So we’ve all seen Home Alone, Elf and Frozen six hundred times each, and that’s cool. I’m down with each and every one of those excellent films. However, there are some gems that are less family-friendly, for a variety of reasons, and are best enjoyed after the children are tucked away safely in bed with visions of sugarplums etc etc
The Apartment (1960)
We all need a good old dose of Shirley MacLaine this time of year and this is a perfect choice. A good old-fashioned and inspiring romance that has been parodied reproduced and borrowed from for the past 60 years, it tells the story of a meek office clerk who loans his apartment out to sleazy execs so they can conduct their affairs. Problems arise when he falls in love himself. And who wouldn’t fall in love with Shirley?!
Director: Billy Wilder
Trading Places (1983)
One of the funniest comedies of all time and a great character study piece, why wait until Christmas to watch it? Eddie Murphy and Dan Ackroyd go head to head as two sides of the same coin: a homeless man and a Wall Street trader, who have their lives swopped by a couple of evil old men as part of a cruel bet. The resulting chaos is hilarious, quotable and a yearly staple on my festive watchlist. Dan Ackroyd’s descent into total squalor and Jamie Lee Curtis’ body both deserve honourable mention.
Director: John Landis
I’ll never forget the horror of watching this as a child, a horror that was mixed with pure delight. Don’t be fooled by the cute Mogwai on the cover of that VHS, kids! It tells the story of Billy, a teenager whose Dad gets him a rare gift from China. But when he doesn’t follow the VERY specific instructions on how to look after his exotic pet, all hell breaks loose. Goodfellas it ain’t but I never looked at a blender the same way again.
Director: Joe Dante
Die Hard (1988)
A film I often cite as my alt Christmas flick du choix, this is a solidly entertaining, funny and heartfelt action film. Bruce Willis was at his finest (in every sense of the word) as renegade ex-cop John McLane who single handedly picks off a gang of terrorists and saves his ex-wife on Christmas Eve. Needless to say she is powerless in the face of such heroism, and at the sight of his rippling muscles in that dirty little white vest. Ho. Ho. Ho.
Director: John McTiernan
Another film which could be deceptive – a retelling of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol – how scary could that be? Well, don’t show your six year old is my advice. Bill Murray is hilarious as the titular Scrooge, a TV exec with no heart. His encounters with the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future help him to see the error of his ways. The Ghost of Christmas Present is my all time fave movie ghost.
Director: Richard Donner
National Lampoons Christmas Vacation (1989)
Have you Griswolded your house yet? When a character name becomes a verb for “making something extra festive”, you know it’s iconic. Who could forget the sight of Chevy Chase’s outrageous lighting rig which takes out the entire city? Christmas decoration goals!!
He plays Clark Griswold, who is is really into Christmas and promises to make it a good one. Until he turns everything into a domino effect of disasters. Ooopsie!
Director: Jeremiah S. Chechik
Bad Santa (2003)
Bad is an understatement. Billy Bob Thornton already looks like he’s enjoyed a few too many whiskeys, so stick him in a grubby old Santa suit and bingo – you’ve got an iconic naughty Saint Nick. He plays a miserable conman who sets out to rob department stores on Christmas Eve – but of course, nothing goes according to plan. And along the way he makes friends and learns some valuable lessons. Delightfully filthy fun!
Director: Terry Zwigoff
The Holiday (2006)
Yes, I know that it’s cheesier than a festive fondue and I don’t care. It is the work of Nancy Meyers and we should all bow down to her greatness. I don’t give a damn if all her characters seem to be excessively wealthy and attractive, I am actively looking for that when I go to this film. Weirdly, I love it more and more as the years go by – perhaps I’m getting soft in the head. But here’s the thing – Jude Law is fit, Kate Winslet is adorable, Jack Black is totally crush-worthy and Cameron Diaz is just a ball of Cali sunshine. The story – two women swop homes for “The Holidays” and find love in each other’s worlds. After the shitstorm of the past two years, this is what we all need.
Director: Nancy Meyers
So there you have it, a chocolate box full of Yuletide cheer, scary monsters, grubby Father Christmas and unattainable love. It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Sing it with me!! What ones have I missed? I LOVE a new Christmas movie, please share yours with me.