The Ten Best Christmas Movies Ever*
Well, it's Christmas time once again. I love this season. While Halloween is a much more fun holiday to participate in, Christmas is a great time for pop culture. Let's face it, many of the year's best games and toys come out just in time for the holidays. And then there's the TV specials. Not a lot of shows have special Halloween episodes, but almost every worthwhile show has a Christmas episode. Hell, even He-Man had a fucking holiday special and I'll be damned if Skeletor didn't get caught up in the spirit of the season. And don't even get me started on Christmas Comes To Pac-Land, where Santa somehow crash lands in Pac-Man's world and the ghosts steal all his presents. Unfortunately, Christmas specials are somewhat disposable. Oh sure, you can see Charlie Brown and his shitty fucking tree every year, but when do you ever see A Family Circus Christmas or A Garfield Christmas Special on TV? Not often enough, that's for damn sure. And when they finally do show some old specials, you realize they kinda sucked. Well, except Garfield; his special kicked ass. And you absolutely SUCK if you don't like the cartoon version of How The Grinch Stole Christmas. Anything that has Tony the Tiger singing and Boris Karloff doing narration is well worth your time. But I digress. These days, I prefer a good holiday flick to some cheesy ass TV special. And so, I have compiled a list of the Ten Best Christmas Movies Ever. And no, It's A Wonderful Life isn't fucking on it. If you like to watch sissy bullshit like that, this list isn't for you. This list of Christmas movies is for people who like explosions, puppets, and Christopher Walken. Oh, and you have to like them in that specific order.
10. Jingle All The Way
OK, so Jingle All The Way isn't exactly a great movie and it probably doesn't deserve to be here. But I would be quite remiss if I didn't find a way to include an Arnold Schwarzenegger film on the list. And since The Running Man didn't take place on Christmas, my only choices were this and Jack Slater III. I came real fucking close to choosing Jack Slater III even though it's not *really* a movie, but ultimately I decided that Jingle All The Way was the better pick. It's a great holiday flick for several reasons:
1. Arnold battles a gang of corrupt Santas, including Jim Belushi, Verne Troyer, and Paul "The Big Show" Wight.
2. Jim Belushi gets the crap beaten out of him.
3. Booger from Revenge of the Nerds is in it.
4. Phil Hartman eats Arnold's cookies.
5. Bull from Night Court is in it.
6. This movie just might have killed Sinbad's career.
But the best reason to watch this movie is because of its heartwarming message. Jingle All The Way is the story of two workaholic fathers, Howie Langston (Arnold) and Myron Larabee (Sinbad), who don't pay much attention to their sons during the normal calendar year. But when you're a negligent dad, there's an easy way to win your son's affection: get him the year's hottest toy for Christmas. So the movie finds Arnold and Sinbad in an impossible quest to find a Turbo Man doll on Christmas Eve. After all sorts of fail attempts at procuring dolls, the men learn that Turbo Man himself will pick out one lucky kid to receive one of his action figures at the big Christmas parade. In a desperate move, Arnold steals the Turbo Man costume so that he can make sure his son gets the toy. Things are looking good for Arnold... But wait! Not to be outdone, Sinbad steals the costume of Turbo Man's archenemy, Dementor, and battles Arnold for possession of the doll. In the end, both men get what they want. Arnold impresses his son by defeating Dementor and they end up giving the doll to Sinbad. And that's how it ends. And so the moral of the story is this: You can ignore your children all year long. You can miss their dance recitals, soccer games, and karate tournaments. You can wait until the last possible minute to do your Christmas shopping. But as long as you get them fantastic gifts, you're in the clear. Because contrary to what you've heard from everyone else, Christmas isn't about love and kindness and Jesus. It's about asserting dominance over others by giving them expensive presents. There's your lesson, go enjoy it. Merry Fucking Christmas.
9. The Muppet Christmas Carol
If there's any story that has been retold way too many times, it's Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. There's a new fucking TV movie based on it every few years. If you missed the 1999 version with Patrick Stewart, maybe you caught the 2004 version with Kelsey Grammer. And if you missed them both, they'll be replaying every December for the next 50 years. And while it has been done literally hundreds of times, it's a classic story and some of the adaptations are absolute classics. Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol, for example, stands out as one of the better versions of the tale. Unfortunately, Mr. Magoo's version won't be making the list for two big reasons. First, it isn't a feature length film. Second, there's a Muppet version. I don't remember the exact scientific proof, but when you remake something with Muppets, it's going to fucking rock. The Muppet versions of Treasure Island and Jason Takes Manhattan are absolute pinnacles of excellence. The Muppet Christmas Carol is no exception to this rule. It's got everything you could possibly ask for: Michael Caine as Ebenezer Scrooge, Statler & Waldorf as Jacob & Robert Marley, plenty of songs, and way more jokes than are appropriate in a production of Dickens.
WARNING: Do not buy this movie on DVD. As good as it is, the DVD releases have butchered it. The 2002 DVD release is full screen and a crucial song entitled "When Love Is Gone" is missing from the movie. Why? Because the executives at Disney are fucktards, that's why. Fast forward to November 29, 2005. Hoping to cash in on Kermit's 50th birthday, Disney issued a new DVD entitled The Muppet Christmas Carol: Kermit's 50th Anniversary Edition. This version offers a commentary track by Brian Henson and has both widescreen and full screen versions of the movie. Unfortunately, "When Love Is Gone" only appears in the pan and scan version; it is cut in the widescreen version. It is both baffling and enraging that Disney could somehow manage to fuck up a special edition DVD. If you want to experience this movie as completely as you can, I recommend tracking down a bootleg DVD of the laserdisc version. It's widescreen and it has "When Love Is Gone", and apparently that's the best version we'll ever get.
8. Rambo: First Blood
Rambo: First Blood was filmed in small-town Canada in the winter of 1981, so maybe it's only a coincidence that Christmas decorations keep popping up in various scenes. No direct mention of the holiday is ever made, so it's possible. But it's difficult to believe that's the case. Only the most amateurish director would neglect to remove an unintentional Christmas tree from an on-location shooting site. As a veteran director, Ted Kotcheff certainly would have known better. Rambo is a phenomenal movie on its own, but the subtle Christmas aspect adds an almost parable-like aspect to it. First Blood is the story of John Rambo, a homeless war veteran who arrives in Washington state hoping to find the only one of his war buddies who didn't die in Vietnam. Instead, he learns that his friend died of cancer brought on by Agent Orange. Finding himself with nowhere to go, he wanders into the town of Hope with the intent of buying himself a meal at a diner. Instead, he encounters Will Teasle, a hateful sheriff who escorts him out of town for vagrancy. But Rambo is not willing to forfeit his dignity so easily; he turns right around walks back into town. Teasle arrests him and allows his men to further humiliate him in the town's jail. But Rambo is a highly skilled soldier, and he manages to escape. When a furious Teasle sends his men after Rambo, a series of escalations follow that end in the near-total destruction of Hope. While the movie specifically aims to show us the mistreatment of Vietnam veterans, there is a greater message here: treat others decently. Whether it stems from a strong sense of morality or a basic fear that the next vagrant you snicker at might have a hunting knife, it's the right thing to do.
7. Home Alone
Back in the 80s, there was a director named John Hughes. Between 1984 and 1987, John Hughes directed some of the greatest movies ever made. Then between 1988 and 1991, he directed some of the worst. Then he gave up directing entirely. Hughes hasn't helmed a movie since 1991, but he still writes screenplays. Unfortunately, most of them are absolute shit, such as Home Alone 3 and Maid in Manhattan. That's right, the same guy who wrote Ferris Bueller's Day Off somehow crapped out a shitty J-Lo movie too. I guess it's an unfortunate reality of life that all your heroes will eventually disappoint you. Oh well. John Hughes may suck now, but he did manage to write 1990's Home Alone before he became mired in awfulness. Home Alone is the classic story of Kevin McCallister, a young boy who is sick of being picked on by his brother Buzz and otherwise written off by the rest of his extended family. On the eve of the family's annual holiday vacation to Paris, Kevin wishes they would all just disappear. Through a series of a strange coincidences, Kevin accidentally gets left behind. When he awakes the next morning to find the house empty, Kevin is fucking psyched. But then, oh no! Kevin soon learns that being alone kinda sucks. Everyone on Kevin's street went away for Christmas except for Old Man Marley, his spooky neighbor. As he struggles with guilt over his belief that he somehow erased his relatives, Kevin also learns to fend for himself and bonds with Old Man Marley. But then, oh no! Armed robbers are burglarizing the entire street and Kevin's house is next. Can our young hero stop the voice-over guy from The Wonder Years and the bad guy from Moonwalker? Can John Candy's polka band get Kevin's mom home in time to spend Christmas morning with her son? Did I even mention the subplot where Kevin's family realizes he's been left behind and his mom takes the first available flight back to America? The answer to all of these questions is fuck yeah. Well except that last one. But now you know. When Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern invade Kevin's house, they discover that the little bastard has prepared all sorts of clever booby traps. This leads to some of the best physical comedy since The Three Stooges. In the end, the bad guys go to jail, Kevin's whole family makes it home for Christmas, Old Man Marley gets to see his granddaughter, and the movie grosses $533,800,000 and becomes the most successful comedy ever. And what of us, the viewers? We learned a valuable lesson about family and several creative ways to harm people. Christ be with you, John Hughes.
6. The Nightmare Before Christmas
Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas is an exceptional Christmas movie for three key reasons. First, it's a deliciously bizarre Christmas story with tons of great songs. Second, it's done entirely with stop-motion animation using handcrafted models and sets. It took forever to make and if shit like that doesn't impress you, you suck. And the final reason why this movie is far beyond awesome is because Tim Burton managed to do the impossible: he produced a holiday movie that even whiny little goth kids like. If you can't enjoy this movie, I hope you enjoy the back of my hand.
5. Die Hard
Christmas is supposed to be a magical time, but every now and then it sucks. Maybe you didn't get that one present that you really, really wanted. Maybe your grandmother took ill and couldn't make it. Maybe your cousin was being a total fucking bitch all day. But any time the holiday season starts to get you down, there's one thing you can tell yourself that's sure to cheer you up: you're not John McClane. So unless you've been stuck in a skyscraper with terrorists and your estranged wife on Christmas Eve and the only person you can trust is Carl from Family Matters, stop your friggin' whining. Things could be a lot worse and if you don't suck it up, Severus Snape and his gun-toting lackeys might just come for you. So seriously, unless you want to walk barefoot across broken glass, SHUT THE FUCK UP. Just cut your losses and try again next year; Christmas will be back. Unfortunately, Bruce Willis' hair will not. And isn't that the greater tragedy?
4. Batman Returns
"Mistletoe can be deadly if you eat it."
"But a kiss can be even deadlier if you mean it."
If you're ever stuck under the mistletoe with someone who can't finish that quote, punch her (or him) IN THE MOTHERFUCKING THROAT. The amazingly talented Tim Burton scores a second appearance on my list with Batman Returns, this time as a director. You know, there's not nearly enough Christmas movies with Christopher Walken in them. In fact, I think this might be the only one in has vast filmography. Here's hoping they remake A Christmas Story with him as the dad. But Batman Returns has so much more to offer us than just Christopher Walken. It has Michael Keaton back when he had a career. It has Michelle Pfeiffer back when she was considered the hottest woman in the world... and it has her in leather. It also has a dead beauty queen, kamikaze penguins, a giant rubber ducky, and a Pee-wee Herman cameo. Oh, and Vincent Schiavelli. This isn't so much a Christmas movie as it is a Batman movie that just happens to take place around Christmas, but that's not the point. The point is that it's a damn good movie and you're a total dick if you don't like it.
3. The Ref
There are dozens of Christmas comedies, but The Ref is easily my favorite one. The plot: Denis Leary is Gus, a cat burglar looking for one last big score. When he accidentally triggers an alarm during a Christmas Eve heist, Gus is forced to take a couple hostage so that he can hideout at their house. Unfortunately for Gus, he picks Lloyd and Caroline Chausseur (Kevin Spacey and Judy Davis), the most dysfunctional couple on the planet. As Gus plans his escape, he is forced to help Lloyd and Caroline host a Christmas Eve dinner. He develops a bizarre friendship of sorts with the Chausseurs and somehow helps them sort of their marital problems as well as their issues with their delinquent son, Lloyd's overbearing mother, and his obnoxious sister-in-law. If that sounds sappy, it's not. When I say that Denis Leary helps the Chausseurs what I mean is that he SCREAMS AT THEM AT THE TOP OF HIS FUCKING LUNGS until they drop their pretensions and finally start being honest with each other. This is classic Denis Leary all the way. In addition, you get to see Kevin Spacey before The Usual Suspects came out and everyone started sucking his dick and saying he was a great actor. Of course, he is a great actor and The Ref just reinforces that.
2. Lethal Weapon
Lethal Weapon is the absolute best buddy cop film ever made as well as one of the greatest action movies of all-time. It also happens to take place around Christmas. From the opening strains of "Jingle Bell Rock" and the hot naked chick plunging through the car to Riggs' daring cocaine bust at the Christmas tree lot to the final battle in front of Murtaugh's nicely decorated house, this movie is all about Christmas. Well, maybe not. But the action sequences are top-notch and Danny Glover and Mel Gibson have great chemistry as the straight-laced Roger Murtaugh and the seemingly psychotic Martin Riggs. In the end, the suicidal Riggs finds both redemption and friendship. And really, aren't those two things a big part of what Christmas is about?
Every Christmas present comes with some sort of warning or additional instructions. Usually it's something simple like BATTERIES NOT INCLUDED, MACHINE WASH ONLY, or POINT BOTTLE AWAY FROM SELF AND OTHERS TO AVOID SERIOUS EYE INJURY. When your Christmas present is a pet, the rules become more complex. Pets have all sorts of stupid rules. You have to feed them everyday. You have to housebreak break them. You have to cut off their genitals with a butter knife. And those are just the rules for your garden-variety cat or dog. Once you get into more exotic pets, the rules become even more trickier. For instance, consider the mogwai. Mogwai come with a set of three deceptively easy-to-follow rules:
1. Keep them out of the light. Mogwai hate bright light. Sunlight will kill them.
2. Don't get them wet.
3. No matter how much he cries or begs, NEVER feed a Mogwai after midnight.
Now, the worst case scenario when you fail to take care of a regular pet is that it dies. That's not really a big deal. As far back as I can remember, I've heard Bob Barker tell me that it's my civic duty to help control the pet population; cruelty and neglect are both great ways to do that. But if you break the rules of proper mogwai maintenance, things get fucked up. If you get them wet, they multiply. And if you feed them after midnight, they turn into violent, mischievous gremlins. And that's not good. Well actually, wait. Since the only confirmed casualty in Gremlins was a nasty old bitch who nobody liked, maybe the little guys aren't so bad. Gremlins takes my #1 spot for several reasons. First of all, it's a flawless holiday horror comedy that's fun for all ages. Secondly, it's a fun movie to show to your little cousin.... right after presenting her with a brand new Furby. And finally, when you finally decide to break the news to your kids that Santa Claus doesn't exist, you can just pop this movie in and let it work its magic. Phoebe Cates gives a speech about why she hates Christmas that is sure to make any decent Christian child cry for no less than five minutes and emotionally scar them for life. It goes something like this:
The worst thing that ever happened to me was on Christmas. God, it was so horrible. It was Christmas Eve, I was nine years old. Me and Mom were decorating the tree, waiting for Dad to come home from work. Couple hours went by, Dad wasn't home. Mom called the office, no answer. Christmas Day came and went, and still nothing. So the police began to search... Four or five days went by, neither one of us could eat or sleep. Everything was falling apart. It was snowing outside, the house was freezing, so I went to try to light up the fire and that's when I noticed the smell. The firemen came and broke through the chimney top and me and Mom were expecting them to pull out a dead cat or a bird, and instead they pulled out my father. He was dressed in a Santa Claus suit. He'd been climbing down the chimney on Christmas Eve, his arms loaded with presents. He was gonna surprise us. He slipped and broke his neck, died instantly. And that's how I found out that there was no Santa Claus.
Ok, so maybe Gremlins isn't filled with holiday cheer. However, it is filled with quality puppetry and I find that to be much more important anyway. If there's one thing you should take away from my list it's that a Christmas movie's ultimate goal shouldn't be to teach us something about Christmas; its ultimate goal should be to entertain us. If a movie isn't just as entertaining in July as it is December, it objectively fails as cinema. The holiday season seems to breed an ungodly number of half-assed films that no one cares about a month after their releases: Surviving Christmas, The Santa Clause 2, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation 2: Cousin Eddie's Island Adventure , and Christmas with the Kranks are all recent examples of this phenomenon. The movies I've picked may not all use Christmas as a focal point, but they're all highly watchable movies.
I'd like to end this by answering the question that you're probably yourself right now: why the fuck isn't A Christmas Story on this list instead of Jingle All The Way? It's because while watching Arnold punching reindeer still has a kitschy appeal to me, I have long since tired of A Christmas Story. Maybe I'm just more cynical than I used to be, but watching the world's most unphotogenic boy try to obtain a firearm in 1940s Indiana just doesn't appeal to me the way it used to. The baby boomers forcefed this movie to my generation because it appealed to them. It was the story of a simpler time when corporal punishment was mainstream, radio shows still existed, a BB gun was considered a cool toy, and dropping the F-bomb was the worst possible thing a kid could do. Well, the world wasn't like that when I grew up and I don't know how I sat through this movie as many times as I did. When I wanted a Nintendo Entertainment System more than anything, "You'll put your eye out!" wasn't a valid excuse not to get me one. But my dad still thought he was fucking hilarious every time he said it. If you weren't alive for the JFK assassination, you don't actually like A Christmas Story; you've simply been brainwashed into thinking you do. Well, I have some great news: the baby boomers got old. The tables have turned, the people who were once our parents and teachers no longer outmatch us in height and strength. We don't have to pretend that Chinese waiters singing "Fa Ra Ra Ra Ra" is funny anymore. We are free. We never again have to see that stupid little Ralphie prick again if we don't want to. And that's the best Christmas present of all.
*Because I fucking said so.
Posted by: Syd Lexia