Holiday Movies From Around the World

by IMDb-Editors | last updated - 03 Dec 2015

Do you dream of spending the holidays traveling someplace you've never been before? Even if you aren't journeying farther than your front door, you can get a taste of how people around the world celebrate the season from watching international holiday movies. Our list of films from around the world features a variety of genres, languages, and cultures with an emphasis on the offbeat.— Sara Bibel

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Jim Broadbent in Get Santa (2014)

Get Santa

United Kingdom, 2014

Santa Claus crashes his sleigh in modern London and gets arrested for stealing reindeer in this edgy family comedy. Jim Broadbent stars as the imprisoned St. Nick who must find a way to get out of jail so that he can deliver his toys by Christmas. While he's locked up, his fellow inmates teach him about prison culture. This is probably the only Christmas film that features "Straight Outta Compton" on its soundtrack. Eventually an ex-con and his estranged son help Santa escape, and in the process repair their relationship. It's a change of pace from the idealized families that we typically see with holiday films.

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Amitabh Bachchan, Hrithik Roshan, Kajol, Kareena Kapoor, Jaya Bhaduri, and Shah Rukh Khan in Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham... (2001)

Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham...

India, 2001

The Hindu holiday Diwali is an important part of this epic family saga. In a nutshell, it's a story about a wealthy father who disowns his son for marrying a woman of a lower social class, resulting in about 100 plot twists. The action kicks off at a huge Diwali party, complete with Bollywood-style singing and dancing, where the eldest brother Rahul arrives via helicopter. Years later, en route to another Diwali party, younger brother Rohan learns that Rahul, who has been disowned by this point, was adopted. Ultimately, everyone reunites. If you're a fan of soap operas, musicals, or family dramas, you will enjoy this film.

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Tony Chiu-Wai Leung and Ziyi Zhang in 2046 (2004)


Hong Kong, 2004

Director Wong Kar Wai's beautiful, complicated film is a love story with science fiction elements set in 1960s Hong Kong. Though it has multiple timelines, and the narrative does not follow a linear progression, much of the film takes place on Christmas Eve. The protagonist, Chow Mo-Wan (Tony Leung), is a writer who loves and loses several women. The significance of the holiday to the story is a matter of interpretation, but at one point Chow remarks that on Christmas everyone is lonely and needs extra love.

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Benno Fürmann and Diane Kruger in Joyeux Noel (2005)

Joyeux Noel

France, 2005

The unofficial Christmas ceasefire between the Allies and the Central Powers in World War I is the subject of this moving film. Joyeux Noel tells the true story of a group of French, Scottish, and German soldiers who put down their guns and celebrated together. This tale of peace and brotherhood is a reminder that the holidays are about more than parties and presents. Diane Kruger plays an opera singer who is reunited with her soldier husband. Joyeux Noel was France's official selection for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar the year that it was released.

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Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010)

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale

Finland, 2010

Several films have portrayed Santa Claus as a jolly man who wants to help children. This Finnish movie has a radically different take on the character: a villainous St. Nick who enjoys hurting kids. A team of archeologists accidentally dig up evil Santa, who was buried alive for humanity's protection. In the vein of 1980s American films, two boys are the only ones who realize what is happening and must save Christmas from Santa. This darkly comic holiday oddity was nominated for a Saturn Award for Best International Film.

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Nativity 3: Dude, Where's My Donkey?! (2014)

Nativity!, Nativity 2: Danger in the Manger!, and Nativity 3: Dude, Where's My Donkey?

United Kingdom, 2009, 2012, and 2014

A children's Nativity play hardly seems like rich enough source material for a single full-length movie, but the Nativity! series proves that it's possible to make a trilogy about elementary school pageants. The child-friendly films each feature a different well-known actor — Martin Freeman, David Tennant and Martin Clunes respectively — as music teachers whose attempts to produce a Nativity play go astray. They're silly, irreverent, and filled with original songs. Parents looking for holiday films that aren't overly sentimental may find the play's the thing.

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Shuli Rand and Michal Bat-Sheva Rand in Ushpizin (2004)


Israel, 2004

Hanukkah, despite its high profile due to its proximity to Christmas, is not one of the most religiously significant Jewish holidays. Perhaps that's why the only films about it are American spoofs. Sukkot, a harvest festival celebrated in a backyard hut, is the basis for the award winning film Ushpizin. Set in Israel's Orthodox Jewish community, it tells the story of a broke, childless couple who pray to god for a miracle. Soon, they receive an unexpected financial windfall, which they use to buy supplies for Sukkot. Their holiday is interrupted by the arrival of two escaped convicts, who, according to Sukkot tradition, they must treat as their guests. The funny, touching film's theme of faith will resonate with viewers of all religious backgrounds.

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Bush Christmas (1983)

A Bush Christmas

Australia, 1983

Christmas movies feature falling snow and fireplaces, unless they're set in the Southern Hemisphere. In Australia, Christmas is a summer holiday. This film, about a struggling family in the Outback, is full of blue skies. A teenage Nicole Kidman plays Helen, who, along with her siblings, embarks on a quest to get their stolen horse back so it can compete in a race on New Year's Day. The weather may be different, but the story about a family coming together is a universal holiday tale.

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Six Degrees of Celebration (2010)

Yolki, Yolki 2, Yolki 3 and Yolki 1914

Russia, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014

New Year's Eve is the biggest holiday in Russia. Yolki, a comedy about eight people, each in a different time zone, who connect on December 31, was a huge hit. The premise is versatile enough that it spawned two traditional sequels and a prequel set in 1914. Now Yolki is going international. A fifth film will be set in six different countries and distributed worldwide. So far, Mexico, South Korea, and Germany are on board.

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Huub Stapel in Saint (2010)


The Netherlands, 2010

According to Scandinavian tradition, during the Feast of Saint Nick, celebrated on December 5, the saint rewards good children with toys and candy. Saint Nick is the obvious inspiration for Santa Claus. In this Dutch horror comedy, the full moon turns him into a killer. The good people of Amsterdam must stop him from kidnapping and murdering children. The film features twisted takes on holiday tropes including the police chasing St. Nick across rooftops. It would make a great double feature with Rare Exports, the Finnish evil Santa movie that is also on this list. Scandinavia has major Santa Claus issues.

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