If an angel gets its wings every time you ring a bell, I would bet that his halo gets a bit brighter every time John McClane kills a Gruber. For years we’ve been told that Christmas movies are heartfelt, family-friendly tales meant to make us grow and get us right in the feels. Leave it our generation to demand a little more. We not only want to feel, we want non-stop action, bad guys, horror and bad language….that also happens to take place during Christmas.
Certainly, there is a time each year to hear Linus tell the Christmas story, rejoice on 34th St. that Santa is real and watch Cousin Eddie empty a chemical toilet in his bathrobe. They’re classics for a reason. However, I’ve noticed our library of yule tide favorites has grown to include some very unconventional choices. Speaking with friends, I’ve realized we’re not alone. While all enjoyable, most are not supposed to do much more than entertain. And isn’t having a good time at Christmas what it’s all about?
1. Die Hard (1988)
Oh this isn’t a Christmas movie, you say? Argyle would disagree as he blasts “Christmas in Hollis” in his limo. Further proof? There’s a Christmas party going on at the Nakatomi Building. And sh*t is about to hit the fan. Hans Gruber and his crack team of terrorists (including a Huey Lewis-esque brut) are planning to crash the festivities. Unbeknownst to them (but knownst to us), John “Yippee Ki Yay” has just arrived from New York and he’s packing. Seriously, I could watch this movie at any time of the year but the Holiday’s just give me another reason.
2. Trading Places (1983)
Oh the 1980’s… that wonderful decade of political un-correctness and gratuitous nudity. This film is lacking in neither. Eddie Murphy is on top of his game as Billy Ray Valentine, a down-on-his-luck, homeless con-man and Dan Akroyd delivers as the uppity Louis Winthorpe III. Add to that a slew of brilliant actors (Ralph Bellamy, Denholm Elliot and Don Ameche) and a top-notch director, John Landis, and this one lands at the top of many lists. Each line is memorable. (“…like you might find on a bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich.”) Jamie’s never looked so good. And even though I still don’t fully understand the stock trading scene, I still feel a little smarter every time I watch it. And my Christmas gets a little merrier.
3. Gremlins (1984)
Come on, Billy! You had one job. Take care of a Mogwai by following 3 simple rules. Major fail. For many of us this was a first taste of the horror-genre. Gremlins (along with Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom) was one of the first movies to receive a PG-13 rating. And let’s be honest, that made us want to see it more. Come for the utter chaos rained on the poor town of Kingston Falls by Stripe and his gang, stay for the heartbreaking Santa story that Kate shares with Billy. (Seriously?!)
4. Lethal Weapon (1987)
Daddy Murtaugh and Dreamy Riggs, polar opposite cops forced to partner up as they investigate the apparent suicide of a friend’s daughter. Dear every buddy cop movie made since, this is what you’re going for. Although Christmas is in the air, the bad guys here are trying to make the “naughty list” for life. Riggs’ and Mr. Joshua’s climactic fight scene on Murtaugh’s front lawn is crazy intense. And when Gibson collapses into his partners arms (after some serious ass kicking) it gets me right in the feels. Warm holiday fuzzies.
5. Go (1999)
A who’s who of the up-and-comer’s of the 1990’s (Sarah Polley, Jay Mohr, Taye Diggs, Katie Holmes, Timothy Olyphant and blink and you’ll miss her, Melissa McCarthy) this one has a little something for everyone. Three intertwined stories give us sex, drugs, strippers, gun play and Amway….er, Confederated Products. It’s surprisingly engrossing and still manages to hold its own 15 years later. And unlike some of my previous choices, this one does have a Christmas message: Friends are everything…and Timothy Olyphant has always been damn sexy.
6. Edward Scissorhands (1990)
A visually stunning, whimsical fable about human nature, the Burton/Depp team got this one right. Oh so right. In fact, knowing this is what they are capable of together, I wish they would’ve just stopped here. It’s a romantic story, albeit a very sad one that leaves us feeling heartbroken that it couldn’t have ended any other way. Not really. With each viewing, I find something new to love, something new to laugh at and find myself an emotional mess at Grandma Winona’s last line “…sometimes you can still catch me dancing in it.” (cue music…cue tears)