Like just about every red-blooded American, I spend the holiday season watching classic Christmas movies. Naturally, some of my standard go-to films are Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town, Frosty the Snowman, A Christmas Story and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, just to name a few.
However, there are some other nontraditional Christmas movies I check out during the month of December, too. Basically, these films are set during Christmastime, but the holiday is a mere backdrop to the actual plot. Here are my top five favorite Christmas movies that really don’t have a doggone thing to do with Christmas cheer.
1. 'Die Hard'
C'mon now. Did y'all ever have a doubt that #DieHard wouldn't be number one? You may consider this another cliché, but I can’t think of a single person who doesn’t love the story of John McClane taking on Hans Gruber and his band of international thieves all by himself on Christmas Eve!
Not only does this movie have a kickass plot and action scenes, but it thrust Bruce Willis — as well as the late, great Alan Rickman — into superstardom, and introduced the world to “Christmas In Hollis” (one of my favorite Christmas songs)! I’m sure Die Hard is already on just about every reader’s Christmas movie list, so go ahead and grab some eggnog, snuggle up to your significant other, and watch Bruce Willis whup some ass in Nakatomi Plaza!
2. 'Iron Man 3'
With Tony’s PTSD drama, Rhodey trying his best to make “Iron Patriot” happen, and Aldrich Killian turning human beings into walking volcanoes, it’s easy to overlook the fact that #IronMan3 is actually a Christmas film. You all may remember Tony’s ridiculous gift to Pepper before all hell broke loose (that giant bunny whose arms looked like breasts), and the scene where the vice-president calmly ate his Christmas dinner after getting a call from Rhodey alerting him to an assassination attempt against the president.
We later learned the reason the VP still has a stress-free holiday: he orchestrated the entire attempt so he could become the commander-in-chief. Now, that just goes against everything Christmas is about.
Unlike most people, I actually enjoyed Iron Man 3 — to be honest, I have yet to see a movie from the MCU that I didn’t enjoy — even more so than the first installment (please don’t kill me). Even if you’re not biggest fan of the film, it’s a really fun popcorn movie to watch during those long nights that you’re shut in the house.
3. 'Lethal Weapon'
We all know the story: straitlaced LAPD detective Roger Murtagh is teamed up with suicidal Martin Riggs, who is the ultimate “lethal weapon” thanks to his military training and reckless behavior. What you may not remember is that Riggs and Murtagh don’t just meet a few days before the latter’s retirement; they’re made partners just a few days before Christmas, a holiday that Mr. Joshua (brilliantly played by Gary Busey) doesn’t care for too much.
#LethalWeapon is a classic, and although my favorite movie in the franchise is actually Lethal Weapon 2 (I never cared for Lethal Weapon 3 or 4), the original comes in a very close second due to all of the laughs, action and drama it brings to the table. Not only that, but the ending gives you that warm and fuzzy feeling that puts you in the Christmas spirit.
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4. 'Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence'
Also known as Furyo in certain countries, this is a 1983 film starring the late, great David Bowie that tells the tale of soldiers — most of whom are British — in a Japanese POW camp during World War II. Tensions are already high between the Japanese and the POWs, and they rise even higher due to each side’s cultural differences when Japan's Capt. Yonoi (played by musician Ryuichi Sakamoto) develops a crush on Mr. Bowie’s character (hey, who could blame him?).
To make matters more difficult, Lt. Colonel John Lawrence must act as a liaison between the Japanese and POWs, due to the fact that he speaks fluent Japanese, making his commanding officer question which side Lawrence is really on.
Like the other films listed here, this movie was set during Christmastime. Unlike the other films, however, there’s only two clues that allow the audience to know that this is a Christmas movie: the title, and the fact that it’s briefly mentioned in about two scenes. That’s it. Given that the men aren’t really allowed to celebrate their religion while imprisoned, there are no Christmas trees, presents, or carols being sung.
This is an extremely good movie that doesn’t get the praise it deserves. Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence conveys very deep themes about war, sexuality, loyalty and respecting others' cultures. It also has a killer soundtrack, which was completely composed by Ryuichi Sakamoto. The title track is to die for, especially the piano version. I recommend this movie for any time of the year — especially if you're a Bowie fan — but if you want to see a Christmas movie that's 100 percent different from the norm, check this one out.
5. 'Trading Places'
In #TradingPlaces, dubious and filthy rich brothers Randolph and Mortimer Duke decide to take on a little wager during the holiday season: switch esteemed and uptight stockbroker Louis Winthorp’s life with that of slick con man Billy Ray Valentine’s, and see whether Winthorp turns to crime or if Valentine becomes a valued member of society. However, once Winthorp and Valentine discover the Dukes' plan, they decide to exact a little revenge against the conniving brothers for New Year’s.
Y’all, I’ve loved Trading Places since I was a little girl! Not only is it one of my favorite Christmas films, it’s my favorite Eddie Murphy film (along with Coming To America). I make it my business to watch this film every year for Christmas. If you want to binge on Yuletide comedies this year, I highly suggest you pop this bad boy in your Blu-Ray or DVD player. I guarantee you'll be in the floor crackin' up at this masterpiece.
So tell me, what's your favorite Christmas movie? Let me know in the comments!