There’s a handful of “Christmas Classics” that are dusted off every year and enjoyed nearly universally. These films all share in the magic, the wonder, the excitement of Santa and family and giving. It’s all about warm cozy fireplaces with snow falling outside the window and delicious family feasts adorning the kitchen table.
I don’t know about you, but after so many decades of A Christmas Story playing 24 hours on TBS, of people quoting It’s A Wonderful Life, it’s nice to throw in some curveballs to spice up the season.
Come the holiday season folks typically have their go-to favorites to share the cheer with family and friends. My go-to list has grown to be something a wee bit different from the ordinary, and for you I will share my own kind of cheer.
Terry Gilliam’s retro-future epic just so happens to take place around Christmas time, but I honestly didn’t even realize it until the third or so time that I watched it. Once I came to that realization I was happy to announce that “... flights of fantasy. And the nightmare of reality. Terrorist bombings. And late night shopping. True Love. And creative plumbing.” would be a part of my holiday season for good!
IN BRUGES (2008)
Incredibly sad but also darkly funny, this debut film from playwright Martin McDonagh follows two hitmen who hide away in a small town in Belgium until they get word of their next mission. It’s refreshingly non-PC, beautifully shot, and heartbreakingly tragic. Not most people’s idea of a holiday getaway.
THE APARTMENT (1960)
This Best Picture winner from 1960 stars Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine in a film that takes a simple premise and uses it to create great disadvantage and turmoil. The performances are incredible, the writing is terrific, and all around they just don’t make films like this anymore and it’s a damn shame. Thanks to it being set around Christmas time, with a significant scene happening during a Christmas Eve work party, this qualifies as a “Christmas Film” and is dusted off my shelf each year.
BAD SANTA (2003)
Grab a beer (or a lot of beer) and strap in for some angry drunken Billy Bob Thornton as a conman who robs department stores on Christmas Eve after playing Santa all day for the kiddos. It’s hilarious, offensive, and actually surprisingly sweet. It’s also a comedy that never gets old no matter how many viewings.
DIE HARD (1988)
I think this might actually be a lot of people’s Christmas list for holiday viewing already. It’s a classic in so many respects and it’s no secret that it takes place during a Christmas party. You've got to mix up the snow and cheer with some broken glass and headshots right?
KISS KISS BANG BANG (2005)
Robbing a toy store for the perfect Christmas present one moment and shadowing a detective for the role of a film the next, Shane Black’s murder mystery comedy is filled with quotable lines, Downey Jr’s wonderfully unreliable narration, and one of Val Kilmer’s funniest roles.
L.A CONFIDENTIAL (1997)
Boasting a stellar cast and an Oscar winning screenplay, this film follows what came to be call “Bloody Christmas” in 1951. It’s full of sex and violence, twists and turns, and is some of the best neo-noir crime drama you’ll ever see.
THE LONG KISS GOODNIGHT (1996)
An underrated action drama that’s also pretty damn funny at times, Geena Davis plays a simple housewife who begins recovering memories of a troubled past life where she’s an apparent badass. Sam Jackson is hilarious and Shane Black’s script is just as good if not better than his own Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Prepare yourself for quite a sleigh ride!
Just the worst Christmas present one could ask for, but wonderfully entertaining for all of us who get to enjoy this darkly funny classic. Full of cute and cuddly creatures that turn into savage monsters that multiply, this film was one of the reasons the PG-13 rating was invented as the violence was a bit more than a PG could handle but not enough for an R. Remember: no water, no sunlight, no snacks after midnight!
RARE EXPORTS: A CHRISTMAS TALE (2010)
This horror-comedy tale from Finland follows explorers who dig up a closely guarded secret in the mountains: Santa Claus frozen in ice! Unfortunately, our stories of a fat jolly gift maker aren’t at all accurate compared to the evil supernatural being who punishes the naughty. Funny, violent, and incredibly engaging.