My Favorite Non-Christmas Christmas Movies
By Bert Ehrmann
December 5, 2008
This time of year it seems as if there’s never a shortage of Christmas themed movies on television. Be it a classic like A Christmas Story (1983) or a more recent comedy like Elf (2003), from the beginning of December to the end it’s like the viewing public is presented with a glut of Christmas TV.
But that got me thinking; though there are literally hundreds of Christmas themed movies, what about the movies that take place at Christmas time but aren’t necessarily about Christmas?
Writer director Shane Black has practically made a career out of setting movies during Christmas that aren’t about Christmas. He’s written Lethal Weapon (1987), The Last Boy Scout (1991), The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996) and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005) that all take place during Christmas.
In two of these movies “as close as they get to Christmas” moments, in Lethal Weapon cop Riggs (Mel Gibson) breaks up a ring of crooks selling drugs hidden by the cover of a Christmas tree lot the only way he knows how – with firepower! While in Kiss Kiss, burglar Harry (Robert Downey Jr.) is shot and wounded while robbing a toy-store looking for the hot toy of the holiday season for his nephew.
I’ve always been a big fan of the movie Go (1999) and never felt it got its due. Go takes place around Christmas and features three different yet interwoven stories. In Go’s almost Christmas moment, character Ronna (Sarah Polley) goes completely against the spirit of the season by selling aspirin disguised as Ecstasy at a warehouse rave party called “Mary Xmas.”
My favorite of the high concept late 1980s action movies is Die Hard (1988). In Die Hard, Bruce Willis plays New York City cop John McClane who is accidentally invited to the office Christmas party of his estranged wife in L.A. Unfortunately for everyone at the party, terrorists attack the celebration looking for the loot stored in a vault located inside the building. Unfortunately for the terrorists, McClane is practically a super-hero, though shoeless and with limited resources, he’s unstoppable at taking down the bad guys.
I Am Legend (2007) might just be the most depressing of the movies that features Christmas but aren’t about Christmas. In Legend, Wil Smith plays one of the last humans left alive in a New York City overrun by flesh-eating mutants. And though the movie takes place in what looks to be sometime in the mid to late summer of the near future, all of New York is covered in Christmas decorations left over from just before the plague emptied the city some time before.
The original Rambo movie First Blood (1982) took place around Christmas, though you’d be hard pressed to notice. Other than a few decorations around the police station at the beginning and end of the movie, and a few more around the city the movie takes place in and around, there’s not much other evidence that it’s Christmas time in M-60 town.
My all-time movie that takes place at Christmas but isn’t about Christmas is Gremlins (1984) – a movie that has surly scarred a generation of kids who’s parents took them to the theater expecting something along the lines of E.T. (1982) but instead getting something as frightening as An American Werewolf in London (1981).
In Gremlins, Billy (Zach Galligan) gets the ultimate Christmas present from his father – a small furry “mogwai” named Gizmo. Billy ignores the care instructions that came with the animal and when he accidentally gets Gizmo wet it duplicates into multiple mogwais and then when he accidentally feeds these duplicates after midnight he inadvertently turns them into evil, green slimy gremlin monsters that go about destroying Billy’s hometown.
If they’re not cutting the brakes on the town’s one police car, they’re out attacking the town’s populace and generally causing mayhem. In fact, Gremlins was so violent and disturbing in some parts that it’s credited as one of the movies that brought about the advent of the PG-13 rating. That’s my kind of Christmas movie!
If I were forced to pick, I’d have to say that my two favorite Christmas-Christmas movies are in fact A Christmas Story and Scrooged (1988).