Renegade Staff Picks: Best Non-Traditional Christmas Movies

non-traditional Christmas moviesPhoto from Warner Bros.
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There are a ton of good holiday movies out there that are about the Christmas spirit, Santa Claus and the cheer of giving. As a matter of fact, we told you some of our favorites a couple of week’s back with our Best Holiday Movies Staff Picks column. However, while there are some really good holiday movies out there, there are some GREAT movies that take place during the holiday season, but aren’t really about the holidays at all.

Here is a look at the Renegade Cinema staff’s favorite non-traditional Christmas movies while everyone is celebrating the holidays.

 

Die Hard

Derek Johns: I know this choice is a little obvious but Die Hard is arguably the greatest action movie of all time so naturally this is going to be my favorite holiday theme movie too. To this day action movies continue to imitate John McClane, Hans Gruber and Die Hard as a whole to understandably limited success. It’s such a shame the series credibility would ultimately be ruined by the soulless A Good Day to Die Hard.

 

The Fellowship of the Rings

Derek Ciapala: To me, this remains the best of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films. The movie’s storytelling and suspense still holds me in wonder, despite repeated viewings over the years. The movie’s epic nature is outdone only by the quality of its cast. Hollywood can do everything it can to create a film franchise that will open as strongly as the “Lord of the Rings” franchise did with this movie, but I believe it will fail every time. I’ll always remember going to see the movies in this franchise with my family during the holiday season.

 

Gremlins

Rick Tym: My favorite non-holiday-themed movie that takes place during the Christmas season is Gremlins. I remember seeing this flick as a teen and bring both mesmerized by Gizmo’s cuteness and startled by the green gang’s nasty mischievous actions. The ultimate horror from this PG-13 gem comes from Phoebe Cates’ Santa chimney story, a scene that only gets bleaker as you age. After thinking back on all the twistedness contained in this movie, I’m starting to rethink my choice here…but still, it has its fun parts, comes complete with lots of lights, tinsel and some good gift ideas (the smokeless ashtray always slayed me for some reason), and good does triumph in the end. Gremlins is a classic Joe Dante flick, full of both laughs and darkness, and is a great mix of fantasy, horror, Barbie car action and, of course, Christmas.

Ruby Le Rouge: When it first came out there was a lot of controversy over Gremlins, with tv trailers advertising a cuddly little critter in a Barbie car, it seemed to be marketed as a kids movie, or at the very least, family friendly. The true tone of the movie is set quickly, when phones cates’ character tells Zach Galligan why she hates Christmas (and why no one should ever try shimmying down a chimney). Families went, and were shocked when what they got was much darker and a little frightening, causing many to be confused and angry. Joe Dante & Chris Columbus knew what they were doing, they knew that kids could not only handle it, but would like it, and they did. I don’t know anyone from my generation that doesn’t feel a sense of nostalgia for this flick.

 

Die Hard 2

Caliber Winfield: Yes, the original is better, but others have said Die Hard, so I’m gonna go with the sequel. Now, a lot of times with these sorts of films, people will dismiss it, and be unable to suspend their disbelief because you immediately think “How could this happen again?”, but the brilliance of Part 2 is that he says the same damn thing. “How can the same shit happen to the same guy twice?” which is BRILLIANT. Now, unlike the following sequels, this is a true sequel. Same time of year, same characters, same situations. The film is a lot of fun, and honestly just about on part with the original. I mean, he stabs a guy with an ice-cycle, how can you hate that? Also, a bit of trivia for you guys, this is the second Die Hard film to feature a support character playing a cop who went on to play a cop in a successful series. Also, the island the General is coming from, Velaina, is the same island where Arnold in Commando had to go to over-throw the General. Funny, considering the original Die Hard was intended as a sequel to Commando.

 

Batman Returns

Caleb Masters: The market for superhero movies is all but over saturated these days which may lead you to wonder; why hasn’t there been a superhero Christmas movie? Wouldn’t it be awesome?!

I’ve got good news for those of you who are in love with the most wonderful time of the year. It already exists and has existed since 1992 when Michael Keaton donned the cowl for the second time in Batman Returns. Burton’s Bat-sequel was darker, creepier, and even more outlandish than the original. It featured supernatural cats, a suicide penguin squad, and even a not so jolly Christmas circus. It may not capture be the most festive Christmas story, but the spirit of Saint Nick is still present in the darker gothic art direction you’d expect from a Burton flick.

It may not be merry, but Christmas in Gotham feels exactly how you’d expect it would in such a dark and destitute place. Luckily the city’s dark knight doesn’t put up the Scrooge-like antics of the two faced bird loving Penguin. He’s not fat, filled with holly, or wearing any red, but Batman delivers the Christmas gift Gotham so desperately needs: electricity. Joy to the World indeed

Merry Christmas ya’ filthily animals!

 

Edward Scissorhands

Bethany Lewis: I never thought of Edward Scissorhands as a Christmas movie, but there’s something so whimsical, dark, and magical about Tim Burton’s on screen Christmas that it is difficult to separate the setting from the rest of the movie. While there is something garish about the town and it’s artificial snow decorations and frosted plastic trees, there is also something sadly sweet about them. Edward’s gift of snow to the mobbish town is equally as magical and in complete keeping with the tragic sweetness of the character and the movie. Considering the kind and tortured Edward loses both the girl and his innocence by the end of the movie, it’s perhaps not the cheeriest of Christmas tales, but it certainly leaves an impression.

 

Lethal Weapon

Shawn S. Lealos: Although I have learned that it is blasphemy to some people, I still consider Lethal Weapon to be a superior movie to Die Hard, although both movies are great. I just love the character of Riggs as presented in this first movie in the franchise. Anyway, Shane Black wrote this movie, which is why it takes place during Christmas. He seems to love the holiday (Long Kiss Goodbye, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Iron Man 3), but Lethal Weapon is his writing masterpiece. From the scene with Riggs chasing the criminal through the Christmas trees to him watching holiday cartoons while contemplating suicide (!!!!), this movie is just entrenched with the holiday spirit in the background while letting Mel Gibson battle Gary Busey in the rain.

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About the Author

Shawn S. Lealos
Shawn is a film critic with over 25 years of experience in print and online media. He is a member of the Oklahoma Film Critics Circle and loves everything from critically acclaimed movies to B-level action flicks.
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