dominate the winter media market. A Nielsen study found that in 2015, holiday-themed programming reached more than 217 million viewers, which means that 85 percent of all television-owning U.S. households watched Christmas-themed programming between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve. According to the Wall Street Journal, Hallmark alone has produced a total of 136 Christmas movies since 2008 — and they plan to release a record 40 new movies for the 2019 holiday season.
Christmas-free wintery movies provide a different kind of salve for the soul. Whether you don’t celebrate, are generally a little Grinchy or just need a break from all the holly jolly, here are nine winter movies that are not about Christmas.
Set during the throes of the Pleistocene Ice Age, this animated movie revolves around a gaggle of three mismatched prehistoric critters — Manny the wooly mammoth, Diego the saber-toothed tiger and Sid the lisping ground sloth — as they endeavor to return a human baby to its tribe, despite the threats they face from its weapon-wielding parents. The action is punctuated by scenes featuring a woebegone sabertooth squirrel trying to bury his acorn in the frozen landscape.
After two Antarctic explorers are forced to evacuate the tundra, their team of sled dogs are left to fend for themselves throughout the winter. The guide — played by the late Paul Walker, in a brief departure from his Fast and the Furious days — is determined to return to the dogs come summer. The movie switches back and forth between his story of guilt, grief and grit and the dogs’ fight for survival.
If you can stand your kids sing “Let It Go” for another holiday season, this animated girl-power flick provides a slightly more empowering alternative to classic princess movies. Sister princesses Anna and Elsa live a hermit’s life because Elsa secretly possesses snowy, witchy powers that she cannot control. When she accidentally (then, ebulliently — see aforementioned power ballad) descends the kingdom into perpetual winter, Anna joins forces with mountaineer Kristoff, his reindeer sidekick Sven and a loud-mouthed snowman named Olaf to find her sister and break the spell. (Plus, rewatching this fun flick will help you brush up on the characters and storylines before you see “Frozen 2,” which debuted in late November in cinemas.)
“Long Way North”
Sacha, a young girl from the 19th-century Russian aristocracy, spurns her duty to marry well and sets off instead to find her grandfather, a scientist and Arctic explorer who has yet to return from his latest expedition to the North Pole. The animation is beautiful, almost resembling paper cut-outs, and there are English-dubbed versions of the French film available online if you are subtitles-adverse.
A pregnant Minnesota police chief investigates roadside homicides after a desperate car salesman hires criminals to kidnap his wife to extort ransom from his wealthy father-in-law. Revealing any more about the plot of this absurd dark comedy would be a disservice, but know that this movie was preserved in the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress in 2006 — one of only six films to do so in the first year of its release. (Also, bonus movie: “Kumiko the Treasure Hunter,” the haunting story of a lonely Japanese woman who travels to North Dakota after mistaking “Fargo” for a documentary.)
“The Day After Tomorrow”
After the United Nations ignores the catastrophic warnings of climatologist Jack Hall, an enormous superstorm develops that sets off a series of global natural disasters — including a blizzard that buries New York City. Hall spends the movie trying to rescue his son by traveling by foot through the post-apocalyptic wasteland from Philadelphia to New York. (Try not to think about the fact that this prescient movie was released in 2004 and how, 15 years later, the research of Jack Hall may be received by international political leaders today.)
“The Mountain Between Us”
After two attractive strangers — played by Kate Winslet and Idris Elba — are stranded on a mountain after a tragic plane crash, they must work together to endure the extreme elements of the remote, snow-covered wilderness. The pair get to know each other (think of it like most extreme first date ever), work together to survive and discover their inner fortitude — and the steamy chemistry between them, of course.
A remote, hockey-obsessed Alaskan town is thrown into the limelight when, as part of a publicity stunt, the New York Rangers hockey team selects their local amateur team for a face-off in a televised match. The townsfolk of Mystery set aside their gossip and rivalries to join forces and put up a respectable (and hilarious) defense against the pros.
A Swedish family’s life is turned upside down during a vacation to a French Alpine resort where, with the seeming onslaught of an avalanche, the dad chooses to save himself (and his cellphone) before protecting his wife and children. Husband and wife disagree about how the event transpired, and darkly funny family tension ensues. Subtitles required, but it is worth it for this cringey comedy about what, exactly, is the truth and what are the lies we tell ourselves.