Nothing beats staying in on a cold December night and getting in the holiday spirit with a great Christmas film. The classics are great, but sometimes your holiday movie rotation needs to be spiced up. Let’s be honest: hearing your family recite every line of Christmas Vacation one second before Chevy Chase can be a bit frustrating.
Here’s my top five countdown of Christmas movies that you probably didn’t think to watch.
5. Batman Returns
It’s Christmas in Gotham, and that means one thing - action. Cancel the Wayne Enterprises Christmas Gala, Bruce; you’ve got a city to save. Not only does Michael Keaton play a killer Batman with ease, there might not be a better tandem of villains in movie history. Danny DeVito makes for one disgusting Penguin and Christopher Walken does a great job playing a corrupt businessman the same exact way he plays every other character. Throw in the wildcard that is Catwoman, and we have the makings of a Christmas classic.
Why it’s a Christmas movie: Well, the fact that it takes place at Christmastime is a given. But let’s not forget that the entire evil scheme is set to unfold at Gotham’s Christmas tree lighting ceremony, which means Batman not only has to save the city, but also Christmas. That’s a lot of responsibility for one dark knight. Saving Christmas is a classic theme found in many holiday stories. Rudolph anyone?
4. Edward Scissorhands
This movie begins with a little girl asking her grandma where snow comes from. What an adorable holiday-themed inciting action. Then, Grandma takes a left turn and tells the story of Edward Scissorhands. Young Johnny Depp shows how weird he can be by playing the pseudo-frankenstein monster with scissors for hands (hence his not-so-creative last name). He is brought into the home of a loving Avon sales rep who treats Edward like a son and helps him discover his talents for hedge trimming and hair styling. Wrap it up with an epic Christmas duel in a creepy, old hilltop mansion, and you have yourself a holiday treat.
Why it’s a Christmas movie: This time of year is all about togetherness, being kind to your fellow man, or in this case, scissor-handed monster ... and being judged by those closest to you. This movie wraps that up in a bow. What better displays the meaning of Christmas than taking an outcast into your home, making him feel like family, and helping him discover hidden talents? If it wasn’t for Christmas, Edward wouldn’t have made those beautiful ice sculptures or killed that guy. Score one for J-Depp, score one for Christmas.
3. Lethal Weapon
Just because there’s no snow in L.A. doesn’t mean it isn’t Christmas. This 1987 buddy-cop classic is a great reminder that, as much as you might say it, you’re never too old for this s**t. Filled with shootouts, drug busts, over-the-top 80s acting, and Mel Gibson’s hair, this is a ride that’s so much Christmas fun, you’ll want to take it three more times. True to the holiday spirit, two enemies become besties and realize the true meaning of Christmas by busting up a drug-smuggling ring. Did I mention Mel Gibson’s hair?
Why it’s a Christmas movie: The movie’s opening scene is a combination of hookers and Drano-laced cocaine leading to a random swan dive off of a skyscraper, all set to “Jingle Bell Rock.” If that doesn’t scream Christmas, then I don’t know what does. Then there’s the coke bust/shootout at that Christmas tree lot and the fact that Riggs is watching a Bugs Bunny Christmas special while he contemplates suicide. But don’t worry, it all ends on a merry high-note when Riggs redeems himself and celebrates Christmas with the Murtaugh’s. What a wholesome holiday picture …
You know what I don’t like about Gremlins? Nothing. This movie a tremendous example of everything the 80s had to offer. Far-fetched plots, bad scientific explanations, and animatronic creatures. It might be the perfect movie. Seeing the tiny town of Kingston Falls turned on its ear because one teenager needs a lesson in proper pet care is all-too-relatable. Isn’t it? This movie also gave us something to blame when our computers don’t work. Thanks Steven Spielberg.
Why it’s a Christmas movie: This one is pretty obvious. The climax of the movie takes place on Christmas Eve, and Gizmo was a Christmas present Billy’s dad found in Chinatown. Let’s be real. Christmas is all about presents. Gremlins teaches us what can and will go wrong if you don’t follow your gift’s instructions carefully. Billy’s irresponsibility almost ruins Christmas for the entire town. You thought the Grinch was bad? Imagine unleashing an entire army of them! Once again, it’s up to our main character and his (out of his league) gal to save Christmas from destruction. #Classic
1. Die Hard
This is the best Christmas movie ever made. Marital problems, long distance flights, elaborate terrorist plots, gunplay, and a cop with nothing to lose. Does it get more Christmas than that? Bruce Willis’ iconic character John McClane deals out serious damage for 2 hours and then drops Hans Gruber (Professor Snape) off a freaking building. Although, it did cost his wife her watch. On top of that, the dad from Family Matters is a major character! Epic Christmas movie. No doubt about it.
Why it’s a Christmas movie: This movie gets a lot a flack for not being a true “Christmas movie.” If you think that, then you’re wrong. What day does the movie take place? Christmas Eve. Why does John McClane fly in from New York to see his estranged wife? Christmas. What song is featured in the opening sequence? Christmas in Hollis by Run DMC. Why are all of those people still at work that late into the evening? Christmas party. Why does John write “I have a machine gun now. Ho, ho, ho” on a terrorist’s sweatshirt? Because he’s in the Christmas spirit. Don’t forget, when he emerges from the wreckage, all beaten and bloody, what are the first words out of his wife’s mouth? “Jesus Christ,” the man whose birthday we celebrate at Christmas!
Furthermore, John McClane’s entire character is a metaphor for Santa. Let’s break it down.
- He takes long flights. Check.
- He rolls up in a sweet sleigh (it just happened to be a limo). Check.
- He goes down a tight, confined space (in this case, an air duct) and gets covered in dirt. Check.
- He has a hyphenated, three-sound catchphrase (yippe-kay-yay). Check.
- He’s laughing and jolly the whole time. Check.
- He punishes those on his naughty list. Check.
- He gives the people the greatest gift of all: their lives. Check.
Honorable Mention - The Harry Potter movies
There are two reasons this didn’t qualify for the top five. One, it’s a series and not a single movie. Two, they take place over a whole year and not just at Christmas.
It gained the honorable mention slot because every Harry Potter film has a prominent Christmas scene. Add it all together and it equals about one movie’s worth of Christmas footage. These scenes are also big plot movers throughout the series. Remember Harry’s first Christmas at Hogwarts? He received the invisibility cloak, which played a massive part in ultimate destruction of Voldemort.
With many of the students and teachers gone for the break, Christmas is the time when our favorite wizarding trio do serious work unraveling Voldemort’s schemes. And then they throw in Hermione Granger’s show-stopping moment in movie four, where she attends the Yule Ball in her finest witch’s gown and makes Ron fall in love with her. Umm hello, world? It’s Emma Watson, just wanted to let you know I’m a big deal.
Not to mention, a bunch of British kids running around saying “Happy Christmas” to each other is weird, hilarious, and heartwarming all at once.
This year, take your Christmas movie game to the next level and pop in one of these classics. From everyone at Revel, have a great holiday season!
By Drew Curi
Copywriter + Film Critic