December 14th, 2010 in Entertainment, Feature, Fun Stuff
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Scrooges get a bad rap. It's not that they don't like Christmas; it's that they don't enjoy the cheesy, fake sentimentality that seems to come with it, a sentimentality that's nowhere stronger than it is in the Christmas movies that pop up every year. But if you usually hate Christmas movies — or even if you just don't like them that much — you should check out the ones below. They're holiday-themed and far more entertaining than the usual fare, and if they're sentimental in places, they come by it honestly. Next time your friends and family want to watch some seasonal flicks, slip these into the pile.
- Die Hard: The film's 22 years old and as great as the day it came out. John McTiernan was in the middle of an impressive Hollywood action run that would include Predator and The Hunt for Red October when he directed this action classic in which Bruce Willis's John McClane has to stop a building full of German terrorists on Christmas Eve. Awesome action, great effects, and a pretty brilliant use of the recurring "Ode to Joy" make the movie not only one of the best action flicks of all time but one of the most fun Christmas films ever made. Impossible not to love.
- Bad Santa: Finding Christmas movies off the beaten path usually means going dark, as you'll see the further down the list we get. The 2003 dark comedy Bad Santa is probably the most mainstream film to ever depict a Santa Claus character (Billy Bob Thornton) having acrobatic and uncompromising sex with women in cars and changing rooms, and he's so rough around the edges that the film's heist plot feels light by comparison. The ending is nice without being too cloying, making it a nice antidote to other films.
- Elf: Probably the sweetest movie on the list, Elf works thanks to the charms of Will Ferrell, who can play goofy and guileless like no one else. It's the freshest of the recent crop of holiday films for its refusal to follow convention, and it's funny every time you watch it.
- Scrooged: A whole lot darker than you might remember, Scrooged is a fantastic modern take on A Christmas Carol that really runs with the concepts of ghosts, loneliness, and what it means to be haunted by your past. Bill Murray's sarcasm is perfectly suited to the role of a man reluctant to see the error of his ways, and he plays the redemption nicely, too.
- Batman Returns: Tim Burton's Batman Returns is a whole lot darker than its predecessor, with a plot that's part crime caper and part social satire about the blurry line between criminals and politicians. The Christmas holidays play a major role in the story's setting and tone. A perfect pick to cleanse your palette after the nieces and nephews watch Shrek the Halls for the thousandth time.
- Black Christmas: Nothing says holiday spirit like slasher flicks, right? The 1974 film was one of the first slashers ever made, and it remains a cult favorite thanks to its creepy ending and brutal series of killings. Plus the cast includes Margot Kidder, Olivia Hussey, and Keir Dullea, which could be one of the weirdest trios ever assembled. In a weird twist of fate, this film's director, Bob Clark, would later go on to helm 1983's A Christmas Story. Impress your friends.
- The Nightmare Before Christmas: Here's another one from Tim Burton, though he only produced this time; the film was actually directed by Henry Selick, who would later direct Coraline. The stop-motion tale about Halloween and Christmas straddles the vibe of the holidays, mixing creepy humor and set pieces with something like genuine warmth and happiness. It's a musical, comedy, and twisted drama all in one.
- Kiss Kiss Bang Bang: Writer-director Shane Black also penned Lethal Weapon, so he's used to setting complicated crime stories in the holiday season, but Kiss Kiss Bang Bang has a speed and wit that Richard Donner's older action film lacks. This one stars Robert Downey, Jr. and Val Kilmer as (respectively) a struggling actor and a private investigator who team up to solve a kidnapping and a murder. Gets a little weak in the third act, but overall it's great.
- Silent Night, Deadly Night: This 1984 horror film spawned four sequels, but (shockingly) you can just stick with the original. The ridiculous plot revolves around a young boy who sees his family murdered by a psycho in a Santa suit and who then grows up to become a killer himself when Santa, Catholic retribution, and his childhood trauma all get mixed up in his head. A total splatterfest.
- The Ref: The Ref is about as dark as they come. Denis Leary stars as a criminal who kidnaps a married couple (Kevin Spacey and Judy Davis) as a way to escape the cops, only to wind up playing referee as they constantly fight. Pitch-black but still funny, it's a go-to for anyone who's tired of standard holiday fare.