Traditional Christmas films get overplayed this time of year so every once in a while it’s nice to play something that doesn’t feature clay-mation or Jimmy Stewart diving off a bridge. For those cinephiles seeking a little more subversive entertainment for the long holiday break, check out these five films.
Why We’re Thankful: It sets the tone for John and Hans’ relationship immediately as instigator vs. antagonist. The tit-for-tat repertoire offered by Willis and Rickman is a virtual highlight reel that lasts the entire run time.
Gift under the tree/Coal for the stocking: Gift. If there is a more quotable line from John McTiernan’s film—besides the obvious one—I haven’t found it.
The Scene: We are first introduced to “Santa Claus” in his holding cell; the jolly old elf is not as warm as one would expect. All children are naughty in his mind and none are worth sparing. It’s about time some filmmaker questioned the motives of a man who sneaks into your home to leave presents for small children.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009)
The Scene: Lisbeth (Rooney Mara), over the course of her dealings with Mikael (Daniel Craig), has grown close to another person. Despite everything in her life that has led her to believe otherwise, she has placed faith in a man. So much so that she bought him a Christmas gift.
What We’re Thankful For: In a scene that many decry as a case of too many endings, Lisbeth goes to Mikael’s home to share a present and intimacy. When Mikael walks out with his mistress hanging on his arm, the jacket she purchased finds a new home in the trash.
Gift under the tree/Coal for your stocking: Gift. This scene is darkly comic in a way that only David Fincher can pull off. Don’t forget this is also the same man who played Enya’s “Orinoco Flow” during a torture scene 30 minutes earlier. Fincher couldn’t have found a better way to include the spirit and love of the season than by showing Lisbeth throwing away her affections in the garbage. “Merry Christmas.”
The Scene: The Stanleys (Emily Watson and Ray Winstone) sit down to a proper dinner during what is perhaps the most brutal film that takes place on Christmas. Captain Stanley freed Charlie Burns in the hopes that he would help capture his psychotic brother, Arthur. With this being a John Hillcoat film, things don’t work out the way the characters hope for.
What We’re Thankful For: What was already a very tense film is launched into another stratosphere of nerves when Arthur, Charlie, and the Captain collide at the Stanleys’ home.
Gift under the tree/Coal for your stocking: Coal. While the scene that takes place afterward keeps viewers digging their nails into the armrests of their chairs, there couldn’t be a worse way for a Christmas dinner to end… except for Grandma to start talking about what a hot-piece-of-ass Errol Flynn used to be.
The Scene: The Penguin’s cronies attack Gotham during the Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony hosted by the mayor and Max Schreck (Christopher Walken).
What We’re Thankful For: The stark contrast provided by winter’s snow and the dark cityscape of Tim Burton’s Batman were oddly beautiful. Adding to the aesthetic pleasures were the oddly familiar sense of loneliness exhibited by both Batman and Catwoman during the most cheerful time of year.
Gift under the tree/Coal for your stocking: Gift. This may be Burton’s weirder Batman, but it satisfies the needs of a perfect weird Christmas film: Walken, garish gift wrap, Danny DeVito stealing children, etc. A nice alternative to other Burton Christmas films (The Nightmare Before Christmas, Edward Scissorhands).