Tag Archives: Christmas Movies

My 12 Movies Of Christmas… And When I Watch Them

I have a tradition every year where I watch my choice of Christmas flicks in the 12 day run up to Christmas Day. Now I don’t only watch these 12, I sit through other films in the festive build up, but it is these 12 in particular I always watch on these specific days. It’s not as obvious a list as others as some of my choices have nothing to do with the annual celebrations that are Noël. Now I do have some undisputed Christmas classics here, yet some just are completely unrelated.

Okay, so before I get into this one, I just need to clarify something, why a few of these films have nothing to do with Christmas. Not set at Christmas, no Yuletide characters, not even a slight whiff of a mention of the festive period or any kind of Christmasy message at all. But there is a reason for this, I covered it in my Die Hard/Christmas article last year, but I’ll just quickly recap here to explain…

So back in the 80s here in the UK, we only had 4 TV channels and 2 of them (BBC 2 and Channel 4) tended to concentrate on alternative, indie, ‘outside of the box’ type shows and films. This left the other 2 (BBC 1 and ITV) which were more mainstream and would, over the Christmas period, always fight for viewers by securing big, popular films for the holidays, often TV premieres. Meaning that I got to see a lot of flicks over Christmas as a kid. So even though some had absolutely nothing to do with Christmas, they still take me back to my childhood and remind me of those family gatherings over the festive period and (to me) are very much Christmas movies despite having zilch to do with Xmas at all. So with that out of the way, on with my list.

December 14th

So you know my explanation of how some of the films in my list are not connected to Christmas? Well the first is very much one of those.

Rocky III#

Yeah Rocky III is a Christmas film for me. See, this one takes me back to Christmas of 85 or 86. It was one of those big TV movie premieres I mentioned. We had Nan and Granddad staying with us for Christmas and after dinner, after playing with my new toys but before bedtime. 9 or 10 year old me sat on the sofa with my Nan and we watched Rocky III for the first time. I like to watch this one as my festive movie marathon begins just to spark off that Christmas childhood memory once more and remember by much missed Nan.

December 15th

Well at least this one is set at Christmas. Okay it involves parents abandoning their deformed child, a dead woman brought back to life by cats, a corrupt business man and other man who dresses up as a bat… but it’s set at Christmas.

Batman Returns

Batman Returns is the sequel to the awesome 1989 Batman flick. It’s dark, brooding, moody and very Gothic. Not as good as the first film, but it’s Christmas setting is mainly why it makes this list. I love the juxtaposition of director Tim Burton’s dark vision against the film’s happy setting. Seeing those wonderful sets and buildings that offer a very
foreboding atmosphere decorated with bright and colourful Christmas decorations is beautiful and always gets me in the festive mood.

December 16th

Follow the yellow brick road.

1939, THE WIZARD OF OZ
I have to confess, I really do not like The Wizard of Oz. I don’t like the music, I don’t like the characters, I don’t like the story. So why is it on this list? Because this is another one of those films from my childhood that always seem to be on TV over Christmas when I was growing up. This one takes me back to memories of those family gatherings as we all sat there watching The Wizard of Oz, it just became tradition year after year. I don’t like the film, but I love the memories it brings back.

December 17th

It’s another one of those nothing to do with Christmas films from my childhood. It’s time to go back in time…

Back to the Future
This film was actually released here in the UK in December, 1985, so at least I can say that Back to the Future is Christmasy-ish. But I first saw it on TV years later (and after I watched the sequel in the cinema in 1989) over the Christmas period. There’s not much I can say about this time travelling classic that has not already been said before. A glorious melding of comedy, sci-fi, and awesome music too. One of my all time favourite films that I still love to revisit every year for Christmas.

December 18th

Okay, so nothing but actual Christmas films from this point onward. My all time favourite Christmas story is the Charles Dickens penned A Christmas Carol. I even like to read the original story over the festive period if I get the chance. But when it comes to film adaptions, there are dozens and dozens to choose from.

Scrooge

Scrooge (A Christmas Carol in the US) starring Alastair Sim from 1951 is my pick here. A great and very British re-telling of the tale with a lot of charm and personality. This version also adds a lot more meat to the bones over the source material and none of it feels out of place either. It’s just brilliantly told version of the classic story. The first, but not only version of A Christmas Carol on my list…

December 19th

What’s Christmas without a little fun and merriment? Quite possibly the funniest Christmas film ever about the worst family Christmas ever.

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is third film in the Vacation franchise starring Chevy Chase as Clark, the head of the long suffering Griswold family. A nice family Christmas soon turns into chaos as guest and family members turn the festive gathering into a disaster. This is crude with toilet humour and slapstick… and I love it. A stupid film for a stupid season that packs a lot of heart warming Christmasy felling into it. Just don’t watch the sequel…

December 20th

Cuteness, monsters and quite possibly the most disturbing story of how a little girl learned there was not Santa.

Gremlins

Monster movies and Christmas is a cocktail that just should not work. But Gremlins gets the mix just right and serves up a tasty concoction. A scary “family film” that is at times a little to intense for kids but great fun for adults. I remember the first time I saw Gremlins, I was about 12 years old and a neighbour rented it out on VHS and asked me over to watch.  It was all I could talk about at school for the following few weeks, I loved it as a kid and even more so as an adult. That story Kate tells of how she found out Santa wasn’t real… that’s dark man.

December 21st

So I may be cheating a bit here as this isn’t really a film. It’s a TV show, but a feature length episode of a TV show… but it is Christmas.

Black Mirror White Christmas

Black Mirror is an anthology show where technology takes centre stage and shows the (mostly) dark and disturbing way it can be abused. Black Mirror: White Christmas is the festive special and it’s just as bleak as it’s standard episodes. This one is actually an anthology within an anthology as this episode features four interconnecting stories about 2 men stuck in a small house over Christmas and just how they are connected is slowly revealed. This is very, very downbeat and depressing and I think it’s brilliant.

December 22nd

It’s back, that darned Dickens descriptive. Told you I love this yarn and here’s another adaption I always watch over Christmas.

Scrooged.jpg

Directed by Richard Donner and starring Bill Murray. Scrooged is a much more comedic and contemporary take on the classic tale. Bill’s take on the Scrooge character (Frank Cross in this version) is sarcastic, bitter and still not without charm. Behind the scenes stories tell that Richard Donner and Bill Murray never got on and how the plot kept changing. Apparently Bill hated working on this film… and yet it and he are still brilliant to watch. 

December 23rd

Who’d have thought that a film about a man wanting to commit suicide would make for an all time Christmas classic film?

It's a Wonderful Life.jpg

I love Jimmy Stewart, he’s one of my all time favourite actors ever. His good looks, charm and that voice all add up to one of the most charming and charismatic people ever seen on film. It’s a Wonderful Life is a wonderful flick. Despite the fact this film has very, very little to do with Christmas, it’s still an undisputed Christmas classic and one I watch year after year after year.

Christmas Eve

There is really only one film you can watch on Christmas Eve. The greatest Christmas Eve film ever made.

Die Hard.jpg

Watching Die Hard the night before Christmas has become a decades long tradition for me now going back to Christmas of 1989 when my older brother first came home with a copy of Die Hard on VHS to watch. I must have been around 13 years old at the time and loved the film. This year will mark the 30th year running I’ve watched Die Hard on the night before Christmas and I hope to continue it for at least another 30.

Christmas Day

So it’s the main event and I’ve already included some surefire (and no so) Christmas classics. But for the grand finale, I’ve got to pull out the big guns and those lovable marionette/puppets.

The Muppet Christmas Carol

I grew up watching The Muppet Show on TV and even now as a 43 year old… I have a major soft spot for them. So when they made their version my all time favourite Christmas story, it was lighting in a bottle. I have already said how much I adore A Christmas Carol as a piece of storytelling and no matter how many times it is told and re-told year after year in it’s many different versions, I can just not get bored of it. The Muppet Christmas Carol is the best of the lot. That melding of music, humour, heart and of course, Muppets is genius. Michael Caine as Ebenezer Scrooge is the most perfect casting and the way he plays off his fuzzy co-stars and they off him is flawless. The greatest Christmas film ever made.


 

I’m a little bit late with this list as it’s now the 15th as I publish this and not the 14th when my Christmas movie watching begins. The delay is due to the fact I was in hospital on the 14th as my son was born. Yup, I became a Daddy… best Christmas present ever!

Merry Christmas

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m a little behind with my list and have to go watch Rocky III and Batman Returns tonight. Have a good Christmas and New Year folks, see you in 2020… unless something big happens I feel I need to express an opinion on.

Not Your Usual, “Is Die Hard A Christmas Movie?” Article

Yup its that time of year again. The annual celebration we like to call Christmas is back and I bet that if you typed “is Die Hard a Christmas movie” into Google (or your choice of interwebs search engine), you’ll find dozens of articles all asking that particular question and all with differing answers. Most sites keep regurgitating the exact same article from the previous years too just with a few wording tweaks and many offer “a new poll” which, as I’ve noticed seems to switch results every year. Last year a poll said yes Die Hard is a Christmas film but this year it’s a no. It’ll be a yes again next year.

I have been writing this blog for a few years now and never bothered to offer my own insight and answer to this age old query, until now. Except I don’t want to do what everyone else does with a simple yes or no – I want to not only answer but also explain my answer.

This summer saw the 30th anniversary since Die Hard was released and I’ve been doing Die Hard based articles all year in celebration. So it only seems fitting to tackle this sticky subject as part of and to end my 30th anniversary celebrations. But before I get to my opinion and answer to the query, lets see what some people connected to the movie say…

Are They Right?

Die Hard screenwriter Steven E. de Souza already put his view across a while back and he says it is. However Bruce Willis has said its not when he was quoted during his comedy roast by saying:

“Die Hard is not a Christmas movie. It’s a god damn Bruce Willis movie!”

– Bruce Willis

Bearing in mind, that was (as mentioned) during a comedy roast. So I’m guessing Bruce was trying to be funny. Plus there is the fact he’s getting old and senile too – I mean back in 2007 he said that Live Free or Die Hard is better (at times) than the original.

“It’s at least as good if not better at times that the first film.”

– Bruce Willis

As I said, senile. So what Bruce says about the original being a Christmas movie or not is moot… seriously it’s as good as if not better than the original? Bruce needs to be put down – it would be kinder.

Now I Have A Machinegun

I suppose that is really the crux of my point, it’s opinion. When it comes to this question everyone falls into one of three categories.

  1. You have the naysayers, the ones that refuse to see Die Hard as a Christmas flick.
  2. You have the opposite, the ones who will say it is a Christmas movie every year until they die.
  3. Then you have the third group, the ones that just don’t give a fuck.

People say it’s not a Christmas film because it has nothing to do with Christmas… and they’re right from a plot point of view. Then there are those that say it is a Christmas movie because it takes place over Christmas Eve – but is that enough? For me, no, not that there’s anything ‘wrong’ with considering a film a Christmas one just due to its setting.

Now, I will come off as very hypocritical next as it’s now time for me to answer that yearly question – is Die Hard a Christmas movie? Well…

Die Hard Jumpers

Those are my Christmas jumpers for this year, what do you think my opinion is? Still, I said earlier how I don’t just want to answer but also explain my answer. And this is where the hypocrisy will come in. No, I don’t think that Die Hard being set at Christmas is enough to qualify it as a Christmas flick. I feel the same way about that other controversial choice too, Lethal Weapon. I love me some Riggs & Murtaugh and I think Lethal Weapon is a damn fine picture… but it’s not a festive flick to me despite it being set at Christmas just like Die Hard.

What Is A “Christmas Movie?”

Yet something like Batman Returns or Gremlins? Yup, I see those as Christmas films despite the fact they have little to do with the festive season other than the setting. I did pre-warn you about the hypocrisy. Die Hard gets shot down as a festive film just because it’s set at Christmas but the plot has nothing to do with the holiday… yet Home Alone is always lauded as a “Christmas classic” when it is only set at Christmas but plot-wise? What does a really annoying kid fending off two really fucking stupid burglars have to do with the Yuletide season? So what is Die Hard ignored as a Christmas flick because it has nothing to do with the season and only set in it – but others in the same boat get a free pass? You don’t see “Is Home Alone a Christmas movie?” articles year after year do you?

This line of reasoning can be applied to films that no one would argue against being a Christmas film. Take my all time favourite festive flick – It’s a Wonderful Life. Usually at near the top if not at the top of a lot of Christmas film lists…. but why? The opening of the film and the end are set in and around Xmas sure, but the majority of the story has absolutely nothing to do with the silly season at all. George Bailey thinking life would be better of he was dead is a story that could’ve been told any time of the year, not specifically Christmas. Yes it being (hardly) set at Christmas gives it a little lift, a bit more gravitas. But the core of the plot and meaning behind it – that could’ve been told in the Spring and still got the same message across right?

Its A Wonderful Life

What about the all time, undisputed classic A Christmas Carol? I love this story. No matter how many times it is told and re-told, I never get bored of it. Form the Alastair Sim starring 1951 Scrooge, the Bill Murray take from 1988 with Scrooged to the greatest version of the tale yet – The Muppet Christmas Carol from 1992. It’s a story that has been done dozens up on dozens and dozens of times from 1901 onward. Yet it’s another one that is considered a “Christmas classic” when it really has little to do with Christmas outside of it’s setting. Yeah I know what you are thinking – how dare I? But just look at the plot for a second. it’s about a miserly old man learning to be more generous and friendly. Let me put it this way, keep the same plot, same characters, ghosts everything –  only change the setting from Christmas Eve to October 31st and you have an effective Halloween film about a mean old bastard scared into being nice by ghosts of his past and even Death itself.

Seriously, What Is A Christmas Movie?

Of course there are films that are not only set at Christmas but also have a plot that is cemented in the festive season. Miracle on 34th Street as an example. It’s a film about a man trying to prove his is the real Santa Claus. It’s kind of hard to get a more Christmasy film than that. You can change the setting, but the plot is still about someone proving they are the real Santa. But what about something that features the real Santa but is hardly set at Christmas at all? I present the short film Father Christmas from 1991 based on the books by Raymond Briggs, the man behind another all time Christmas classic, The Snowman. Have you ever seen Father Christmas? (the short film not the real dude). It basically tells the story of what Santa does the rest of the year when it’s not Christmas. For those not in the know, he goes on holiday and says “bloomin'” a lot. It’s a film about Father Christmas that has little to do with Christmas itself… yet it’s a definite “Christmas classic”.

Father Christmas

And that really is my point, it’s hard to pin-down what makes a Christmas movie a Christmas movie. You can have Christmas films that have plots and characters centric to the season. There are ones that are only set at Christmas but from a plot point of view have nothing to do with the holiday. Then there are some that feature Christmas characters at the centre, but story/plot wise have little to do with Noël. So where does Die Hard fit into all of this? I said earlier how I don’t consider Die Hard a Christmas movie just because it’s set at Christmas. Yet I do see it as a Christmas flick none the less… and so this is where the explanation comes in.

This Is What A Christmas Movie is…

Back to the Future, The Wizard of Oz, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Rocky III. So what do all those films have in common? Well they’re all Christmas flicks. Maybe I should clarify, they are all Christmas films to me specifically. See here in England in the 80s when I grew up, we only had four T.V. channels at the time and these channels would always battle year after year to get the big films shown over Christmas, sometimes it would be a T.V. premier too. It was a wondrous time of year for the young film-fan me as I got to watch plenty of flicks. I’d probably watch more films over the 2 week Christmas holiday from school than I would the rest of the year. A lot of first time views of these films for me comes from Christmas and so they go on to be forever associated with Christmas to me personally, despite their settings, plots or characters. Then there is the other thing I connect Christmas to – family. I still remember and miss those family gatherings every year. Let me take one film from those above as an example with Rocky III and continue my explanation.

The film itself has nothing to do with Christmas I know. Yet the first time I saw Rocky III was on T.V. in the 80s over Christmas (I think 86?). I still remember the day vividly. Nan and Granddad came over on Christmas Eve and stayed with us. We opened our presents in the morning and I got an X-Wing, toy not a real one. We’d had a huge traditional dinner around 1 PM before The Queen’s Christmas Message came on the telly at 3 as Nan would never miss that. Me and my brothers got to play with our new gifts for a while before we had to tidy up. And then later that evening, Granddad snored away in his favourite armchair, sleeping off that huge dinner as the big film, Rocky III came on T.V. I sat on the sofa next to Nan and she put her arm around a 10 year old me and we both sat there watching Sylvester Stallone punch the crap out of Mr. T.

Rocky III

Whenever I watch Rocky III even now it reminds me of that Christmas Day and so is, for me, a Christmas film. it has nothing to do with Christmas, no Christmas characters, story or plot and not even a hint of a Christmas setting. Yet it will always be a Christmas movie because of that memory.

Same goes for Die Hard (finally), I don’t consider Die Hard a Christmas film because it’s set at Christmas, it helps I admit – but it’s not the reason it’s a Christmas flick to me. The reason is because I first saw it over Christmas. I was way too young in 1988 to go to the cinema to watch Die Hard. But when it was released on VHS, I remember my older brother Rob coming home one day with a copy and we watched it together a few days before Christmas. From that day in 1989 to this, I always watch Die Hard on Christmas Eve as a tradition. Now I’m an adult, I pour myself a large glass of Jack Daniels, plonk myself into a nice & comfy leather armchair, then sit back and relax as Bruce Willis shoots terrorists (who said they were terrorists?) in a skyscraper. I’m not satisfied until Hans Gruber falls from Nakatomi Plaza. And I’ll be doing the same this Christmas Eve too 29 years after that very first time.

Hans Gruber falling

That is what a Christmas film is. It doesn’t have to have a Christmas theme or plot or characters, nor does it need to be set at Christmas either. A Christmas flick is one you watch over Christmas because it gets you in the mood, it sparks off a festive memory, a film you watch because it’s Christmas not because it’s a Christmas film.

Is Die Hard a Christmas movie? For me, yes and it’s up there with the likes of Back to the Future, The Wizard of Oz, Raiders of the Lost Ark and of course Rocky III.

John McClane Christmas

Have a good Christmas folks. Oh and yippee-ki-yay mother fuckers.

What is a Christmas movie?

Its that time of year again.
You’ll see websites posting their all time favourite Christmas films and TV shows, and you’ll see the same old examples being brought up again.

santa

But I’ve been thinking, what is it that makes a Christmas movie a Christmas movie anyway?

Let’s just look at a few of my favourite Christmas films.
I’ll start with the more unorthodox ones first.

DH Grem 2 LW

Die Hard, Gremlins and Lethal Weapon:
Yeah I know, not exactly what you’d immediately think of when you want a Merry Christmas film really. But they all do take place over the Christmas period, so that makes them Christmas films right?
There is no real Christmas message or meaning behind the films I admit, but they are set in and around Christmas.

Or how about my all time favourite Christmas movie ever?

IAWL

Its A Wonderful Life:
Ahhhhhhh, Jimmy Stewart. One of my favourite actors of all time and this one has Christmas Classic written all over it. Yet unlike my previous examples, it hardly takes place over Christmas at all. The opening takes place at Christmas, as does the ending. But everything else in between takes place everywhere except Christmas. In fact more of this film takes place outside of the Christmas period than or does during the Christmas period.
But it’s still considered a Christmas Classic, despite having very little to do with Christmas…why?

To be honest, Its A Wonderful Life has a heart warming story behind it all and that is why many consider it a Christmas film. But really, that exact same story could have been told without the Christmas opening and ending, have those set any other time of the year and we wouldn’t be calling it a Christmas film, even with the exact same plot.

Which brings me to another classic.

ACC

A Christmas Carol:
Pick a version, any of the number versions there are of his story.
Now personally, A Christmas Carol is one of my all time favourite stories. Be it the all time great Alastair Sim version, The Muppets amazing take on the tale or even Bill Murray’s Scrooged. Its a great story no matter how many times or how its told.
But like Its A Wonderful Life, this story has a meaningful and heart warming message. Yet it could be set any time of the year and we wouldn’t be thinking of it as a Christmas film at all.
Why couldn’t Ebenezer Scrooge have learned to be a better man in the summer?

So its the story and meaning that’s important when talking about Christmas movies then right?

HA

Home Alone:
Again another film considered a Christmas Classic. But the film is about a kid left home alone. Then thieves try to break into the house while the kid fends them off with home made traps…this is Christmasy why?
There is no Christmas message or spirit. Its basically a live action Tom & Jerry cartoon, only not as entertaining.

Oh there are many other great films I could bring up. Ones with a meaningful Christmas message like; Miracle on 34 Street. Or Christmas film that are only set at Christmas and have no other relation to Christmas like; Trading Places.

So what is it that makes a Christmas movie a Christmas movie?
It can’t be the story as many Christmas Classics have nothing to do with Christmas from a plot/story perspective. But can you really consider a film a Christmas one just because it is set during Christmas?
For me, that is like saying a scary film is only scary if set during Halloween.

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