20 Christmas Movies for Badasses

We seek out the Christmas movies that happily struggle to invoke the traditional feeling of the season. Yippee ki-yay!

Batman Returns: Danny DeVito as The Penguin

This article comes from Den of Geek UK.

Sick of Christmas? Already? Good, you’ve come to the right place. If you dread Christmas and you’re not a wuss, this is the list for you. We’ve got senseless violence, we’ve got explosions, we’ve got monsters taking over a town. If you’re still not feeling that Yuletide buzz, there’s futuristic dystopias, secret societies, and the adventures of a counter-assassination expert who lost her memory. These are hard-edged and subversive movies that are set over the Christmas period.

A film that makes good use of a Christmas setting tends to explore duality. For this reason Christmas movies are often stories of two halves. A Christmas setting brings with it a set of expectations, and this is a situation that is ripe for subversion. There is a contrast between what Christmas represents to us on the surface and the reality of what it’s really like. Family celebration and acts of generosity are the Christmas that gets depicted on a Christmas card. For a lot of us, we’re painfully aware of the commercialism of Christmas and how far Christmas has strayed from its religious and spiritual origins. It can also be a time of loneliness and sky-high stress levels. So, load up on a festive hamper of hand grenades, and let us pull the pin out for you.

Rocky IV

Why it qualifies: The fight scenes are brutal.

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He could have stopped the fight…

He could have saved his best friend’s life…

The one thing he couldn’t do is walk away…

Rocky now lives in a big house and even has his own personal robot. And yet, he finds the soft-life unsatisfying. So, rather than being about an average Joe with a dream, this time it’s rich man’s blues. Before long, the opportunity arises for Rocky to help out with an exhibition fight between his old pal Apollo Creed and Dolph Lundgren‘s Ivan Drago. That doesn’t go well, and this gives Rocky the motivation to fight Drago on Christmas Day. Adding to the Christmas theme, Drago is, at all times, greased up like a turkey.

further reading: Could Rocky Balboa Really Have Gone the Distance?

The series always plays the card of populism, and this time, it’s Rocky vs. the Russians. But a Rocky film runs on heart, and Lundgren is emotionally cold and trained by machines. So it becomes the battle between a cold heart and a hot one. A Rocky film wouldn’t be the same without training sequences. Drago’s show him hooked up to hi-tech gadgets while he punches things, and Rocky’s show him chopping down trees and doing other things that seem unconnected with training for a fight.

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The film has a mixed reputation, largely because it’s a retread of the others in series. So its main sin is to be “another one.” The film feels a bit more Christmassy than it really is because there’s a birthday party at the beginning and much of the training takes place in snowy Russia. Lundgren is an effective bad guy, and the film hits the emotional notes that you’d expect from a Rocky film.

The best Christmas bit: Nonsensical training sequences in Russia.

Watch Rocky IV on Amazon

The Long Kiss Goodnight

Why it qualifies: It’s always a laugh when one of your teachers turns out to be a secret agent and counter assassination expert.

Shane Black (of Lethal Weapon and Iron Man 3 fame) penned this forgotten action comedy that deserved to do a bit better than it did. Geena Davis ably takes the lead as a secret agent with amnesia, and Samuel L. Jackson plays the loser who comes good in the end. When we first meet Samantha, she is living life as a meek suburban schoolteacher with a family. All she knows is that she can’t remember anything about her earlier life. It’s Christmas at the start of the film, imbuing a sense of family and of cozy small town life.

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Gradually, some of her old memories start to come back. At first it’s exciting for her, but then we start to get the unnerving impression that she possesses a very particular set of skills; skills that make her a nightmare for the people that are going to come after her.

further reading: The Best Christmas Horror Movies

In the second half, the action comes thick and fast, and Davis proves herself as a capable action hero. When her old memories start to resurface she has to integrate them with her new life, and it takes a good actor to pull this off amongst all the explosions. This is backed up with palpable chemistry that she shares with Jackson. The one-liners and jibes flow back and forth with aplomb. The film was a financial flop, which is a shame. Perhaps it simply came out at the wrong time? All too often, when you pair a man and woman up in an action film, the man is an indestructible hard-living stereotype who ends up falling in love with the woman that he has to rescue. Perhaps the audiences of 1996 weren’t ready for a quirky premise? Trust us, if you like action thriller comedies, this is a good one.

The best Christmas bit: The snowy action sequences.

Watch The Long Kiss Goodnight on Amazon

Brazil

Why it qualifies: Do they know it’s Christmas? Hardly.

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This film cemented Terry Gilliam‘s reputation as a master. It’s a pastiche of the “one man against the system” derived from Orwell and Kafka. The banal evil of stifling bureaucracy crushes the individual in the name of efficiency. Ding dong merrily on high.

“Not even dreams…” muses Sam Lowry, played to perfection by Jonathan Pryce. And yet, the audience knows that he is a dreamer. He dreams that he is flying up above the streets, that he is the hero, and that he has won the woman of his dreams. It is because he is a dreamer, that he must be eliminated by the system. Back in real life, there is an underground, but can Sam reach it?

What a well-realized utilitarian, drab dystopia the characters inhabit here. The set design is marvellous and replete with retro-future-tech. Office workers use their computer consoles to sneak a look at a classic movie, when the boss isn’t looking. “Don’t suspect a friend, report him!” advises a government poster. The look of streets is inspired by a fascist take on architecure and also the work of the lead character’s namesake painter L.S. Lowry. It’s a story with humor, and all of it is pitch black. That means that the biggest joke of all is when we see Christmas decorations littered around this cheerless, government-sanctioned environment.

The best Christmas bit: Sam being tortured by Santa sums things up.

Watch Brazil on Amazon

Batman Returns

Why it qualifies: It’s Batman.

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In 1989, Tim Burton‘s Batman kicked off the “dark superhero” trend in films. Burton has one of the most immediately recognizable visual styles of any director, and the second one is even more of a ‘Tim Burton’ film. By our reckoning, the Burton and Christopher Nolan approaches to Batman are both excellent, and it’s interesting to compare their respective takes on different elements of the mythos. Nolan tried to bring Batman into the real world, whereas Burton kept him fantastic.

further reading: Why Batman Returns is the Greatest Anti-Christmas Movie

They both featured Selena Kyle/Catwoman, for example, and they’re both very good portrayals. However, Burton concentrates more on the twisted psychology of the characters, who are all, quite frankly, freaks. Gotham itself is very different in the eyes of the two directors. In the Nolan films, it’s a modern, hi-tech metropolis. To Burton, it’s a gothic world of shadows. Making it Christmas in Gotham is the icing on the cake for Burton.

The best Christmas bit: Max Shreck’s (Christopher Walken) sanctimonious Christmas speech.

Watch Batman Returns on Amazon

Less Than Zero

Why it qualifies: It takes the familiar elements and recasts them into something cold and unsettling.

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The story starts with a familiar Christmas trope: a return home that leads to some awkward confrontations. Clay’s former best friend is in trouble and so is his ex-girlfriend. This is going to be an ice-cold LA Christmas for the rich kids.

The film is an adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis’s first novel, and he’s better known now for writing American Psycho. Look at the cast list, which includes Andrew McCarthy, Jami Gertz, Robert Downey Jr., and James Spader, and you might expect a feel-good ’80s comedy. Certainly, many of the cast were prominent members of the Brat Pack, but there are no laughs to be had on this one, as it takes the elements that we we’ve seen before and does something different with them.

further reading: 25 Unsung Christmas Icons

We have the rich kids and the ’80s parties in massive houses. However, this time around, we also have drug addiction and betrayal along with disenchantment with post-college life. If you’re a fan of ’80s teen movies, it’s a particularly interesting perspective. It kicks the crap out of the Brat Pack, giving us a “serious” look at a world that we’re familiar with from light-hearted films. It’s the antidote to the saccharine taste of something like St. Elmo’s Fire, and it’s one of Robert Downey Jr.’s best performances. The whole thing adds up to a pretty good film if you can hack the misery. Deserves to be better known than it is.

The best Christmas bit: The ’80s parties.

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Gremlins

Why it qualifies: Because it’s a gory, scary horror movie that fools parents and tricks its way into the living room.

The first part of Gremlins is devoted to establishing the setting and the characters. The setting is the Small Town, USA of Frank Capra, and it’s a snowy Christmas at that. Bank worker Billy’s dad is a travelling salesman, away attempting to sell his crazy inventions. Billy’s mother holds the fort at home. It’s a well populated world, and all of the supporting roles are top-notch. Judge Reinhold is a slimebag co-worker with designs on Billy’s girl. Mrs Deagal is the town scrooge. It also has a lot of value for film lovers, as it references other movies such as It’s A Wonderful Life, The Time Machine, and Invasion of the Body Snatchers. It’s a movie that is very much invested in the world of movies. As with most of the films on this list, contrasts abound. The little gremlins are, by turns, cute and terrifying. The cozy town that we’ve started to love is turned into a war zone.

This world-building and character establishment is all-important. Just like in a good disaster movie, we need the investment in those things to make the most of it when all hell breaks loose in the second half. We’re grinning when the mean old woman says: “Christmas carolers? I hate Christmas carolers!” because we know that she’s about to get her comeuppance. By the same token, the audience cares about Billy and Kate, adding to the thrills when they are in peril.

further reading: Why Gremlins 2 is Better Than The Original

Context is everything, particularly when you’re trying to fool parents. Is this a children’s movie? We’re not sure. Some of violence may go over the line. A 13-year-old will think it’s great. A parent will wince. It’s a well-made film and the animatronic Gremlins are characterful, full of malice but also humor. By not relying on early CGI, perhaps the best films made in that era are beginning to overtake some films that were made ten years later, in terms of realism?

The best Christmas bit: Kate’s explanation for why her family doesn’t celebrate Christmas.

Watch Gremlins on Amazon Prime

Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

Why it qualifies: It’s Christmas in New York. With masked cult orgy meetings.

There’s a special link between New York City and the Christmas season in cinema. No doubt that’s why it was chosen as the setting. So we have traditional values running up against a secret underworld. Family life comes into it too. Some have said that it is the best dramatic performance in the career of either Tom Cruise or Nicole Kidman as they deconstruct marriage and relationships while arguing into the night. The main part that most people remember are the masked secret ceremonies with the cult. There is sex. There is murder. There is Tom and Nicole arguing a bit.

further reading: A Complete Christmas Streaming Guide

This was Stanley Kubrick‘s final film, and it received mixed reviews. Perhaps he would have been satisfied with that, because it’s certainly a head-twister, and its meaning is still being debated to this day.

The best Christmas bit: Cruise walking the Christmas streets of New York, wondering what just happened. Just like we were.

Watch Eyes Wide Shut on Amazon

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

Why it qualifies: James Bond windmill punches a guy until he falls down and then he holds him underwater until he stops struggling. Deck the Halls (or deck the henchman, in this case).

After mixed reviews during its release, the fans of recent years have started to give this film more love. It’s easy to forget that even in 1969, those fans were clamoring for a “back to basics” Bond. Connery’s final film in his original run had been You Only Live Twice. It featured Bond’s sidewinder-equipped mini helicopter that he was using to hunt for Blofeld’s hollowed-out volcano base.

Lazenby’s performance is the most controversial part of any assessment of this film. However, it’s a good story and Lazenby actually shines somewhat in the excellent action scenes. Average it all out, and it’s a good Bond movie.

further reading: The Best Christmas Movies on Netflix

The main Christmas song used in the movie, “Do You Know How Christmas Trees Are Grown?” is actually an original number; just like “All The Time In The World,” it was penned by composer John Barry and lyricist Hal David especially for the film. Typically, we don’t find out much about Bond’s personal life, and in this one, the Christmas setting grounds the film in something real. A return to realism, as well as humanizing Bond is what they were after. He falls in love, he gets married, and his Christmas is just as fraught as everyone else’s.

The best Christmas bit: Disorientated, Bond pushes his way through the crowd, wondering how he will survive and how he can complete his mission. It’s Bond on a man-dash. We’ve all been there.

Watch On Her Majesty’s Secret Service on Amazon

Things To Come

Why it qualifies: It’s Christmas, but it’s on the eve of the war that decimates most of civilisation.

If you’re not familiar with it, you’d be forgiven for thinking Things To Come‘s a well-made ’50s science fiction film. In fact, based on a H.G. Wells book, this film was made in 1936, and the special effects alone represent an amazing accomplishment for the era.

further reading: Complete Christmas Movie and TV Schedule

In all fairness, the Christmas stuff is at the beginning. Christmas just serves to represent the optimism that was being crushed by the war that everyone knew was just around the corner. Perhaps it also represents the old traditions that are about to be swept away. The rest of the film has elements of a war film, a post post-apocalyptic story and a speculative tale of a futuristic society. It’s fascinating and thought provoking stuff. One can only wonder what the audience of 1936 made of it.

The best Christmas bit: The final Christmas for mankind.

Watch Things to Come on Amazon Prime

The Nightmare Before Christmas - Best Christmas Horror Movies

The Nightmare Before Christmas

Why it qualifies: It’s Christmas. Tim Burton and Henry Selick style.

The iconography of Christmas is fascinating to an artist like Tim Burton. As cultural reference points go, you can’t get one more familiar than Christmas. The story begins in Halloween Town. Basically, it’s Tim Burton’s brain in stop-motion animation form, a world of grotesque monsters and freakish outcasts. Before long, the leader of Halloween Town hatches a plan to take control of Christmas. The whole thing is accompanied by catchy songs. We love it.

further reading: Putting the Christmas Back in The Nightmare Before Christmas

The best Christmas bit: Kidnapping Santa Claus so that they can take over Christmas.

Watch The Nightmare Before Christmas on Amazon

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation 

Why it qualifies: It’s wild and crazy comedy, certainly, but it also makes some decent observations about a ‘real family Christmas.’

The first Vacation is a comedy classic. The second one was disappointing, and that means that many have either forgotten about the third one or have never given it a chance. That’s a shame because it’s a great comedy movie in its own right.

further reading: The Mystery Picture on the National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation DVD Cover

In first film of the series, Clark’s goal was to somehow reach his destination and have an enjoyable family vacation. This time, it’s one disaster after another as the hapless Clark attempts to put on a family Christmas holiday. Films like this always work best if there is a good ensemble backing everything up. As in the first one, Randy Quaid is the stand out amongst the supporting cast, but you can also spot very young Johnny Galecki and Juliette Lewis in early roles, alongside Julia Louis-Dreyfus and many other familiar faces.

The best Christmas bit: The “Joy To World” Christmas lights on the roof.

Watch Christmas Vacation on Amazon

Bad Santa

Why it qualifies: There’s a Santa in it. And he’s bad. Need we go on?

A movie that certainly lives up to its title, Bad Santa is about the worst Mall St. Nick in movie history (which is saying something if you’ve ever seen Mircale on 34th Street or A Christmas Story). He’s rude, crude, and somehow even a little endearing despite cursing in front of children and drinking on the job. This film is a pitch black comedy for those who don’t mind facing the darker side of the holidays and laughing with a booze-infested breath at the absurdity of it. It might even make you a bit sentimental by the end of the film when he still does what Santas do best: give presents to children (covered in blood from gunshot wounds, though they may be).

further reading: The 13 Craziest Interpetations of Santa Claus

Best Christmas bit: Santa and his little helper teach a mentally-unwell child how to defend himself. No one is saved.

Watch Bad Santa on Amazon

Bill Murray in Scrooged: A Christmas Carol

Scrooged

Why it qualifies: Bill Murray. His deadpan sensibility is badass in any context.

What we have here is a Richard Donner helmed homage to A Christmas Carol. Oh, Bill Murray, could anyone be more lovable as a deadpan cynic than you? This is genius casting. Arguably, he plays another Scrooge-inspired character, later on, in Groundhog Day. The overall structure of the film relies on the aforementioned Dickens story. Instead of a mean-hearted businessman, this update casts Murray as Frank Cross, a mean-hearted TV executive who cares about nothing other than ratings. Fittingly, his current obsession is the staging of an extravagant live TV production of… that’s right, A Christmas Carol.

After having fired a lovable underling and generally proved himself to be an all-round rotter, he is visited by the ghost of a man who was once his mentor. The ghost warns the incredulous Cross that he is on the wrong path in life and that he will be visited by three further ghosts. As with the other variations of this story, he is given a glimpse into the past, the present and the unhappy future that awaits him. It is a comedy, but it tugs at the heartstrings all along the way. The early romance with with Clare, played by Karen Allen, is particularly moving. Murray has a knack for playing good-hearted glee that always implies a sarcastic wink at the audience.

further reading: The Anti-Christmas Spirit of Krampus

The film progresses as we expect, and Cross has learned his lesson by the end. As well as being hilarious, Bill Murray is a good actor, and there is much pathos amongst the humor. However, any retelling of this story depends on how effective and the individual sections are. Fortunately, the smaller parts are well casted with many great character actors turning up such as Carol Kane, Bobcat Goldthwait and Alfre Woodard. One of the most important components for us? An ’80s-style sleazebag, played by the excellent John Glover.

Best Christmas bit: Frank sending his brother a towel for Christmas.

Watch Scrooged on Amazon

Home Alone

Why it qualifies: It’s a bit cheerful, and it has a happy ending. But people get smacked in the head and set on fire, so we’ll allow it.

It’s one of the biggest movie hits of all time, as well as being a perennial family favorite. The film was something of a departure for John Hughes as, previously, he had written comedies that were aimed more squarely at teens and adults. Those previous credits include many of the greats, such as The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Sixteen Candles, and Weird Science, which he also directed. After Home Alone, he spent the rest of his career concentrating on family-fare such as further films in this series and movies like Beethoven.

further reading: Why Home Alone is the Greatest Christmas Movie of All Time

Thinking about it, the premise behind the story is a bit disturbing. Young Kevin is left behind while his family go on holiday, forgetting him. Two desperate criminals then target the house and attempt a home invasion in order to carry out a robbery. Thankfully, Kevin is able to fight them off through a series of acts of extreme violence. Maybe they need to follow this one up with a film called Kevin the Serial Killer and Home Alone could work as the origin story? Hang on, could American Psycho be that film?

Context is everything when it comes to what a parent will allow their children to see, and the violence is so over the top (and so damn funny) that it takes on a cartoonish quality. Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern are great as the bumbling thieves, and they pitch their performance just right to make sure that everything remains good clean fun.

Best Christmas bit: Sneaking through the window next to the Christmas tree, one of the burglars discovers that Kevin has left him a Christmas surprise.

Watch Home Alone on Amazon

Scrooge (1951)

Scrooge (1951)

Why it qualifies: Charles Dickens’ classic has been adapted for film quite a few times, both directly and in the form of homage. The 1951 version starring Alastair Sim is probably the best known version. Everyone knows the story: Ebenezer Scrooge, a heartless businessman is the antithesis of Christmas spirit. Over the course of the story, he is visited by a series of ghosts that force him to be an observer of his own past, the present and a possible future.

The special effects are rather dated, as you would expect from a film made in 1951, but thankfully, it doesn’t rely too heavily on them. A good adaptation of this story depends on each of the sections being good. Apart from the wonderful Sim, the other stand-out in this version is George Cole (Arthur Daley in Minder), depicting Scrooge as a young man.

further reading: The Best and Worst Adaptations of A Christmas Carol

At this stage, it’s obvious that Scrooge could go either way, and it’s heartbreaking watching him drift into the soulless worship of money. His heart is further hardened when he loses his true love. Throughout his story, he reasons that what he is doing is okay, because everyone else is doing it too. In the older incarnation, he argues that he is to old to be saved. Humbug!

As it’s a fantastic tale, and thanks to it being out of copyright, there are a lot of different versions that have been made for the large small screen. 

Best Christmas bit: “Why, it’s Christmas Day, sir.”

Watch Scrooge on Amazon

Monty Python’s Life Of Brian

Why it qualifies: Graham Chapman gives it the full monty at one point, and it’s a film that offended many.

For a British comedy fan, this is perhaps the most quotable movie of all time. As well being a comedy masterpiece, it is a film that has been dogged by controversy. For anyone objective, it’s difficult to see why, as it doesn’t say anything bad about Jesus or Christianity. Some people turn “a little illogical” when when religious mania takes hold and that is what the Pythons were riffing on.

further reading: The Best Christmas Movies on Amazon Prime

John Cleese admitted that the previous feature film effort of the Pythons, Monty Python And The Holy Grail, had ended up feeling more like a series of sketches than a conventional film. That’s being too hard on it, but this one does hold up better in that regard. The film begins with the birth of Christ, and the setting, ancient Jeruselem, is one that most us of are familiar with through the customs and lore of Christmas. These familiar images sail past us as a backdrop for the irreverent craziness that you’d expect from a Monty Python movie. In terms of observations about religion, society, and politics, it’s spot on.

Best Christmas bit: You can’t get much more Christmassy than seeing Jesus Christ being born.

Trading Places

Why it qualifies: It’s funny and it exhibits a sneering attitude to Christmas.

As a 1983 film, this John Landis comedy might be a bit older that you think, and the exact period that it was made is all-important. Both of the leads, Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd, are alumni of that talent factory of American comedy, Saturday Night Live. At that point, Murphy had acquitted himself well on SNL and followed up with an acclaimed performance in 48 Hrs. Aykroyd had knocked about in a few films, and finally broken through in The Blues Brothers (also with Landis).

That’s why we say that the period that this was produced is crucial. The fact that both actors were desperate to prove themselves on film probably counts for a lot. Aykroyd is perfect as the snobbish, privileged Louis Winthorpe III, and Murphy is sublime as streetwise hussler Billy Ray Valentine. Four years later, after films like Ghostbusters and Beverly Hills Cop, Murphy and Aykroyd would have seemed like a dream team. Four years after that, renting one of their films was a gamble. It’s also one of Jamie Lee Curtis’s best roles, and it was her vehicle to break free from her typecasting as a virginal ‘scream queen’ in slasher films.

further reading: The Best Christmas Movies on Hulu

The Christmas setting of the film is used to good effect by emphasising the inherent contrasts of the season. That couldn’t be a more appropriate backdrop for this film as it’s about the gulf between the highest and the lowest on the social ladder. Christmas can can be a mixed experience, or it can be rock bottom. The latter is where we find Winthorpe by the middle of the film. Disgruntled, he attempts to carry out a crazy plan while dressed as Santa. Simultaneously, at a lavish Christmas party, Billy Ray realizes that his new friends just want to be around him because he’s a sudden success.

Best Christmas bit: Winthorpe as Santa.

Watch Trading Places on Amazon

Lethal Weapon

Why it qualifies: Christmas can be tough, particularly when you’re Martin Riggs.

Hard-bitten buddy cop movies don’t come much better than Lethal Weapon. The film balances serious themes with exciting action and humorous moments. Like most of the action movies of the ’80s that are remembered as classics, it’s a film with a lot of heart and emotion in amongst the violence and machismo.

Richard Donner kicks things off to the accompaniment of “Jingle Bell Rock,” with a nighttime helicopter ride over the glitz of LA skyscrapers. We’re soon confronted with the seedy underside of the story when a drugged up working girl takes a jump out of the top floor. For most of the audience, it’s funny seeing the California version of Christmas with no snow or cloudy days. Christmas is rock-bottom for an embittered, bereaved Vietnam vet like Riggs. It’s hardly a surprise that Riggs was traumatized by his Vietnam experiences, as he must have been about 12 when the war was going on. For his reluctant partner, Murtaugh, Christmas is the culmination of another year of close-knit family life.

further reading: Ranking the Lethal Weapon Movies

The film is redemptive. By the end, Murtaugh has decided that he’s still got what it takes to kick some ass. Riggs has killed all the bad guys and has a family to spend Christmas with. If there hadn’t been other films in the series, you’d still have been left feeling that this was his stepping off point to start building a new life for himself.

Best Christmas bit: Riggs showing how crazy he is while he infiltrates the drug dealers working out of a Christmas tree lot.

Watch Lethal Weapon on Amazon

Blackadder’s Christmas Carol

Why it qualifies: We get to see the wicked Mr. Blackadder at his snarky best.

Okay, technically, you could argue that this is a special of a TV show rather than a film per-se. Well, mainly because it is. But hey, it’s Christmas!

The main story, an homage to A Christmas Carol, serves as a framing device around segments that are a recreation of Blackadder II, Blackadder the Third, and a hypothetical Blackadder set in the far future. It’s badass because it reverses the moral of A Christmas Carol. Instead of being a selfish, mean-spirited character at the beginning of the story, this incarnation of Blackadder, Ebenezer Blackadder, starts off as a man of kindly renown. When a ghost, played by Robbie Coltrane, inadvertently reveals that the other Blackadders of the past and the future did a lot better by being mean and sneaky, that is the path that this new Blackadder decides to take in life. The results are hilarious. It holds up as an excellent Blackadder episode and a cheeky poke at Christmas values. For extra geek value, see if you can spot Nicola Bryant (Peri in Doctor Who) in a small, crazy role.

further reading: The Best Santa Slasher Movies

Best Christmas bit: Blackadder’s present for Baldrick.

Die Hard

Why it qualifies: Trapped in a hostile environment with a band of completely lethal nutjobs who hate him. It’s a fairly standard Christmas for most of us.

Bruce Willis was far from the first choice for lead in Die Hard, as he was, at that time, primarily known as a comedic actor. Funnily enough, because the film is based on a follow-up to an earlier novel that had been made into a film, Frank Sinatra was contractually guaranteed first refusal. Now, that would have been weird. Given a chance, Willis delivered one of the most iconic action hero performances in cinema history.

further reading: The Strange History of the Die Hard Movies

Willis does inject wise-cracking humor into the film wherever he can, and that’s part of what makes it a classic. To get an idea of what it might have been like with different casting and a more serious tone, compare it to other action thrillers like The Terminator or The Poseidon Adventure. That’s what we might have got if Arnie, Sly, or even Harrison Ford had taken the job when they were offered it.

A lot of the featured supporting roles are played with a light touch as well. Talk about value for money, William Atherton and Hart Bochner both turn up in unconnected roles as two of the greatest 80s-style sleazebag characters in cinema history. Alan Rickman is on extremely fine form as a baddie. Did he, we wonder, muse about the fate of his character in this film when delivering his famous “…and cancel Christmas!” line in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves?

So, how does Christmas come into play in this one? We learn, near the beginning of the film that McClane is travelling to LA attempt a reconciliation with his estranged family. Reunions complete with family confrontations are, after all, a typical part of Christmas. Even the geography hints of a Christmas subverted as LA is orange-skied and reasonably warm, unlike the snowy, chilly New York streets that McClane must have left behind. As well as being set at Christmas, it’s a surprisingly Christmas themed movie given the subject matter. A lot of the characters are introduced during the Christmas party at the beginning. Even Christmas wrapping tape comes in handy towards the end of the film. At all times, we’re left in no doubt that it’s Christmas.

Let’s just hope that McClane never has another Christmas like that one though, eh?

Best Christmas bit: “Now I have a machine gun. Ho ho ho.”