Too much tertiary education... Former performer/wrestler, teacher, scientist; Published author & Father... Want to be a writer if I grow up...
Published December 2nd 2020
Because Christmas can be about anything
I have mentioned in previous years how Christmas is not my favourite time of the year. I find the crass commercialism very off-putting, plus it is my birthday which we all want to forget. Having said that, there have been some Christmas songs and albums I have liked, and Eric Clapton released a good Christmas album. But Christmas is still Christmas to me.
Last year, I looked at versions of A Christmas Carol, and that got me thinking about other Christmas movies I have enjoyed. Of course, the greatest Christmas movie of all time is Die Hard (I will enter no arguments with that), and that has been written about to death; I think I have even read columns on that film here at Weekend Notes dating back to 2012. So I will not look at any one Christmas film, but a heap of Christmas films!
Christmas films? Films set at Christmas, at least in major part? That's better. These are not films about Santa, the birth of Jesus or any of the normal Christmas tropes – these are just films set at Christmas.
So, I give you 8 Non-Christmas Christmas Films!
The Lion In Winter (1968)
Directed by Anthony Harvey Starring Peter O'Toole, Katharine Hepburn, Anthony Hopkins, Nigel Terry & Timothy Dalton A historical drama, focusing on King Henry II of England, and his family gathering for a Christmas celebration (the Christmas Court), where Henry plans to announce his heir. Filled with intrigue, personal vendettas, arguments, lying and lots of subtle undercurrents of darker things. So… like many Christmas dinners around the Western world nowadays. Still, a well-acted film and really well written (based on a play by James Goldwin).
Trading Places (1983)
Directed by John Landis
Starring Eddie Murphy, Dan Aykroyd, Jamie Lee Curtis, Ralph Bellamy & Don Ameche A great comedy, and one of Eddie Murphy's best outings. A bet between two old men results in Aykroyd losing everything and Murphy gaining it all, with Jamie Lee Curtis the love interest for Aykroyd. This film goes at a million miles an hour and I learnt more about the stock market from this film than any news report ever. The ending on the train is weird, but the whole movie is so amazing. Such a great film.
Directed by Joe Dante
Starring Zach Galligan & Phoebe Cates
The original mogwai was a Christmas present… and then it goes all out of control after that. I saw this film at the cinema when it first came out with a group of mates, and it was all we could talk about for a week afterwards. For a beloved family film, it is really violent and death-filled. The gremlins are such great creations as well. And the sequel is vastly under-rated, as a pointed critique of commercialism (but not Christmas-y).
Lethal Weapon (1987)
Directed by Richard Donner
Starring Mel Gibson & Danny Glover
The ultimate in the buddy cop genre of films, this is set at Christmas, and the whole "Christmas is for families" thing actually plays a part in the story! So, this is probably the most Christmas-y of the films here. But the film, teaming Gibson's probably close to insane Riggs with Glover's "I'm too old for this…" close to retirement Murtaugh is a dynamic that very few films or team-ups since have managed to match.
Die Hard (1988)
Directed by John McTiernan
Starring Bruce Willis & Alan Rickman
The greatest Christmas film ever. Don't @ me. Bruce plays John McClane, dragged by his wife to a work party where he has to stop international terrorists from killing everyone. Like, who hasn't been there? One of the most 80s of 80s action films, this has everything from over-the-top action to quotable one-liners, and in Alan Rockman's Hans Grüber, one of the best villains in film history. Such an excellent film.
And, for what it's worth, Die Hard 2 – Die Harder is also a Christmas film and is also brilliant.
Fun fact: The kid who tried to rob Ray Charles in The Blues Brothers played Argyle, the limo driver, in this film!
Home Alone (1990)
Directed by Chris Columbus
Starring Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci & Daniel Stern
Culkin is left at home by himself at Christmas and uses ingenuity and what appears to be a knowledge of the Looney Tunes cartoon characters to fight off two would-be burglars. I was 20 when this came out and it did nothing for me, but seeing it again as a father and having my kids laughing made me realise that this is, really, a good movie. And I did laugh at the film as well. It was written by John Hughes. just for a fun factoid.
Batman Returns (1992)
Directed by Tim Burton
Starring Michael Keaton, Danny DeVito, Michelle Pfeiffer & Christopher Walken
The second of the great Burton Batman movies is not quite as good as the first, but it does have Michelle Pfeiffer with a whip, so that is a huge plus. It is still a really good film, Keaton is a magnificent Batman and DeVito's Penguin is incredible. But the timing is Christmas, and Walken's over-arching villain is Walken at his finest. Under-rated movie.
L.A. Confidential (1997)
Directed by Curtis Hanson
Starring Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce & Kevin Spacey
Starting with the 'Black Christmas' incident in the police station, and then covering a reasonable bit of time, it might not seem like a Christmas film, but that opening really sets the tone, because if it hadn't happened at Christmas, would it have been as bad? This is the film that introduced US audiences to Crowe and Pearce, and neither have looked back. In Australia, of course, we know them as soapie stars, but… whatever. Another film I saw on the big screen; well worth it.
So, for your holiday enjoyment, any of these 8 Christmas-ish films could serve as a fun way to spend an afternoon or evening. Christmas without the frills!