As curmudgeonly as Movies In Focus can be, I do appreciate Christmas (it’s probably my favourite time of the year). I thought it was about time that I put together a list of my favourite Christmas film, so I rolled-up my sleeves and dug into the films which sum up Christmas to me.
What was surprising about the whole endeavour was that they all have one underlying theme (apart from being set at Christmas) – and that is that someone usually gets hurt.
Richard Donner’s Scrooged is a flawless interpretation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Bill Murray has never been better as the Christmas hating Frank Cross, but everyone in the cast impresses. From the dark humour, to the excellent production design and wonderful Danny Elfman score, Scrooged is a perfect as a Christmas movie can get.
Die Hard (1988)
Is Die Hard a Christmas film? You bet your ass it is. Bruce Willis has never been better and Alan Rickman is outstanding in John McTiernan’s flawless 1988 actioner. Great script and flawless direction make this the greatest action film ever made.
Joe Dante’s comedy-horror is as festive as it is freaky. The Spielbergian vibe helps sell this Capra-gone-to-hell (Crapra?) tale about creatures destroying small town USA during the Holiday Season. Wonderful effects and a glorious Jerry Goldsmith score sell the manic fun of this 1984 flick.
It’s A Wonderful Life (1946)
James Stewart excels in this classic Christmas melodrama from Frank Capra. A flop on its initial release, this only became beloved once a copyright oversight saw it land in the public domain. Funny, schmaltzy and dramatic – you’d have to be heartless not to love this movie.
Reindeer Games (2000)
Ben Affleck, Gary Senise and Charlize Theron star in this thriller about a bunch crooks dressed as Santa Claus robbing a casino at Christmas. John Frankenheimer directs the action for this thriller which bombed back in 2000, but it simply doesn’t get enough love.
Batman Returns (1992)
Tim Burton’s 1992 caped crusader sequel is probably the best Batman flick ever made. A German expressionist film with an $80 million budget, this dark tale of the Dark Knight is helped by its gloriously grim festive setting. Brilliant.
Lethal Weapon (1987)
Richard Donner directs a Shane Black script and breaks the rules of action cinema in the process. Mel Gibson and Danny Glover are brilliant as the mis-matched cops taking down the bad guys at Christmas. The film opens to Jingle Bell Rock – now that’s a Christmas movie!
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)
Shane Black directs Val Kilmer and Robert Downey Jr in this wonderful action comedy. Kilmer was post-Batman, Downey was pre-Iron Man and they share great chemistry in this witty Christmas Noir. I’m still waiting on the sequel.
End of Days (1999)
End Of Days sees Arnold Schwarzenegger fighting Satan (Gabriel Byrne) during the 1999 festive season. Okay, so I know it’s The Omen meets Terminator 2, but I loved this on-the-cusp of the millennium and I still love it 20 years on.
The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996)
Shane Black again! This time Renny Harlin directs the action and Geena Davis and Samuel L. Jackson trade barbs. Who knew that amnesia, hitmen (and women) and Christmas were so well suited?
Enemy Of The State (1998)
The mighty Tony Scott directs this Will Smith/Gene Hackman top lined paranoia thriller. Scott shoots with visual fervour, giving this festive actioner some incredible energy. It’s not paranoia if they’re really after you!
Three Days Of The Condor (1975)
Robert Redford, Sydney Pollack. Christmas. Three Days Of The Condor is 1970s cinema at its best. Redford is at his movie star best and the festive setting helps add some wintry chills. Excellent.
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)
The best and most successful of the Vacation movies, Christmas Vacation sees Chevy Chase in his trademark role of Clark Griswald. This is an honest portrayl of a family Christmas, showing that your heart might be in the right place, but that means nothing in the grand scheme of things!
Home Alone (1990)
Home Alone might be silly, but this Chris Columbus directed comedy is an expertly crafted piece of family fun. Warm, funny and painful in all the right places –Home Alone deserves to be recognised for all that it gets right.
A Christmas Story (1983)
Every boy wants a BB gun and that’s what young Ralph (Peter Billingsley) wants for Christmas. Heartwarming and funny, this is as Christmas as any movie can get.
Die Hard 2: Die Harder (1990)
Even more of a Christmas movie than John McTiernan’s original, this Renny Harlin directed sequel has snow and everything! Bruce Willis once again fights terrorists at Christmas, making him the equivalent of an ass-kicking elf. Almost as good as the original!