Top 10 Guide to (possibly offbeat) Holiday Flicks
With the Xmas season in full swing, it’s only appropriate to put on a few flicks to get into the spirit of the season. So next time you’re stuck with your family and they insist on putting on a “holiday movie” I’ve put together a list of some of my personal favorites that still fall into the “holiday” categories for you to choose from. Maybe you’ll find some on here that you can put in your holiday collection for easy access by the family when they’re itching for the holiday cheer!
Director: Tim Burton
Starring: Johnny Depp, Winona Ryder, Dianne Wiest, Vincent Price, Alan Arkin, Anthony Michael Hall
This Burton film begins with a grandmother telling a story about why it always snows on Christmas in their California hometown. Her cookie-cutter culdesac is peppered with a sense of weirdness, like many of Burton’s films, and when a strange young scissor-handed man is brought into town after being found alone in the spooky mansion at the edge of town it brings more than just gossip. She recants to her grandchild the offbeat and unlikely love story between Mr. Scissorhands and a young woman in their quiet 50’s suburban town, and how their love keeps it snowing each Christmas. Sounds sappy, I know, but how sappy can it be with Johnny Depp in a leather body suit and scissors for hands awkwardly falling in love with a blond Winona Ryder teenager? Either way, it’s a Christmas classic for sure!
Director: Henry Selick
Starring: (voice) Chris Sarandon, Danny Elfman, Catherine O’Hara, Paul Reubens, William Hickey, Greg Proops
The great thing about this stop motion film is that you can arguably watch it from October through the end of the year. It’s a good counter to Christmas Creep (the annual “creep” of the holiday season earlier and earlier…) and encompasses two holidays at the same time. Halloweentown’s Pumpkin King is the scariest dude around. But unbeknownst to most of the inhabitants, Jack Skellington is wistful for more, so he goes exploring and stumbles upon Christmastown! This movie succeeds at underlining Christmas themes and values that are important, while at the same time taking out the gag-worthy bits that none of us enjoy… by imposing Halloween twists like undead reindeer, hungry toys, and giant tree-eating snakes.
Director: Tim Burton
Starring: Michael Keaton, Michelle Pfeiffer, Danny DeVito, Christopher Walken, Michael Gough
Burton strikes again with a quality Christmas classic, but this time he pits heroes against villains in the streets of a snowy Gotham City. Between bat-infest Christmas trees and emperor penguins with rockets strapped to their backs Gotham just screams Christmas cheer throughout this movie. Batman and Cat woman team up to make Gotham’s all new “Team Latex” and keep up a sexually charged game of cat and bat until they surprise themselves and discover each others’ true identity. They prove to us all that “mistletoe can be deadly if you eat it but a kiss can be deadlier if you mean it.” The Penguin and evil businessman Max Schrek also vie for the Dark Knight’s affections, but in a much less catty manner. This Christmas flick is guaranteed to be loved by the whole (non-kid-friendly) family!
Director: Richard Donner
Starring: Mel Gibson, Danny Glover, Gary Busey, Mitch Ryan, Tom Atkins, Darlene Love
Nothing says Christmas like an opening scene with “Jingle Bell Rock.” Oh, and having young Mel Gibson walk around in his birthday suit. It’s the classic holiday story about family, friendship, life, drugs, guns, and kidnapping. This action packed holiday flick ends with a Christmas dinner with family, friends, gifts, dogs, and an arrest in the front yard. If that doesn’t put a notch in the holiday classic counter than I don’t know what does!
Director: Joe Dante
Starring: Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates, Judge Reinhold, Corey Feldman, Jackie Joseph
When you get a new pet during Christmas that comes with instructions on how to care for it, you’d pay attention to it right? Yeah, neither would anyone else. Once gremlins start popping out of the new pet, this festive horror comedy takes on a life of its own! Not only is this classic filled with mischief, hilarity, and gremlins tying puppies up with Christmas lights, but it has the age-old woeful Christmas monologue of a young girl’s tragic Christmas where her father tried to impersonate Santa and got stuck in their chimney. You can imagine what else would come next to make that story tragic… It’s easy to spice up the holidays with festive little Gremlins caroling, causing havoc, and wearing Santa hats!
Director: Brian Levant
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sinbad, Phil Hartman, Rita Wilson, Jake Lloyd, James Belushi
Arnold really gets into the true holiday spirit when he waits until the last minute to buy his son the hottest new SOLD OUT toy. This all too accurate story of scrambling to get the right toy for your kid goes to the next level when he wars with another father who has the same goal. What really makes this a top Christmas movie isn’t just the presents, decorations, and parade, but that it has Arnold and Sinbad fighting for the same holiday prize, bombs, smarmy and violent santas, and functional superhero outfits. A top-5 MUST in the household Christmas Movie library.
Director: Richard Curtis
Starring: Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, Hugh Grant, Colin Firth, Liam Neeson, Laura Linney, Rodrigo Santoro, Thomas Sangster, Andrew Lincoln, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Keira Knightley, Martin Freeman etc.
Anyone who hasn’t seen Love Actually looks at it and goes “ugh, I don’t want a chick flick AND a holiday movie… shoot me now.” I know I said the same thing a few years ago and refused to watch it for quite some time. Finally my arm was twisted enough that I sat down, prepping for the worst. Much to my surprise, this festive ensemble piece follows the lives of a number of families who are going through their own troubles and tribulations during the holiday season. Yes I know, that still doesn’t sound appealing for the anti-chick flick skeptics out there, but trust me when I tell you this star-studded cast hits the nail on the head with naughty secretaries, nice boys joining the school band to get with the new girl, and Bill Nighy playing a Christmas song live on TV… naked! This is a yearly requirement in my house during the holidays.
Director: Richard Donner
Starring: Bill Murray, Karen Allen, John Forsythe, John Glover, Bobcat Goldthwaite, Alfre Woodard, Robert Mitchum
Bill Murray plays a anti-holiday, cold-hearted businessman who wants to take the magic out of Christmas… possibly with televised explosions and anti-Xmas campaigns. Or just by firing his TV employees at the drop of a hat. That’s when the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future take the classic tale of A Christmas Carol, and turn it into a sarcastic and sardonic tale of Bill Murray being schooled in the true meaning of Christmas.
Starting in 2005, our favorite timelord began gracing BBC with some scifi holiday cheer. Most themes include the Doctor saving London from one alien or another when they come in and almost sabotage not only the beloved city, but Christmas as well! Whether it’s a Megatron-sized Cybertron mech, the spaceship Titanic going down in flames, or an all out invasion of the Sycorax, something is threatening Christmas and/or the Doctor’s beloved London inhabitants. Nothing screams Christmas like hour-long specials with holiday decor, cheer, and invading aliens! Thank you, BBC!
Director: Renny Harlin
Starring: Bruce Willis, William Atherton, Bonnie Bedelia
I had to stick in an extra because both Die Hard(s) fit so perfectly with the Christmas spirit. This classic wrong-place-wrong-time piece of film throws John McClane into Dulles Airport immediately before a hostile takeover during Christmas while he’s waiting to pick up his inbound wife. Guns, explosions, terrorists, and asshole cops. How else can you say Merry Christmas besides getting beat up over and over again just to save the woman you love?
Director: John McTiernan
Starring: Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman, Bonnie Bedalia, Reginald VelJohnson
This is my number one Christmas movie of all time! Bruce Willis begins the wrong-place-wrong-time series of movies on Christmas, when he flies into Los Angeles to spend the holidays with his kids and estranged wife. After arriving in her posh office building during the Christmas party, a group of German thugs led by mastermind Alan Rickman take the building hostage while Mr. Willis is “making little fists with his toes” in one of the bathrooms. This shoeless anti-jetlag advice causes him a lot of pain when he’s forced to run barefoot for the remainder of the movie. His good-guy instincts kick in and when both the terrorists inside and cops outside (except for one guy with a hunch) turn against him, he is left to single handedly save his wife, himself, and Christmas for his kids! Because right after he incapacitates a number of the German thugs, he has the machine gun now… Ho-ho-ho!