Surprise! These are Christmas movies, too

(Yes Virginia, Batman Returns is an Xmas movie)

Christmas is this week and not everyone is into the same old, typical Christmas romantic comedy tropes or the “feel good”, heartwarming “spirit of the season” sappy films with a moral to the story.

Sometimes, you just want to sit down and pass the time watching quality films that might take place around Christmas, but they’re not exactly the run-of-the-mill Christmas holiday movies. Here’s our top ten list of the most non-Christmas Christmas movies. 

10. Less Than Zero (R) 

Clay (Andrew McCarthy) returns to his hometown of Beverly Hills, California for Christmas break from college to find his former lover Blair (Jami Gertz) and his best friend Julian (Robert Downey Jr.) are not only using copious amounts of cocaine, they are also involved with each other sexually.

Clay arrives just in time to witness Julian hitting his rock bottom after racking up a $50,000 drug debt with Rip (James Spader) who intends to have it paid back by forcing Julian into sex work. Blair and Clay help Julian detox and he awakens on Christmas morning and decides to stay clean, which lasts for all of five minutes.

The saddest part of this film is not Julian’s death, but how life imitates art, and how Downey Jr’s life mirrored his character Julian’s life in this film. Luckily, he was able to get his life back on track and has continued to give us many more amazing films, with many more to come.

9. Friday After Next (R) 

In the Friday universe, Christmas falls on a Friday in 2002, and also in November when this film actually came out! Craig (Ice Cube) and Day-Day (Mike Epps) are back again, on a Friday, engaging in their myriad of shenanigans.

This is the third film in the series of four and it is clearly set during Christmas time, indicated by the extra long, comical, animated intro. The duo are awakened in their tiny apartment to discover they are being burglarized by someone dressed as Santa with a white beard constructed out of a white bandanna.

Craig gets beaten with his own Christmas tree and the imposter Santa gets away with their belongings and most importantly, their rent money, which is at least three weeks late.

Knowing the “po-po” (Reggie Gaskins and Joel McKinnon Miller) are completely useless, the two vow to track down their burglar and avoid eviction. 

8. Batman Returns (PG-13)

Gothic director Tim Burton decorates almost every scene of Batman Returns with Christmas holiday “cheer.” This film was released in June, but takes place during Christmas time.

The movie begins with ethereal music typical of Burton as the parents (Paul Reubens and Diane Salinger) of a baby, who will become the villain known as the Penguin (Danny DeVito), run through a snow blanketed park and hastily attempt to kill him by dumping his carriage in a creek which leads to the sewer system.

Even before the story gets going, it already has a dark, wintery Christmas feel, reminiscent of Burton’s other films.

This is the second installment of the Batman films starring Michael Keaton as Batman and introduces Catwoman played by Michelle Pfeiffer. 

7. Once Upon a Deadpool (PG-13)

The raunchy, foul mouthed, almost invincible, man in the red suit we all know and love as Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) does his best to get himself on Santa’s nice list by censoring himself down to a PG-13 rating as he retells the “Christmas classic” known as Deadpool 2 to a kidnapped Fred Savage who is duct taped to his old bed from The Princess Bride.

Is this really a Christmas movie? No, no it’s not, but they have some Christmas decorations in Fred Savage’s room and the additional 20 minutes added to the original Deadpool 2 have some random Christmas jokes. 

6. Lethal weapon (R) 

Audiences must have been confused when they first sat down in theaters to watch this holiday classic in the first week of March, but it’s obviously a Christmas movie because the opening credits are set to “Jingle Bell Rock” and the opening sequence features a young woman plummeting to her death from a Christmas-light-decorated high rise balcony.

We are then introduced to the two main protagonists and complete opposites Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson) and Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover) who are newly partnered police officers who must set aside their differences to hunt and capture a gang of drug smugglers who are tied to the death of the young woman.

Martin Riggs takes down a group of cocaine dealers in a Christmas tree shop, which is another Christmas detail. Even at the police station, a group of employees gathers to sing Silent Night.

The movie is peppered with Christmas details which begs one to ask, why wasn’t this successful film released as an actual Christmas movie? 

REELated: Reel 360’s Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

5. Iron man 3 (PG-13) 

Comic book movie producers seem to like making Christmas movies that happen to be released in spring and summer months and Iron Man 3 is one of those movies. Released in May, this non-Christmas Christmas film has many Christmas details from Tony Stark’s (Robert Downey Jr.) over the top, giant, stuffed animal gift for Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), to the explosion that puts Happy (Jon Favreau) in the hospital that occurs at the Christmas decorated Chinese Theater on Hollywood Blvd, there are many Christmas details that make this summer blockbuster a Christmas film.

After Tony Stark’s home is destroyed, JARVIS/the Iron Man suit (voiced by Paul Bettany) takes Tony to safety in Rose Hill, Tennessee that is absolutely drenched in Christmas decorations and Tony finds himself in a bar, also properly trimmed with Christmas lights and decorations.

At one point Tony Stark says, “What are you waiting for? It’s Christmas!” just before the final battle scene begins. 

4. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (R) 

Both Writer/Director Shane Black and Robert Downey Jr. are featured on this list, not once, not twice, but three times each, two of which are with each other.

This is one of those two films. Shane Black also worked on Lethal Weapon, as well as Iron Man 3, also with Robert Downey Jr. This delightfully dark, neo-noir, semi-satirical, private eye cult classic features Robert Downey Jr. who narrates the film as his character Harry Lockheart, who is a petty criminal from NY, who moves to Los Angeles to pursue an acting role. Harry hires Gay Perry (Val Kilmer), who is a gay detective to teach him how to be a private investigator.

Michelle Monaghan (Mission Impossible 3) plays Harmony Faith Lane, whom Harry remembers as a young girl he once sawed in half during a magic show when they were both children. This film was released in October, but is keenly decorated with Christmas “cheer,” Los Angeles style including a nude woman painted to resemble one of Santa’s reindeer and Harmony Faith Lane is dressed in a sexy Santa outfit for much of the film. 

3. Shazam! (PG-13)

While Shazam! was released in April, it actually takes place during Christmas! Zachery Levi plays the über-muscular superhero Shazam! who 14-year-old Billy Batson (Asher Angel) becomes when he says “SHAZAM!” The film is about finding your family and Billy does just that with his foster siblings after running away and attempting to find the mother who abandoned him.

The home he shares with his foster siblings is full of holiday decorations and there is a funny scene where Billy transforms into the titular character Shazam! At the same moment his foster father (Cooper Andrews) is fiddling with the Christmas tree lights and the power goes out. The final battle scenes take place at a Christmas carnival, complete with a cowardly Santa Claus hiding from the destruction. 

2. Die hard (1&2) (R) 

Watching German terrorists taking over the Nakatomi Plaza is about as Christmas as you can get. Even though Die Hard was released in July, and it has been hotly debated for decades, we agree, this is, in fact, a Christmas movie! NYPD police officer John McClane (Bruce Willis) flies to Los Angeles where his wife (Bonnie Bedelia) and children have relocated without him, in order to spend Christmas with his family. His skills are put to the test when his wife is taken hostage during a terrorist attack in the building in which she works while attending her office Christmas party.

McClane also finds himself trapped in the same building, unbeknownst to the terrorists. He obviously prevails against criminal mastermind, Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) because there are 5 Die Hard movies including Die Hard 2, which also takes place on Christmas eve. No Christmas is complete until you see Hans Gruber fall to his death.

1. Gremlins (PG) 

Randall Peltzer (Hoyt Axton) buys a special pet as a gift for his son, Billy (Zach Galligan) and receives very specific care instructions. When they are not followed, the adorable Mogwai become destructive Gremlins who wreak havoc. 

Gremlins is the greatest non-Christmas Christmas movie of all time due to Phoebe Cates’ phenomenal delivery of the most anti-Christmas monologues ever written when her character, Kate Beringer shares the story of why she hates Christmas. She goes on to tell the commonly known urban legend as her own story, how her father died in the chimney when he tried to surprise the family as Santa Claus.

His body was discovered when she went to light a fire in the fireplace and they were met with the stench of his burning body, and that’s how she found out there was no such thing as Santa.

Many of these movies have been declared “Christmas movies” prior to this list, however, their status has been debated and we feel they should be officially considered Christmas films, regardless of their release dates or their subject matter. Who is to say exactly what the “Christmas spirit” entails.

Maybe to some people it’s witnessing Robert Downey Jr. play someone who became a fellatio selling coke fiend, maybe it’s watching a group of diverse foster children find the superhero within them, this list offers a full spectrum of unassuming Christmas movies that don’t exactly fit the Christmas genre mold.

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Merry Christmas from Reel 360. Yippee Ki Yay!


Joia DaVida reports on the entertainment industry in both Chicago and Los Angeles.