Top List Thursday – 10 Best Christmas movies that aren’t about Christmas

Ho, ho, ho!… But enough about the Kardashian sisters. We’re rapidly approaching Christmas Day, so it’s time to get into festive swing of things over here at The Movies. And what better way to spend that most jolliest of holidays, than by watching a good movie with family and friends as you try not to explode from all the pudding you just ate.

But since I know that you’re going to be bombarded by so-called Christmas cheer everywhere else, I’m keeping things slightly different here with my best Christmas movies that actually aren’t about Christmas!

Edward Scissorhands

This is one for the romantics and the cryers (which are generally the same demographic), as Tim Burton’s gothic Frankenstein love story features a tragic third act that takes place on Christmas day, but also showcases several romantically moving sequences, especially one of a young Winona Rider stealing our hearts as she dances in the snow created from Edward’s ice sculpture. Yeah, Winona was stealing things back then already.

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

Essentially the starting point of Robert Downey Jr’s climb back up to the top of the Hollywood mountain, this hilarious action-noir from writer-director Shane Black (who will once again be teaming up with Downey on Iron Man 3) sees RDJ as a bungling Christmas thief, who in trying to evade police runs straight into a movie audition and somehow lands the role. Soon he’s spending the holidays shadowing a police detective, played with over the top gusto by Val Kilmer, so as better to understand his future role. It has action, great characters, razor sharp dialogue and Michelle Monaghan in a cute lite Santa outfit. What’s not to love?

The Nightmare Before Christmas

The second of Tim Burton’s entries on the list, despite the fact that the word “Christmas” is right there in the title, and it features the lead character dressing up like Santa Claus, this is not really a Christmas movie. It hews much closer to the Mexican Day of the Dead, as King of Halloween Town, Jack Skeleton, stumbles across Christmas Town and tries to recreate it back in his own home. Except last time I checked, shrunken heads as gifts and kidnapping Kris Kringle himself were never part of the Christmas traditions. Well, unless you live in Manenberg.

The Ice Harvest

Remember how I mentioned earlier about sitting down with the family for a movie? Well, you may want to keep all the younger family members out of the way for this one (Pro tip: A generous helping of Port wine in the Christmas trifle works wonders for some afternoon peace and quiet for the adults. Trust me on this,I have first hand experience). This neo-noir from Ghostbusters director Harold Ramis sees John Cusak and Billy Bob Thornton as mob lawyer and his friends who decide to rob the mobsters themselves on Christmas Eve, but then get trapped in town due to a massive storm. What follows is a darkly humurous, profanity laden night of debauchery culminating in Oliver Platt’s scene-stealing turn as an alcoholic with the worst Christmas dinner ever!

Love Actually

Bill Nighy’s absolutely masterful massacring of Wet Wet Wet’s “Love is all around” into the most unlikeliest Christmas song ever would already be enough to land this brilliant British rom-com on the list. But it also features a veritable who’s who of British acting talent in this tale of love lost, found and rekindled in the holidays. Soppy enough to keep the girls happy, but hilarious enough to keep the guys entertained.

Die Hard 2: Die Harder

Yes, OK, the story in this sequel to Detective John McClane’s first adventure does feature a rather ridiculous plot once you think about it (why would the pilots keep circling until their fuel ran out instead of, oh I don’t know, landing somewhere else?), but it still has some vintage McClane Christmas moments, because there’s simply no better way to wish somebody Happy Holidays than by blowing up their plane as they try to leave the runway.

Batman Returns

Jingle bells Batman smells, Tim Burton strikes again. Selina meows, Penguin growls, Chris Walken’s not okay, Hey!

Brazil

Monty Python alum Terry Gilliam’s dystopian, Orwellian vision of the future is one of my favourite films of all time, and easily the most absurd on this list. And that’s after we just had a film where the villain tried to blow up a city using radio controlled penguins with rocket launchers strapped to their backs.

Jonathan Pryce stars as a daydreaming office worker in a bureaucratic future government who tries to do a good deed for Christmas by helping to correct an oversight (thanks to a fly falling into a typewriter and messing up a key, one Archibald Buttle instead of Archibald Tuttle is arrested and executed, and his family billed the expenses), but somehow ends up embroiled in a rebellion.

It’s vintage, borderline insane Gilliam stuff and I love it.

Gremlins

Tired of getting horrible Christmas gifts like badly knitted jerseys with supposedly cheerful designs on them that look eerily like what you threw up at the office Christmas party? Well then just show this wildly entertaining comedy-horror to the offending gift givers to teach them the dangers of badly planned presents. This year, it may just be socks, but next year it will be furry little monsters with an aversion to sunlight, who multiply faster than an Asian kid with an abacus as soon as they get wet, and who you never, ever feed after midnight.

Die Hard

This is the film that first inspired my family’s favourite Christmas tradition of kicking German terrorists out the windows of skyscrapers. Oh the fun we’ve had over the years.

John McClane’s first adventure is easily his best, as he tries his darndest to impersonate your run of the mill Hollywood working man by just trying to get home for Christmas to perhaps patch things up with his estranged wife. Unfortunately, Santa’s brought John a totally unexpected present this year in the form of a hostage situation at his wife’s office block.

Now it’s up to McClane to don the greatest white vest in movie history and run barefoot across broken glass to kick some terrorist butt. Because there’s simply no better way to wish somebody Happy Holidays than with an automatic assault rifle and “Yippie Ki-Yay, Motherf@#$er!”

PS: And if anybody mentions the Star Wars Christmas Special, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you… By making you watch it.

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    *shudder* Star Wars Christmas Special…*shudders again*