Top ten alternative Christmas movies

Now’s the time of year when a lot of people become insufferable, spouting their Christmas cheer all over the place. I bet there’s a chance that was your reaction reading my opening line, right? Something like, ‘Don’t be a scrooge! Cheer up, it’s chriiiissstmaaas!’ This is exactly the kind of thing that drives me mad. I mean, to be honest, I’d be fine with Christmas if it didn’t seem like everyone was forcing you to be merry all the time.

Which brings me onto movies. Most Christmas offerings are awful, tragically soppy and saccharine affairs (although I have a soft spot for Santa Claus: the movie, mostly because of John Lithgow). So when it comes to settling down with loved ones to get in the Christmas spirit, it’s either watch one of those or have an argument about whether Die Hard is or isn’t allowed Christmas movie status. And if it does get the ok, what else could be considered a Christmas movie?

So I did a little list. My alternative Christmas movies, if you will. See what you think.

1. Gremlins (1984)

This is such a fun film. There are rules: don’t get your mogwai wet, don’t feed it after midnight or it’ll turn into an evil gremlin with a mohawk, that sort of thing. I also found out, years later, that they used the exact same small town set for this film as they did for Back to the Future.

2. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)

Highest Shane Black film on my list (there are quite a few more below) and this one is significant because it marked the return from the wilderness for Robert Downey Jr (he went on to do some kind of superhero film or something). It also had fantastic performances from rising star (at the time) Michelle Monaghan and also a return, in hilarious fashion, for Val Kilmer.

3. Batman Returns (1992)

Arguably, whisper it, the best Batman film of the Keaton era? Actually, I am torn. Batman was truly great but Batman Returns gave us Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman, Danny DeVito as the Pengiun and Christopher Walken as, er, evil business dude. Max something.

4. Go (1999)

Written by legendary screenwriter John August, this is essentially the screenplay that put him on the map. It has a soft spot in my heart, being one I watched a lot growing up – it just seemed so cool. The story starts by introducing a group of characters, we follow one of them. The story then returns to the same place to follow another character. Eventually, they intertwine.

5. Trading Places (1983)

Dan Akroyd, Eddie Murphy and Jamie Lee Curtis team up to take down a couple of corrupt, rich old white guys. You could say this film feels intensely relevant in 2019, or ten years ago, or that it’s basically timeless. Either way, it’s a funny film with a bunch of ’80s actors at the top of their game. And Akroyd, dressed as Santa, eats salmon through his beard.

6. The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996)

My second Shane Black film on this list. Before Angelina Jolie, Kate Beckinsale and others took up the mantle as the action women of Hollywood, we had the bad ass momma Gina Gershon. Here as an assassin that’s lost her memory and living life as a contented housewife. Then things happen and she starts to remember who she was, teaming up with Samuel L. Jackson to take down some bad guys.

7. In Bruges (2008)

A job goes wrong for two hit man, so they head to Bruges to lay low. One (Brendan Gleeson) loves the city, the other (Colin Farrell) hates it. Trouble is their somewhat unhinged boss (Ralph Fiennes) has ordered them to stay put. He then heads out to join them in a ridiculous showdown. This remains darkly comic genius from writer-director Martin McDonagh. Highly rewatchable.

8. Lethal Weapon (1987)

The film that put Mel Gibson on the map as a Hollywood leading man. This is also the film that got writer (and now director) Shane Black in the door, kickstarting his career. It’s also kind of interesting, in that this first film had live wire cop Riggs (Gibson) really struggle with his demons. The sequels were funnier but this first film actually had some fairly dark moments.

9. Iron Man 3 (2013)

After helping revive Downey Jr’s career with Kiss Kiss Bang Bang Downey returned the favour by having his friend Shane Black direct him in this third instalment of Iron Man’s story in the MCU. A good decision, some might say, as this film went on to be one of the highest grossing movies for Marvel.

10. American Psycho (2000)

The film that put Christian Bale on the map as an intense character actor. And also a leading man, in a weird sort of way. He’s since gone onto an incredibly varied career as one of the best actors working today. But for a long time, he was known as ‘the guy that played Patrick Bateman’.

Honourable mentions also go to:

Filth, Bad Santa, Home Alone, About a Boy, Brazil, Edward Scissorhands.

Top 10 ‘not Christmas’ movies

Ok, a little odd, but this is basically a list of either films that are set around Christmas time, but aren’t full blown Christmas films. My picks below are rated in order of how Christmassy I deem them to be – in terms of scenes or references within them.

10. In Bruges (2008)
Even though Christmas isn’t a necessary part of this film, it just sort of sits there under the surface and kind of works. ‘Tis the season to be, er, jolly.

9. Die Hard / Die Hard 2 (1988/1990)
Both films take place on Christmas eve, one in a tower block and one at an airport, leading Bruce Willis’ cop John McClane to ask himself, ‘How can the same shit happen to the same guy twice?’

8. Trading Places (1983)
Possibly one of my favourite Christmas yet not Christmas scenes, with Dan Akroyd’s character dressed as Santa down on his luck eating salmon through his beard.

7. Go (1999)
Got a bit of a soft spot for this film. It features a rave called ‘Mary Christmas’, has Timothy Olyphant in a Santa hat and Katie Holmes talking about the joys of the holiday season.

6. Lethal Weapon (1987)
With a Jingle Bells opening and a Christmas tree drug bust writer Shane Black knows how to weave Christmas into his film with style.

5. Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
Stanley Kubrick’s film is kind of odd, in that Christmas saturates the film, but for no obvious apparent reason. It starts with the ‘happy’ couple attending a party.

4. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)
We start with Robert Downey Jr.’s character robbing a store on Christmas and the film also features Michelle Monaghan in a sexy Santa outfit.

3. Batman Returns (1992)
Tim Burton sprinkles this film with Christmas throughout, including a lovely Christmas tree sequence and a sexy kiss from Catwoman.

2. L.A. Confidential (1997)
Russell Crowe’s Officer Bud White pulls Christmas decorations onto a wife-beater, Kevin Spacey’s Hollywood cop attends a festive party and Guy Pearce’s ambitious cop loses control at a ‘Bloody Christmas‘ scandal.

1. Gremlins (1984)
Considering it’s not a Christmas film this holiday runs right through this film, from Gizmo wearing a Santa hat to Phoebe Cates’ character’s confession that her dad died in a chimney dressed as Santa.

Winter is coming

The air is thin as the nights draw in.
It’s coming… winter.
As sure as it’s written in scripture.
You can fight colds with a herbal tincture, it’s a breeze.
Or if you feel the need, why not OD on vitamin C?

You see, at some point September turns.
We remember the late summer sun,
but all of a sudden the cold air burns.
And then we just want to hibernate.
We want hot food, like pies that are baked.
All covered in gravy, the embodiment of winter’s heroin.
Served up by a buxom landlady, the body of winter’s heroine.
We pray to the gods then tuck in and begin.
Chowing down on a feast fit for kings.
Feeling the warmth revive us.
The fuel to face night terrors now burns inside of us.

It’s a funny one though.
Late in the year one week it’s sun the next it’s snow.
Something that seems to catch us off guard.
‘Oh no, what do we do?’, we cry.
Is it really that hard?
Trains fail and cars crash.
It’s like the whole nation has eczema, winter’s rash.
We scratch and we itch and we moan and bitch.
But to be honest, that’s just us being British.
Like troopers we soldier on.
As it gets colder we become bolder.
To the point where winter is long gone.

Now other nations probably laugh at us.
There we are, wrapped in fifty scarves, all trussed.
And it’s not even cold enough to freeze a mouse.
Not that we’d know as we don’t leave the house.
Or when we do it’s nearly always to drink.
For some reason we go mad for mulled wine.
Not had it? It’s fine, let me educate.
Spice a cheap red, heat to boiling,
and what you’re left with is a sorry state.
Yet Brits, we guzzle it down.
Then nuzzle the nearest stranger,
until one of us hits the ground.
Maybe it’s a ritual we’re performing to winter’s gods?
Something habitual we invented so we don’t feel robbed.
Mugged off by nature and the biting cold.
We gather in pubs reciting stories centuries old.
At least, that’s what we’re told.

And don’t get me started on mince pies.
By the first of October they’re on the shelves.
It’s enough to make me cry.
But they are tasty.
So if you want me to scream, try Christmas tunes.
Slade and Bing Crosby, the aged pop platoon.
And I’m stuck, marooned on this festive isle, trapped by Jack Frost.
It’s so depressing, I just feel vile and lost.

Not that I’m a scrooge.
But I do want something new.
Not the same old crap recycled each year.
We need to breach this loop,
we need to feel the fear.
Nature needs to fight back,
she must talk the talk.
As a rousing song I’ll go with The Pogues’ Fairytale of New York.
But this year I fear I’m destined to bitch again.
Stuck with Cliff Richard desperately trying to be my friend.