I’m one of those people who has no problem admitting that I adore Christmas, whatever it’s shortcomings. I don’t care if some people get all riled up at the mall (probably more myth than fact). I don’t mind that every television show and commercial is themed to the season. But there is one thing I do mind: shitty movies masquerading as “holiday classics.”
Every season, we are assaulted by all kinds of saccharine, syrupy-sweet Christmas garbage on TV. The whole thing is like Lifetime and Disney Channel had a particularly irritating baby. But DFE is here to help you out. Below is a list of my favourite awesome Christmas movies that get at the real meaning of Christmas: getting shitty with those you love and watching television. Without further ado:
DFE’s Top 10 Awesome Christmas Movies
1. A Charlie Brown Christmas – A classic for a reason
Yes, you have to say it. Especially for us X-Gen’ers, there’s simply no quality Christmas without a visit from the ugly kid with the big nose, as Peppermint Patty would say.
This is one of those holiday traditions that I don’t feel the least bit bad about getting excited for as a grown-ass man. It’s got about everything you could ask for in a Christmas movie, plus to be honest, a bit more Christianity that I would have preferred. Let’s skip to the presents!
2. Die Hard – the anti-Christmas choice
While some may object to citing Die Hard as a Christmas movie, it does absolutely qualify. Without the added drama of Christmas bliss, disrupted, would the movie be the same? I think not. If John was not visiting his lost love on the most sentimental of holidays, would the tension be as high? Clearly not. We could as easily discount it as an action/adventure movie because it is so clearly a Christmas movie.
And speaking of movies technically during the Christmas season…
3. The Poseidon Adventure – the Christmas of watery doom.
Here again, we can make the argument for the anti-Christmas movie. Does anyone really get a warm and fuzzy feeling from the idea of people climbing (unsuccessfully) for their lives up an inverted Christmas tree? Perhaps, but those are the type of people we like to keep in special rooms.
The Poseidon Adventure is probably the best-done disaster movie of it’s era, yet another one in which a rash of similarly-themed movies came out. Poseidon benefits from a pretty high-calibre cast, including Earnest Borgnine and his character’s Hooker with the Heart of Gold, Stella Stevens. This will not be the last lady of the evening to feature in this list.
But again, the pathos of a Christmas celebration gone horribly awry is just too important to the plot to be ignored. Plus – hey – the Christmas tree thing is pretty bitchin. Amirite?
4. Planes, Trains and Automobiles – the Christmas prequel
This one is really a Thanksgiving movie. But because the T-Day celebrations kick off the holiday season, I really feel like this one counts. Plus, this might be the funniest in a long line of hilarious John Candy movies. So funny in fact that it was completely ripped off just recently in the Galfanaikis flick Due Date.
Steve Martin plays a classically-80’s overworked business man who is trying to get back home to Chicago from yet another string of meetings and travelling when he runs into the obnoxious, hapless mess of a salesman played by John Candy. Candy’s character is everything Martin’s is not: unapologetically goofy and self-effacing. Through the classic “series of unfortunate events,” it becomes impossible to separate the two… however much Steve Martin might have preferred it.
5. Christmas Vacation – our model of Christmas excess.
How does one blend the self-defined risk of Christmas light electrocution and the existential threat of feeling abandoned by the Big Boss at your second-rate job, then sprinkle in a healthy dose of an alcoholic Randy Quaid and a dash of sewer humor and make it all come out awesome? Well, it helps to be National Lampoon, but beyond that you’ll just need to watch the movie.
The continuing adventures of the Griswold family – featuring a young yet incredibly unchanged Johnny Galeki – take them back to their very own Chicago suburb home, where they will be serving up the Christmas dinner for the family.
6. How the Grinch Stole Christmas – the Whooville follies.
And no. I do not mean that shitty
John Kerry Jim Carey movie. The real, original version. With the one and only Chuck Jones directing. What makes this movie so kick ass is that you get to revel in the Grinch’s mean-spiritedness as much as in the “redemption” at the end of the movie. You even get to find Cindy-Loo Who’s crying kinda funny.
And then you get to get the “aww!” at the end of the movie and let your friends know you’re not that mean. No, really.
7. Trading Places – Ophelia the Christmas Hooker
What could be more Christmasy than a tale of deception, character assassination, social darwinism, racism and of course, the Hooker with the Heart of Gold? If there is such a thing, I don’t know if I could handle it.
Besides which.. whose been putting their Kools out on my rug?
Actually, I’d call this movie much more of a Christmas movie than any of the aforementioned non-Christmas movies, because in this case, Santa plants drugs in Billy Ray Valentine’s office desk drawer. And hey: isn’t that what Santa’s all about? Leaving presents for all the good little boys and girls? I thought so.
8. Elf – Does Santa know you left the workshop?
Let’s just say this and get it out of the way: every Christmas movie in 20 years has gargled dead monkey balls except this one. If that seems harsh, you’re wrong.
Will Ferrell’s guileless, child-like elf Buddy is a pitch-perfect reproduction of the Larry Roemer / Rankin and Bass television shows that dominate all our childhoods (Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, etc). But in the context of a heartless publishing house in midtown Manhattan, his innocence brings everybody around him (save for one 27 year old ex con) to the brink of madness.
It’s just a hysterical romp (if I can say that word) that I’ll gladly watch several times between now and Christmas.
9. Scrooged – because real greed has an American accent.
We get that Ebenezer Scrooge is supposed to be a bit of a jerk. But honestly: being a jerk in Elizabethan English is a lot less impactful these days than it used to be. What we need is an updated Scrooge that speaks to what greed and heedless cynicism looks like. We need someone who shows no real compassion or empathy for his fellow humans. Someone who only treats humans as statistical slaves to their baser emotions.
What we need is a television executive.
Enter Bill Murray as “Lumpy” Scrooge, the once-loved, twice-dejected television executive with a drive for ratings and a complete disregard for the well being of his rodent actors. Lumpy is doing what a lot of us do during the holiday season, and burying his memories of a happier past under mountains of work. But this year, three ghosts, one woman and Bobcat Golthwaite will not let him forget.
Christmas just isn’t Christmas without Carol Kane.
10. The Ref – familial dysfunction is funny.
This one is the movie that only I seem to remember. It was a flop. It died an untimely death. And I will make it my mission to bring it back to cultural life, because any movie that stars Dennis Leary, Kevin Spacy, Judy Davis and the inimitable Christine Baranski has got to be worth a watch.
I’m probably showing off my generational roots by loving this movie. It’s about as 90’s as it gets, with all the mean-spirited falseness of that decade on display. The movie’s hero is a crook. The Sancho Panza to his Don Quixote is a shiftless alcoholic Baby Boomer named Gus. The antagonist is all the dysfunctional ugliness of a family that might seem to have everything as they slide by in their SUV. And the conflict is a family trying to act casual while they are prisoners to two jailers: Dennis Leary and their insufferable relatives.