When you get to a certain age, no matter how gleeful and exciting they still are, you often get bored with the festive film favourites this Christmas season. Though you’ll still delight in McCauley Culkin saying “Merry Chrismas ya filthy animal” in Home Alone 2 or The Muppets telling the Christmas Carol story in the best way possible, at some point you’ll get a little sick of the usual fare that is paraded on televisions and in cinemas. So as you grow older, you’ll start to notice that there are other films to bask in. Films that may not come to first thought but still hum along to the Christmas spirit but are just a little bit more…well.. darker than Love Actually.
Here are some alternative Christmas films for you to watch this year.
Batman Returns (1992)
At a recent Christmas party, an alternative fancy dress theme, I was awoken to the idea that Batman Returns is a Christmas film. Then it was so blindingly obvious, it was as though Cat Woman had tasered me in the mouth. Of course, Tim Burton’s follow up to Batman is set at Christmas and several villainous folk come out of the woodwork to ensnare the big bat into their web. Michael Keaton is perhaps the best cinematic caped crusader whilst Michelle Pfiefer’s Cat Woman is glorious, as is Danny DeVito’s Penguin. Burton has always had a Christmas backdrop to his quirky and dark ideas, with Batman, it simply works in a spectacular way.
Children Of Men (2006)
You’d probably never have thought of this film as being anything other than a stark and cold look at a dystopian future that could grip our world sooner than we’d like. Alfonso Cuaron’s thrilling depiction of the globe in a grip of panic without fertility is drenched in this visceral storyline that is damning of society. However, looking deeper into the film and it could be seen as a modernized look at the Nativity story with our “Joseph” Theo carting the pregnant Joy (“Mary”) across the country so she can give birth safely. Her child being seen as a saviour to the world, the jokes about virginity, and constant Christianity symbolism (such as crosses and fishes) could easily translate Children of Men into a very disturbing, intellectual alternative for your festive film. If anything, we may have just changed the film for you, causing you to flee to your DVDs to watch it!
Die Hard (1988)/Die Hard 2 (1990)
People are starting to come around to the idea that this double bill is actually a collection of the perfect Christmas films to see this year (or every year). After all, they are all set on Christmas. The first is set in a Christmas party that definitely ends a little bit worse than yours even if you did get off with Gary from accounting. Anyway, watching John McClane blow things up with the ringalinging of Christmas movies as Hans Gurber slowly unearths (and talks) about his plans for total domination. The second is set in an airport on Christmas Eve as McClane waits for his wife to land after the airport has been hijacked (he just can’t catch a Christmas break). As if you need any more excuses to watch the Die Hard movies, they are definitely must-see movies for this joyous season.
Again, there is no denying that Gremlins is a Christmas movie. It is set in the holidays, there are decorations everywhere and snow has descended on the town, frosting it with the idyllic twinkling lights. The thing is as much as it features the fucking adorable Gizmo, it’s still not a film that I’d safely allow children to watch. Because it’s so freaking dark! The gremlins themselves are terrifyingly hideous, there are many death scenes grim and extravagant and Phoebe Cates’ Kate’s monologue about the gruesome demise of her father means the undercurrent for Gremlins is richly macabre. As the critters run amok in the town of Kingston Falls, Joe Dante’s eighties classic is a festive terror for this season.
In Bruges (2008)
Pinning this as a Christmas film may solely land on giant tree in the picturesque titular town and its holiday setting but again, I doubt anyone needs many reasons to watch this other than its fucking brilliant. Starring award winning Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell in two career defining roles, this is an hilarious black Irish comedy from director Martin McDonagh’s. It revolves around two hitman who abscond to Brussels after the young Ray accidentally kills a child and are relentlessly pursued by Ralph Fiennes’ excellent mob boss Harry is a treat at any time of the year. Its just if anyone asks you why it’s on your telly on the main day, you can point wildly to the tree and decorations and go “there, it’s a Christmas film.”
There is no denying that this film is one that I will rabbit on about until every person has sat down, watched it and gone “yes, Sarah is right, this is brilliant.” But I’ve been waiting a whole year to champion it as a Christmas film again so here it goes. There’s the opening Winter Wonderland sequence and the penis related Christmas party. The demented Dr Rossi’s Christmas Carol and Bruce’s vomiting to Shakin Stevens. The festivities are paraded around as the bipolar cop, played impeccably by James McAvoy, unravels due to the stresses around him. Jon S. Baird’s film is pure class, delving into the issues of mental illness in a hyperactive, ultra-violent, and somewhat disgusting Christmas film.