Christmas(?) Movies

The Blu Ray cover of The Muppet Christmas Carol

It’s December, and Christmas is inescapable. Depending on where you shop, it’s been like that since Halloween ended, but that’s beside the point. Holiday music, Christmas specials, and mall Santas are all out in full force, and Christmas is shoved down your throat whether you celebrate or not. I won’t get into the politics of that here, but even as someone who celebrates, I can see that it’s all a little much. Don’t worry, though; I’m not going to get into an anti-consumerism rant1 here, since I actually enjoy the gift-giving aspect of the holiday2. I just wish the whole thing was kept a little closer to the 25th, rather than November to December feeling like a whole new season: fall, Christmas, winter. Call me a humbug if you like, but I should point out I make a habit of watching The Muppet Christmas Carol3 every year. I’m anti-always-Christmas, not anti-Christmas-in-general if that makes sense.

The DVD cover of Christmas With the Kranks

In keeping with that statement, today’s post is all about movies that are maybe Christmas movies, maybe not Christmas movies. To that end, I need a definition: what is a Christmas movie? I’m sure someone out on the internet has created a definition of this, and that whatever it is, it’s being debated by people who disagree, because the internet will always be the internet. This is my blog post, though, and I’m giving my own definition that people can then hotly contest in the comments section. For my purposes, a Christmas movie is:

1: Set during Christmas. The day itself needs to happen at some point, but I’ll include movies where the bulk of the story happens before, too.

2: A story that happens because of Christmas or Christmas-related trappings.

The Cover of Skipping Christmas by John Grisham

So, something like Christmas with the Kranks, based on the novel Skipping Christmas by John Grisham, is 100% a Christmas movie. The Kranks want to skip Christmas this year and go on a cruise instead, but their neighbours are nearly militant about their devotion to the neighbourhood’s Christmas traditions. Cue lots of butting heads. The Movie is different enough from the book that you can both read and watch for different experiences. And you can’t change the holiday here. Yes, the Kranks could decide they don’t want to give out candy or throw their annual Halloween party, but then an already unbelievable premise becomes even more strained. I absolutely can see some people being that bonkers for Christmas, and escaping the stress caused by the holiday is a major motivation for the Kranks. You lose that with any other (Christian) holiday.

The DVD Cover of Home Alone

Looking at my definition, I’m unsure if I can say Home Alone fits the bill. I mean, on the surface it works, the family leaves Kevin behind when they leave for the airport for their Christmas trip. But note that I stressed the “because of Christmas” bit above. Here, Kevin is alone because the family left him behind; Christmas was just a means to an end for that to happen. And sure, Kevin is sad that his family isn’t around him for Christmas, but a good chunk of the film is him making fools of the Wet Bandits with his improvised traps. And what do people remember more about the film? The holiday setting or the traps? This lego-set4 certainly indicates the latter with the “relive classic moments” bit. And while this isn’t a formal criterion, I’ll watch Home Alone even when it’s not December. So… I guess I can’t call this one a Christmas movie. Yell at me in the comments if you vehemently disagree.

The DVD cover of Die Hard

And on to something less controversial to be in a blog like this, but more controversial overall because it so often features in these discussions: Die Hard. Now, this one is interesting because even within the cast, there’s a split; screenwriter Steven E. de Souza is in the yippee ki yay camp, while leading man Bruce Willis says ho-ho-no. There’s extensive reading to be done on this, as again, the internet will be the internet, but by the same reasons I excluded Home Alone, I’m going to have to side with Mr. Willis. Terrorists could have attacked the building at any point, and John McClane could have been in L.A. for any number of reasons. Yes, there’s Christmas music and decorations, but they’re not what the film is really about. You don’t watch Die Hard because you want to be reminded of the spirit of Christmas; you watch Die Hard because you want to watch Bruce Willis take down a bunch of terrorists and enjoy some cheesy 80s action. This is another one that I can watch anytime throughout the year, and I know I’m not alone.

The Blu Ray cover of The Nightmare Before Christmas

Mashup time: The Nightmare Before Christmas is my next topic. Christmas movie? Halloween movie? Both? In this case, I might have to go with both. Jack Skellington may be the Pumpkin King of Halloween Town, but he does substitute for Santa himself, who is very much a real person in this film. So looking at my silly little two-item list, the first criterion is passed easily and even kind of fits with that fall, Christmas, and winter timeline I’m still salty about since Halloween is a part of it too. As for the story happening because of Christmas? Jack has his minions kidnap Santa so he can replace the jolly man on Christmas Eve in the real world. There’s not really any other way to spin that, so yes, this is 100% a Christmas movie. I’m not debating Halloween movies, but I don’t see a reason it can’t be that too. Movies can be more than one thing.

The DVD Cover of Star Trek IV The Voyage Home

And we come to the end. There are plenty more films I could talk about, but this was really just an excuse to highlight some favourites of mine while being a bit cheeky about absolutely nothing of importance. Of course it doesn’t matter if we call a movie a Christmas movie or not. A Christmas movie can be any movie you watch (most) every year around this time. Perhaps you have a tradition of binging all the Star Trek Movies, or you’re more of a TV person and watching The Office helps get you through spending too much time with your extended family. Christmas is what you make of it, even if it feels like it’s omnipresent for the last couple of months of the year.

1 Or anti-religion. I’ll actually give religion a pass on the whole marketing Christmas on Nov 1st thing.

2 More so than the receiving aspect these days. On the off chance I have children among my readers, you’ll understand this as you get older.

3 Still my favourite adaptation and easily one of the best. Michael Caine is Scrooge.

4 Ye gods, that’s pricey. And yet… I want it. I normally apologize for linking to a certain other website, but this time I’ll say sorry for linking to Lego.

About Adam

Adam is a Digital Creation Specialist - Children who never has enough shelf space for his board game collection, wall space for his photographs, or stomach space for his baking. Once he’s got a book in his clutches (preferably a fantasy, or humorous non-fiction one) absolutely nothing else is getting done that day. Working in a library is a blessing and a curse to his free time.  |  Meet the team

2 thoughts on “Christmas(?) Movies

  1. I have this argument with friends every year. No one can ever agree what is a Christmas movie! The movie of contention this year was Catch Me If You Can. It has almost nothing to do with Christmas (except Leo DiCaprio shouting “Merry Christmas!” at Tom Hanks) but I say it is one. And my argument is: vibes. A Christmas movie to me is whatever makes me feel comfy and cozy and festive, but some people are more strict about what constitutes a Christmas movie.

    For example, I watch Bridget Jones’s Diary every Christmas, even though it’s only set at Christmas at the beginning and the end. Little Women is my main Christmas watch even though, again, only some of it takes place at Christmas. But it somehow retains that festive vibe. The Harry Potter movies are Christmas movies to me, maybe because they were usually released in November and TV channels tend to play marathons of them at Christmas (the first one is especially Christmassy, I think because it’s super cozy and 90s-ish). The Nightmare Before Christmas falls more into the Christmas camp for me too–the spooky part is more easily adoptable into the Christmas season (especially since there is a tradition of telling ghost stories at Christmas, i.e. A Christmas Carol) than the Christmas part is into Halloween.

    Also I just rewatched The Muppets Christmas Carol for the first time in years and omg what an excellent movie. Adding it to my (looooong) Christmas movie watchlist.

    1. Catch Me if You Can came up in my reading for this post. By my two point list above it wouldn’t have even been worthy of discussion, but I can for sure see the vibes. I also think I should re-watch it now, it’s a good one!

      I can’t comment on Bridget Jones or Little Women as I’ve never seen either of them . I totally understand HP movies feeling Christmassy though, for all the reasons you mention and also just the idea of butterbeer. And now I wonder if we have a literary cocktail book? For Nightmare, I’d forgotten about the ghost-story aspect of Christmas but it makes total sense to lump that in as a reason for it to be a Christmas Movie.

      Isn’t it though? I remember reading a well written article (or maybe it was even a scholarly paper?) arguing that placing Gonzo as Charles Dickens makes the movie that much better than other interpretations. While I can’t find that article, I did find this essay: that puts forth that argument and others to claim it’s the best A Christmas Carol movie, period.

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