by Jason Koenigsberg
Tis the season to curl up on the couch, sit by the fireplace, drink some hot chocolate or delicious egg nog and watch the usual Holiday movies and specials on TV. But rather than list the best holiday movies that you all know and have already seen, I figured why not change it up a little bit and give you the top 5 Christmas movies that most people do not think about as evergreens during the Holiday season. Instead of talking about how great It’s a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street or National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation are, let’s look at films that are overlooked during this season instead of excellent pictures that we have seen and know by heart. We know how great they are so why not talk about great films you probably overlook but should not ignore. They may be the perfect medicine after you are done with all that shopping and dealing with your family. So this month, when you have time to relax here are the top 5 Unconventional Christmas Classics.
1. Die Hard (1988) directed by John McTiernan
One of the best films of the 1980’s and one of the most influential action films of all time is actually a Christmas movie. It takes place in the fictional Nakatomi Tower in Los Angeles where NY cop John McClane (Bruce Willis) is there to meet his wife at her jobs holiday party when Hans Gruber (played brilliantly by Alan Rickman) and his band of terrorists show up. The opening scene at the airport features some holiday jingles in Michael Kamen’s score, then in the limo ride with Argyle to the party we hear some holiday themed rap by Run DMC, to the final moments where “Let it Snow” plays over the end credits, the movie is littered throughout with holiday sounds and images, none more memorable than “Now I have a machine gun, ho ho ho” (watch that clip below). It’s sequel Die Hard 2 (1990) was another big summer action blockbuster in the guise of a Christmas film. Die Hard is an American masterpiece and one of the greatest and most unconventional Christmas films of all time.
2. Lethal Weapon (1987) directed by Richard Donner
Like Die Hard, Lethal Weapon is a landmark action film from the 80’s that takes place in Los Angeles and is an unlikely Christmas classic. The opening credits feature “Jingle Bell Rock” set over helicopter shots of Los Angles at night and it closes with Riggs (Mel Gibson) about to join Murtaugh and his family of Christmas dinner. In between are holiday references scattered about, none as distinguished as Riggs’ shootout with some drug dealers in a Christmas tree lot. Click to watch that scene below.
3. The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996) directed by Renny Harlin
One of the most spectacular action films of the 90’s starts out as a Christmas film with Elvis singing “Winter Wonderland” over images of a Christmas parade followed by a Christmas party. It quickly turns into a kinetic action thriller about a former assassin with amnesia. Its themes of identity regarding its main character (played remarkably by Geena Davis) are one of the main reasons I never found any Matt Damon’s Bourne films to be any good. The Long Kiss Goodnight is almost the same movie but much more thrilling. Written by the immensely talented Shane Black who also wrote Lethal Weapon and wrote and directed Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005), which also takes place noticeably during the holiday season, this is required viewing for fans of action packed excitement. Check out the incredible trailer below.
4. Bad Santa (2003) directed by Terry Zwigoff
The best Holiday movie for everyone who absolutely hates the holidays, Bad Santa is fun black sheep cousin of Elf. They were both released in the same year and only a few weeks apart, one has become a holiday perennial on ABC Family and practically every other network, the other is like the bad boy that drinks and smokes too much but is a lot of fun when he comes to visit. Bad Santa is dark, twisted and the perfect remedy for all of that saccharin holiday cheer. When you are fed up with your family, shopping, swarming malls, crowded parking lots and all the spoiled annoying traits this season brings about, Bad Santa is the cure.
5. The Ref (1994) directed by Ted Demme
The first big star vehicle for Denis Leary who has since made an excellent transition over the past 2 decades from stand up comedian to actor in both lead and supporting roles and can perform in comedies and dramas as well as anybody. His career has evolved nicely with success in film and television but this was the first major opportunity where Denis Leary took his persona from MTV’s Remote Control and his Comedy Specials and illustrated that he could carry a film. It also helps that he was sharing scenes with the talented Judy Davis and Kevin Spacey as a cuckolded husband stuck in the malady of suburbia, a role that foretells his Oscar winning turn as Lester Burnham in American Beauty (1999). Sure its final moments are a bit of a cop out and very unrealistic, the rest of the movie is hilarious and a thoughtful picture that captures teenage anger. A great holiday movie for high school kids that are sick of their families and all the baggage that comes with the holiday season.