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'Tis the Season for Strange

17 Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books and Movies for the Holidays

By Ashly Moore Sheldon • November 24, 2022

It may seem counterintuitive, but for lovers of the genre, speculative fiction is perfectly suited for the holiday season. Many of us celebrate the season, not with an annual viewing of It's a Wonderful Life or A Christmas Story, but rather, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and Star Wars. These stories combine magic, adventure, and the wonder of the unknown. Come to think of it, this is also how we might describe our perfect holiday season. Here are seventeen sci-fi and fantasy titles to add to your festivities this year.


There's a lot of crossover between sci-fi and fantasy, but if you prefer speculative fiction that's based in reality, here are some seasonally specific books and movies.

Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
The first in a series about time-traveling historians, this novel centers on Kivrin, a young woman preparing an on-site study of one of the deadliest eras in humanity's history. But a crisis linking past and future strands her in a bygone age where she emerges as an unlikely angel of hope.

Brazil (R)
Set against the backdrop of Christmas in an über-materialistic, overly bureaucratic society, this hilariously absurd film from Terry Gilliam is the story of a low-level office worker with an overactive fantasy life who smashes through all social mores in an effort to save an imagined damsel in distress.

Wandering Stars by Jack Dann et al.
This anthology of sci-fi stories showcase Jewish wit, culture, and lore, blending humor and sadness, cynicism and faith. An introduction by Isaac Asimov leads off thirteen stories from celebrated authors like Isaac Bashevis Singer, Robert Silverberg, Harlan Ellison, Bernard Malamud, and Robert Sheckley.

Children of Men (R)
Directed by Alfonso Cuarón, this film is set during a future holiday in London. For nearly thirty years, no children have been born and the human race is facing extinction. An iron-handed warden has been brought in to manage the chaos, but when a woman becomes pregnant, his authority is challenged.

The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
This sci-fi masterwork tells the story of a lone human emissary to Winter, an alien planet whose inhabitants can choose—and change—their gender. He must facilitate Winter's inclusion in an intergalactic civilization. This means bridging the gulf between his own views and that of Winter's utterly dissimilar culture.


For a full escape from reality, here is a mix of holiday-themed books and movies that invoke magical forces and invented worlds.

Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin
Set in a mythic version of New York City and spanning more than a century, this novel offers an epic love story suffused with miracles, crossed destinies, and the age-old battle between good and evil. The 1983 novel was adapted into a 2014 film starring Colin Farrell and Jessica Findlay Brown.

NOS4A2 by Joe Hill
Vic was the only kid to ever escape the unmitigated evil of Charles Manx, a convicted kidnapper who snatched children in his Rolls Royce and transported them into a terrifying sadistic world called Christmasland. A grown-up Vic is just trying to forget. But now Manx is back and he's got her son.

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (R)
Young Pietari lives with his stern reindeer-herding father Rauno in arctic Finland. On Christmas Eve, an enormous excavation at a nearby mountain unearths an evil Santa Claus. This fantastically bizarre holiday adventure showcases the bond between father and son as Pietari and Rauno battle the nightmarish creature.

The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen
Hallmark movie fans will love this sweet confection of a story about a young woman who lives a narrow existence, finding comfort only in sweets and paperback romances. When she makes a connection with Della Lee, a local waitress (and fairy godmother), her world opens up in magical ways.

Batman Returns (PG-13)
Set during Christmastime, this Tim Burton-directed superhero movie does a great job of capturing the feel of a snowy urban holiday. An epic battle between good and evil ensues as the Caped Crusader fights to save Gotham City from the foul Penguin's plot.

Unholy Night by Seth Grahame-Smith
They're an iconic part of history's most celebrated birth. But what do we really know about the Three Kings of the Nativity, besides the fact that they followed a star to Bethlehem bearing strange gifts? In this telling, the so-called "Three Wise Men" are infamous thieves, led by the dark, murderous Balthazar.


Here are six fantastic holiday experiences offering wholesome fun for viewers and readers of all ages.

Scrooged (PG-13)
This film offers a comedic update to the Dickensian classic A Christmas Carol. Bill Murray plays a ruthless TV-network chief who reevaluates his life when he is visited by three ghosts who show him the error of his ways by showing him scenes from the past, present, and future of his life.

Hogfather by Terry Pratchett
It's the most wonderful time of the year in Discworld. Hogswatchnight is when the Hogfather dons his red suit and climbs in his sleigh pulled by—of course—eight hogs, to shower gifts across Discworld. But when the fat man goes missing, it's up to Death to take up the reins.

The Nightmare Before Christmas (PG)
In Tim Burton's stop-motion animated dark fantasy, Santa's would-be kidnapper is Jack Skellington, the King of Halloween Town. His evil plot is to take over Christmas Town and deliver fear instead of joy. With original music from Danny Elfman and voicework from Chris Sarandon and Catherine O'Hara.

The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper
The second book in an award-winning middle grade series, this is the story of Will, an 11-year-old boy who learns that he is the last of the Old Ones, immortals who protect the world from evil. During the twelve days of Christmas, as the Dark is rising, Will's experiences are full of wonder, terror, and delight.

Edward Scissorhands (PG-13)
Tim Burton clearly loves Christmas, even if his vision of it is a little odd. This darkly funny film features a young man with razor-sharp metal hands. When he is brought out of seclusion by a kind-hearted Avon lady, he is embraced by his new community. But falling love adds new complications.

The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus by L. Frank Baum
Updated with beautiful illustrations by an award-winning illustrator, this classic Christmas story about the origins of Santa takes the reader on the fantastical fairy tale journey of St. Nick being raised by woodland fairies, finding flying reindeer, building trinkets and toys, and receiving the gift of immortality.

Have a weird and wonderful season of joy this year! Sci-fi and fantasy may not be the genres you think of for the holidays, but we're hoping that some of the titles on this list change your mind.

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