This started out as a Christmas-movie top-10 list (that’s right—Christmas-movie. Quit your moaning. The next time there is a Hannukah-movie, you call me), but some problems kept arising. These often came in the form of: Well, Nightmare Before Christmas is great and all, but is it really a better movie than Die Hard? No. Not even close. But can you count Die Hard as a Christmas movie? Some might, but purists might not. The movie takes place on Christmas Eve. Is that reason enough? This is stupid. I love Die Hard. I want it on this list. and so on. So I scrapped that idea. Sometimes, one movie is just better than another, no matter how Christmas-y. So here is the new column—movies that you can kind of sort of count as holiday flicks, but they are so freaking good that there is no excuse not watch them around this time of year. The bottom line: this is my blog and I can do what I want. So without further ado, here are the best kinda-Christmas-movies to watch this year—though unconventional, no one will protest these around the fireplace this year.
The most common flick thrown into the not-a-Christmas-movie-but-totally-should-be debate, Die Hard combines a Christmas-party setting with what is quite simply one of the top-three action movies of all time. Bruce Willis is never better, the action scenes are rugged, gritty, and tense, and Alan Rickman as the leading terrorist is nothing short of a genius casting move. The Christmas tone is evident throughout, so feel free to wrap up with a blanket and a plate of cookies as you watch John McClain strap some C4 to an office chair and send it down an elevator shaft. ‘Tis the season, indeed.
You have opened the presents. You have eaten the brunch. You have shooed the in-laws out of your living room and posed for all of the footie-pajama pictures that you can handle—now what is there to do on this bright Christmas morning? Easy—watch the greatest boxing match to ever take place on December 25th. That is right, the legendary bout between Rocky Balboa and the Soviet behemoth Ivan Drago took place on this exact day, and if you want to honor one of the great American triumphs of our time, then it would serve you well to watch Rocky IV once things wind down in the gift-giving department. What better way to spread holiday cheer then to see Sylvester Stallone beat it into the juiced-up communists across the Pacific? Honor the anniversary of our Savior’s birth by honoring the defeat of all that is evil and anti-American. God bless us, everyone.
Let’s tone it back—we have had a lot of fighting and explosions and good vs. evil so far, so let’s take a breather. Instead, we should turn to a movie where one man loses everything he has and struggles to maintain his spirit as he is marooned alone on an island for four years. Yes, Cast Away is perfect for replicating that Christmas feeling where we all really understand the value of everything we have, because in Cast Away we watch Tom Hanks as he is flushed down the proverbial toilet. Plus, all of Tom’s woes start on Christmas Eve! He even wears an ugly sweater in the beginning! When you throw in the trials of Wilson (Hanks’ unforgettable volleyball companion), you even have some great friendship themes for good measure. Just a great holiday movie, period.
What do you mean, Cast Away bummed you out?! Tommy Hanks’ breathing speech at the end is incredible! Sheesh, well thank goodness Step Brothers gives us one of the best comedic Christmas scenes of all time with their fantastic sleepwalking segment. Additionally, since we have already been through the themes of friendship, the triumphs of the American way, and overall ass-kicking, it only seems appropriate that we go into the realm of family. Most of us have those siblings that make us want to bury them alive, and most of us have those siblings that make us want to go do karate in the garage together. Therefore, Step Brothers is the perfect holiday movie—we will laugh, argue, tear each other’s hair out—it is just like the real thing! Plus, it will appeal to other holidays too—even the Hanukkah people are welcome, because we have plenty of fertilizer!
The Bourne Identity
Ok, look, here is the deal: at some point in this movie you kind of see some Christmas lights in the background, and there’s generally snow on the ground, and . . . and . . . it is just an awesome movie, alright? Jesus, if the movie takes place around Christmas, that is reason enough, and The Bourne Identity gives us some of the greatest chase scenes, cat-and-mouse moments, and car sequences in the last 20 years, so I think its inclusion is more than justified. Highlights include Matt Damon being a superspy and killing people with a fountain pen. Merry Christmas, you filthy animal.
You want a real Christmas movie? Coming right up. The full name of this flick is actually Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ, and it stands as one of the most acclaimed movies of all time (it is actually tied with Titanic and Return of the King for the most Academy Awards ever). While the large brunt of the movie revolves around our main man Judah Ben-Hur undertaking awesome action scenes, such as the infamous chariot race, or dealing with some shifty Roman leaders in some truly great moments of intrigue, the flick is bookended by what is essentially the Jesus Christ Highlight Reel—namely, his birth and death/sacrifice. This is the movie that introduced the world to the “epic” genre, and is the reason we have sprawling cinematic masterpieces like Lord of the Rings, Gladiator, or Schindler’s List today. Not only do you find a purely excellent movie experience here, but you also have one of the best depictions of the Christmas Story ever put to the screen. It is three-and-a-half hours very well-spent.
Hold on, everyone. Mel Gibson’s upset. He is upset that his story of the Christ did not make this list. Well, here is the deal, bub, while Passion of the Christ is a great flick, it is definitely more of an Easter movie. For the holiday season, audiences are much better off turning on his timeless buddy-cop flick Lethal Weapon. After all, there is that quality Christmas dinner scene when (the secretly racist) Mel goes over to Danny Glover’s house. Aside from that, however, you have one of the best buddy-cop movies of all time, complete with incredible one-liners and fuzzy friendship themes. Plus, you have one of Mel’s all-time greatest hairstyles with the shaggy mane-mullet combo. It is terrific fun—perfect for the holidays.
The Entire Harry Potter Series
Consider this—all of the times when you wanted to be at Hogwarts, when you really wanted to be at Hogwarts, were during all of the Christmas scenes. The Great Hall lined with tree after tree. The bang of wizard crackers echoing through the corridors. Warming up by the common-room fireplace with a Weasley sweater. Heading out to the frozen lake to ice-skate or to have magical snowball fights. Hogwarts is truly at its most fanciful and inspiring around Christmastime, when the snow lends a new sense of wonder and imagination to us, the readers, year in and year out. What better way to ring in the holidays, and Christmas especially (Makes me wonder—how many people celebrated Hanukkah at Hogwarts? The faculty certainly didn’t, and it was never evident if there were any Jewish characters), than to join our favorite wizards on one of the most beloved, sprawling, incredible sagas of our time? There is a reason ABC Family does this every year—it just fits. The Potter series will take you back to being that little kid on Christmas morning, or . . . or Hanukkah night, I guess. I just wish my presents came from an owl. So much.
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
Robert Downey Jr. opens this detective-movie-satire by telling the audience that he is going to share the story of what happened last Christmas, and thus launches one of the funniest action movies of the 2000s. This one holds the kinda-Christmas genre a little more securely than the others on this list—lead actress Michelle Monaghan (very underrated in the looks department, by the way) wears a skimpy Santa outfit for a good stretch of time, and there is even a Christmas-themed party scene, where Val Kilmer offends a bunch of barely-clothed females. If it all sounds absurd, that is because it totally wants to be. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is Downey Jr.’s best movie, hands-down. It would be criminal to not include it in your holiday marathon. Funny, tense, and chock full of smart intrigue and zany hijinks. Watch it.
What are the holidays without a slew of back-stabbing betrayal? Aside from being right up there with (or even above) Ben-Hur as one of the best movies ever made, The Godfather contains some truly great Christmas-centric scenes. This is, of course, in addition to its phenomenal casting, intricate plot, and numerous twists and turns. With the baptism scene, the numerous holiday-centered mob hits, and the church segments aplenty, this flick will definitely coax a Christmas mood out of you. Duvall, Pacino, Brando, Keaton . . . there is a heck of a lot to love here. Plus, all those classic mob moments will certainly give you a ton of ideas to deal with those in-laws.
Just kidding. That was twisted. Forget I said it. Seriously.
Let’s end where we started, shall we? Just pure, unbridled ass-kicking—you gotta love it. In the first Rambo movie, you have Sly Stallone (He appears twice on this list! Wow!) going into a remote town, at Christmastime of course, and taking some names as a badass Vietnam veteran. He sets some traps, uses a chain-gun, and makes some crazy cliff jumps—all part of the holiday tradition for Rambo, and it can be a part of your holiday tradition too. Sure, are the real Christmas themes totally present? No, but you do see some lights at one point, right before the gas station blows up, so it counts. Plus, with a low body-count and some interesting PTSD themes running throughout, this is an old-school action movie that manages to deliver on the badassery and originality alike.
Catch Me If You Can
However, we have to close out our list with the movie that might just have the best Christmas-in-a-non-Christmas-movie-scene in recent memory. It comes with the terrific chase flick Catch Me if You Can. First off, it just would not be Christmas without Leonardo DiCaprio—fact. Second off, this list did not have enough Tom Hanks in it—fact. Third off, this movie brings the drama, the laughs, the sheer entertainment, and yes, it brings the Christmas. One of the numerous high points of this one revolves around the holiday, when FBI agent Tommy Hanks, cops in tow, finally corners Leo the Con Artist at his house (don’t worry, the movie is full of flashbacks and flash-forwards, so this spoils nothing). In the background (and eventually the forefront), one can hear the classic tune. That is right—it is A Christmas Song.
One of the best scenes in crime movies is accompanied by one of the best carols. It is simply the best pure Christmas scene out of any movie on this list. Other flicks might present Jesus in an exceptional way, or include a well-adorned tree in the background, but Catch Me If You Can takes the cake for its purity and simplicity. When you watch that scene, it feels like Christmas, and it feels pretty damn good.