The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there…to long bomb gifts from a safe distance like some sort of Covid-safe Patrick Mahomes because there’s no way he’s bringing his poison ass in ma home, amIright!? And as we are stuck inside with our real caregiver, teacher and protector, the one that truly raised us, television, let us honour our screens appropriately with some outside the box Christmas viewings.
This movie has it all: Christmas, monsters, pre drugs Corey Feldman, wacky inventions, Scrooge-like villainy, a shell shocked veteran, Phoebe Cates, Mike Ehrmantraut from Breaking Bad and a lesson on what happens if you don’t follow three simple rules. I defy you to find a more adorable character than Gizmo the mogwai. And for those of you that don’t like Christmas let’s see how your reasoning stacks up against Cate’s characters’ anti-Christmas story.
Most Christmas-y bit: Gizmo in a Santa hat is too cute, my heart, she melts.
Home Alone / Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1990/1992)
The two best films about a child sociopath left unattended for the holidays. It’s nice to see the gleeful self preservation and industrious nature of a child. Why go to someone for help when you can construct a house of horrors for Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern? These movies are basically SAW for Christmas.
Most Christmas-y bit: The reconciliation of the Salt Man and Pigeon Lady respectively.
Bad Santa (2003)
Billy Bob Thornton and Tony Cox play a Santa and his elf duo of con-men going from city to city over the holidays robbing whichever unfortunate mall happens to hire them. Billy Bob is endlessly watchable for some reason, and his drunk, foul-mouthed, deviant bag-of-trash Santa is no exception. The supporting players in this are the real stars however, Lauren Graham as a small town, heart of gold bartender with a desire for Santa, John Ritter (in his final role) as a prudish mall manager, Bernie Mack’s absolutely chewing scenery as the head of mall security with a hilariously over the top fiber issue and finally a star making performance for Brett Kelly as the kid. This is some deviant silly nonsense that ultimately has its heart in all the right places.
Most Christmas-y bit: The kid makes Santa a wooden pickle for Christmas.
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)
The chemistry of Val Kilmer and Robert Downey Jr is unmatched as a private detective (Kilmer) and small time thief (RDJ) teaming up to solve a Hollywood murder mystery with the help of sexy, smart and oh so sassy Michelle Monaghan. Writer/Director Shane Black is maybe the unofficial king of Christmas movies (see: Lethal Weapon, The Long Kiss Goodnight, The Last Boy Scout, Iron Man 3, even the tail end of The Nice Guys), the man is obsessed and any of those movies could make this list.
Most Christmas-y bit: The most rich Hollywood nonsense Christmas party ever.
Christmas Vacation (1989)
Chevy Chase is by all accounts a total asshole so he works best while “acting” as a total asshole. What is surprising is how much his heart is actually with his family in this. I am truly a fan of all things slapstick, it is a dying art form and is much more difficult to pull off than people realize. Chase is one of the modern kings and it is shown in full glorious display here. All of the hijinks are in service of creating the best possible family Christmas in this ultimately tender-hearted and very funny holiday affair, may it leave your heart as full as “the shitter” is.
Most Christmas-y bit: Chase keeping the Santa myth alive with his niece.
Black Christmas (1974)
Holiday-based horror is an underutilized sub-genre (it’s probably not but shut up) and the best of the bunch is still the original Black Christmas. Revolving around a sorority house on Christmas break and the unseen killer making mysterious and terrifying phone calls and picking off his victims one by one, this Canadian classic came out the same year as The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and never got its due for helping to create the slasher genre. The performances are all top notch, especially from lead Olivia Husssy and Margot Kidder, and the tension building and direction from Bob Clark still holds up to this day. Note: Remakes and sequels (so many) are to be avoided at all costs (because I truly support holiday horror, a few honourable mentions: Silent Night, Deadly Night 1&2, Rare Exports, Sheitan, Calvaire, Krampus).
Most Christmas-y bit: Alcohol and sweaters, there are some great sweaters in this.
Batman Returns (1992)
Remember when comic book movies were still conscious of the fact that they were based on make-em-up nonsense and hadn’t gone full “an infinity war is as emotional as a real war”? Good times. Tim Burton’s second foray into the world of Gotham takes everything that is great about the genre and pushes them to the limit. Set firmly during a Gotham Christmas, Batman must stop a crazy Penguin man, with an honestly totally understandable chip on his shoulder, from stealing all of Gotham’s first born sons because…Christmas? The casting here is absolutely perfect; Danny Devito plays The Penguin with disgusting glee, Christopher Walken makes the perfect evil industrialist and Michelle Pfeiffer oozes raw unhinged sexuality as Catwoman. It’s still remarkable that Michael Keaton was ever cast as Batman but I guess a chin goes a long way when it’s the only visibly human part of a costume. Giant presents, a huge Christmas tree, buckets of snow and an army of (animatronic/real/costumed-human) penguins makes for a delightful Christmas romp.
Most Christmas-y bit: Seriously nothing matters except Pfeiffer, mama meow-a.
Canada’s own Sarah Polley runs a long way from the roads of Avonlea to star in this drug deal gone wrong shown in triptych and set in the era when E and rave culture was king. Set against the backdrop of a Christmas rave, Go is full of too many 90’s/early 00’s character actors to name at various points in their career trajectory. The standouts being William Fichtner and Jane Krakowski as a swinging, Amway selling police couple and young Timothy Olyphant as drug dealer Todd. Every actor in this seems to be having the most fun and that resonates. Pure chaotic fun with an of the times soundtrack that is an absolute blast, the utter selfish joy I feel adding this to the list is off the charts.
Most Christmas-y bit: The diner scene with Olyphant asking Katie Holmes’ character what she wants for Christmas.
The most fun adaptation of the age old tale of Scrooge is obviously going to be the one that stars Bill Murray. Updated for the 80’s age of excess, Murray plays a cynical TV exec named Frank Cross that is visited by the ghosts of Christmas to show him the error of his ways. With an exceptional supporting cast including David Johansen, Carol Kane (in hilarious top form) and Robert Mitchum among many others. Bill Murray is just so damn charming.
Most Christmas-y bit: This is the most classically Christmas one on the list.
Die Hard (1988)
What Christmas movie list would be complete without the inclusion of everyone’s favourite Yuletide tale of John McClane fighting German terrorists at Nakatomi Plaza’s Christmas party? It brings me joy even just writing that. Die Hard is the benchmark for holiday action and in many ways the benchmark for action movies in general. Bruce Willis is the perfect screwed up husband cop trying to make amends on Christmas. Alan Rickman makes his American film debut with an incredible German accent and an even better snivelling American accent, Bonnie Bedelia is a pitch perfect no nonsense understandably frustrated wife and Reginald ValJohnson rounds it out as the only officer on McClane’s side. Everything about this movie is perfect. “Now I have a machine gun HO-HO-HO”.
Most Christmas-y bit: Argyle playing Run DMC’s Christmas in Hollis in the limo.
Just One Dummies Opinion
“10 Holiday Classics to Keep you Relegated to the Kids Table”
by Dan Ferrari