Home Alone, Elf, Christmas Vacation, Rudolph; these are all classic Christmas staples.
You may have your own favorites that are part of your holiday watching tradition, but there are a few movies that fall under the “Christmas movie” category without always looking like one.
Here is a look at five of those movies.
1. Die Hard
Let’s just get this one right out of the way. Die Hard is a Christmas movie.
It wasn’t seen that way when it was released in 1988 but has grown into a holiday classic. The easiest thing to point out is that they set the movie at Christmas. It also features Christmas music, which makes it fit into holiday viewing.
Those who object to this classification will point out the movie was released in the summer of 1988. This is a good point, but it’s too hard to deny the many Christmas connections this movie has.
But the last word on Die Hard being a Christmas movie comes from one writer of the film, Steven de Souza. In an article in Time, de Souza points out that he and fellow writer Jeb Stuart crafted the movie as a Christmas tale.
So, is Die Hard a Christmas movie? Why, yes Virginia, it is. You can proudly keep Die Hard next to It’s a Wonderful Life, and White Christmas in your holiday rotation.
On the surface, Gremlins is a black-comedy/horror movie. But we can’t ignore that they set the movie at Christmas and it also features Christmas music.
Even the musical score of the movie takes influence from some classic Christmas songs.
When you dig deeper into Gremlins, it explores some holiday themes that cement it as a Christmas movie. Here are a few:
- Gremlins is all about the dangers of consumerism during the holidays. There’s the idea that love and affection can be bought with gifts the way the absent father tries to do with his son.
- The Gremlins run amok the same way capitalism and commercials have during the holidays
- The movie — and the Gremlins — represents how the holidays can be a difficult time for people. Many movies try to shove Christmas cheer down our throats and the Gremlins represent that it’s ok to not always feel the joy of the holidays
To understand this last point, you just have to re-watch that horrifying Santa story told by Katie.
Gremlins isn’t an anti-Christmas movie, it just shows both sides of the coin during a season that can easily get out of control.
3. Batman Returns
If you haven’t seen Batman Returns in a while, definitely go back and check it out. This movie is really astonishing and it’s one of the best comic book movies ever made.
The follow-up to the 1989 classic wasn’t overly well-received at first, but over the years, appreciation has grown.
What makes Batman Returns a Christmas movie is the obvious fact it’s set during the holidays. The setting of the entire movie looks like a very Gothic-themed Christmas — but Christmas nonetheless.
They shoot out villains of Christmas presents, there’s a tree lighting ceremony, and Christmas music plays throughout. This isn't a feel-good movie, but the themes of it relate to the birth of the evil Penguin and how he was dumped into a sewer on Christmas.
There are also the connections with the Penguin being a “Christ-like” figure, returning 33 years after this event.
As mentioned, this movie is a lot darker than you may remember, but it finishes on a positive note with Bruce Wayne wishing Alfred a “Merry Christmas,” and wishing goodwill toward men — and women.
Similar to Gremlins, Batman Returns isn’t an anti-Christmas movie, but one that looks at the holiday from another angle.
4. Iron Man 3
Marvel has entered the Christmas market with the Hawkeye series, but we can go back to Iron Man 3 to witness their first Christmas offering.
Iron Man 3 may be better than Iron Man 2, but it still left a lot of fans divided as to how good it is. With Christmas, Iron Man 3 seems to have the holidays at its core.
When Tony is testing out the new suit, they set the scene to “Jingle Bells.” Later in the movie, Tony gets separated from everyone. They set this movie at Christmas and it relays how loneliness gets heightened during the holidays.
When he runs into the little kid that seems like a younger version of himself, we can see it as having “A Christmas Carol” connection. We get a bit of “Ghost of Christmas Past” in this part of the movie.
Even Marvel.com itself states we should consider Iron Man 3 a Christmas classic. Tony is “going through hardships and coming out the other side to see the wrong in his ways.”
This is all about the spirit of Christmas, and we can compare Tony to Ebeneezer Scrooge.
5. Rocky IV
You probably don’t associate Sylvester Stallone with anything to do with Christmas, but Rocky IV may be his one offering. Rocky IV came out during the Holiday season as they released it on November 27th, 1985.
The culmination of the movie involves the final showdown between Rocky and the Russian, Ivan Drago. The fight takes place on Christmas day.
Rocky trains through Halloween and Thanksgiving as if they are warmups for the other big holiday that’s right around the corner.
The movie finishes with Rocky wishing his son — watching at home on TV — a Merry Christmas.
Wrapping it Up
One of the best things about the holidays is all the little traditions we have created for ourselves and our families.
The things we watch during the holidays are a defining part of the experience. You may have some of your own obscure favorites that, somewhere along the way, became must-watch things.
We all love the classics, but it’s also nice to throw some of these other ones into the mix.