It’s December and that means that it’s the Christmas season and that can only mean an abundance of Christmas movies both at movie theaters and on television. This Christmas movie has even become a genre in a way that the Thanksgiving movie or the Bank Holiday movie never has.
I love the Christmas season because 1) it’s one of the few times that there’s half a chance of seeing snow in Texas, 2) it gives me an excuse to bond with family, and 3) I get lots of presents. And I enjoy Christmas movies so much that I can pretty much quote every line from It’s A Wonderful Life from memory. I’ve even been known to enjoy the holiday movie marathons that pop up on the Lifetime Movie Network (especially if they feature Jeff Fahey and his bluer than blue eyes). However, my favorite Christmas movie remains the original Miracle on 34th Street because Natalie Wood was one of my mom’s favorite actresses and Miracle was one of her favorite films.
However, in this post, I want to highlight 10 movies that have either been overlooked in the past or else films that, while properly acknowledged as classics, are rarely mentioned as being Christmas films.
1) In Bruges (2008) — Two Irish hitman (Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson, both wonderful) hide out in Belgium during the Christmas holiday. I love this film for so many reason but I have to specifically mention the performance of Ralph Fiennes, who plays an English crime boss with a foul mouth, a murderous personality, and a firmly held set of ethics.
2) Brazil (1985) — One reason why I love Terry Gilliam’s dark satire is because I actually have quite a bit in common with it. We’re both often misunderstood, we’re both pretty to look at, and we were both released in 1985. While Brazil is now often acknowledged as one of the best and most imaginative films of the last century, it’s often forgotten that all of this film’s action takes place over the Christmas season. If you’ve never seen Brazil, see it now. But be aware that you’ll never look at Michael Palin quite the same way again.
3) Three Days of The Condor (1975) — This espionage thriller (which stars a young, pre-Leatherface Robert Redford) skillfully contrasts cold-blooded violence with the bright outer happiness of the Christmas season.
4) Eyes Wide Shut (2000) — Stanley Kubrick’s final film is a tribute to MK-Ultra conspiracy theories and features rich people trying to be kinky during the Christmas season. Nicole Kidman does redheads proud with her performance here and we get to see Tom Cruise smoke pot.
5) P2 (2007) — Rachel Nichols is trapped in a parking garage on Christmas Eve by a very scary Wes Bentley. I have to admit that I’ve always had a morbid fear of either dying, getting seriously injured, or disappearing on Christmas Eve and therefore ruining the holiday for my family. I guess that’s why P2 resonated with me.
6) Silent Night, Bloody Night (1974) — No, this is not a killer Santa film. This is the film where a bunch of former Warhol superstars (Ondine and Candy Darling being the most prominent) play a bunch of mental patients who massacre their doctors in a disturbing, sepia-toned sequence. Years later, on Christmas, another former Warhol superstar — the wonderful Mary Woronov — comes to investigate. This is actually a fairly good film from director Theodore Gershuny.
7) Christmas Evil (1980) — Now this is a killer Santa film. Harry is a loser who works in a toy factory but he’s obsessed with Christmas because, when he was a child, he saw mommy humping Santa Claus. (Isn’t that a song?) So, one Christmas, Harry dresses up like Santa and goes around killing neglectful parents and others who don’t have the Christmas spirit. This is an oddly sweet film with an ending that brought very sincere tears to my eyes.
8 ) To All A Good Night (1980) — Okay, this is another killer Santa film and it’s one of those early ’80s slashers where everyone dies because they’re total and complete idiots but two things distinguish this film from other Killer Santa slasher films: 1) it features not one but two psycho Santas and the movie was directed by David Hess, star of Last House On The Left and The House On The Edge of the Park.
9) The Silent Partner (1978) — However, the greatest of all killer Santas is to be found in this Canadian crime thriller. Christopher Plummer plays a psycho bank robber who — disguised as Santa — robs a bank. Elliot Gould plays a lonely bank clerk who uses the robbery as an excuse to steal some cash for himself which leads to Plummer eventually coming after him. Plummer makes the scariest Saint Nick ever!
10) Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005) — This is pure grindhouse brilliance, a dark comedy and a metafictional satire disguised an action movie. Robert Downey, Jr. is a small-time criminal who accidentally becomes a film star and ends up investigating a murder with a hard-boiled PI (a surprisingly self-aware performance from Val Kilmer). And it all takes place during the holidays.