By Nate King
Over the holidays most sit down to a prescribed dose of traditional Christmas movie cheer. I, like anyone, have my own list of films that usually wind up getting watched every season. Classics like A Christmas Story, It’s a Wonderful Life, Home Alone, National Lampoon’s Christmas Family Vacation and Elf (Yeah it’s a classic, don’t fight me on this) are watched without fail at least once every November/December.
However I’ve discovered another list of films, films that don’t seem to be recognized quite so often under the average persons category of “Christmas movie”, yet ones which also find their way into my home the same time every year. This is a list of all those movies, and believe it or not they are all Christmas movies.
1. Die Hard 1 and 2
It’s reasonable to assume this list owes it’s entire existence to these first two films. I only noticed this unconventional Christmas habit after discovering just how often Die Hard had been watched in my home each season. It’s also the first out-of-the-ordinary Christmas film I remember watching and it would be foolish to think it hasn’t lead to others. See, my mom apparently has a thing for manly men solving the worlds problems with guns, which must have made John McClane a particular attraction of hers, because every year without fail me and my mom have wound up in front of the TV watching Die Hard together. A Christmas party turned hostage situation laced with one man’s pain and sacrifice for the good of his soon to be ex-wife. What could be more seasonal? And the sequel, sure it’s pretty bad but it only follows naturally, what do you expect us to do; not watch it?
2. Lethal Weapon
Murtough and Riggs: Two cops with only one thing in common, a hate for working in pairs. It’s the story of two of the most dissimilar people on the planet being forced together over the holidays and having to make the best of it. It’s like every family Christmas gathering you’ve ever been to! Throw in a climax leg choke-hold in a jollied up, Christmas lit, suburban neighborhood and you’ve got yourself a Yuletide classic. Bonus points for direction by Richard Donner.
3. Road to Perdition
One of my favorite films of all time. I suppose it’s less a habit of watching this one during the Christmas season than it is watching it all year round, which happens to include the Christmas season. A Christmastime tale of family love, loyalty, and betrayal, all leading up to the greatest use of a Tommy gun in cinema history. Good and evil archetypes are woven into a simple yet seamless story, while every frame remains purposefully shot, and every actor (including my Hombre) chomps away at the chilly set pieces. Set in the winter of 1931 it’s an incredibly moving examination of the powerful relationship between father and son. You know who else was a father and son? God and Jesus.
4. Fellowship of the Ring
The greatest of all three of The Lord of the Rings films. Never let anyone tell you different, and don’t dare refute me. The series holiday release schedule may have sparked its position on this list, but this film’s particular tear-jerking execution of the books greatest promises: themes of friendship, love, sacrifice and death, ensure its survival in the dvd player throughout the cold winter months. You shall not pass through the season without watching this movie at least once.
5. The Proposition
Perhaps the greatest western made in the past decade, it’s not a western at all. Or is it? Well it’s not, but wait – then again – you’re wrong – it is! Get what I mean? Set in the Australian outback it’s far from anywhere that the word “western” might be applicable as a descriptor, just the same it exemplifies the genre keeping all the bells and whistles, style and substance that one would associate with Sergio Leone himself. This tale follows an alienated brother of outlaws as he seeks redemption for himself and his youngest sibling, all the while paralleling the life of an English law enforcement officer struggling to protect and provide for his wife during the Christmas season, in one of the least Christmasy places on earth.
6. In Bruges
One of my new favorites and an instant Christmas classic. Set in Bruges over the holiday, two assassins wrestle over the soul of a young man. A story revolving around judgment and death, it’s themes garner bonus points for intricate reflection upon the concepts of heaven and hell, right and wrong and the true origins of Christmas, Christ and our relation to him.
7.The Bourne Identity
It’s the classic scrooge tale, following a botched mission causing him to lose his memory, a once brainwashed super soldier so deeply enmeshed in the CIA covert ops system only one man knows he’s on our side is forced to come face to face with the reality of just who and what he is, and change his ways in light of the holiday season. It’s a tragic tale concerning lost identity and found purpose, and leads us to one of the greatest questions of our own lives; just who are we really and what is it we’re fighting for? When the Christmas season rolls around are we the person who finds it better to give, or receive?
8. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang
A throwback to film noir’s golden days, it’s a detective comedy set in LA narrated by Robert Downy Jr. A crazy Christmas caper with Christmas trees, Christmas lights, Christmas hats and other Christmas doodads filling up scenes from the same writer as Lethal Weapon. And Val Kilmer as “Gay Perry”.
9. Batman Returns
I really don’t see the need to explain this one. It’s Christmastime Batman with working Bat-presents. However I will defend its greatness. It’s a film that accepts its established character to such an extent its focus shifts entirely to the villains. A number of movies could learn a thing or two from this film. And it hosts the greatest performance of Michelle Pfeiffer’s life.
10. The Iron Giant
There’s a theory floating around that I created this film myself, and that somewhere in the post development process I simply hit my head so hard I, and every other member of the cast, crew and production just plain forgot. It only stands to reason because it encapsulates everything I love about everything so well. Don’t let my own biases fool you however, it’s an incredibly affecting modern day feature that everyone is sure to enjoy. Despite floundering at the box office upon release, it is one of the most intelligent science fiction movies in recent years, perfectly satirizing the militaristic fear of its 1950’s McCarthyite backdrop. It’s the heart wrenching tale of a boy and his giant weaponized space-invading robot who, with the help of Superman, learns the value of pacifism. Love, fear and sacrifice culminate in this epic story to tell us, We Are Who We Choose To Be.
There is so much snow. So. Much. Snow. It only seemed fitting to end this list with another movie I first experienced with my mother. The overwhelming parka use is enough of a reason to turn this movie on during a brisk winter night, but it’s important to know going in that the comforting images of bundled cast members are the best this movie has to offer in the way of making you feel all warm and tingly inside… well that and Frances McDormand. A wood-chipper? A wood-chipper???
Gremlins. It fell out of the loop a long time ago. It’d be a lie to say I still appreciate it the way you can argue I should. But those things are creepy man.
Super Honorable Mention
Superman The Movie (1978). Please, what list wouldn’t this movie be on? Lets hear it for the greatest portrayal of the person everyone should aspire to be, ever. No not the guy with superpowers who turns back time, the guy who puts everyone else before himself and who always finds time to recognize the partnership with his fellow man. “Don’t thank me warden, we’re all part of the same team.”
Additional Credit to: Nate King
Special Thanks: Nate King