Editorials, Everything Else, Uncategorized — December 1, 2012 at 3:00 am



Ah, December. In my part of the world, it means the wind brings a chill with it. The sun only shines while I am at work indoors. And Target is four months into its Christmas sale.

In the film community, it is a time for lists and discussions centered around two themes:

1) What will win an Oscar?
2) What’s your favorite Christmas movie?

Yes, I see the hat and Ho-Ho-Ho…

That second question is a particularly fun one for me. You ask someone their favorite movie and you can almost predict what the answer is. Favorite holiday film though? It takes thought.

For the record, my top 5 are:

  1. A Christmas Story – Perfectly captures childhood. I could watch that all day.
  2. Miracle on 34th Street – The 1947 version. A love story with a message about belief.
  3. Scrooged! – Maybe it’s because I saw this before I ever saw another version of Dickens’ tale, but Bill Murray’s subversive holiday comedy has to be seen each year.
  4. Elf – Has Will Ferrell’s man-child comedy ever been put to better use? I think not.
  5. The Nightmare before Christmas – Gorgeous animation, infectious tunes and a fun story that teaches an unlikely hero the true meaning of the holiday.

The question is also a sort of litmus test to me. There’s s variety of good (and not-so-good) Christmas movies. But if you ask the question enough, invariably someone gets that smart ass grin on their face. And I know exactly what answer is coming next:

Die Hard.”


Die Hard is not a Christmas movie. It’s not. Neither is Lethal Weapon. They are action films set during December. But they are not holiday films.

A couple of years ago, citing Die Hard became the know-it-all film geek answer to this question. It was fun. It was cool. We all got a chuckle out of people who didn’t realize that it was set during Christmas.

But that moment has passed. It never was a Christmas movie. It was the punchline to a question about Christmas movies. When we think about Christmas abstractly, we don’t think about Sgt. Al Powell, Bruce Willis’ bloody feet and palm trees. That was the joke, but it’s old and we’ve all heard it. It’s not funny or clever.

Now, there’s a contingent out there that is making the argument in their heads right now about why Die Hard belongs on the ABC Family 25 Days listing. Fine. Ask yourself this: can you set Die Hard in July? Could it be a retirement party that’s invaded by the terrorists? How much does the movie change? A line or two? Some set decoration?

Okay, now try the same thing with Elf. Or A Christmas Story. Or even the horrid Jingle All the Way. Remove Christmas from those stories. What changes? Is there even a movie at all?

How about this? What’s your favorite boat movie? Titanic? Poseiden Adventure? Speed 2?

Mine is The Godfather 2. What? Don’t you remember that one scene where DeNiro’s on a boat. Or that famous death scene? There are boats all over that movie. Do you really want to formulate your favorite movie on any given topic by these kinds of tenuous connections?

The worst part for me about offering Die Hard up as your favorite holiday film misses the point of the question entirely. To get sappy and sentimental for a moment, Christmas is not about a Santa hat at Nakatomi Plaza or Martin Riggs making an arrest at a Christmas tree sale. It’s about goodwill toward men, the spirit of giving, the messiness of families, and the belief that if you’re a good boy or girl, you’ll be rewarded.

Citing a film as a Christmas movie because there is snow on the ground or “Ho Ho Ho” gets used as a punchline is cynical and makes you no better than another famous holiday character. He too thought Christmas was about decorations and giftwrap until…

“And he puzzled and puzzled, till his puzzler was sore.

Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before!

‘Maybe Christmas,’ he thought, ‘doesn’t come from a store.

Maybe Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more.’”

Yes, the Grinch thought Christmas was about a day and its accoutrements, but he learned his lesson. So can we all.

Next time someone asks you for your favorite Christmas movie and you get the urge to blurt out Die Hard, bite your tongue and say A Christmas Story. I promise your small heart will grow three sizes that day.



  • Personally, my favorite Christmas movie is “Gremlins”. Second place would go to Die Hard 2: Die Harder.

    • Gremlins may be the oddest one to deal with in the Christmas film vs. movie set at Christmas question. I tend to think it is a Christmas movie because the holiday is so tied into the film. Gizmo’s a Christmas present. The attack from the Xmas tree. Phoebe Cates’ speech.

      Die Hard 2 is a better film than it gets credit for, but I would not call it a Christmas movie.

  • Probably It’s a Wonderful Life. After that I’d have to say A Christmas Story just because watching that was part of my family’s tradition back when we all lived in MA together.

    The hell of it is that I actually have an aversion to that damn film.

    • LOL. I love A Christmas Story, but I know what you’re talking about. My parents listened to Neil Diamond throughout my childhood and I couldn’t stand it. Today? Listening to Neil Diamond. Feels wrong, but I have a compulsion.

  • Easy answer is It’s a Wonderful Life, tradition in my family and I’m sure many others.

    Another Christmas movie answer sure to irritate you: In Bruges.

    • Officially irritated ;)

      It’s a Wonderful Life is good, but people tend not to remember just how dark that is. It was a tough one to leave off my list.

  • My all time favorite Christmas movie is Christmas Evil. Watch it.

    • I have not seen this. Didn’t think I’d even heard of it, but when I saw the VHS cover on-line it came back. Will have to investigate…

  • Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. I watch it every single year and have much more fun with it than I do anything else. And I say that fully acknowledging that I love the dookie out of a LOT of Christmas movies. Honorable mentions- A Christmas Story, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, and A Christmas Carol (specifically, the Alistair Sim one from 1951).

    • I love this film. My first viewing was thanks to the MST3K guys, but I have not seen it in a couple of years. Now, I MUST track it down to relive it.

  • White Christmas definitely tops my list, with Miracle on 34th Street a close second (the original, mind). I’ve always been slightly disturbed by It’s A Wonderful Life.

    • Agreed on It’s A Wonderful Life and obviously I’m with you on Miracle on 34th Street. It’s honestly been at least 20 years since I’ve seen White Christmas so I’ll have to revisit. Getting quite the to-do list here…

  • LOVE, ACTUALLY is the winner for me and that IS a Christmas movie… actually.

  • Home Alone used to be in our family’s holiday rotation quite a bit, but I guess I’d go with How the Grinch Stole Christmas (the animated version) as tops!

    • If the animated Grinch were a feature film, it would have easily been my number 1. The kids love Home Alone at my house. Unfortunately HA 3 is the one that’s been on heaviest rotation :(

  • they may not be christmas movies, but they are movies set at christmas time. sometimes that’s enough when we think we’ll go mad if we see one of those perennial favorites yet again. we just watched ice harvest.

    that said, my favorite christmas movie right now is the muppet christmas carol with michael caine as scrooge. it is priceless and even manages to be fairly faithful to the book.

  • I get the need to watch some awesome explosions at Christmas, but I think what you say is right: at that point, we aren’t celebrating the holiday but escaping it. Which is definitely a necessity this time of year.

    And the Muppets version of Dickens tale is seriously fun.