Sometimes the greatest Christmas movies are ones that don’t really center around the jolly fat man or the holiday spirit entirely. Various instances in film have given us the Christmas theme in the background like a New York City cop fighting terrorists during a big Office Christmas party. Or perhaps an army of Gremlins terrorizing a town on Christmas Eve. I’m not even sure why movies like Die Hard or Gremlins are ever up for debate as far as labeling them as Holiday films; because they 100 % ARE and an undeniable fact at that. However, there are some true greats I’ve seen that could totally qualify as Christmas movies right alongside that of Stripe and John McLane and it is my mission to stamp a Santa hat-wearing Sico the Robot as a cinematic staple of the holiday season.
Bangarang indeed that Hook is undeniably a Christmas movie. I guess maybe with the late, great Robin Williams’ larger-than-life persona, one could easily forget they’re actually watching a loosely based “Peter Pan” version of Charles Dickens’ “The Christmas Carol”.
Before Peter Banning is bustled off to Neverland to save his kids from the dastardly Hook, Peter and his family arrive in London at Granny Wendy’s home that is decked out to the nine in Christmas decor with the score of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” playing in the background. After Peter remembers his origins, defeats Captain Hook (Dustin Hoffman), and returns to London with his children, he wakes up in the snow a changed man, grateful to be reunited with his family and determined not to miss another important moment. This, in my mind, mirrors the feel of Ebenezer Scrooge’s newfound grateful attitude and that power/money is trivial; thus reminding us to cherish the time we have we our loved ones. It’s a magical film that represents all the child-like wonder that is felt during the season and was actually released in December of 1991. So I can’t see this as anything but, a Peter Pan holiday movie.
I’m probably going to hear a barrage of complaints that the national treasure that is Rocky IV is nowhere near a Christmas movie. Lemme stop you right there because you’re wrong and get off my blog right now.
Ok, I’ve gone too far. I apologize, but my feelings are pretty strong on this one.
Case in point: The film’s final fight between Ivan Drago and Rocky takes place on the 25th of December, Christmas Day, in Ivan Drago’s less than hospitable home of Russia for 15 rounds of revenge boxing. Let’s be realistic here; my own Italian family has taught me that there is nothing that says Christmas more than two grown men beating the ever-loving shit out of one another. While in my case, it’s usually over something petty, unlike the premise in this film, but eh- close enough.
One of the most tender, feel-good moments of the movie is during the snowy backdrop of the bleak atmosphere of Krasnogourbinsk, Russia where Rocky has just finished one of his many mountain man runs. Rocky is reunited with Adrian in order to give him the final push he needs to avenge the death of his fallen friend. Proving that Christmas time is indeed a magical time to set aside our feelings and be goddamn supportive of one another- even if it is vengeful.
The Tim Burton Frankenstein/ Grinch hybrid of a yes, Christmas movie has all the makings for a classic tale of that one socially awkward member of the extended family trying their best to fit in at Christmastime while simultaneously not trying to have a nervous breakdown.
I can relate all too well.
Family and love are two biggies you will find in any traditional Christmas movie, and you’ll find that among the madness here in Edward Scissorhands. The Frankenstein of suburbia has been taken off his Grinch’s mountain by the neighborhood Avon lady in an act of, what she thinks is kindness. Which would most certainly be the case in most situations, but not here I guess as, in the end, he is chased back into his safe space lair to live out the rest of his days where he belongs- unjudged.
While the Christmas scenery doesn’t arrive until the last 30 minutes of the film, the spirit of “kindness” and treating others with humility is most certainly holiday-themed exploitation that would not garner as much effect if the holiday season wasn’t present like in the rest of the movie. The Boggs’ try their damnedest to make Edward feel like one of the family and community, with daughter Kim eventually finding her once disgust towards Edward turning into love and understanding. The first and second half of the film, Edward is fairly accepted and treated with admiration- even if some of it is pure curiosity and exploitation at some points. It isn’t until the Christmas season that he is demonized by the neighborhood. The juxtaposition of these themes is a major driving point for the movie’s plot: that even in the season of goodwill we can forget to treat others, especially those less fortunate, with grace, understanding, and love. Pretty much like Frankenstein and the Grinch here.
Ahh well, just a reminder that when it snows on Christmas, we know Edward is still around.
Die Hard gets all the Christmas Action Movie glory, but credit where it’s due: Lethal Weapon came out a year earlier and is absolutely a goddamn Christmas movie. Oh and psst, a better one at that.
In the trailer for the 30th-anniversary edition of Die Hard, 20th Century Fox added the tagline, “It’s the greatest Christmas story ever told,” and not only is Lethal Weapon more authentically a Christmas movie in terms of origin, but it offers more of the sweet holiday feelings that Die Hard just never bothers to attempt to engender in the viewer. Between the initial shoot-out at the Christmas Tree Farm and the climatic Busey/Gibson fight on Murtaugh’s festively decorated front lawn, there’s again, another mirroring of a holiday classic- It’s A Wonderful Life.
When you lose important people in your life, you miss them every day. However, there’s no time where that absence is felt more strongly than during Christmas. Christmas can be stressful under the best of circumstances, and for Martin Riggs, the loss of his wife becomes too much to bear. With no family, Riggs contemplates suicide early on but thanks to a new partner and the circumstances surrounding the case they’re working together, Riggs finds a new lease on life echoing that of George Bailey.
I certainly wouldn’t want to live in a world without Martin Riggs, thank you very much- cue that “Jingle Bell Rock”!
Well, I certainly feel like this is the one alternative Christmas movie I might get the least pushback on. Most people would tend to agree that Batman Returns, while not a traditional Christmas film, still has more than enough of those Christmas aesthetics to qualify as one along with the fact the entire movie is set during the season with Gotham covered in snow and the streets decked out with trees, lights and candy colors. From the red and white of the Penguin’s umbrella to the snow-covered streets of Gotham, the director is dedicated to keeping us steeped in the Christmas spirit. Even Max Schreck’s prototype power plant is all Christmassy, with its red-and-white-striped smokestacks. Speaking of the bastard, with his tousled white hair, red bow tie, and nefarious plans to steal all of the energy from Gotham’s girls and boys, he plays very well as an evil mirror of Santa Claus. How can anyone really deny the Holiday vibin’ here? Yet here we are. Still fighting the good fight to ensure its place among the Hallmark Holiday Movie classics.
Tim Burton’s Batman Returns is a unique film that explores both its heroes and villains deeply as tragic, lonely misfits trying to find meaning during the holidays. Kind of like the “Island of Misfit Toys” in Rudolph but with homicidal tendencies. This movie succeeds on so many levels in invoking the spirit of the holidays in a dark, and gothic way that is unlike any other film on this list.
And maybe, one day Batman Returns will be held in the highest regard as one of the greatest Christmas stories of all time. Because hey, “Things change”.