I love Christmas movies. The heartwarmers, the frighteners, the laff-rioters, I love ’em all, so I made a list. Let me predict in advance what you might say after you finish reading the list. You might say “what?! No It’s A Wonderful Life?!” But honestly, that movie gets enough love. It’s everyone’s Christmas favourite. And I like it too, because I have a heart. I just wanted to give a few other films some attention. Ones that you might not immediately think of when you’re making your “top holiday hits” lists. Same goes for Die Hard. Of course I love Die Hard like every other red blooded human being, and of course I know it’s a Christmas film and deserves to be on every holiday list for the rest of eternity. These films go without saying. I shouldn’t have to list them because DUH!
My list is by no means all obscurities. They’re just ones I’m personally really fond of, not including the obvious all-time-faves like It’s a Wonderful Life, Die Hard, Home Alone, or White Christmas, or even Elf. Although, I did just see Elf for the first time two days ago and it was genuinely funnier than I expected. Or even the greatest A Christmas Carol adaptation ever, Bill Murray’s Scrooged (which I love, and, shameless plug, is playing tomorrow, Friday Dec 19, at 7:00pm at The Royal).
And seriously, I also looooooove White Christmas.
Just try to watch that clip without crying!
Okay? Here we go. Ten films.
A Canadian classic slasher, and probably the #1 recommendation you’ll get from anyone if you’re like “hmm, what should I watch that is scary and Christmas-themed”. But it’s really good. This is the original “the call is coming from inside the house” scarefest (sorry about the spoiler, spoiler queens) and actually holds up great after 40 years. It’s also got a great “doesn’t quite make sense but sure is creepy” tagline: if this film doesn’t make your skin crawl, it’s on too tight.
Shameless plug #2: it’s playing at The Royal this Saturday, Dec 20, at 7:00pm, and – for the E.N.G. fans out there, actor Art Hindle will be in attendance! If you want to get an advance ticket, it is super easy. Just go HERE.
Everyone loves Silent Night Deadly Night and its glorious sequel (“Garbage day!!”) but my favourite bad santa film is Christmas Evil, in which a man is irrevocably scarred by having witnessed his parents engage in a little bit of seasonal roleplay, and ends up becoming a toymaker who’s mad about the declining quality of the toys his factory manufactures, and creepily keeps literal lists of “naughty” and “nice” kids in his neighbourhood.
Of course, the unstable toymaker snaps, and before you know it, there’s an A+ evil santa rampage going on. No spoilers, but this film’s also got a great ending, I promise.
We all know that Santa’s sleigh is pulled by reindeer, right? But what does he do for all his pre-Christmas test flights? Glad you asked! He has a talking moose who does those runs with him. Unfortunately, the moose is a bit clumsy, and he crashes Santa’s sleigh into a small Dutch town. The moose ends up in a little boy’s barn, and santa ends up at a garbage dump across town. Will they find each other in time to save Christmas? Will Max (the little boy) finally make friends … with a talking moose?! Will there be lovable hijinx and heartwarming adventure? A thousand times yes, my friends.
This adorable Christmas tale from the Netherlands is a kid-friendly delight and only came out last year. If you have tykes who are old enough for subtitles, I highly recommend it.
4. DESK SET
Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracey are feisty rivals in this charming-as-heck romance from 1957 about the horrors of the rapidly approaching information age. Hepburn is Bunny Watson, the whip-smart librarian who runs the research department at a TV network, where a team of sassy gals hold a world of information at their fingertips. Tracey is the grinch who’s about to bring in a computer into their domain and ruin everything. After all, how could computers possibly replace humans with brains?!
Since it’s Christmas, and since it’s Hepburn and Tracey, you know it’ll end with the two of them falling in love. But the barbs they trade along the way are well worth the ride.
5. FUBAR 2
When we caught up with lovable hosers Terry and Dean in 2010, they were barely scraping by in Calgary, and decided to follow their buddy Tron and move to Fort MacMurray to cash in on some of that sweet, sweet oil money everyone’s on about. Unfortunately, life on the pipeline isn’t exactly what the duo expected, and before they know it, their new high rolling lifestyle nearly tears the lifelong buds apart.
But, obviously, since Christmas is fast approaching, you know there’s going to have to be a tearful reunion. Or something far more ridiculous than that, because this is after all, a Fubar film. It might be sacrilige to say this, but I think the sequel might even be funnier than the original Fubar, which gives’er harder than just about any other Canadian comedy.
Sure, you’ve seen Gremlins and you know it’s a great, not-too-scary-for-older-kids Christmas option. But do you remember just how amazingly bizarre and hilarious Phoebe Cates speech about her dad is? If not, it’s almost worth rewatching just for that. The perfect Christmas movie for (almost) all ages.
It’s Joe Dante at his best, it’s Phoebe Cates at the peak of her perfection, and it gave a pretty good ’90s band its name. I first watched this film in grade 7 or 8 at school, on a day when I’m pretty sure 90% of my classmates were on some kind of skiing field trip that I forgot to get a parental signature for. I stayed at school with a teacher and a small handful of other students and watched movies all day. Gremlins is the only one I remember because it scared the shit out of me.
7. JACK FROST
I have a real weakness for Christmas horror. I could easily recommend many far worse films than this one to anyone who actually wants to go down that rabbit hole, but instead I’ll stick to the “hits”. This one’s not exactly a hit, but it’s probably more entertaining than you think it is? Lots of great “he’s made of snow” gags (melting, steaming, re-solidifying, y’know) and terrific kills that make use of seasonal items like christmas trees.
The premise of this film is stupid (some kind of toxic chemical melts a serial killer and bonds his molecules with the snow that he melted into (?!?) so he “comes back” as a snowman), and the execution is silly. But it’s a really, really fun ride. Avoid the sequel, though. It takes place on a tropical island and has an extended Gremlins-homage-montage.
Everyone knows that Die Hard is the ultimate Christmas action film. But when’s the last time you watched Lethal Weapon? It’s the far darker choice, that’s for sure – watching Mel Gibson’s Riggs trying to screw up the courage to shoot himself in his trailer is a pretty intense way to kickstart our relationship with the charismatic rogue. Luckily, instead of dying, he gets partnered up with veteran cop Danny Glover, and the two grudgingly become awesome together and hunt down some drug smugglers.
This film has heart. For real! It has aged well.
9. RARE EXPORTS
This Finnish film has the perfect combination of deadpan (très Finnish) humour and (mild) Christmas horror. It’s Christmastime in Northern Finland, and a scientist has just unearthed something strange – a “sacred grave”, the occupant of which might still be alive. Before you know it, children start disappearing, reindeer are mysteriously killed, and shit is getting crazy. Soon it’s up to a plucky little boy to figure out what the hell is going on.
An equal parts terrifying and hilarious imagining of the real Santa Claus myth, this film was the first one I’d seen in a good long while that added something truly new and inventive to the story of Christmas. This ain’t your grandma’s evil Santa. Or something. Anyway, it’s a great film.
Everyone loves James Stewart in It’s a Wonderful Life, but how about giving him a shot in this delightful romance that’s basically the original You’ve Got Mail? The film takes place in Budapest, where Alfred (Stewart) and Klara (Margaret Sullavan) work at a general store, Matuschek and Co. They butt heads constantly, disagree all the time, and just can’t get along. Meanwhile, they’re both quite smitten with their respective pen pals. I’m sure you can see where this is going.
I wasn’t just drawing a loose parallel when I said it was the original You’ve Got Mail. Meg Ryan’s character in that film owns a store called “The Shop Around The Corner”, so the homage is out in the open. Although, both are apparently based on a 1937 play called Parfumerie. Anyway, give the Ernst Lubitsch joint a try.