Christmas Movies, Part 2: 1988 – Present

There are films that are set at Christmas, but aren’t about the holiday: Batman Returns, Iron Man 3, Gremlins, Trading Places, The Ref, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Lethal Weapon, L.A. Confidential, Go, The Thin Man, The Apartment, and The Lion in Winter. A lot of times Christmas features into the plot, but doesn’t necessarily revolve around it, which leads to our first film:

Die Hard (1988)


Director: John McTiernan

Starring: Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman, Bonnie Bedelia, Reginald Vel Johnson

Synopsis: John McClane, officer of the NYPD, tries to save his wife Holly Gennaro and several others that were taken hostage by German terrorist Hans Gruber during a Christmas party at the Nakatomi Plaza in Los Angeles.

Songs?: No

Did it become a musical?: No.

My take: It’s one of the best action movies. An everyman hero against one of the best movie villians of all time. I think some people consider this movie a Christmas movie because they want it to be.

Notable quotes: “Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker.”

“Come out to the coast, we’ll get together, have a few laughs…”


National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)


Director: Jeremiah S. Chechik

Starring: Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo, Randy Quaid

Synopsis: Clark Griswald wants to give his family a perfect Christmas, but everything that could possibly go wrong goes wrong, and his Christmas bonus hasn’t arrived yet.

Songs?: No.

Did it become a musical?: No

My take: There’s something about wanting a perfect Christmas that everyone can relate to. Sometimes we gloss over how stressful the holidays can be and how we want everything to be perfect, so we can see how Clark can get frustrated. Also Randy Quaid has never been funnier.

Notable quotes: (This is another movie that has a ton of great lines, so I am just going to quote one) “Where do you think you’re going? Nobody’s leaving. Nobody’s walking out on this fun, old-fashioned family Christmas. No, no. We’re all in this together. This is a full-blown, four-alarm holiday emergency here. We’re gonna press on, and we’re gonna have the hap, hap, happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap-danced with Danny fucking Kaye. And when Santa squeezes his fat white ass down that chimney tonight, he’s gonna find the jolliest bunch of assholes this side of the nuthouse.”


Home Alone (1990)


Director: Chris Columbus

Starring: McCauley Caulkin, Catherine O’Hara, Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern

Synopsis: During a hectic dash to the airport, eight year old Kevin McAllister is left behind over the holidays where he has to defend his home from two determined thieves

Songs?: No

Did it become a musical?: No

My take: This film seems to be two stories in one: a sentimental tale of loneliness during the holidays, and then a slapstick comedy on the other hand.

Notable quotes: “This house is so full of people it makes me sick. When I grow up and get married, I’m living alone. Did you hear me?”


The Santa Clause (1994)


Director: John Pasquin

Starring: Tim Allen, Judge Reinhold

Synopsis: On Christmas Eve, a man accidentally causes Santa Claus to fall off of his roof. When he puts on Santa’s coat he takes over being Santa by magical contract. After that, he tries to keep his identity from his family.

Songs?: No

Did it become a musical?: No

Notable quotes: “The Santa Clause: In putting on the suit and entering the sleigh, the wearer waives any and all right to any previous identity, real or implied, and fully accepts the duties and responsibilities of Santa Claus, in perpetuity to which some time the wearer becomes unable to do so, by either accident or design.”


Love Actually (2003)


Director: Richard Curtis

Starring: Hugh Grant, Colin Firth, Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, Liam Neeson, Bill Nighy, Martin Freeman, Keira Knightly, Andrew Lincoln, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Laura Linney, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, and many more

Synopsis: While aging rocker Billy Mack attempts a comeback with his song “Christmas is All Around,” the lives of several Londoners interect with each other in the five weeks approching Christmas

Songs?: Although it is not a musical, it does feature a school performance of “All I Want for Christmas is You” and some of the plot revolves around the pop song “Christmas is All Around.”

Did it become a musical?: Surprisingly not.

My take: People either love it or hate it. But what a cast!

Notable quotes: “But for now, let me say – Without hope or agenda – Just because it’s Christmas – And at Christmas you tell the truth – To me, you are perfect – And my wasted heart will love you.”


Bad Santa (2003)


Director: Terry Zwigoff

Starring: Billy Bob Thornton, Bernie Mac, Lauren Graham, Tony Cix

Synopsis: A miserable conman and his partner pose as Santa and his Little Helper to rob department stores on Christmas Eve. But they run into problems when the conman befriends a troubled kid, and the security boss discovers the plot.

Songs?: No

Did it become a musical?: No, but a sequel opened last year

My Take: It’s lewd and filthy, but it’s also pretty funny

Notable quotes: ” Look, I’ve boned a lot of fat chicks in my time, sure. But, as far back as I can remember, I’ve never fornicated anybody.”

“Hey, can I get another drink down here?”


Elf (2003)


Director: Jon Favreau

Starring: Will Ferrell, James Caan, Bob Newhart, Ed Asner

Synopsis: Buddy, a human who has been raised by elves, travels to New York to find his father.

Songs?: Nothing original

Did it become a musical?: Yes in 2010

My take: Of all the Christmas movies released in the last fifteen years, this is the one that has legs, and it’s due to the performance of Will Ferrell. There’s nothing camp or coy about him, he plays buddy with an innocent sense of wonder.

Notable quotes: (Another infinitely quotable movie) “The best way to spread Christmas Cheer, is singing loud for all to hear.”

“Bye Buddy. Hope you find your dad!”


Fred Claus (2007)


Director: David Dobkins

Starring: Vince Vaughan, Paul Giamatti, Miranda Richardson, Elizabeth Banks, Kevin Spacey

Synopsis: Santa Claus’s ne’er do well brother Fred comes to live at the North Pole, where he twarts a plot to take over Santa’s operation

Songs?: No

Did it become a musical?: No

My take: It all depends on how you feel about Vaughan and his style. Personally, I don’t feel that Fred is likeable enough to make the premise work.

Notable quotes: “Nick, there’s been one thing that’s been eating at me since I’ve been here. That Naughty-Nice List that you got? There’s no naughty kids, Nick. They’re all good kids. But some of them are scared. And some of them don’t feel listened to. Some of them had some pretty tough breaks too. But every kid deserves a present on Christmas.”