Best Non-Traditonal Christmas Movies
While most love a good Christmas movie å la It’s a Wonderful Life, or White Christmas, I reveal in the non-traditional subgenre of any random film that happens to be set in the holiday season, even if it’s just for a short scene. Here’s a look at the more Island of Misfit Toys entries in Christmas films:
Batman Returns (1992)
The holidays can be a rough time for many, but nothing compares to the toll it takes on Gotham City in Tim Burton’s Batman Returns. Through the course of the film the Penguin (Danny DeVito) with the help of his band of circus freaks ruin the tree lighting ceremony, politically hijack the mayorship, kidnapping innocent children, and are responsible for the Gotham Ice Princess falling to her death. The holiday rampage did give birth to the vampy dominatrix Catwoman (Michelle Pfeiffer) so it all can’t be so bad after
Black Christmas (1974)
Directed by Bob Clark, the mastermind behind the holiday classic A Christmas Story, and the teen sex comedy Porkey’s this Christmas movie is so twisted, and scary, that it practically pioneered the slasher horror genre. Set on a Canadian college sorority house during the Christmas break, a crazed psychopath is camped out in the attic making obscene phone calls to its sexy co-eds lead by the breathy Oliva Hussey, a frumpy Andrea Martin, and boozing Margo Kidder. While Black Christmas may be just as underrated now as it was when it released, many call it a precursor to John Carpenter’s Halloween. Please skip the half assed 2006 remake, which fails to capture everything that made this film so much fun.
Jack Frost (1997)
Jack Frost is yet another entry in holiday horror films, which wins an award in this list for best exercise in worst taste. Not to be confused with the 1998 Michael Keaton family film, this comedy horror film is about a serial killer transformed into a snowman after the truck, which is carrying him to his execution, collides into a “genetics truck.” Jack Frost does get an A for effort in its almost Marvel-like origin story, which resulted in a “so bad it’s good” direct to video cult classic. Four years later it spawned a sequel named Jack Frost 2: Revenge of the Mutant Killer Snowman.
One of the most iconic movie monologues from the 80s isn’t Michael Douglas from Wall Street, or Robin Williams in Dead Poet’s Society, it’s Phoebe Cates’s bleak holiday memory from Joe Dante’s Gremlins. Cates’s poker face line read of the story of her father being untimely demise in the chimney dressed as Santa Clause remains one of the strangest movie monologues in history.
Edward Scissorhands (1990)
Edward Scissorhands makes for perfect holiday viewing with its tragic third act-taking place on Christmas Eve. This modern suburban fairy tale of a gentle young man with scissors for hands falling in love with a beautiful teenage girl has one of the most moving, and romantic scenes to be found in a Burton film where Kim (Winona Ryder) is dancing in the snow created by Edward’s ice sculpture of an angel. The scene also features a gorgeous piece of music by Danny Elfman.
Bridget Jones Diary (2001)
Bridget Jones Diary has a memorable meet cute scene between its clumsy heroine Bridget (Renee Zellweger) and Mark Darcy (Colin Firth) at a Christmas party wearing ugly Christmas sweaters. Here Christmas time provided a great screwball love/hate set up for its leads.
The Ref (1994)
Ted Demme’s dark comedy about a burglar forced to take a bickering family hostage on Christmas is a non-traditional favorite of many. Dennis Leary’s fast-talking crook with a heart of gold gets more than he bargained for when he attempts to burglarize the home of a dysfunctional couple of the verge of divorce played by the perfectly cast Judy Davis and Kevin Spacey. Comedic turns by veteran Glynis Johns as the mother in law from hell and Christine Baranski as a judgmental sister in law round out this dysfunctional family.
The Harry Potter films
More than a handful of films in the Harry Potter franchise have some Christmas scenes in them. It’s good to know that all those witches and wizards reap the benefits of Christianity. Hogwarts decks the halls every year with a giant Christmas tree in the Great Hall, Harry receives his invisibility cloak on Christmas morning in the Sorcerer’s Stone, Mrs. Weasley’s signature Christmas gift is a knitted sweater, the Yule ball is set during the holidays in the Goblet of Fire, and Harry and Hermione find themselves going back to Godric’s Hollow on Christmas Eve in the Deathly Hallows Part 1.
Rocky IV (1985)
“Why Christmas Rocky?” A reporter asks Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) when he announces that the fight between the Russian boxer Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) will happen on Christmas Day. Why not Christmas! Arguably one of the stronger entries in Stallone’s Rocky sequels, here’s a peace on earth tale of countries bonding over respect and admiration for the love of boxing. Rocky ends the film giving a memorable victory speech that speaks of change, and uniting feuding countries.
The Star Wars Holiday Special (1978)
In a galaxy far far away there was, as C3PO’s Anthony Daniel’s calls it, “The horrible Holiday Special that nobody talks about.” The black sheep of the Star Wars universe, which had very little to do with George Lucas has never been rebroadcast making it something of a cultural legend for its underground existence. For those who did see the special they would have had to watch it live when it aired on CBS, or get a hold of a pirated copy of it taped from its original broadcast. With VCRs being a new and pricy commodity in the late 70s copies of it are very rare, but the special has since been uploaded to YouTube.