Here's Our 10 Favorite Non-Christmas Christmas Movies

It's Christmas Eve, and we're flipping through the movie collection trying to decide what to watch. Sure, there's the obvious traditional fare, like A Muppet's Christmas Carol, A Christmas Story, and It's A Wonderful Life. But you might as well hold off on those, since you're likely to spend some part of the holidays watching them when visiting relatives. So let's dig out some of our favorite films set around Christmas.

As the Internet meme goes, "It's not Christmas until you see Hans Gruber fall from Nakatomi Plaza." So let's get right to the list, in reverse order of the year of their release.

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)


This remains one of the best noir film of the 2000s, and also one that sadly far too few people have ever seen. Directed by Shane Black and starring a pre-Iron Man Robert Downey, Jr., Val Kilmer, and Michelle Monaghan. Also one of the few noirs that's also a dark comedy. Downey plays Harry Lockhart, a burglar accidentally turned actor begrudgingly turned detective. Working with Kilmer as private detective Perry, they set out to solve a case before Monaghan winds up dead as well.

Eyes Wide Shut (1999)


It's a Stanley Kubrick film, what more do you really need if you're a fan of cinema. This one is one part Kubrick's brilliance, four parts mental mind-game, and about one and a half parts sexual exploration. It features a still-married Tom Cruise and Nichole Kidman as a well-to-do married couple who are trying to sort through their respective sexual identities and how they may have drifted apart from each other – and the paths it takes them on. Set in New York City over Christmas, and the setting and the lights help give everything a surreal color toning. Is it all actually happening, or just a fantasy playing out in Cruise's character's mind?

Go (1999)


Go, written by John August (Big Fish) and directed by Doug Liman (Swingers, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Edge of Tomorrow),  this is another one of those brilliant films that was seen during it's initial run by just a shamefully low number of people. The story's narrative is made up of three intertwining storylines of three groups of people all setting out to have a good time over Christmas eve.

The film stars William Fichtner, Katie Holmes, Jay Mohr, Sarah Polley, and Scott Wolf and features Taye Diggs, Breckin Meyer, Timothy Olyphant, Desmond Askew, J. E. Freeman, and Melissa McCarthy in her film debut.

Holmes' opens the film with the line that sets the tone both for the stories that are to follow, but also regarding the characters as well:

You know what I like about Christmas? The surprises. You get this box, and you're sure of what's inside. You shake it, weigh it. You're convinced you have it pegged. No doubt in your mind. But then you open it and it's different.

L.A. Confidential (1997)


1950's Los Angeles is the seedy backdrop for this story of police corruption and the underbelly of Hollywood. Three cops are all after the truth, each in their own very different (and often conflicting) style: Ed Exley (Guy Pearce), the golden boy of the police force, willing to do almost anything to get ahead, except sell out; Bud White (Russell Crowe), ready to break the rules to seek justice, but barely able to keep his raging violence under control; and Jack Vincennes (Kevin Spacey), always looking for celebrity and a quick buck until his conscience drives him to join Exley and White down the one-way path to find the truth behind the dark world of L.A. crime.

Batman Returns (1992)


It's not Purrrfect, but with Michelle Pfeiffer in the role of Selina Kyle/Catwoman in that suit, a lot can be forgiven in this Christmas-timed Batman film with Michael Keaton in the title role, Danny DeVito as the Penguin, and Christopher Walkin as Max Shreck. Shreck and Penguin are team up – to take control of Gotham and to make Penguin one of the respected leaders of the City. When Kyle discovers Shreck's plans, he pushes her out a window and results in her becoming Catwomen. She agrees to help bring down Batman to help Penguins plans, and with the snow falling Batman has to confront all three villains.

Home Alone (1990)


Alright, so this one is almost too Christmas-focused to be on this list. However since the same plot could have played out anytime the family had gone on vacation and it would have worked (as long as it's still winter), we figured we'd leave it in. Young Kevin McCalliser (Macaulay Culkin) is accidentally left alone when the rest of the family heads to Paris for a vacation. Thinking that he'd used a Christmas wish to make them all vanish (he overslept the flight), he settles in to enjoy his newfound peace and freedom. That peace is interrupted when two not too bright burglars (Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern) attempt to break into the house only to be thwarted by Caulkin at every turn.

Die Hard (1988)


Let's be honest, Die Hard has really become an enduring classic of the solo-hero action genre. Before Die Hard, Bruce Willis was known mostly as David Addison Jr. from the long running TV comedy-drama Moonlighting and not someone who would be thought of when talking "action hero". Many movie buffs when talking about Christmas Movies and they don't want to just pop off with It's a Wonderful Life, they'll mention this film. At it's core it's a heist film with Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) and his gang of faux-terrorists (actually just thieves masquerading as terrorists) taking the Nakatomi plaza building's occupants hostage during their annual Christmas party. They want into the company's vault for the $640 million in bearer bonds that are kicking around inside, the main monkey wrench to the film being that NYPD Detective John McClaine (Willis) has just arrived to the party to visit his estranged wife. From there it's a cat and mouse game, brilliantly written by Jeb Stuart and directed by John McTiernan. This film has more quotable lines in it than nearly any other in the action genre.

Lethal Weapon (1987)


It's one of the early entrants into the buddy-cop genre and helped to refine the action film genre in the late 80s and early 90s across four films. Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover) has just turned 50, and only has a few more years to go before he retires from the Los Angeles Police Department. Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson) has just lost his wife in an accident, and doesn't care if he lives or dies. When they are paired together, Murtaugh has problems with Riggs cavalier behavior racing into the face of death since Murtaugh just wants to live to retirement, as they investigate a violent drug ring.

Gremlins (1984)


When Billy Peltzer (played by Zach Galligan) is given a small creature called a Mogwai by his father (Hoyt Axton) as a Christmas present, he is unaware of the carnage he is about to encounter. There is a huge responsibility in looking after Gizmo as there are certain rules which must be followed. The Mogwai must be kept away from bright light, never made wet and never, ever be fed after midnight. Of course, the very first thing that happens is that poor Gizmo gets wet, and then things really start rolling.

Trading Places (1983)

Here's Our 10 Favorite Non-Christmas Christmas Movies

It's an oldie but goodie with Eddie Murphy, Dan Aykroyd, and Jamie Lee Curtis starring in an updated spin on the Prince and the Pauper. A pair of wealthy commodities brokers make a bet that they can put their junior partner (Aykroyd) into the poor house, while making a homeless hustler (Murphy) a successful trader. In the end Murphy and Aykroyd along with the help of a prostitute (Curtis) manage to turn the tables on the betting pair and come out on top.


And now, in case you don't get a chance to at least watch Die Hard, here's the scene you need. Now you can at least say that you've seen ol' Hans take his annual Nakatomi plunge.



Enjoyed this? Please share on social media!

Bill WattersAbout Bill Watters

Games programmer by day, geek culture and fandom writer by night. You'll find me writing most often about tv and movies with a healthy side dose of the goings-on around the convention and fandom scene.
Comments will load 8 seconds after page. Click here to load them now.