Ahh, remember celebrating the winter holidays in the ‘90s? Stores would actually close (without posting about it on social media), a pile of holiday movies from Blockbuster warmed up by the fire, and we tried to kill each other over Elmo toys.
Those were the days.
While the ‘90s were a goldmine of cinema in general, it turns out there actually aren’t that many great holiday movies from the decade. There are some all-time classics of course, but apparently we just kind of rewatch the same three or four classics, and that’s pretty much it.
That said, there are some excellent ‘90s movies that the nerdiest among us should take guilty pleasure in viewing come that special time of year. When looking at what makes a holiday movie “nerdy”, I’m looking for things like technology, horror, elements of science fiction, fantasy, or another clear nerd hook. Fair warning: there might be a couple on here that stretch the criteria a tad.
Here are the ‘90s movies every nerd should watch this holiday season:
Edward Scissorhands — 1990
Let’s get this out of the way right now: Tim Burton is the king of ‘90s nerd holiday movies. This is definitely one of the most important things I learned writing this post.
And yes, Edward Scissorhands is most definitely a Christmas movie. Even though Christmas isn’t a core event, it does occur during the movie and culminates with one of the great cinematic moments of the ‘90s in the snow-falls-in-Florida scene above.
And throughout the film there are elements of the both the slightly unsettled yet comforting feel of Christmas that only Tim Burton can express—sort of like what a young child’s face looks like when you tell them Santa can see them when they’re sleeping.
Jingle All the Way — 1996
Yet another movie about a workaholic dad who’s on the verge of failing his marriage, his son, and his company—unless, of course, he can find his son the most sought-after toy in the history of the world. Just your classic anti-commercialism Christmas movie that’s about, uh, how great commercialism is.
Mattress salesman Howard (aka AHHHnold) was supposed to get his son the Power Rangers-esque Turbo-Man action figure (badass name for a toy, btw) weeks ago, and now here it is, frickin’ Xmas eve, and rather than admit that he cares more about mattresses than his own family, what does Howard do? That’s right, go on a whacky adventure featuring Sinbad, reindeer, the Big Show, a criminal ring of mall Santas, and many more gleefully ridiculous scenarios.
Also, Phil Hartman is amazing in this. RIP.
Of course, even after everything, Howard still fails—a post-credits scene reveals that he completely forgot to get his wife anything. Way to go Howard! Now get your aaahhhhhsss to Maaaaahhhhhhs.
Batman Returns — 1992
Remember what I said about Tim Burton? YEAH BOY, THAT’S RIGHT. WHO’S YOUR ‘90s CHRISTMAS MOVIE DADDY?
Man, this movie truly threw me for a loop when I was a kid. Having been a pretty big fan of the first Burton Batman movie, I was pumped to watch this. And, well, it got real weird real fast.
Right off the bat that same balance of morbid fantasy combined with a clear love for the holiday oozes throughout Batman Returns as it did in Scissorhands, but this one’s more … well, just weird.
First, you have a deformed Penguin (aka Oswald—weird name) being born on Christmas Day. Then you have evil goons jumping out of giant presents. Then you have Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman. INSANE!
So curl up by the fire with a nice cup of anything that won’t put you on a psychedelic trip, because this would be a horrifying movie to watch while doing that.
The Muppet Christmas Carol — 1992
Look, I told you there’d be a couple of stretches on this list. Cut me some slack! I’M UNDER A LOT OF PRESSURE OK.
Anyways, I actually do think this fits—I mean, it’s Jim Henson-quality production work here, and that will almost always make a movie nerd-worthy in and of itself.
The fantasy created in this movie is actually pretty cool, and frankly, just the scene with the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come has enough visual wizardry to get me on board.
A Christmas Carol was always rooted in fantasy, but the Muppets really push it to the next level.
The Nightmare Before Christmas — 1993
Tim. Effing. Burton.
While he wasn’t the director of this film, Burton was clearly a driving force behind this iconic stop-motion holiday fantasy that completes his ‘90s nerdy holiday movie trilogy of awesomeness. And frankly, the cast and crew don’t get enough credit for seeing that vision through and creating what would become a cult classic.
Don’t even try to act like you don’t sing “What’s this?” quietly to yourself every few seconds, each and every day.
But wait, is this a Halloween movie or a Christmas movie?
It’s both, you dolt! Don’t make put some deadly nightshade in your eggnog.
Home Alone — 1990
I have to admit, I wasn’t totally sold on including this one on this list, until I was convinced that Kevin McCallister is clearly a genius considering his mastery of the laws of physics.
Although, according to the video below, the Wet Bandits should have been killed at least three or four times by his traps.
One fun thing to do over the holidays is learn a bunch of facts about the Home Alone traps and then recite them to your family while watching the movie. They’ll love it!
The fact that Kevin was able to rig up so many impressive traps faster than I can even put together a game of Mouse Trap is testament to his nerd credibility. In this light, frankly it would have been rude to leave Home Alone off the list.
Silent Night, Deadly Night 5: The Toy Maker — 1991
Horror. Toys. Christmas.
Oh, and screen legend Mickey Rooney.
I would explain the plot but … just watch the trailer for yourself (content warning—it’s weird).
Yep, this movie definitely is one every nerd should watch—well, OK, *should* is a strong word.
It’s a bizarre, needlessly violent, direct-to-video masterpiece. If you found yourself nodding along gleefully to that sentence, you should watch it. Otherwise, uh, yeah probably skip it.