Well another year another Christmas and if you’re still with us congratulation’s you have survived another Christmas season. For some, Christmas is a time of cheer, for family and tradition. For others, Christmas is a nightmare as we see the worst brought out in people. I’m definitely in the latter category as I’ve spent many Christmases working in the retail industry where I’ve witnessed the true nature of Christmas time. People lose their god damn minds and rush around en masse like a horde of infected from 28 Days Later hell-bent on getting their Christmas shopping done in the most violent way possible. It really shows how powerful the consumer machine is with people buying everything in bulk for one day of the year. Seriously, shops are closed for one day!! There’s no need for slabs of beer and soft drinks like your stocking up for the end of days
While I recognize that I have a fairly cynical view of the holiday, there is one thing I look forward to and that’s the Christmas films. For me, Christmas should be about the family or friends sitting down together and enjoying a good film. Now there are plenty of Christmas films and many of them are a heaping pile of reindeer shite, but there are also some true gems which I’ll find myself watching every year. While I’ll admit some of the films of my childhood such as The Santa Clause and It’s a Wonderful Life have degraded over the years due to my increasing cynicism and displeasure with Christmas, the following list still have a special place in my heart.
Jingle all the Way (1996)
This film seems to become more relevant the older you get and makes you appreciate the lengths your parents will go to make your Christmas special. This whole film depicts everything that’s wrong with the consumer nature of Christmas and how human decency degrades. Arnie’s character is a workaholic and lets his son down numerous times by getting too caught up in his work, but fuck that, the size of the house they live shows that he’s a good provider. So to get back in his son’s good graces he has to get him the coolest new toy. Why?…because every other kid is getting it and if he doesn’t he’ll be seen as a loser.
My god do I hate this mindset, that in order for our kids to avoid being an outcast we must provide them with whatever new hot shit toy the toys stores are pushing ( I’d like to apologize to my parents for the money they forked out on Pokemon cards). It’s through Arnie’s character that we see the degradation of a good man and the lengths he’ll go to provide the perfect Christmas for his son.
The Nightmare before Christmas (1993)
Even I know I’m cheating a bit with this one as I regard it more as a Halloween film but Christmas features so strongly I have to include it. Tim Burton creates a unique world where each festive holiday is represented by a town of denizens such as Halloween Town and Christmas Town. Jack Skellington, the leader of Halloween Town has become bored with his holiday and discovers Christmas Town. Overcome with emotions he can’t explain and a sense of adventure he invades Christmas to give his own well-meaning but twisted take on the holiday.
It’s a typical Burton film with a good-hearted but misunderstood protagonist, a quirky world but is elevated by Danny Elfman’s whimsical score and beautiful stop-motion animation. It’s hilarious watching Skellington understand the surface level ideas of Christmas but missing the mark completely.
Home Alone (1990)
Probably the least edgy and cynical entry on this list, Home Alone is a Christmas staple for every household. Kevin McAllistairs battle against two hapless intruders paved the way for the home invasion horror/Christmas genre. Less a film about the day itself but more the importance of family even when we want to strangle each other, Home Alone finds some genuinely poignant moments amid the violence.
Home Alone also makes for a fantastic slapstick comedy with Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern channeling their inner Laurel and Hardy. The scene where Marv crowbars Harry in the chest while trying to hit a tarantula belongs in cinematic history.
Gremlins has one of the most cheerful and Christmasy opening acts of any festive film out there. Kingston Falls is glistening white with snow, the citizens wish each other a happy Christmas as they put up their trees, The Peltzer put up their own decorations and matriarch Randall is on the hunt for the perfect Christmas gift for his son Billy. After acquiring a strange but adorable creature called a Mogwai behind an ancient Chinese shopkeeper’s back, Randall is given a strict set of rules which must be abided by. Naturally, rules are meant to be broken and what follows is one of the scariest/funniest escalations ever seen in a Christmas movie.
Joe Dantes puppet work is legendary and Gremlins may be his magnum opus. It’s a creature feature like no other and is a barrel of laughs. No Christmas would be complete without seeing a Gremlin exploded in a microwave.
Die Hard (1988)
I hate to sound contrarian but Die Hard is my favourite aspect of Christmas. Every year I stick on Die Hard, kick my feet up and crack a few cans. Sure its themes have fuck all to do with the holiday but being that it’s set during Christmas, there’s a work Christmas party, and the line “Now I have a machine gun Ho Ho Ho” is enough to justify it’s the title of best Christmas film ever. John McClane’s resourceful everyday man is a true Christmas hero as he puts himself through hell and back to ruin Hans Gruber’s (the Grinch) plans and save Christmas for the staff of the Nakatomi Plaza.
Make sure to check out Tiffany’s Top 5 Christmas Movies