We all know the classic Christmas movies that are just as important during the holiday season as any gift or tree. And I have a long list of films that I feel compelled to see during December. A Charlie Brown Christmas, Elf, and even the Community Christmas episodes are a must for me. But there are plenty of other films that use Jesus’ birthday as mostly just a backdrop for other stories. These films have little to do with Christmas, but if you watch them during this time of year, you might just get a little something extra out of them.
I guess another name for this list could be “The Shane Black Filmography.” But I’ll try to limit the number of films written and directed by the man. Boy, does he have a holiday obsession. Without further ado, here are eight films that can make your season bright … with explosions and laughs!
The Harry Potter Series
Every Harry Potter movie has at least a small scene during Christmastime. Sure, the setting doesn’t have much to do with the overall plot, but it helps ground the narrative and mark the passage of time. Since each film takes place over the course of a school year, adding in Christmas traditions helps clearly define plot movement.
Since every Harry Potter film differs in tone and focus, they aren’t all right for the holiday season. For the most festive of viewing options, I would recommend Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, since it’s one of the warmest and cheeriest of the series. Plus, the Christmas scene is great! Harry receiving the invisibility cloak and sneaking around Hogwarts is one of the quintessential aspects of early Harry Potter movies.
Sleepless in Seattle
Christmastime is meant to be spent with the people you love. But not everyone is so lucky. Feelings of loss and longing are a real part of Sleepless in Seattle. Of course, since this is a romantic comedy, we know that our stars will eventually find happiness and love. While the film doesn’t have much to do with Christmas (it actually spans several months), the holiday gloom is what kicks it off.
If you’re lonely at Christmas, Sleepless in Seattle can help you keep that romantic hope alive. If you’ve found that special someone, it will only make you feel more grateful. In any case, this is one of those few romantic comedies that consistently appeals to both men and women. It’s especially potent when seen during the holidays.
It’s not only one of the best action movies of all time, it’s holiday setting makes it somewhat justifiable to watch in the spirit of the season! John McClane flies out to Los Angeles to take part in his estranged wife’s work Christmas party, only to end up the lone piece of resistance against a terrorist takeover.
The Christmas setting helps kick off the plot, but it also adds a nice dimension to the action. All the flying bullets, shattered glass, and one liners stand in stark contrast to the Christmas decorations and spirit. Of course, most of those holiday decorations are shot up or burnt to a crisp by the fiery finale. The best Christmas tie-in? McClane writing on the shirt of a dead bad guy, “Now I have a machine gun. HO HO HO,” and topping him off with a Santa hat as a message to his enemies.
Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang
This may be Shane Black’s best holiday outing. Along with Lethal Weapon, The Long Kiss Goodnight, and Iron Man 3, Black’s Kiss Kiss, Bang Bangeffectively uses the backdrop of the holiday to contrast the struggles of the movie’s protagonists. This time, it’s Christmas in Los Angeles. It’s a confusing time already for us L.A. residents, but it’s even more bewildering for Robert Downey, Jr.’s Harry Lockhart – an uprooted low-level New York criminal out in L.A. for a potential movie role.
Besides quintessential L.A. motifs, the holiday season is liberally sprinkled throughout this comedic murder mystery. Holiday parties, seasonal loneliness, and the Christmas season are all filtered through the lenses of Los Angeles and film noir. Of course, the story is mostly played for smart laughs, but there’s also a bit of melancholy that seeps throughout the movie. Perfect for disgruntled Angelinos!
The Dark Knight himself fights a overacting disfigured Penguin, an absurd Catwoman, and Christopher Walken playing Christopher Walken. All during Christmas. This movie doesn’t just have a Christmas tree-related death, it has snow, decorations, and holiday cheer all over the place. Of course, this being Tim Burton’s vision of Gotham, everything is dark and twisted.
Sure, Batman doesn’t even feel like the star of his own movie and ridiculous set pieces like penguins with rockets strapped to their back are meant to be taken seriously. But it’s downbeat and demented take on Christmas helps set it apart from other superhero movies and any other Batman movie as well.
In retrospect, maybe Batman Returns isn’t so good.
Any movie that has someone getting a giant, glowing, talking 80’s robot for Christmas automatically doesn’t care (or know) about the meaning of the season. It’s also a sign of how over the top (Stallone reference!) Rocky IV really is. In-ring deaths, steroid usage, terrible acting, snow training, and winning the Cold War all take precedence over the holiday season that serves as a background for some of the film.
I guess Rocky reconciling the United States with the Soviet Union by beating up their greatest boxer is somewhat Christmas-y. It’s about as logical as a fat old man flying around the world and jumping down chimneys. Who knows, you may be inspired to run around in the snow and shout “Drago!” at the sky every Christmas.
The Nightmare Before Christmas
There’s a reason why this film is watched more often around Halloween then Christmas. Jack Skellington may stumble upon a new obsession with the festive holiday and “Sandy Claws,” but his efforts to bring holiday cheer are far more macabre than your typical X-Mas bash. Plus, any movie where Santa is kidnapped isn’t exactly showing reverence for the season.
The Nightmare Before Christmas is more about spooking audiences and embracing Halloween. While part of the film is about teaching the residents of Halloweentown about the spirit of Christmas, they also shouldn’t try to mess with someone else’s holiday. Besides, Halloweentown is way cooler than Christmastown.
Whatever movie you choose to view in light of the season, do it right. Turn on the tree, light up the fireplace, and drink egg nog until you’re nauseous!