The Birmingham Favourites editor invited me to write a guest blog on Christmas films I love! Rather than dive head first into a top 10 list, where five or six films always appear in everyone else’s favourite film list, I resolutely suggested that I do things slightly differently.
So, here it is a list of action films and thrillers with a tenuous festive theme.
Tenuous, because what is indeed quite curious about this selection is how Christmas is often only referenced loosely, or hardly at all. That said, no matter how tenuous, these are Christmas films. Furthermore, Christmas is a glorious time for film, a time to celebrate in those extended shoot outs, scenes of bloody violence, wise cracking heroes, foul-mouthed one-liners and frankly bad-ass villains. Let’s face it, such things are, and should be, an essential part of the festive season.
There’s no order, but obviously Die Hard is number one.
Die Hard (1988)
One of my favourite films and a classic which defined action movies for a generation. Theses have been written on the significant of this film and how it subverted the Arnie/Stallone actioned of the Reagan eta and gave us a framework which has been imitated but seldom bettered.
In the context of this list, terrorists led by the eponymous Hans Gruber rudely interrupt a Christmas office party to help themselves to the loot sitting in a building’s vault. “Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!” – albeit in LA, where it doesn’t!
Die Hard 2 (1990)
“How can the same shit happen to the same guy twice?” asks John MacClane. We’re just grateful that it does. One of the most glorious things about the sequel is its self-depricating manner, the fact that is plays up on its predecessor a lot from the dialogue right through to the exquisitely staged set pieces.
“Just once, I’d like a regular, normal Christmas.” says MacClane. For us, watching him in a “mother***** tin can” is a normal Christmas!
Lethal Weapon (1987)
What, you’re asking? Well, this is set during the festival season. A Christmas start and finish, shoots outs and fights next to trees, and a plot which brings festive subjects such drug trafficking, kidnap, revenge and torture. You’re never too old for this, one of the all-time classic buddy movies.
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)
OHMSS isn’t always set during Christmas but the moment the film arrives in Switzerland, the film takes on a festive theme. The festive segment of the plot involves Bond masquerading as someone else in Blofeld’s Alpine lair, Blofeld giving sinister gifts to a bunch of unknowing girls from around the world, iconic ski sequences, numerous stunts and fight scenes, icy stock car racing and Bond proposing to Tracy …. and that Barry synth-bass soundtrack.
In Bruges (2008)
Another of my favourite films, fookin’ Bruges is the perfect backdrop in which to weave this hilarious buddy film, and yes, this is also set at Christmas.. Two hitmen are asked to stay in Bruges awaiting instruction following a botched job. The beauty of Bruges contrasted by the indifference of Ray (Colin Farrell) and the wiser more appreciative Brendan Gleeson. Martin MacDonagh’s script and direction fizzes with dark humour, one liners and a sense of devilish macabre. One particular line I loved was comparing purgatory to Coventry (somewhat harsh, but made me chuckle royally!)
Batman Returns (1992)
“Meow” said Michelle Pfeiffer and I have to agree, in more ways than one! And yes, this is also a Christmas film. Batman Returns was Tim Burton’s second and even darker take with Michael Keaton reprising his role as the caped crusader. This was an altogether more complex mix of villains during a turbulent festive season for Gotham. It didn’t get the appreciation it deserved on its release, even more so since the Dark Knight Trilogy has concluded.
This was Tim Burton at the height of his powers and a great romp it is too.
Remember not to eat the mistletoe!
First Blood (1982)
The original Rambo film was a wholly different beast to its two sequels and it is set around Christmas, and bloody good with it. A battle of survival pitching ex-war veteran John Rambo against Brian Denehy’s mad Sheriff. The Christmas hints are there if not explicitly mentioned – lights, decorations, trees! Rambo later comes to set fire to a fair amount of it.
Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang (2005)
Shane Black, who penned Lethal Weapon above, also put his wisecracking antics to fantastic use The pairing Val Kilmer and Downey Jr allows for some dynamite foul-mouthed dialogue – these guys know how to celebrate Christmas. Once again, there’s very little about this film which is particularly festive but it is full of less than subtle references to the yuletide season!
The Long Kiss Goodnight (2005)
Before Bourne, this was another kick-ass action hero with a memory problem. This film is also the second Renny Harlin film on this list, notable for the fact that this and Die Hard 2 are probably his only two really good films. His then wife, Geena Davis kick the festive ass out of anyone who gets in her and does so alongside the Mr. Cool known as Samuel L. Jackson.
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