Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

12 Offbeat Christmas Titles To Watch If You Liked The Guardians Of The Galaxy Holiday Special

With "The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special," Christmas has come to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Guardians Mantis and Drax have taken it upon themselves to give their buddy Peter Quill the best present ever by kidnapping one of his childhood heroes: Kevin Bacon. As you've probably come to expect from writer-director James Gunn, this isn't your typical Christmas celebration. It is an offbeat and quirky affair with lots of jokes, action, and a heaping dose of sentimentality.

If you've been looking to shake up your typical holiday viewing with something a little less predictable and standard, then you should definitely give the special a watch. Afterward, if you find yourself wanting to watch more holiday-themed media with a slightly askew take on the most wonderful time of the year, the titles below should satisfy that exact craving.

These movies, TV specials, and episodes are all similar to "The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special" in that they're unconventional takes on the season and its tropes. However, that's not to say they lack emotion or warmth. This isn't simply a list of edgy and alternative Christmas viewing: each entry honors the traditions of the season in its own way and goes straight for the heart.

The Star Wars Holiday Special

You can't talk about weird, offbeat sci-fi holiday specials without bringing up the weirdest (and most baffling) one of all: "The Star Wars Holiday Special." Released in 1978 – before anyone really had a handle on what made "Star Wars" so incredible in the first place — the special takes place after the events of the original film but is definitely not official canon.

Centering on the family of Chewbacca, the special sees a group of Wookies preparing for the arrival of Han Solo and Chewie to celebrate the beloved holiday Life Day. It's not a terrible concept when you think about it. There could be a fun story in having the Millennium Falcon on the run from Imperials as they race to get Chewie home in time. Unfortunately, instead of focusing on the exciting part of the story, the filmmakers decide to highlight all the mundane and tedious aspects of daily Wookie life.

Yes, the special is every bit as bad as the rumors suggest, with embarrassing musical and comedy sequences and celebrities who have no business being in anything related to "Star Wars." But there are also nuggets of joy to be found in its badness. It's a fun relic of a time when holiday specials were basically variety shows and a delightful look at just how incompatible that kind of entertainment is with space opera.

Santa Claus Conquers the Martians

Another notoriously bad (but perhaps not as bad as its reputation suggests) Christmas title is 1964's "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians." Not only should you give this a watch because it shares certain similarities with "The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special" (like silly aliens), but Kevin Bacon actually watches it in the special just before Drax and Mantis break into his home and attempt to kidnap him.

When a movie is called "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians," you would probably assume that the plot concerns Santa coming across and stopping a Martian invasion while he's out delivering toys. However, the main characters are actually the Martians themselves. They're concerned that because their children are never really given the opportunity to have typical childhoods (like the ones they see on television broadcasts from Earth), they are becoming disillusioned.

To solve this problem, the Martians decide to kidnap Santa and bring him to Mars to give them something magical and childish to believe in. Does it make sense? Not in the slightest. Is it hilariously low-budget with some of the laziest sci-fi you've ever seen? Absolutely. Does that make it bad? Well, that's for you to decide. But if you want a thoroughly entertaining and super weird Christmas treat, watch "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians."

Terry Pratchett's Hogfather

Nobody handles offbeat and quirky in the realm of the fantastic better than the late Sir Terry Pratchett. The author of the incredible "Discworld" series, Pratchett managed to create an expansive, fascinating world dominated by textured characters and overflowing with jokes. "Discworld" may have started life as a Douglas Addams-style spoof of the fantasy genre, but over the course of many, many volumes, it grew into its own fully-fledged epic fantasy series that only got smarter and funnier as it went on.

"Terry Pratchett's Hogfather" is one of a handful of adaptations of his work and it honors the source material nicely. The Santa Claus of the Discworld (a flat planet supported on the backs of four giant elephants who live on the shell of the celestial turtle Great A'Tuin) is an anthropomorphic hog-man who delivers toys to children. When he goes missing (thanks to a bizarre murder plot) it's up to Death (voiced by Ian Richardson) to take his place and his granddaughter Susan (played by Michelle Dockery from "Downton Abbey") to investigate what happened.

The plot is suitably twisty, with big ideas that usually only work on the page, the performances are top-notch, and despite its dark subject matter, it's perfectly Christmasy. It makes an excellent companion piece to "The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special" because if James Gunn made an epic fantasy, it would probably turn out a lot like "Discworld."

Edward Scissorhands

It's easy to forget, but Tim Burton's 1990 masterpiece "Edward Scissorhands" takes place during the Christmas season. The story of a kind Avon saleswoman named Peggy (Dianne Wiest) who discovers a lonely artificial man with scissors for hands living in an abandoned castle on the outskirts of her suburban town, the film depicts what it's like to be different and unique in a world where everyone is the same.

Edward (Johnny Depp) is a gentle, sweet individual who only wants family and companionship since the loss of his creator (played by the late Vincent Price). He believes he's found that in Peggy's family and friends, but humanity's distrust of anything different and hatred for what it doesn't understand makes him an outcast. It's a tender story about love and understanding in a cruel, bigoted place.

While it's plenty dark and twisted, the film is actually bursting with warmth and beauty. The scene in which Edward is masterfully carving an enormous angel out of ice, creating something like snow in the middle of this California suburb for Peggy's daughter Kim (Winona Ryder) to dance in, is one of the most magical, enchanting moments ever committed to film.

Pee-Wee's Playhouse Christmas Special

If you haven't seen "Pee-Wee's Playhouse" since you were a kid (or if you've never seen it), then this star-studded Christmas special is the perfect thing to watch as a reminder or first-time experience of just how non-stop funny this show was. 

Pee-Wee Herman (Paul Reubens) is a hysterical character who kids and adults can relate to because he rides the line between the two. For the most part, he's a ball of endless energy bouncing all over the place in very childlike fashion. However, he's also capable of being a highly effective passive-agressive mastermind, capable of insulting people without them even noticing it — as only the most seasoned and cynical adult can be.

In the special, he forces baby boomer icons Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon to produce 1,000 Christmas cards, sends Santa an enormous Christmas list, hangs two giant-sized Christmas stockings (one for each foot), and walks out on a phone call with Dinah Shore (leaving her to sing to a mannequin wearing a Pee-Wee mask). All the classic Playhouse characters are there, celebrities like Whoopi Goldberg, Cher, and Charo stop by, and Pee-wee even learns an important lesson about giving. It's got everything you want in a big Christmas spectacular. 

The X-Files: How the Ghosts Stole Christmas

Thanks to the cold, depressing weather and short days, Christmas can be a time of dark reflection for many. The idea of getting together with friends and family inevitably invites memories of those we've lost, who can't join us for food and gifts. Thus there is a very long tradition (via Smithsonian) of people telling each other ghost stories at Christmas. The Season 6 episode of the venerable series "The X-Files," titled "How the Ghosts Stole Christmas," is a fine and riveting example of this tradition.

On Christmas Eve, Agent Mulder (David Duchovny) invites his partner Agent Scully (Gillian Anderson) to investigate a haunted house with him. Despite her need to wrap presents for the following day, she agrees to his invitation. What they find are two mischievous spirits, played by Ed Asner and Lily Tomlin, with a penchant for convincing lovers to kill themselves on Christmas Eve like they did all those years ago.

Set almost entirely in one room, the episode unfolds like a wonderfully atmospheric play, or a particularly gripping ghost story told by a fire late into the night. With a mind-bending turn of events (typical of the series) and a touching ending, "How the Ghosts Stole Christmas" should satisfy your craving for a unique Christmas viewing experience.

The Time of the Doctor

When "Doctor Who" returned to television in 2005, it started a tradition of airing special episodes on Christmas day. These episodes are typically spectacle over substance and vary wildly in terms of quality, but they've become reliable holiday entertainment. While the 11th Doctor's (Matt Smith) final story may not top many lists as the greatest of the "Doctor Who" Christmas specials, we're including it here because of just how heartwarming (or "heartswarming" in the case of the Doctor) and unabashedly sentimental it is.

The story sees the Doctor defending a small town called Christmas from all sorts of evil invaders for centuries. You get to see some of your favorite "Doctor Who" monsters, a reprogrammed Cyberman head named Handles, and Matt Smith's final bow as the quirky, brilliant, and ancient time lord. His performance alone is worth watching the special for, as he pulls out all the stops. He's funny (of course), dramatic (of course), and sweet, playing to all of his incarnation's strengths with absolute relish.

Other Doctors spend their final hours defending the universe (or at least Earth), but this Doctor digs in his heels and decides one town is worth dying for, which feels like a very Doctor-like decision to make. If that's not enough to convince you that it's a worthy companion piece to "The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special," also remember that the final scene features an appearance by former companion Karen Gillan, aka Nebula from "Guardians."

The Nightmare Before Christmas

It's practically a law that if you mention anything having to do with unconventional Christmas offerings, you have to talk about the stop-motion epic "The Nightmare Before Christmas." While both Danny Elfman (who wrote the songs and composed the music for the film) and director Henry Selick both agree that it is a Halloween movie (via Good Housekeeping), the fact that the film is all about characters wanting to spread Christmas cheer makes it a Christmas movie.

Sure, a lot of it takes place in Halloween Town, but only the very beginning of the film takes place during the spookiest night of the year. The rest of its running time is devoted to Jack Skellington discovering Christmas Town and trying to recreate the magic of the holiday himself. He recruits all the citizens of Halloween Town to put their effort into crafting their own brand of Christmas goodies to macabre effect.

This is a Christmas movie for the outcasts, the folks who find comfort and joy in the shadows rather than the bright glow of a million twinkling lights. If you get just as much enjoyment over a shrunken head as some people get from sleigh bells (which a few of the Guardians of the Galaxy certainly would), then "The Nightmare Before Christmas" is for you.

Justice League: Comfort and Joy

While the "Justice League" animated series focused on the larger-than-life heroics of DC's premiere superhero team, it took a break from all that for one episode to show how certain members of the team celebrate the holidays. There's no sinister plot to foil, no alien invasions to stop — it's just a sweet and tender story about all the ways people can come together during the season of giving.

Just like "The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special," the episode "Comfort and Joy" gives the audience a much-needed break from all the universe-saving and gives them a new lens through which to view Christmas, since it's a foreign concept to a few of the aliens on the team. We get to see The Flash using his speed to get the perfect gift for a group of orphans, Green Lantern playing in the snow with Hawkgirl, and Superman bringing the Martian Manhunter back to the farm to give him a family to spend the holiday with.

There's some space adventure stuff too: Hawkgirl shows Green Lantern how she likes to celebrate by starting fights at a space bar, while the villainous Ultra-Humanite calls a truce to help Flash deliver his gift to the children. But it's primarily about human (for lack of a better term) connection and peace. It's an underrated gem of a special that should be viewed every year.


There have been too many adaptations of Charles Dickens's "A Christmas Carol" to mention here. If films don't adapt the material directly, they usually keep the conceit of a greedy and selfish man being visited by three ghosts on Christmas Eve who make him see the error of his ways. "Scrooged," though much darker and sillier than the original tale, actually adapts the source material fairly closely.

Bill Murray plays a television executive who thinks the best way to inspire audiences to watch the new live broadcast of "A Christmas Carol" is to frighten them into staying home. He has lost virtually all sense of humanity and his Christmas spirit dried up ages ago. The ghosts he meets are all violent or terrifying in some way and don't put up with his nonsense — they're going to help him understand the spirit of Christmas even if they have to beat it into him.

Despite its disturbing imagery and cynicism, the movie takes a hard turn in its final moments to deliver so much life-affirming sweetness that you'll walk away feeling like a nicer person for just having watched it. As touching as the ending of "The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special" is, it's got nothing on "Scrooged."

Batman Returns

Just like another Tim Burton film on this list ("Edward Scissorhands"), it's easy to forget that his second bite at the Batman apple, "Batman Returns," actually takes place during Christmas. However, if you remember, the film opens with a deformed child being thrown into the sewer at Christmas and many years later attacking Gotham City on the night of a Christmas tree lighting downtown. Not only that, but his goons sneak into the festivities via an enormous Christmas present.

Aside from its decidedly dark and perverse subject matter, "Batman Returns" sort of embodies a side to Christmas that doesn't get nearly as much attention as it should: loneliness and depression. After being literally thrown away by his parents, Oswald Cobblepot is forced to find a new family below the streets of Gotham. Selina Kyle has no one to spend the holidays with other than her cats, and we all know what happened to Bruce Wayne's family.

While we're all told that Christmas is about loving your neighbor and giving to those in need, that simply isn't a reality for far too many people. Instead, the happiest time of the year can often be the loneliest and all three of the main characters in this film represent just how miserable December 25th can be when the rest of society decides to shun you.

If you or someone you know needs help with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.

He-Man and She-Ra: A Christmas Special

If there's one title on this list that most resembles the aesthetics of "The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special," it's "He-Man and She-Ra: A Christmas Special." Like the world inhabited by the Guardians of the Galaxy, He-Man and She-Ra exist in worlds that are both bright and colorful yet also rundown and industrial. Eternia (He-Man's home) has ancient architecture and ruins along with futuristic technology and inventive aliens. Etheria (She-Ra's world) has rainbows and dazzling plants juxtaposed with rusted buildings and failing technology. These two places are very reminiscent of Knowhere, the place where the Guardians have made their headquarters.

Aside from the visuals, the tone is kind of similar as well. Although James Gunn's sense of humor is aimed at a slightly older audience, it's the kind of "mature" humor shared by most teenagers and pre-teens who would probably still get a kick out of watching classic episodes of "He-Man" and "She-Ra" respectively. The special itself sees the super-powered siblings taking on both their enemies Skeletor and Hordak while protecting a pair of Earth children. It's your typical '80s sci-fi adventure with a big wallop of Christmas heart delivered throughout — just like 'The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special."