Some Favorite Christmas Movies...That Aren't Really Christmas Movies
A little too much Rudolph and Frosty can give anyone a case of the ol' holiday blues. We all have our Christmas movie favorites and traditions, but after 24 straight hours of A Christmas Story, even the cheeriest holiday revelers and movie buffs are bound to be a little burnt out. So what's left to watch when we've all reached our yearly quota of Grinches and Charlie Browns?
Plenty! Those yuletide faves are great, but if you're looking to mix up your movie viewing a little this year, check out some of the decidely non-Christmas Christmas flicks on this list. It may well be the best thing you can do for your Netflix subscription this year.
Batman Returns (1992)
After the rousing success of 1989's Tim Burton Bat-flick, everyone knew the Caped Crusader would eventually return. We just didn't suspect it would be at Christmas. Unusual setting notwithstanding, Batman Returns is an outstanding sequel to the original, one that firmly cements Michael Keaton - in my humble opinion - as the bestest Batman there ever was.
While that point can (and likely will) be argued for eons, there's no mistaking that Batsy's showdown with the murderous Penguin (Danny DeVito) and possibly schizophrenic Catwoman (Michelle Pfeiffer) is one of the coweled one's shining silver screen moments.
But the best part of this film is Christopher Walken as Max Schreck, an evil businessman who's snowed Gothamites into thinking he's something of a Santa. Walken does more than chew scenery. In fact, he steals the show outright, turning this distinctly Burton Batman into a can't-miss superhero flick.
Deck the halls, then watch Batman deck some fools. Doing so during the holidays may just turn out to be a great Christmas present for yourself.
Sure beats the heck out of cologne.
Man on the Moon (1999)
Director Milos Forman's Andy Kaufman biopic is every bit as uniquely strange as its subject matter. It's also just as entertaining, chronicling the bizarre "performance artist's" life from 1975 until his untimely death in 1984. Some people loved it, others loathed it, but in much the same vein as any of Andy's real-life performances, few could be indifferent to it. Such is the out-and-out brilliance of this film, one that perfectly captures the essence of the enigmatic Andy while also serving as the perfect epitaph for a talent gone far too soon.
One of the key moments in the film takes place when Andy (played to Golden Globe-winning perfection by Jim Carrey) performs his Christmas show in Carnegie Hall. As "Andy" states at the beginning of the movie, many of the most important events of his life are changed around and presented out of order for dramatic effect. This is one of them.
But regardless of historical accuracy, Kaufman's Christmas show was unforgettable, and the re-created snippets here make for some great holiday viewing. Tank you veddy much.
Die Hard (1988) and Die Hard 2: Die Harder (1990)
New York City Police Detective John McClane could be forgiven for being a bit of a Grinch around the holidays. It goes without saying that making merry is infinitely more difficult if terrorists show up and ruin your Christmas...two years in a row.
And that's exactly what happens in both of the first two Die Hard flicks. Luckily for us, Bruce Willis (in his best form of bad-assery) is there to save us all.
Die Hard pits McClane against a group of international terrorists, holed up in a swanky hotel and led by Hans Gruber (the incomparable Alan Rickman). After crashing McClane's estranged wife's company Christmas party, Gruber and gang go about kidnapping the guests, ruining a couple very nice suits (with bullet holes and brain matter) and generally making everyone's holiday a miserable one.
Of course, it's up to officer McClane to stop the bad guys, with a little help from the future Carl Winslow (Reginald VelJohnson).
An excellent encore graced theaters two years later in the form of the oddly titled Die Hard 2: Die Harder. The sequel thrusts McClane into another terrorist plot, this one featuring military mercenaries who've taken over a New York City airport. It's really more of the same, but in this case, who could argue that that's a bad thing?
Have yourself a merry little Christmas (and some yuletide yippee-ki-yay) with these two awesome action flicks.
En-route to his New Year's Day Heavyweight Championship throwdown with Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers), Rocky Balboa (Sly Stallone, of course) shares Christmas with his newfound love, Adrian. Unfortunately, the holiday celebration is interrupted by Adrian's drunken older brother, Paulie, whose alcohol-induced rage results in some unwarranted property damage from a baseball bat. But that's typical at Christmas, right? Well, it is in my family at least.
Anyway, popping the uplifting, Oscar-winning Rocky in your DVD player this Christmas may just result in a new holiday tradition for your family; one that hopefully doesn't devolve into a violent combination of too much eggnog and easily accessible sports equipment.
Say what you will about the varying quality of the five sequels that followed it, but the first Rocky is unquestionably a masterpiece that deserves a spot in every movie buff's regular rotation, no matter the season.
Christmas 1984 is the first one I can vividly remember. I awoke before anyone else in the house, jumped out of bed and excitedly exclaimed "It's Christmas!" I took off in my zip-up, one piece pajamas and headed straight for the Christmas tree, diving into the presents and tearing the wrapping paper apart. I had uncovered a couple Smurfs vehicles and the first two or three of what would become a massive Little People collection, before Mom and Dad put an end to my Christmas chaos.
They weren't mad at me, but they did implore me to stop opening presents until Grandma could get to the house. Let me tell you, kids, the wait for my Grandma to show up that morning was the longest hour a child has ever spent.
Once Grandma FINALLY arrived, the present-shredding began anew, culminating in a plastic fire truck of epic proportions.
So where the hell am I going with all this? Well, as stupendously awesome as all my gifts had been, what I really wanted for Christmas was a mogwai. I had made plans for the creature, going to great lengths to make sure I would never feed it after midnight or take it swimming with me. It seemed to be a full-proof plan, so you can imagine my disappointment when I had opened all my presents and found myself without a single, solitary Gremlin.
It's probably for the best. Having the cute little critters multiply and destroy my little town of Bluffton, Indiana would have surely made for some much-talked-about Christmas memories, though that sort of mayhem is probably best left for the movies.
Pick this one up on DVD or Blu-ray and treat yourself to my ideal Christmas 1984. All from the safety of your own living room.
Home Alone (1990) and Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992)
Though many people consider both Home Alone films to be indelibly linked to Christmas, if you look closely you'll see that neither really has a lot to do with everyone's favorite holiday. Truth be told, the unfathomable negligence involved in leaving your pre-teen son at home while you trot you off to a warm climate vacation get-away could happen any day of the year. For the McCallister's, it just happens to be a Christmas thing. Twice!
As if forgetting your child at home for the holidays wasn't awful enough, a rash of burglaries in the neighborhood adds a dash of danger to the proceedings. This could be the perfect premise for a horror film...if it wasn't so dang funny.
Director John Hughes had a way with combining a sweet, good-natured story with ample amounts of slapstick, and both are on display - and in fine form - here. This is a very solid, funny family flick that can be enjoyed year-round, despite all the Christmas accoutrements.
That said, the best part of the movie turns out to be the bumbling crooks (Joe Pesci and that guy who did the voice-over on The Wonder Years) and young Kevin McCallister's (Macaulay Culkin) thwarting of their attempted thievery. Nothing says "Christmas cheer" quite like shooting someone in the junk with a BB gun.
And yes, you should definitely try that out at your next Christmas party.
What are some of your favorite non-Christmas Christmas movies? Let me know in the comment box below. Happy holidays!
Posted December 20, 2010