Christmas is alright. You get presents, eat lots of questionable food and drink lots of questionable drinks. You have to spend time with questionable family members where the default conversation setting is “please stop that bitching about not getting a Game Boy fifteen years ago Jay or I’m going to jam this spoon in your eye”. What is beyond debate of course, is how great Christmas films are. I’m also not just talking about shite like Jack Frost here, I mean films that encapsulate the holiday spirit, or remind me of Christmas personally. Some of these may be left field but bear with me; I’ll try to explain what I mean. Besides, fuck off anyway it’s Christmas, I’ll put whatever I want in the list. This is my yuletide gift to you, so be grateful and stop moaning.
10) Rush Hour (1998)
This is going to get very tedious for you very quickly if you don’t just relax and not be too pedantic about all this. I know this film is about as festive as syphilis, but I always seem to watch one of the Rush Hour films on Christmas Eve. At any other time of the year, they instantly make me think of laying in bed with a novelty sized bottle of beer and some combo of nuts/crisps (honey cashews and Cool Doritos my personal favourite), watching Chris Tucker freak out and being mildly racist. It’s as solid as a buddy cop comedy can be, in that throwaway unimportant Friday night popcorn flick kind of way.
9) The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Probably the only musical I like, plus it combines Christmas and Halloween. Tim Burton gets all of the praise, but as he showed with Coraline, Henry Selick brings the dark magic which makes Nightmare a unique little curiosity. The humour derived through the clash of cultures is very inventive and marries perfectly with the child friendly but still quite gruesome stop motion animation.
8) Scrooged (1988)
Bill Murray is my kind of guy. I fully intend to write an article about him in 2013. Scrooged isn’t his finest film, and I could have easily put Groundhog Day here for the festive messages it conveys, but Scrooged is an actual Christmas film and I feel like I’m about to sail too close to the wind with a few of these later entries.
7) Heat (1995)
Last Christmas Eve I couldn’t sleep, to the point that I was seriously considering starting Christmas six hours earlier than planned (a logistical nightmare for Father Christmas). Instead I put on the peerless crime classic, Heat and sat captivated for the full 170 minute running time. It possibly creeps into my all time top 10, but that’s for another day. When it finished it was way past four, but it didn’t matter, I was contented (cinematically at least) and woke refreshed and happy and ready to partake in the multitude of Pagan traditions we call Christmas Day.
6) Elf (2003)
Will Ferrell, David Berenbaum and Jon Favreau got it bang on with Elf. Christmas films can be stupid, and some of the ideas based around Buddy’s way of life are fantastic, and Ferrell is an absolute joy to watch as he rampages around New York (the most festive city in the world). Plus my mum absolutely hates this film, so I watch it as often as possible to watch her as she slowly develops an aneurysm. Elf is probably the last good ‘true’ Christmas film that I can remember, and that’s the standard that I expect from any future festive films.
5) Wall-E (2008)
Wall-E is the best Pixar film, and the bravest in terms of film making (the silent first act is breathtaking). Christmas in recent years have allowed Pixar films to rightly become a holiday fixture, and the balance between humour, emotion and action is second to none here. Quite frankly, it’s a mesmeric film that champions the cause of animation as a legitimate art form, for adults and children alike. A true family favourite.
4) Gremlins (1984)
Gremlins, much like this article, loosely uses Christmas as a framework in which to tell the story of a town overrun by grotesque little shits, and the havoc they cause. Kids and man-children alike eat this kind of shit up (don’t lie and say you don’t want a pet Mogwai). Christmas films are at their best when they are chaotic and anarchic, and Gremlins knows this. Plus you have the added bonus of a postmodern sequel in which no other than Hulk Hogan (played by Hulk Hogan) breaks the fourth wall whilst watching the film to kick off at the Gremlins. I dare you to come up with a better idea than that.
3) Home Alone II: Lost in New York (1992)
Home Alone II pretty much kept to the same formula as the first film, but swapped the innovative pranks for straight up physical violence and assualt. This time, Kevin gets on the wrong plane and ends up in Noo Yoik. For the simplicity of the violence alone (at one point, Kevin just launches bags of tools from the roof at The Wet/Sticky Bandits), I love it. It may not have the ingenuity of its predecessor, but it’s one of the few sequels to re-hash the first film and not only get away with it, but be actively praised for it. Parental neglect and child abuse has never been this much fun!
2) Die Hard (1988)
This has been the hardest decision to make, and Die Hard was originally my number one up until very recently. I try to watch it on Christmas morning, following Heat last year for a barnstorming double bill. Once again, Christmas is used to frame the action very loosely, as grumpy ol’ John McClane has to endure the worst office Christmas shindig, which has been overrun by smartly dressed Euro-terrorists.The action is played hard and fast, and peppered with snarky one-liners. It’s a film for men and makes no apologies for this, but it does still have Christmas at the heart of it. After all, John McClane is pretty much The Grinch/Scrooge with a machine gun, but he doesn’t have time to learn any life lessons, as he’s the one handing them out, namely: Don’t fuck with John McClane.
1) Home Alone (1990)
So I saw Home Alone when it was on the TV recently and knew it had to pip Die Hard to the top spot. First of all, it is basically the same film, with more inept bad guys and a child protagonist. Little Kevin and John are both in the wrong place at the wrong time, and have pretty messed up family situations (Also McClane and McCallister, I mean, come on). The comparisons go on and on. The reason I really love Home Alone, beyond the violence and humour, is the performance from little Macaulay Culkin. Fuck me, that boy could act. Never have I seen somebody so young be so in control of their craft. Such a shame how things panned out for him. But anyway, his performance in both Home Alone films combined charm, wit, vulnerability with a stoic moral code, which are essential traits of all good Christmas heroes. He pretty much out acted every other actor on this list, when he was TEN YEARS OLD! The film is also the best the late great John Hughes was involved in, which is pretty much the highest accolade you can give out in my eyes. The perfect Christmas film.
Honourable Mentions: Rare Exports, Muppets Christmas Carol, Silent Night Deadly Night II, Children of Men, Grave of the Fireflies, Wallace and Gromit: The Wrong Trousers.
So there you have it. What did you think of that then? Anything I missed? Am I talking out of my arse? Let us know your top ten in the comments and enjoy the most wonderful time of the year.