Christmas. To some, it's the most wonderful time of the year. To others, it's a nauseating, candy-coated cacophony of carolers, whiny children, elf costumes, and phony, obligatory gift-giving. "Here Tommy, I got you this gift card, because I want you to know our friendship is worth $35 at the Macaroni Grill."
There are two kinds of Christmas-lovers: kids, and adults without kids. The rest will spend half their December vacuuming up Douglas fir needles, and the other half driving to every Target in a 75 mile radius looking for PlayStation 4. Then there are the insufferable holiday traditions. Like mistletoe: When has that ever worked on someone you weren't already dating? Never, is the answer.
And then we come to Christmas movies. Collective schlock, for the most part. So-called "classics" gift-wrapped in enough camp and holiday hamfistedness to choke a reindeer. Believe it or not, some people enjoy their winter movies without a sermon on family values and the spirit of Christmas. For them, Reviewed.com proudly presents our list of Christmas movies that ignore tradition, instead opting for actual entertainment.
Can't stand those holiday office parties? Neither could Hans Gruber, the terrorist leader (played by a young Severus Snape) who famously seized control of the Nakatomi Plaza penthouse on Christmas Eve. He might've got away with it too, if it weren't for that meddling, barefooted super-cop John McClane (played by a not-yet-bald Bruce Willis).
Mercifully, the only greens and reds found in this Christmas movie are the $640 million worth of bearer bonds old Hans never got away with, and of course the rivers of blood soaked into John's shirt and pants, the bandages on his feet, the stairwell, the cubicles, the sidewalk, etc. Yippee ki yay!
There really aren't enough Christmas movies that open on a suicide attempt. Luckily, LAPD Sergeant Martin Riggs (a young and as-yet un-reviled Mel Gibson) doesn't go through with it. That allows him to form an unlikely partnership with Danny Glover, and thus the unfolding of what is probably the quintessential buddy cop action flick. This hyper-vulgar, hyper-violent romp around L.A. should give you diplomatic immunity (doh! that's a Lethal Weapon 2 reference) from all the goofy Christmas cheer.
Ghostbusters 2—definitely the more macabre installment of film's premiere ghost-fighting franchise—may take place during the winter season, but it focuses little on the holidays themselves. And that's to its credit.
Instead, the movie concentrates on such fertile comedic ground as baby carriages caught in oncoming traffic, the dead crew and passengers of the Titantic returning to land, and Sigourney Weaver in a towel.
Gremlins had all the makings of a cheesy Christmas movie: Corey Feldman, a romance subplot, an impossibly adorable furry pet. Thankfully this all takes a dark turn when Corey breaks the rules and feeds the "Mogwai" after midnight (when you think about it, isn't it always after midnight?), which turns the cuddly puffballs into tiny, murderous beasts. Merry Christmas!
In the first of many "creepy, makeup-caked character in a Tim Burton film" roles, Johnny Depp played Edward Scissorhands. Edward, you may recall, is a pale, scarred, skinny, introvert who just so happens to have razor blades for hands. It's a combination that somehow manages to win him the heart of hot, young, shockingly blonde Winona Ryder. There's no justice in the world.
Plenty of Christmas corniness saturates this movie, like the carving of a holiday ice angel. But don't worry: Edward stabs a guy and throws him out a window shortly thereafter.
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
Written and directed by Shane Black, who apparently thinks his last name means he can only make black comedies, 2008's Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is Christmasy as heck. The film opens with small-time hood Robert Downey Jr. robbing a toy store to score the ultimate gift for his nephew, then follows him to L.A. when he's mistaken for an actor and cast in a detective film.
This movie gives us a rare look at a Hollywood Christmas, perhaps Val Kilmer's greatest performance (as elite detective "Gay Perry"), and Michelle Monaghan in a skimpy Santa outfit. Joy to the world!
Note: This is one of four Shane Black action movies to prominently feature Christmas (the others being Lethal Weapon, The Last Boy Scout, and The Long Kiss Goodnight). An argument could be made for Iron Man 3, as well.
Colin Farrell is a hitman with a terrible life, so even when he and his partner are dispatched to the gorgeous Belgian city of Bruges, he still finds a way to complain about it for half the movie. A few laughs are always welcome at Christmastime, but this is another comedy of the "black" variety. As such, it makes light of topics like murder, more murder, and killing people.
Christmas itself is only present in the background of the film, but that hardly matters. The scenery is gorgeous, the script is funny, and the actors are doing serious work. This is a movie that cinephiles will love, and that your uncle will enjoy after he's had a glass or two of wine.
Trading Places is a 1983 documentary starring Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd. It depicts a sort of lifestyle swap between two men at opposite ends of the social hierarchy, confirming our collective suspicions that the posh, upper-class businessmen of Financial District are indeed interchangeable with bums from the street.
It's a fascinating anthropological study, and one worth watching in between the jewelry and luxury car commercials of the holiday season.
The Ice Harvest
The Ice Harvest celebrates the season of giving. Especially giving legal advice to murderers and mobsters. John Cusack's Charlie Arglist has come into some money and decides to run away with his sexy girlfriend and get out of the gangster-lawyer game. Before they can manage that, though, they'll need to get out of Kansas... in the middle of an ice storm.
There's a bit of personal drama here, but basically this is a movie about trying to drive on icy roads. Something we can all relate to, except for Floridians.
Life of Brian
Though it plays second fiddle in many viewers' minds to Holy Grail, Monty Python's Life of Brian is an equally towering achievement.
And while it might not feature any appearances by Santa Claus, reindeer, or carols, there's no denying that it's a Christmas movie. After all, it opens at the birth of Christ, albeit a few stalls down the hall in the stables. Python leading man Graham Chapman plays the eponymous Brian, who is initially mistaken for the Savior when the Three Wise Men get the wrong address. And the rest? Well, it's history.
One of the funniest movies of all time, Life of Brian is perhaps the perfect Christmas movie for non-believers, and a great tonic for those overdosing on festive cheer.