Film and TV

Die Hard Is Played Out, But Here Are Other Christmas-ish Movies You'll Love

Just stop with the bad Die Hard sequels already and maybe look into our suggestions for other Christmas-ish movies to watch.
Just stop with the bad Die Hard sequels already and maybe look into our suggestions for other Christmas-ish movies to watch. Gareth Cattermole/Getty
It’s 2010. You aren’t really one for the typical holiday festivities, but you can’t escape it. Your friends look at you as if you’re some kind of freak whenever you express feeling kinda “meh” about the season. But still, you feel obliged to indulge here and there. You go to the office Christmas party. You participate in white elephant gift exchanges. You begrudgingly purchase a Star Wars-themed ugly Christmas sweater. Still, deep down inside, trudging through December is always a chore. The decorations, the music, the MOVIES, worst of all. You simply, really can't stand Christmas movies. Rudolph, Frosty, Charlie Brown, The Grinch, It’s a Wonderful Life. You hate them all. You especially hate being asked which is your favorite.

But you’ve found a clever response. Whenever anyone asks the dreaded question, “What is your favorite Christmas movie?” you answer “Die Hard.” It’s perfect. It technically takes place during Christmastime. Christmas décor is somewhere in just about every frame. Hell, there are even more actual Christmas songs played in the movie than the classic holiday musical White Christmas.

But over the past decade, what once was so clever has become cliché. The debate as to whether or not Die Hard is a Christmas movie has become an annual discussion online and in the media. There are books, ornaments and even memes telling us that “It’s not Christmas until we see Hans Gruber fall off Nakatomi Plaza.” Suddenly, your once quirky choice of favorite Christmas movie has become downright basic. So you’re now in the market for a new against-the-grain holiday favorite, one that hasn’t become overplayed. Here are a handful of excellent candidates for your new favorite Christmas movie for the next time you are asked.

Gremlins
This is the most obvious movie waiting in the wings to be the new “Non-Christmas Christmas movie.” It opens up with Darlene Love’s Christmas classic “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” and includes perhaps the most bizarre Christmas story in movie history. Gizmo is bought as a Christmas present, and a Gremlin attacks a character from a Christmas tree. That's all you need to know.

Batman Returns

Tim Burton’s sequel to 1989’s mega-blockbuster Batman is full of Christmas imagery (or at least Burton’s version of it): It opens up on a Christmas night and has an extremely sexy kiss under the mistletoe. Burton’s Edward Scissorhands also makes for an excellent Christmas-adjacent movie.

The Ref
This 1994 chamber dramedy was meant to be a vehicle for then-hot commodity Denis Leary. Of course, the comedian is outmatched by more seasoned castmates (Judy Davis, Christine Baranski, Glynis Johns, Raymond J. Berry, Bill Raymond, and a pre-MeToo Usual Suspects Kevin Spacey). The black comedy is about a cat thief forced to take a family hostage, and is ultimately a movie about people behaving badly, broken family structures, and in a meta-sense, how modern family dynamics don’t work within the traditional holiday movie mold. The Ref is an excellent choice for a holiday movie that isn’t filled with the full-blown misanthropy and cynicism of universally beloved comedies such as Christmas Vacation.

Black Christmas (1974)
The Canadian, original Black Christmas is a classic that got a remake in 2019 and serves as not only one of the earliest slasher films but one of the best. The movie is about a killer loose on campus, and the whole mass-death-count-thing is really in line with Die Hard. With excellent camera work, amazing atmosphere and dark humor, it has even enjoyed critical re-evaluation as an important feminist film within the genre. What makes the movie even more fascinating is that it comes from Bob Clark, the same man who brought us A Christmas Story.

The Long Kiss Goodnight
To be honest, you can’t go wrong with just about any Shane Black-penned or directed flick (Lethal Weapon, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Iron Man 3, etc.). Black just loves to use Christmas as a backdrop for bombastic action and razor-sharp dialogue. The Long Kiss Goodnight just so happens to be his best, and it’s one of the handful of films in which an amnesia plot gimmick actually works. Geena Davis makes for a surprisingly badass action star as a woman who has lost her memory, and Samuel L. Jackson is great fun to watch mugging for the camera and chewing the scenery.

Blast of Silence

A hitman makes a business call to New York during Christmastime. From there, we follow the minutiae of his process, from meeting his contract to trailing his target to obtaining a gun. He's largely alone, save for brief contacts with people which the narration refers to as "bad moments." The action is silent save for an unusual second-person narrator, who states that hitman Frankie Bono has "24 hours to stay faceless in the crowd," to, "Get (himself) lost in the city. Lose (himself) in the Christmas spirit with the rest of the suckers." It makes for a unique dynamic in a film in which most of the action is waiting. You likely won’t like the main character or just about anyone you see on screen. Blast of Silence isn’t your typical tale of redemption either. It’s one of the harshest Christmas-adjacent films you’re likely to see.

Deadly Games: Dial Code Santa Claus
The plot to Deadly Games: Dial Code Santa Claus may sound familiar: A young boy obsessed with action movies is left to fend for himself against a deranged home invader dressed as Santa Claus. 3615 Code Pere Noel (the original French title) has been referred to as a "proto-Home Alone" (it predates the megahit by a year), but it is so much more than that. It’s a glorious bonkers mess of a movie. With surreal imagery and shocking violence, it’s not going to be to everyone’s taste; however, it is a one-of-a-kind holiday season experience, and one that is definitely worth watching at least once.

Brazil

Terry Gilliam’s dystopian nightmare takes place during Christmas. It opens with a family’s home Christmas scene being disrupted by jackbooted agents taking the father away, and near the end our hero shares a cell with a man in a Santa suit before he's to be lobotomized. Um, yippee-ki-yay.

City of Lost Children
If you’ve seen this one-of-a-kind French classic, the opening scene is no doubt etched in your mind. A young boy is visited in his crib by Santa Claus, which feels normal enough until his room becomes overrun with more Santas (and a reindeer who defecates on the floor). We soon figure out that this is a dream experiment gone amiss.

The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas
The 1982 adaptation of the Broadway musical about a, you guessed it, Texas brothel has a stellar cast.
Who doesn’t love Dolly Parton? And who can resist Charles Durning hoofing it up? Also, the song “A Hard Candy Christmas” is an absolute jam.

The Ice Harvest

An underrated little gem from the late, great Harold Ramis, this is yet another story of people behaving badly during the holidays. John Cusack plays a mob lawyer who decides to steal from mob boss Randy Quaid on Christmas Eve. All he needs to do is wait out the night for the icy roads to clear up and he’s in the clear. Of course, he has to deal with his scuzzy partner in crime (Billy Bob Thornton), his ex-wife's lush of a husband (Oliver Platt), a night club owner with whom he’s in love (Connie Nielsen) and the boss’ enforcer who is searching for him.

Female Trouble
Dawn Davenport runs away from home and embarks on a life of crime because her parents won’t buy her a pair of cha-cha heels for Christmas. This film is John Waters and Divine at their most audacious. It involves multiple murders, a grotesque birthing scene and a woman being held hostage in a giant birdcage. The film was dedicated to Manson Family member Charles “Tex” Watson and, even more amazing, this movie had a decent budget and marketing campaign budget behind it after the success of Waters’ Pink Flamingos.

Missing In Action
If you want to keep it big and dumb, you can’t go wrong with Chuck Norris. Much like Die Hard, this one involves a terrorist plot during Christmastime in Los Angeles. One of the quintessential fantasy ‘80s action flicks, it ups the volume in its action sequences, which include blowing up an entire town (it was set to be demolished anyway), and a white-knuckle car chase sequence with a woman dangling out of the passenger window of Norris’ car.

Metropolitan

If you want to keep it highbrow, you can’t go wrong with Whit Stillman’s debut feature about bored, upper-class, early-twentysomethings as they go through the motions of playing adults. They attend Christmas parties, wax poetically on issues and subjects about which they know nothing (the main character quotes book reviews rather than reading the books), and pretend at human drama through various romantic pairings.

Eyes Wide Shut

Stanley Kubrick’s final film follows Tom Cruise in an odyssey through New York during the holidays after learning that (gasp!) his wife might have sexual desires beyond him. His journey finds him in the apartment of a prostitute, a costume shop where the shopkeeper might or might not be pimping out his underage daughter and (in the film’s most famous sequence) in an orgy run by a cabal of mysterious wealthy elites.

Die Hard 2
Of course, you could keep it simple and just go with Die Hard 2, which also takes place during Christmas. 
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