Top 10 Movies That Take Place During Christmas

You have seen John Nolte’s countdown of the Top 25 Christmas Movies, but this list is something else – a list of movies worth watching that take place in or around Christmas but aren’t about Christmas itself. They don’t necessarily embrace the spirit of the season – as to some of them, that’s putting it mildly – but each one is guaranteed to provide you at least a couple of hours blissfully sheltered from the mindless socialist rants of the health care demolition crew, from the lame excuses and transparent equivocations of the climate change scammers, and from Howard Zinn-scripted commie nonsense spouted by ignorant Hollywood nitwits.

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Here they go, in no particular order:

10. Die Hard (1988): You’ve seen Die Hard probably a hundred times. See it again, preferably uncut and not sanitized for TV. Bruce Willis is a cop trapped alone while the incredible Alan Rickman and his band of fashion plate terrorists grab Nakatomi Plaza during the annual Christmas party. The plot is simple, but the execution is simply awesome. This movie is the archetype, the template for a hundred subsequent movies that were pitched as “Die Hard in a (fill in the blank).” For more fun, try my Die Hard-themed drinking game – take a pull on a Dos Equis every time something happens that creates or reaffirms a classic action film cliché. Wisenheimer renegade cop who play by his own rules – gulp! Lots of MP-5s and other (then) hi-tech armaments that fire a ton of rounds but rarely hit anything – gulp! Villain who rises from the dead to be killed one last time – gulp! You may want a designate a driver – cue Argyle, the streetwise sidekick in the limo (gulp)!

Ignore the silly sequels, which follow the familiar genre flick sequel quality death spriral. Die Hard is the real deal. And as a bonus, it features the greatest holiday greeting in movie history: “Now I have a machine gun. Ho, ho, ho.”

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9. Lethal Weapon (1986): This is another classic 80’s cop flick, and it made Mel Gibson a superstar. Basically, he and Danny Glover go on a Christmas-time rampage across Los Angeles against a vicious drug gang. It is exciting, violent, profane fun. You have to try to ignore the politics and off-screen antics of the participants – Danny Glover is one of Chavez’s biggest Hollywood suck-ups and Mel, well, he’s completely lost it. You also need to ignore the series’ politics – the villains are, of course, American soldiers, and one of the crummy sequels is a passionate plea for gun control shouted over the volleys of thunderous gunfire.

But if you get through all that baggage, Lethal Weaponis a solid, exciting, surprisingly tough action flick. And, of course, it has Gary Busey as an insane, unstable villain. My guess is that director Richard Donner just said to him, “Gary, I want you to be yourself.”

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8. Gremlins (1984): Nothing says Christmas like wild green monsters rampaging through a small town. This black comedy/horror flick is not quite for kids, as a number of human beings end up deceased and the gremlins are dispatched in rather gruesome ways. Plus, it features the lovely Phoebe Cates in a supporting role as a young woman with the absolutely worst family Christmas story all time.

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7. While You Were Sleeping (1995): Sandra Bullock, who has a huge hit in The Blind Side, was in top ingénue form for this rom-com involving amnesia and various misunderstandings all taking place during the holiday season. Simple, light and harmless, Sleeping won’t change your life, but it does its job. And getting it on Netflix beats spending $100 on tickets and snacks to take the family to see a politically correct lefty cartoon like Avatar.

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6. 1941 (1979): Let’s put this out there – 1941 is Steven Spielberg’s best movie that’s not either Schindler’s List or Raiders of the Lost Ark. Tagged as over-long, over-priced and over-done, those attributes are exactly why this huge, sprawling comedy about Los Angeles in the weeks after Pearl Harbor is simply fabulous. Every penny is up there on the screen. Every cameo is gold. John Belushi, as a lunatic fighter pilot, is completely out of control (He turns off radios with his .45). And the John Williams score is perfect – rousing, exciting, and absolutely right for a comic story about a nation on the verge of what Robert Stack (as General “Vinegar Joe” Stilwell) says, is “going to be a long war.”

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5. L.A. Confidential (1997): This incredible modern film noir starts off with a Christmas party at a police station that goes terribly wrong. It takes a couple of viewings to follow and appreciate the convoluted plot (which was adapted from the sensational and even more convoluted novel by James Ellroy). That’s a good thing. Just when you wonder if Hollywood can make a movie that’s for adults, that makes you think, that doesn’t assume you’re a drooling borderline moron, along comes a movie like this to restore your faith. Of course, that was a dozen years ago. Until they do it again, though, at least we have L.A. Confidential.

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4. Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982): Let’s throw another meaty bone into the tiger cage – Fast Times is the best teen sex comedy of all time. Period. In fact, it is much more that. It is a hilarious, moving, grim, often unsentimental view of high school life in California in the early 80’s that resonates especially well with me because I was a kid in a California high school when it came out. How does it relate to Christmas? The film spans a year in the life of the characters and includes several scenes during the holiday season as they work their crummy jobs dealing with hordes of Christmas shoppers and angry customers (including a nasty Santa). Like everything about the film, they got life during Christmas vacation for middle class kids dead right. Oh, and there’s also Phoebe Cates….

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3. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005): Yet another film about chaos at Christmas time in Los Angeles, and it was supposed also the comeback for writer Shane Black, who wrote Lethal Weapon then a lot of other loud, violent movies. Robert Downey, Jr., reaffirms his appeal as a crook hiding out in Hollywood who experiences with all manner of film noir challenges. A memorable scene has Michelle Monaghan as a sexy elf. Not a great film, but an interesting one that never got the credit it was due.

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2. Sleepless In Seattle (1993): One of the archetypal “chick flicks,” Sleepless starts with widower Tom Hanks’ sorrowful Christmas Eve radio elegy to his wife. Through a series of absolutely improbable events, the then-young Hanks and a still frisky Meg Ryan finally meet and, we assume, live happily ever after. Sure, you gotta deal with Rosie O’Donnell, and Rob Reiner might be a lefty in real life but he’s pretty amusing here as Tom’s Dirty Dozen-loving pal. Overall, you could do a lot worse when your wife states unequivocally, “We are not watching Die Hard again!”

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1. Battleground (1949): With so many of our troops spending another Christmas overseas, this powerful story of the legendary 101st Airborne's courageous stand against the Nazis at Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge at Christmastime 1944 is more appropriate than ever. The chaplain’s speech in the snow, to American soldiers of all races, about why they are there won’t pass muster with the Howard Zinns of the world. (Yeah, I know Zinn was in WWII. So? All your DD214 proves is that you served, not that you aren’t a half-wit). To me, the chaplain’s service is one of the most powerful scenes Hollywood has ever put on film. But I’m biased. Forty-six years after Bastogne, a few weeks from the start of a different war, I was listening to a chaplain saying similar things on a different battlefield. These truths – that we must fight against the tyrants, thugs and ideologies that crush the individual in the name of their twisted doctrines – were true in 1944, true in 1990, and are still true today.

That’s the list. If I missed some, or if I’m off-base, I know I’ll hear about it. And to those who really, really hate this list, let me quote the 101st’s commander at Bastogne, Brigadier General McAuliffe, when the Nazis demanded he surrender the Division: "Nuts!”

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