10 Great Christmas Movies Barely About Christmas

NEW YORK (MainStreet) -- Christmas movies don't have to be limited to dusty copies of It's A Wonderful Life and Miracle On 34th Street or timelier tearjerkers such as Elf or Love Actually.

In some cases, it actually helps when the Christmas movie isn't that Christmasy at all.

Classics notwithstanding, movies don't tend to need a whole lot of Christmas trappings to be a hit around the holidays. On Christmas weekend 2009, when Hollywood brought in a record $270 million at the box office, the top films featured blue aliens, a British detective, animated chipmunks and a middle-aged love triangle. Avatar, Sherlock Holmes, Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel and It's Complicated have nary a sprig of holly nor a Santa reference between them and fared just fine on a Friday Christmas.

Last year's holiday weekend box office haul declined 48% as in its top film, Little Fockers, leads Ben Stiller and Teri Polo inviting parents Robert DeNiro, Dustin Hoffman, Barbara Streisand and Blythe Danner to their house for Christmas. The lesson learned: Less Christmas is more.

Even the folks who make movies are divided over what makes a great Christmas movie. When the folks at movie ticketing site Fandango polled the directors and stars of some of this holiday season's films, The Chipmunks: Chipwrecked star Jason Lee chipped in 24-hour holiday favorite -- A Christmas Story -- and Young Adult co-star Patton Oswalt gave the nod to A Charlie Brown Christmas. War Horse and Tintin director Steven Spielberg, however, went with David Lean's 1946 take on the Charles Dickens classic Great Expectations, while Young Adult lead Charlize Theron voted for Stanley Kubrick's The Shining.

Though Theron's tongue was planted firmly in cheek, her pick makes the valid point that holiday movies don't have to be cheery, colorful or have Christmas at the center of the plot to be great Christmas movies. We went digging through the vault of holiday film favorites and found 10 that are only tangentially "Christmas" movies: