When it comes to holiday entertainment, some people revel in the saccharine sweet tales that fill the movie theaters and receive plenty of air-time on television. Miracle on 34th Street, It’s a Wonderful Life and A Muppet Christmas Carol are fine films if you love those super happy endings. Yes, those sugary sweet tales of bad-guys gone good, learned lessons, chaotic Christmases and Santa’s saved are fine for most people, but what if you are more Scrooge than you are Elf? What if you don’t dig on the holiday scene? Then what films should you be enjoying this season? No need to worry, there is plenty of great holiday fare that is perfect for the curmudgeonly Grinch in us all. So trade in your mistletoe for a bottle of Jack and get down on these fantastic films that speak to anyone who is less than thrilled at the typical entertainment choices this December.
Bad Santa (2003)
Billy Bob Thornton stars in this hilarious comedy designed to poke fun at all the classic Christmas fare. A couple of con-men dress as Santa and his helper to rob department stores, and nothing holiday-themed is sacred. From plenty of fight scenes to Thornton beating up holiday animals (and that famous scene in the dressing room) this film has everything for anyone that hates the holiday season.
True, this one still has that classic happy ending, however the rest of the film is perfect for anyone sick of all those Christmas Carol stories. This version of the classic Dickens story stars Bill Murray as the Scrooge character, a cynical TV executive that gets visited by the three famous spirits of holiday past, present and future. It’s also particularly enjoyable since it’s pokes fun at all those over-produced television specials that you are probably quite sick of as well.
Black Christmas (1974)
Holiday horror is a theme that is not often approached, but this flick from 1974 does it so well. When mad man who makes frightening phone calls and murders the sorority sisters during Christmas break terrorizes the house, there aren’t many yuletide greetings. It’s a classic slasher flick with a holiday twist. Plus it was directed by Bob Clark, who went on to make A Christmas Story.
What says Christmas more than a drug-fueled trip through Las Vegas? Watching this film is a little like a drug trip itself, but it is also filled with holiday references and absolutely no lessons are learned. Plus, you get to enjoy Timothy Oliphant as a Santa hat-wearing drug dealer, and what says holiday cheer more than that?
National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
National Lampoons Christmas Vacation (1989)
There is no film that belongs more firmly on this list than this one. This 1989 gem has made it’s way into mainstream holiday fare due to it’s brilliant writing and the comic genius of stars like Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo and Randy Quaid. It’s kind of like the exact opposite of a Norman Rockwell painting.
Many people forget that this famous flick is also set during the Christmas season. Sure, all the little rabid monsters that keep killing everyone probably distract them. However, there are plenty of great seasonal moments, including the one where Kate explains why she hates Christmas, making this film perfect for this list.
The Nightmare Before Christmas
The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
And speaking of Tim Burton, you can’t have a list like this without The Nightmare Before Christmas. This Halloween/Christmas film is probably the only holiday flick that works for both major holidays. With Burton’s dark wit and impressive storytelling combined with brilliant music by Danny Elfman, you have the only holiday film worthy of three full months of viewing pleasure.
Batman Returns (1992)
This superhero flick is one of the more often forgotten Batman films, yet it’s really one of the best. This was Tim Burton’s last contribution to the Batman series, and it has a great mix of dark Burton-like undertones and plenty of superhero cheesiness. It’s filled with awesome performances from Danny DeVito, Christopher Walken, Michelle Pfeiffer and Michael Keaton, and there are still lots of scenes that speak to the holiday season (sort of.)
Ok, yes this film is filled with fun cheer and happy endings and lots of tinsel. However, it’s the comic genius of Will Ferrell that really sells this flick to anyone that doesn’t normally dig the Christmas-y goodness. Plus it totally skewers all those other Santa’s workshop scenes and other famous films in a fun and lighthearted way. And with a few cameo appearances by Bob Newhart, you just know it’s perfect for the holidays.