During the holidays many classic movies come back for their "once a year" run to bring the spirit of the season to light.  These flicks are either serious classic films, or centered around the jolly Kris Kringle - not all movies of the holiday season resembles that model, but they deserve your viewing for their fun, their romance, creativity, or their non-traditional take of the season.

The Christmas classics that are necessary watching probably includes It's A Wonderful Life (which NBC has the rights to), Miracle On 34th Street (the original 1947 black and white film),  A Christmas Story (Thank You TBS and TNT for their years of airing this non-stop on Xmas to make it a classic), The Santa Clause (my favorite is the 2nd film in the trilogy), and a newer classic like The Polar Express.  You have to admit these are 5 you probably would not miss because they are now part of the culture's tradition of the holidays, and are rarely seen any other time of the year.

You could even say National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation qualifies here, but that film seems so "non-traditional" on some levels, yet you would not miss that film for anything!  The Griswold family open the door for another non-traditional Christmas film that similar appeal - Four Christmases.  Who says you cannot laugh at your family for the holidays!

Now let's go one step further - films that you may not think of as a Christmas film.  There are many films that use Christmas time as the backdrop for the film, but it is not necessarily the "traditional fare" you think of when you think of "Holiday Classic".

Here are 10 films that are in their own right successful and somehow tie Christmas into the film.  You may not think Santa, or even think you would watch these films this time of year, but they deserve to be part of your holiday just for the sheer entertainment:

1) Home Alone (1990)

This is a border-line holiday classic that sees Kevin McCallister (former child star Macaulay Culkin) be left behind by his family for Xmas.  The comedy comes from 2 bumbling criminals (Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern at their best) trying to rob a house and being out-witted by an 8-yr-old.  The story is sweet, but the comedy and action makes this film.

2) The Holiday (2006)

Chick Flick, and my true holiday guilty pleasure.  2 women alone for ............... wait for it ................. The Holiday (get it?) swap homes to try to get through the season, and they find their true loves.  A little cheesy, a little sappy, but the acting is top notch (Kate Winslet, Cameron Diaz, Jude Law, and Jack Black), plus the film celebrates Hanukkah, Xmas and New Year's in a span of 2 hours.  Jack Black and Eli Wallach (at age 90 when he shot this film) steal the scenes they are in.

3) Die Hard (1988)

There is a holiday party going on at the Nakatomi Building on Christmas Eve (why they are not home with their families is another issue) and John McClain (Bruce Willis) began his journey of always being at the wrong place at the wrong time.  Nothing like a group of heavily armed men, a heist, action, explosions, and good triumphing over evil to say Happy Holidays.  One of the greatest action films of the last 30 years for sure, and you need something to break up the Santa monopoly on the season.  This is not the only action film with a Christmas time backdrop.

4) Lethal Weapon (1987)

When Mel Gibson and Danny Glover were at their peak of success was as Murtaugh and Riggs.  The holidays brings murder, revenge, drugs, and the worst Christmas turkey ever cooked.  The film re-launched Gary Busey's career (which is now stuck in reality TV hell).  The Christmas backdrop is enhanced in the opening introduction of the film - Bobby Helm's "Jingle Bell Rock" is playing.  One more trivia fact: Darlene Love plays Glover's wife in the film - she is famous for singing many holiday classics that were hits in the 60s.

5) The Ref (1994)

Sensing a pattern with the criminal element with some of these films?  Well Dennis Leary is a sarcastic house burglar who ends up in the abode of the most dysfunctional family on the eastern seaboard just in time to partake of their Christmas Eve feast.  Kevin Spacey, Judy Davis and Christine Baranski went on with Leary to become award winning actors (Emmy, Golden Globes, and an Oscar for Spacey), but back in '94 they were still just getting their big break with this comedy.

6) Toy Story 3 (2010)

A triumph for Pixar with what may be the best Toy Story of the series.  Remember the final scene that takes place on Christmas Day - where Andy gives his toys to Bonnie (not a dry eye where I live when we saw the perfect ending to for Woody, Buzz and the amazing toys)

7) Trading Places (1983)

The backdrop is the holiday season where a rich man becomes poor, a poor man takes down the men who gave him a leg in the name of a $1 bet, Dan Ackroyd is a drunk Santa at one point sneaking into the Duke & Duke holiday party just to get something to eat, a "Merry New Year" on an Amtrak train with Jim Belushi dressed as a gorilla, and the Christmas miracle where the guy getting the hooker, the butler becoming a millionaire, and Eddie Murphy becoming a huge star.

8) The Apartment (1960)

This is a incredible classic on its own right.  The film won 5 Oscars including the Best Picture award.  The backdrop of NYC during the Xmas / New Year's stretch where a young executive climbs the corporate ladder by loaning out his apartment to bosses for their extramarital trysts.  Meanwhile his crush is heartbroken by his married boss - now she is alone and hurt for the holiday.  Jack Lemmon eventually wins Shirley MacLaine's affections in this kind of dark comedy.

9) Eight Crazy Nights (2002)

What makes this animated film non-traditional is the fact that Hanukkah is taking center stage and not Xmas. Adam Sandler took his classic "Chanukah Song" and created Davey Stone - 33, a drinker, and a troublemaker who goes too far.  In trying to make himself a better person, he's in the midst of performing community service when he falls for his childhood girlfriend and her kid. 

10) The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

The hybrid of Halloween and Christmas is one of the most ambitious animated films of all time.  The mind of Tim Burton created memorable characters like Jack Skellington, The Mayor of Halloween Town, Sally, Oogie Boogie, and Dr. Finkelstein. You could argue that this film is now more traditional today with many people having Nightmare ornaments for their tree, but this concept was truly revolutionary for it's time, and one film never to miss when it comes on TV.