There are many excellent Christmas movies to watch this time of year. ‘A Christmas Story’ and the 1951 version of ‘A Christmas Carol’ are my 2 favorites. But I also enjoy watching some non-Christmas Christmas films during the season. Movies that are not particularly about Christmas but either take place during the holiday season or contain a certain type of magical flavor that goes good with egg nog and colored lights.
The following are my top 5 of this underrated genre. They are not necessarily in order of importance…I’d hate to make the others jealous by naming a favorite…
Ben Hur (1959)
Probably the best of the huge Biblical epics of the 50’s. The film parallels the life of Jesus with that of Ben Hur and we are shown brief yet moving vignettes of His life including (in my opinion) the best film depiction of the nativity. Still one the best action/adventure films of all time and at times quite moving. They just don’t [know how to] make films like this anymore.
Die Hard (1988)
Christmas Eve is the backdrop to this modern adventure classic and bits of Christmas are strewn throughout. The cheesy office Christmas party, the excellent music score that cleverly weaves in Ode to Joy and Let It Snow and the “Now I have a machine gun. Ho ho ho” scene. The best of the Christmas action films.
One the few Spielberg flops, this self proclaimed “Comedy Spectacular” about mass hysteria in Hollywood a week after the Pearl Harbor attack has developed a cult following since it’s release in 1979. Loud, obnoxious, sometimes brilliant (sometimes not) but never boring, this film is a huge guilty pleasure of mine. There are many Christmas references including a pivotal scene with a giant plastic Santa Claus. Excellent and underrated score by John Williams too.
Not one Christmas reference in the entire movie but I always associate this with the holiday because it was released in December of 1978. For months prior, we were subject to posters that promised ‘Coming this Christmas’ and the anticipation and excellent buzz around the film produced an everything Superman media blitz. Still my favorite superhero film, the excellent magical and mythical (although somewhat Christian-like origin story) qualities of the film fit perfectly for the holiday season.
Almost a perfect anti-Christmas Christmas movie. What if the gift you got for Christmas turned deadly and started killing the entire town? A great mix of humor, horror and satire, the film takes jab at the Capra-esque America of ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ and the picture perfect small town look of Norman Rockwell. And the ‘Santa in the chimney’ story is a classic.
So, if you are a bit tired of ‘White Christmas’ or ‘Home Alone’ this year (I have no understanding how one could ever get tired of ‘A Christmas Story’), check out one of these five films for a nice non-Christmas Christmas diversion.
originally posted in December 2010