This may be one of the more explicitly-set at Christmas movies on this list, but it’s still not exactly festive. The movie follows Billy (Zach Galligan) after he’s given the gift of a mogwai â€” a small, strange, furry, creature with a strict set of rules to follow while looking after it.
Of course, these rules go out the window and he ends up with a host of other, evil mogwai referred to as, you guessed it, “gremlins.” They wreak havoc on the snow-laden town and cause all manner of mischief and straight up murder.
The dark comic tone of this horror-flecked movie is helped by its setting at Christmas, which melds nicely with the scarier elements of the film.
‘The Princess Bride’ (1987)
This is one of the most iconic and beloved movies ever made – so beloved, in fact, that a bunch of celebs remade it while in lockdown this year.
The movie follows a grandfather reading a book to his sick grandson, who isn’t in to it at first but soon gets as caught up in the tale. The book follows the story of Westley trying to rescue his beloved Buttercup from a sinister prince.
The book segments of the movie are certainly not Christmassy at all, but the scenes centering the grandfather and grandson are. It’s set at Christmas, with snow outside and decorations adorning the kid’s room, while the grandfather even gifts the book to his grandchild as a Christmas present.
This is enough evidence to claim that this classic movie is actually, on top of all of the other wonderful things it already is, a Christmas movie.
‘Die Hard’ (1988)
The age old question persists once again: Is ‘Die Hard’ a Christmas movie?
It’s set at Christmas and Bruce Willis’ John McClane arrives at the tower-block offices when a Christmas party is underway.
And although Christmas doesn’t seem that relevant to the story – it’s about a guy taking down terrorists – it does add an idiosyncratic feel-good fun factor to the movie that sets it apart from other 80s action movies.
The director of the movie himself, John McTiernan, recently went on a rambling discussion about whether or not his picture is a Christmas film, and summed it up nicely: “We hadn’t intended it to be a Christmas movie, but the joy that came from it is what turned it into a Christmas movie.”
‘Edward Scissorhands’ (1990)
Curiously, this is the first of a few Tim Burton movies to make this list.
This one follows a man with scissors for hands, created by a scientist who is taken in by a suburban woman.
Again, this one doesn’t necessarily have to be set at Christmas for the magical story to work, but the fact that some of the movie’s most important and memorable moments take place specifically around Christmas tells us that it just might be a secret Chrimbo flick.
Besides, what’s more Christmassy than Winona Ryder’s Kim dancing around in the snow created by Edward carving ice sculptures?
‘Batman Returns’ (1992)
Here’s Burton movie number two on the list.
This time the director uses a Christmas setting to heighten his trademark gothic surrealism, with plenty of holiday imagery littered throughout – from giant Christmas trees and huge wrapped presents to festive villains waiting inside like a warped Christmas version of “Troy.”
And Christopher Walken’s villain, Max Schreck, even plays like a reverse Santa Claus – white hair, a costume flecked with red, and a plan to take away power from citizens of Gotham rather than give them presents. His proposed power plant even features giant chimneys that look suspiciously like candy canes.
‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’ (1993)
Tim Burton may not have directed this one (Henry Selick did), but his gothic fingerprints are all over it. The movie follows the King of Halloween Town having something of a midlife crisis and discovering Christmas for the first time.
Christmas plays a much heavier role in this story than most others on this list, but the argument could be made that it’s more of a Halloween movie than a Christmas one. It does have a leading character called Jack Skellington and is set in Halloween Town, after all.
But the writer of the movie, Caroline Thompson, believes this is both a Christmas movie and a Halloween movie – not one or the other.
‘Eyes Wide Shut’ (1999)
Stanley Kubrick’s dark tale of Tom Cruise entering the dangerous erotic underworld of New York City doesn’t sound like it would be a Christmas movie. But it is!
The original story was set during Mardi Gras in 1900s Vienna, but Kubrick specifically changed it to modern day New York at Christmas – and the Christmas tree is a recurring symbol throughout the movie.
Meanwhile, Christmas lights, with their warmth provoking a sense of intimacy in this erotic thriller, illuminate almost every scene as Cruise ventures further and further into the underworld.
Playing like a grown up Christmas movie, the holiday reflects the consumerist-like desire Cruise feels for his intense, dreamlike fantasies as he pursues them and realises nothing is ever as good as you fantasized it would be.
On the surface, this isn’t a Christmas movie. It’s a fun family flick following Robin Williams, Bonnie Hunt and their onscreen kids, Kirsten Dunst and Bradley Pierce, attempting to overcome the deadly board game of Jumanji, which brings the deepest, darkest fears of the jungle to reality.
But Christmas serves as an important plot point throughout the movie, with the kids’ parents having died during a skiing trip at Christmas. This culminates in the final scene wherein Williams and Hunt host a Christmas party having corrected the timeline by beating the game.
Williams, dressed as Santa, gives the greatest present he could in saving the kids’ parents by warning them not to go on a ski-trip that would kill them.
‘The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe’ (2005)
There’s a lot of Christmas symbolism in this movie – from the snowy setting of Narnia to the presence of Father Christmas himself, who actually gives the four children Christmas presents, although those are weapons to fight the White Queen.
Aslan the Lion, however, is a not-so-secret Christ-like character, who sacrifices himself for the good of others before resurrecting himself to save them.
Therefore, it could be argued this is more an Easter movie than a Christmas one, but the Narnia tale – with a wintery setting and warm, feel good family nature – has a distinct Christmas feel to it.
‘Iron Man 3’ (2013)
A lot of Shane Black’s movies are set at Christmas, and his foray into the MCU didn’t change that. There’s a ton of Christmas imagery sewn throughout this movie, from trees to lights and even a homemade grenade made from a Christmas bauble.
There’s also a redemption story for Tony Stark, who goes through an almost-Aslan like rebirth in this movie as he gets the shrapnel taken out from his chest and does away with his miniature arc reactor that was keeping the shrapnel away from his chest.
‘Little Women’ (2019)
While “Little Women” is partly set at Christmas anyway (the first scene in Louisa May Alcott’s book is set on Christmas day), Greta Gerwig’s adaptation of the movie gives the story such a warm and cosy feel that watching it feels like reading a book while sitting in front of a fire.
Gerwig’s chopping up and splicing back together of the narrative only serves to highlight the Christmas themes, with the return of the March sisters’ father playing like Santa Claus coming down the chimney, or Jo March clutching her newly-published book as she watches more copies being printed, feeling like a child unwrapping their most sought-after present.
And the moment Jo rushes to stop Friedrich from leaving for California, although played as a scene to appease the publisher of her book, feels like the moment Cameron Diaz rushes back to Jude Law in “The Holiday.”