It’s that time of year again, where everyone can eat and drink as much as they want, wear horrible sweaters, and at times make a fool of oneself… It’s Christmas! It is such a magical time of the year. The festive season brings family and friends together and with 2020 being the crazy year that it has been, we need it now more than ever. The best thing about the holiday season is that you can now watch Christmas films without being judged by your friends. Scrooged, Jingle All The Way, Home Alone, It’s A Wonderful Life are all classics that are watched and beloved each year. However, there are many films that are often overlooked and should be on everyone’s viewing list this festive season.
Here is our countdown of 10 of the best unconventional Christmas movies!
Following on from Edward Scissorhands, Tim Burton returns to direct the cape crusader in Batman Returns, the sequel to the 1989 classic Batman. Set around the holiday season, Gotham is terrorised by a new villain, the Penguin (Danny DeVito). Batman (Michael Keaton) must defeat the Penguin to save Gotham City. However, he must stay vigilant, as an even greater threat than the Penguin is at large that could strike him at his very heart.
Christmas is all over this film. Gotham is caped in snow and lit with Christmas decorations. Key narrative moments occur at Christmas such as the birth of the Penguin. However, Batman Returns acts as a satire to the Christmas season and instead of focusing on families and togetherness, it focuses on the lack of that. The Penguin is abandoned in the sewers as a baby by his parents and Batman, well, he is the most famous comic book orphan of all time. If you need a film to fill your superhero needs this festive season, Batman Returns is the film for you and it should be watched every year.
The Family Man
This is probably the most conventional Christmas film on this list but it rarely gets any limelight compared to traditional holiday features. Directed by Brett Ratner, The Family Man is a mix between It’s a Wonderful Life and A Christmas Carol. This comedy-drama centres around Jack Campbell (Nicolas Cage), a selfish Wall Street executive who wakes up on Christmas day to find that his life has been turned upside down. The Family Man isn’t a masterpiece but it is a comfort film. Christmas music plays throughout, with classics such as “Jingle Bells” and “A Holly Jolly Christmas” making an appearance. If the title gives anything away, the message of the feature is the importance of family and how it should come first. If you are not the biggest Nicolas Cage fan don’t worry, his performance is nicely balanced and is a lot tamer than some of this other works.
Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas
Tim Burton isn’t a stranger to a Christmas film, is he? The debate as to whether Nightmare Before Christmas is a Christmas film or a Halloween film has been long in the making. Fans are torn between the two and Henry Selick, the director of the feature, has stated that “It’s a Halloween movie.”
Personally, why does it have to be one or the other? Nightmare Before Christmas is both. It is a film that transitions audiences between the holiday seasons. The events of the film take place around Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King of Halloween Town. Jack has become bored of the town’s annual Halloween celebrations and wants something new. Walking through the woods one day, Jack discovers seven trees with portals on them, each one representing different holiday seasons. Jack enters the door leading to Christmas Town. Confused and wonderstruck by what he has discovered, Jack tries to bring Christmas back to Halloween Town. Nightmare Before Christmas is the type of Holiday film that can be watched at Halloween, Christmas or both. The music from Danny Elfman really helps to encapsulate both Holiday seasons, with classics such as “This is Halloween” and “What’s this?”
Hollywood has adapted Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women four times and it doesn’t matter what version you watch, Christmas has a pivotal role in each one. I’m going to be focusing on Greta Gerwig’s adaptation, which had a theatrical release of December 25th2019 in the US. Loosely based on Louisa May Alcott’s life, Little Women is set during the American Civil War, where writer Jo March (Saoirse Ronan), reflects on her life, whilst telling the story of her four sisters.
Little Women is excellently written by Gerwig and is a great homage to what has come before. More than anything, it is a coming of age tale but during the feature, Christmas is a big time for the March sisters, as they reflect on their lives and their journey from childhood to womanhood. Little Women is the perfect feel-good film. The overarching theme of family is present throughout the feature fitting perfectly with the holiday season. Most importantly though, it makes you remember what you have and cherish it. That is the epitome of the season.
When you think of Lethal Weapon, it doesn’t appear to be a Christmas film. Though when you delve deeper, it sure is. Directed by Richard Donner and written by Shane Black, Lethal Weapon focuses on two newly paired police officers who have completely different styles. Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson) is the suicidal maverick and Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover) is the veteran on the force. The pair must separate their differences and work together to catch a gang of drug smugglers.
Although there is nothing particularly Christmassy about its plot, Lethal Weapon uses the themes of Christmas to bring audiences together. This is Shane Black’s style after all. Mixed between the explosions and constant bad language, there is a message at Lethal Weapon’s core. It balances the themes of depression and isolation with the themes of belonging and family, to create a film about the miracle of Christmas. It even opens with “Jingle Bell Rock”, you don’t get more Christmassy than that.
Bridget Jones’s Diary
Who could forget the first time they saw Mr Darcy (Colin Firth) wearing that ugly Christmas jumper. This rom-com is based upon the novel with the same title, Bridget Jones’s Diary centres around Bridget Jones (Renée Zellweger) who is determined to change her life around and find her Mr Right. Her first step is by beginning to write a diary. Taking place over the course of a year, the film is bookended by the holiday season. Throughout the year, she finds ways of embarrassing herself in front of friends and family but the best moments occur in front of her potential suitors, Mr Darcy and Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant). Even though most of the film takes place outside of the holiday season, Bridget Jones’s Diary has the feeling of a Christmas film. It is a fantastically hilarious watch as we emphasise with Bridget and her awkward Christmas experiences, as we remember our own.
Black Mirror: White Christmas
I know that it was released on TV as part of the Black Mirror TV Series, but with its feature-length running time, we at FinalBoss consider it as a feature film. Starring Jon Hamm and Rafe Spall, Black Mirror: White Christmas varies from your traditional Christmas adventure. It is a dark sci-fi feature where two men (Hamm and Spall) are at a remote outpost in a frozen wilderness. The pair share tales that occur during the festive season to pass the time. Black Mirror: White Christmas blurs the boundaries between the future and present through the dominance of digital technology. If you know anything about Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror, you’d know to pay attention to every detail. Black Mirror: White Christmas is probably the darkest, surreal Christmas special ever made because of its realism and leaves you feeling unsettled.
There are few films out there that are as stylistic as Todd Haynes’s period piece Carol. Adapted from Patricia Highsmith’s novel The Piece of Salt, Carol is set at Christmas in 1950’s New York. Socialite Carol (Cate Blanchett) asks Therese (Rooney Mara), a young shop girl, for some holiday shopping advice. Soon a forbidden romance blossoms between the pair.
Carol provides a warm Christmassy feeling all the way throughout, particularly with its snowy New York setting. Haynes and Phyllis Nagy (writer of Carol) capture the story brilliantly and it is up there with other forbidden love stories such as Brokeback Mountain. Throughout, you feel both characters struggles, as they are spied on and are forced to conform to societal norms. These moments leave the viewer on the edge of their seat for a tense viewing experience. Both Blanchett’s and Mara’s performances are fantastic and their onscreen chemistry is second to none. Carol is magical throughout, with incredible set designs that transport you to 1950’s New York at Christmas.
Bought to you by the geniuses that are Chris Columbus and Steven Spielberg, Gremlins is the perfect Christmas horror film. In the fictional town of Kingston Falls, a father gifts his son Billy (Zac Galligan) an adorable new pet for Christmas, a Mogwai. When receiving the Mogwai, Billy is told that there are three important rules concerning the Mogwai: keep the Mogwai out of the light, especially sunlight, it will kill it, don’t expose it to water but the most important rule, DON’T FEED IT AFTER MIDNIGHT.
Billy unintentionally breaks these rules and unleashes a horde of mischievous little monsters on Kingston Falls. Despite its summer release, and at times dark subject matter, Gremlins truly gets you into the Christmas spirit. Darlene Love’s “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” plays over the opening credits, Kingston Fall’s is embedded with snow and Billy’s mum watches It’s a Wonderful Life, arguably the most recognisable Christmas film of all time.
Let’s face it, you knew this was coming. The debate whether Die Hard is a Christmas film has been long in discussion. Our stance is that it sure is. Based upon the novel Nothing Lasts Forever by Roderick Thorp, Die Hard focuses on John McClane(Bruce Willis), an NYPD officer. John is invited to Los Angeles for a Christmas party at his wife’s workplace, the Nakatomi Plaza. Upon John’s arrival, the Plaza is overrun by German terrorists led by Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman).
Die Hard has everything quintessential about a Christmas film. It is set on Christmas Eve and the events of the film wouldn’t work unless it was set at Christmas. It is filled with Christmas music with classics such as “Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow!” And my personal favourite “Christmas in Hollis” performed by Run- D.M.C. Most importantly though, Die Hard has the re-watch ability factor of a Christmas film, giving you that warm feeling every time you watch it, therefore it is a Christmas classic.
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