8) Die Hard
I’m not even sure if Die Hard should be on this list. It’s kind of established itself as the gold standard of “my favorite Christmas movie that’s not really a Christmas movie” flicks. Still, there are people out there who are missing out on the holiday joy of watching Bruce Willis walk barefoot over broken glass every year just because they don’t realize the plot centers around an office holiday party on Christmas Eve that turns into a hostage situation. Hey, why are all these people partying on Christmas Eve? Shouldn’t they be at home? Is that what LA was like in 1988? Everyone too coked out to go home to their families on Christmas? That sounds about right. Also, is an office holiday party really the best time to reconcile with your estranged wife? It seems like literally any other time would be a better time. Still not convinced it’s a Christmas movie? All you need to do is check the “Kringle Test” (something I made up) where you look for a character dressed as Santa. If someone is dressed as Santa, it’s a Christmas movie. Even if they’re a bullet-riddled corpse in an elevator.
Yes, Gremlins is a story about a cute little creature that spawns uglier, and substantially more deadly, creatures. But how did Gizmo show up at the Peltzer household to begin with? He was a last minute Christmas gift! Being a dad is tough (I think? I don’t know for sure, but I’m pretty confident about the statement.) and there will be times when you completely forget to buy your kid a Christmas gift until the last second. So, yeah, you’re going to make some shady back-alley deals with the grandson of a Chinatown antique store owner on Christmas Eve after the aforementioned owner refuses to sell you a mysterious animal. It’s just something that’s going to happen to every dad at one point or another, so know what you’re getting into if you decide to be a father.
6) Edward Scissorhands
False rape accusations, attempted burglary, and Avon cosmetics are just some of the ornaments adorning this wonderful tree of a lowkey Christmas movie from Tim Burton. Edward Scissorhands doesn’t feel very Chrstimasy at all for the first hour, but soon enough we are decidedly in Christmasville.
Isn’t it just like Christmas to sneak up on you like that? It was just Thanksgiving yesterday! No, seriously, how the fuck did that happen? Anyway, characters are suddenly decorating a tree, lights are on the houses, and Edward gives the best gift anyone can offer: Straight-up killing a boyfriend who’s no good for you. Hey, how come at least one person dies in all of these movies? Is that a rule if you’re trying to make an anti-Christmas movie? I guess? I only went to college for 4.5 years to get my media studies degree, I can’t say for sure. Oh yeah, almost forgot, the whole movie’s story telling mechanic revolves around an elderly woman explaining to her granddaughter why it snows every Christmas. Uh, because you friendzoned a murderer with knives for hands and now he carves ice on a hill? WEIRD CHRISTMAS STORY, GRANDMA! Maybe just let’s watch Frozen next year.
5) Batman Returns
Batman Returns (another one from Burton before he became one of the three worst people continually allowed to make terrible movies that cost more than $100M) is my favorite Batman movie. Just from an actor perspective, it’s tremendous. Michael Keaton, Michelle Pfeiffer, Christopher Walken and Danny DeVito. I mean, damn. We should seriously consider tearing down Mt. Rushmore and putting their faces up there instead. But what this Batman movie really has that no other Batman movie has is Christmas as a backdrop. The present-day story begins with a Christmas tree lighting ceremony and Catwoman gets to live out everyone’s holiday fantasy of blowing up a department store.
Batman Returns deals with some real holiday shit, too. Trying to reconnect with family and coming to terms with what it means when that’s not an option anymore. Most people go to therapy, but The Penguin runs for mayor and tries to kidnap a bunch of babies. We all deal with stuff differently and everyone is just doing their best these days.
4) Trading Places
This classic comedy about the sick and twisted ways the extremely rich entertain themselves is also a Christmas movie. Not buying it? Just take one look at Aykroyd acing the Kringle Test!
The climax of the film happens on New Year’s Day, but the movie makes a hard stop in the middle of Christmas just long enough for a drunk Santa to crash a holiday party and try to frame someone with a bag of drugs. People put on a Santa suit this time of year and turn into goddamn animals at holiday parties. Give a man a mask and he’ll show you his true self. Give a man a Santa suit and three cocktails and he’s liable to show you a Xeroxed copy of his penis. Trading Places also reminds us what’s really important: It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor. All you need are people you love and an extremely intricate plan to bankrupt your enemies. Also, this is the only movie on this list where nobody dies. I mean, Dan Akryod does try to kill himself while wearing the Santa suit but fate steps in.
It’s a Christmas miracle!
3) Die Hard 2: Die Harder
Die Hard gets so much attention as a “not a Christmas movie Christmas movie” that it’s easy to forget about Die Hard 2: Die Harder. It’s another holiday classic with a huge body count set on Christmas Eve. This time around, exactly one year after the events of the first film, the Die Hard franchise tackles the painful experience of air travel and being stuck in an airport during the holidays. Woof. The worst. John McClane can’t catch a break in December! I’d suggest he convert to Judaism to avoid Christmas entirely, but with his luck he’d probably wind up intervening in eight consecutive days of terrorist plots. Wait. That movie sounds amazing. They should make that Die Hard next. On immediate second thought, if it’s anything like real Hanukkah, only one of those terrorist plots will be one you’re excited about and the rest will basically be filler plots to mark the days. Just be polite and smile when you open the filler terrorist plots, you don’t want to hurt the terrorists’ feelings.
2) Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang
Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang is one of those movies people always bring up in conversations about great movies that don’t get their due. Guess what? If a movie is always in those types of conversations, I think it’s getting its due. We did it, you guys! We talked this movie’s due into existence. But with all the sharp dialogue and dizzying whodunit murder mystery (many people also die in this movie), it’s easy to forget that it takes place during Christmas. The movie opens at a holiday party and we get a really wonderful sequence where Michelle Monaghan runs around in this Santa getup.
I think Monaghan’s holiday outfit is one of those subliminal reasons people like this movie so much. Not dissimilar to Alexandra Daddario’s instantly iconic scene in the second episode of True Detective.
A lot of people saw that second episode of True Detective and thought, “Man! What a great show!” without totally understanding why. Then they renewed their HBO subscription for thirty years. But I digress. Besides that outfit and the opening music cue, the movie just casually mentions Christmas a few times in lines like this.
And that’s it. And it’s great and it totally works. The Christmas mentions are like seasoning on a steak. There’s enough to get the job done, but it doesn’t overpower the main event. Pretty sure they devote less time to Christmas than they do the nutsack electrocution torture scene, and honestly more holiday movies should follow that ratio.
1) Lethal Weapon
With Die Hard and Die Hard 2 holding the crowns for action-packed Christmas movies, people forget Lethal Weapon all together. But it’s very much a Christmas movie. Guys, the holidays are TOUGH and STRESSFUL and sometimes you might want to kill yourself or at the very least do some drugs. That’s why it’s so appropriate that this movie opens with a semi-nude lady illuminated by Christmas lights snorting heroin and jumping to her death. Suicide continues to play a huge role throughout the story as Riggs is constantly struggling with an urge to blow his brains out. Happy holidays, you guys! There’s plenty of Christmas stuff in the background of the movie, like the fact that Riggs is doing an undercover drug deal at the beginning of the movie at a Christmas tree lot, but it’s mostly just a ton of crazy intense shit happening for 110 minutes. Fly-by murder in a helicopter, a heroin smuggling syndicate, torture, and explosions just to name a few. This is definitely not It’s A Wonderful Life by any stretch of the imagination. You pretty much forget it’s a Christmas movie entirely until a car crashes through a Christmas tree in the living room at the end. Then Riggs finally gives the bullet he was planning on using to kill himself to his partner. What a thoughtful and disturbing present!
Lethal Weapon is unfairly eclipsed by the Die Hard movies as a Christmas classic, even though it came out a year prior to the first Die Hard, but it absolutely holds its own. Plus it’s a ton of fun. If you haven’t seen it already, definitely consider spending Christmas with Danny Glover and Mel Gibson this year. Oh, and feel free to spread the holiday cheer in the comments section by telling me why I’m an idiot because I left off your favorite not-Christmasy Christmas movie that should’ve been on this list. Merry Christmas!