My Favourite Christmas Movies
Saturday 21st December 2013
I finished work for the holidays today and so it seems a fitting time to write a festive list. As most of you discerning viewers will agree, ninety-nine percent of Christmas movies are utter garbage. There’s a simple reason for this; they only sell for a couple of weeks in the year and during those few weeks people are very easily duped into watching anything as long as it has some snow and a fat bearded man in it. Why spend the money to make a good movie if people will happily sit through The Santa Clause? Therefore, most of the films on this list only qualify as ‘Christmas movies’ by virtue of being set at Christmas. Most of them aren’t actually about Christmas. The snow and tinsel is secondary to things which are (in my opinion) more important; a plot, conflict, well-drawn characters… Incidentally, this also means that you can legitimately enjoy these movies at any time of the year, a fact which might explain the higher production values when compared to your average Christmas movie.
I thought I’d start with everyone’s favourite Christmas movie. And before you start asking “How is Die Hard a Christmas Movie?”… the entire film takes place during a firm’s Christmas party. Obviously the party doesn’t go all that smoothly what with all the guests being taken hostage by terrorists, but the thought is there. Watch out for the cheeky Christmas references in between all the gunfights and explosions.
Another one that probably doesn’t spring to the front of your mind when you think of Christmas, but I assure you Batman Returns is extremely festive. The Penguin obviously chooses his favourite time of year to attack Gotham; when it’s covered in a thick layer of snow. Although the film might not be all that full of Christmas cheer, the general ambience is wintery enough to remind you what time of year it is.
A particularly joyful Christmas movie about murder, prostitution and corrupt policemen. The film takes place over a number of months but the memorable scene in which Russell Crowe attacks a prisoner in the police cells takes place during the station’s Christmas party. A great film to watch at any time of year, but especially so at Christmas. Unless you’re a prostitute.
Finally, a comedy! Trading Places is a bit of a double-edged sword of nostalgia; the film reminds me that it’s Christmas while at the same time making me reminisce over a happier time when Eddie Murphy was funny. Again, the film takes place over a longer period of time but the anti-materialist message really brings home that Christmas feeling… so be sure to watch it as you hungrily tear the wrapping paper off that new iPhone.
Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang
Writer and director Shane Black quite possibly loves Christmas more than anyone else on the planet. Or maybe he’s just smart enough to know that if you set all your films at Christmas they’re guaranteed to be watched at least once a year by a whole bunch of people. Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang tells the story of a thief who accidentally becomes a successful actor and then gets caught up in a murder conspiracy with a gay private detective. And to all those who try to tell me this is not a Christmas movie… in the second scene Robert Downey Junior is breaking into a toy store to steal a present for his niece. And later on Michelle Monaghan wears a very sexy Santa outfit.
Brazil is set in a futuristic dystopia where bureaucracy is king. Sounds like a riot doesn’t it? The film was written and directed by Terry Gilliam of Monty Python fame so it’s much better (and funnier) than it sounds. The film is set during the festive period, which really serves to emphasise the lack of goodwill in this future world as Jonathon Pryce becomes a wanted fugitive after trying to correct a small mistake on some paperwork. Ho ho ho.
Another entry from Shane Black. Lethal Weapon features all those staple Christmas activities; drug-smuggling, prostitution, fighting, murder and suicide. But they all eat Christmas dinner at the end. So watch it.
Die Hard 2
Once again the hapless John McClane’s plans to reconcile with his estranged wife over Christmas are waylaid by angry men with guns. Washington Dulles Airport is the scene of many very festive gunfights and explosions this time around. Rest assured there’s plenty of snow to get you in the Christmas mood.
Iron Man 3
Shane Black is still at it with the Christmas thing. They gave him the reins on the biggest Summer blockbuster of 2013 and the guy still had the balls to set it at Christmas. A lot of people left the cinema back in July feeling pretty confused that it wasn’t snowing outside. Black’s cheeky stunt seems to have paid off though, because for the past month or two I’ve seen Iron Man 3 posters advertising both the DVD and the premiere on Sky Movies. The third installment is definitely the weakest outing for Tony Stark so far, but as far as Christmas Movies go it’s not bad.
This is probably my absolute favourite Christmas Movie on the list; nothing gets me in the holiday mood more than watching innocent people tormented by little green monsters. Gremlins has a great sense of humour and it really hammers the Christmas theme home with decorations hanging from every possible piece of scenery. Even now that I’m an adult I still feel a little hint of disappointment every year when none of my gifts turn out to be a Gremlin.
The Last Boyscout
I’m aware that I may be stretching the point a little here, because Shane Black decided to keep his Christmas references on the subtle side for this hilarious and action-packed tale of corruption in American football. In fact, Christmas is only referred to twice in the entire film: when disgraced private detective Joe Hallenback finds a picture his daughter drew of Santa holding a bloody severed head, entitled “Satan Claus”; and again at the end of the film when Hallenback announces “Satan Clause is out there Jimmy, and he’s only getting stronger.” However, as Hallenback’s wife explains that their daughter was told to draw something festive for the holiday season, we can draw the conclusion that The Last Boyscout is in fact set at Christmas.
I had to put one film on the list that actually admits to being a Christmas movie. Bad Santa is a film about a mall Santa who hates Christmas. Billy Bob Thornton is brilliant as the Santa impostor who teams up with his midget elf sidekick Marcus to rob the store after everyone’s gone home for the holidays. Don’t let Thornton’s bah-humbug sentiments fool you though; the film packs a powerful festive message in the end. There’s just a lot of swearing, and abuse of midgets, along the way.
Latest Blog Posts
The Raid 2
Read my review of The Raid 2 which is really more of a story about how I fell asleep in the cinema. Not because of the film, I was just tired.
Once again I felt compelled to watch a film that no one else on the planet seems to have seen despite an insanely pushy ad campaign and a universally indifferent response from critics. Is John Carter as mediocre as it’s cracked up to be? Actually no; it’s quite enjoyable if you’re looking for a bit of adventure with a lot of swordplay thrown in. My only concern is that if you look a little deeper Disney seem to be pushing some pretty questionable morality with this one...
I can’t comment on whether Red Dawn is a successful remake because I haven’t seen the original, so all I’ll say is that the original film would have to be astoundingly bad to beat this... You know that moment when you’re at some form of social gathering and a stranger says something hilarious without realising it’s even remotely funny? That sums up Red Dawn.
Welcome to the Punch
I don’t really like James McAvoy but I gave him the benefit of the doubt just this once… and he didn’t prove me wrong. The film’s not all that bad though, mainly thanks to Mark Strong and Johnny Harris. Anyway, check out the post in which I mostly talk about beards.
Wrath of the Titans
Once again I have gone against my better judgment and spent almost two hours of my time watching a sequel to a film that disappointed me deeply… thankfully my faith was rewarded as the sequel, while not by any means perfect, was good enough to seem like a vast improvement over the Clash of the Titans remake. I realise that’s not really saying much. Read the review for more of this insightful commentary.