There are Christmas movies ( “Miracle on 34th Street,” “Home Alone,” 1951’s “Christmas Carol” or bust, don’t @ me) and then there are movies such as the following -- set at Christmas but not necessarily associated with the season. They are the new Christmas canon. Join us, won’t you?
The ultimate “This is kind of a Christmas movie, isn’t it?” movie. It’s set quite literally on Christmas Eve and stars Bruce Willis as John McClane, a tough New York cop just trying to hang out with his estranged wife in Los Angeles for the holidays. He ends up fighting a building full of terrorists. Points added for Alan Rickman a) being awesome as terrorist leader Hans Gruber and b) being so freaked out by the guns he had to shoot that his eyes close virtually every time he has to fire one.
The other ultimate “This is kind of a Christmas movie, right?” movie, seeing as how it opens with a nude prostitute falling out of a skyscraper window to the tune of “Jingle Bell Rock.” Also it was written by Shane Black, who has made a habit of setting his movies at Christmas. An action classic, the real Christmas miracle of this piece is everyone pretending that Mel Gibson doesn’t have an egregious Australian accent.
A group of Jewish and Catholic pals in their mid-20s hang out and talk in 1959 Baltimore. That is pretty much what “Diner” is about, but man alive, what an incredible film, so sure of itself and its tone that it’s easy to forget that it was Barry Levinson’s feature debut. In case you couldn’t remember it was set at Christmas, remember a very drunk Fenwick (Kevin Bacon) as Jesus in the manger scene.
Yes, it totally counts, seeing as how it is about a guy looking for a Christmas gift for his kid. Plus, Kate (Phoebe Cates) talks about how her dad died on Christmas Eve. And don’t forget the Christmas carol scene. Also, it’s still considered by many to be one of the most emblematic movies of the 1980s, what with it helping to influence the creation of the PG-13 rating.
All the Harry Potter movies.
With the exception of the final film, every one of these things has at least one scene that takes place at Christmas. Some have chosen the holiday season to chain-watch these movies with their families.
“On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”
The weirdest Bond film in a lot of ways -- the only one starring Aussie model/actor George Lazenby, the only one in which a Bond girl actually marries Bond, the longest one by far (until the 21st century when suddenly all tentpole action movies had to be 140 minutes long). It is also set partially at Christmas and features the really weird Hal David song “Do You Know How Christmas Trees Are Grown?”
“Less Than Zero”
And, finally, since we don’t have “Silent Night, Deadly Night” on here, behold: the most messed up Christmas movie on the list. Here is Bret Easton Ellis’ debut novel, famously written and published while he was an undergrad at Bennington, adapted EXTREMELY loosely into this movie directed by Marek Kanievska. The film is roughly 1/10th as disturbing as the book but still remains almost transgressive in its ability to provoke anxiety and depression in its viewers, mostly because of Robert Downey Jr., who really should have gotten an Oscar in the category of Best Actor Playing an Addict Who Is then Pimped Out By His Dealer.