Christmas: a time of good cheer and heart-warming family films, right? Well, not always. If shedding a tear over Macaulay Culkin reuniting with his criminally neglectful parents isn’t quite your bag, we’ve put together a list of 10 of the more alternative Christmas films that just might tickle your tinsle…
10. Die Hard (1988)
If John McClane’s one-man guerilla war to rid a tower block of German terrorists and Snape off Harry Potter pretending to be a German terrorist isn’t your cup of Christmas tea then you seriously need to check yourself for a pulse.
Director John McTiernan’s Christmas-set action masterpiece features such festive quotes as “Now I’ve got a machine gun. Ho, ho ho” and “Yippie-ki-yay, motherfucker!” (not actually that Christmassy, but fucking awesome none the less).
And the whole thing is wrapped up with Vaughan Monroe’s Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!, which will forever be known to MovieMango as “that Christmas song at the end of Die Hard.
9. City of Lost Children (1995)
Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet is probably best known for directing the ultra-feelgood Paris rom-com Amelie. But his early work such as Delicatessen and City of Lost Children, which sees a child’s home being invaded by an army of evil Santa Clauses in the opening scene, is as dark as the night.
The poor little nipper cheekily waiting up for Father Christmas is scared shitless when an army of Santas comes gushing down the chimney, ensuring the child a lifetime of psychotherapy. A reindeer even plants a steaming turd on the floor.
Not exactly Miracle of 34th Street…
8. Jack Frost (1997)
Definitely not to be confused with the much more family-friendly Michael Keaton film of the same name, this truly disturbing horror sees a serial killer reincarnated as a snowman and wreaking an unholy carnage the likes of which Raymond Briggs never dreamed.
The self-styled “world’s most pissed-off snow cone” not only manages to sleigh (see what we did there?) half the townsfolk of Snowmonton, but also delivers such witty one-liners as, “Is it cold in here or is it just me?” and (after fatally raping Shannon Elizabeth with his carrot nose in her feature film debut) “Looks like Christmas came a little early this year. Well, I hope it was good for you honey.” Cold.
7. Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010)
This bizarre but ingenious Finnish horror film sees a group of workers discovering a cave in the mountains inhabited by a strange figure who seems to be the source of the Father Christmas myth. After a few sprogs start going missing in the town and reindeer are found hacked to pieces, it becomes clear that Santa Claus has come to town.
But St. Nick’s blood-thirsty rampage is soon thwarted by the townsfolk, who cage him and attempt to sell him off to pay for the damage he’s done – no doubt guaranteeing themselves a place on his naughty list.
6. It’s A Wonderful Life (1946)
Although Frank Capra’s vintage Christmas classic has something of a reputation as a sentimental feel-good Yuletide treat, it actually touches on surprisingly dark subject matter including suicide and the meaninglessness of existence (even the Muppets’ Christmas Carol steered clear of that).
After talking George Bailey (James Stewart) out of committing suicide, an angel called Clarence shows him what life would be like if he hadn’t been born. In a vision more depressing than Biff Tannen’s alternate 1985, George see’s a town ruled by his arch nemesis full of seedy nightclubs and Cash Converters.
Eventually, by way of being a dick to his family, getting pissed off his head, crashing his car into a tree and trying to kill himself, George discovers the true meaning of Christmas. Aww…
5. Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
Stanley Kubrick’s bizarre final film, which starred then off-screen couple Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise, was actually set during the festive season. And with orgies, murder and annoying piano music aplenty, it has all the ingredients for an alternative Christmas cracker.
Cruise’s wife tells him about a sexual fantasy she had about another bloke. This sends him batshit, so he goes off looking for a secret sex club his mate told him about. He finds it and there are naked people everywhere! That’s pretty much it, apart from some masks and a one-note piano soundtrack. Pretty good, though, and they do some Christmas shopping at the end.
4. Go! (1999)
Keeping kooky Christmas capers in the family, Katie “Mrs Tom Cruise” Holmes stars in this clever indie comedy featuring an unsuccessful drugs bust, some unsuccessful soap actors and Tupperware.
Doug Liman’s festive offering tells the chronologically flawed tales of a bunch of young Californians looking to do drugs. While the shit does hit the fan, it’s still not half as depressing as It’s a Wonderful Life.
3. Bad Santa (2003)
Billy Bob Thornton apparently got drunk for real to add authenticity to some of his scenes as alcoholic Vietnam veteran/department store Santa/professional robber Willie. Inspired by an idea from the Coen Brothers, Terry Zwigoff’s Christmas comedy offended many in the US, and understandably so.
The film depicts Santa using a lot of bad language (the word “fuck” and its variations are used 159 times in the movie, according to IMDb), Santa fornicating in the changing room of the shopping mall and Santa beating the shit out of some little kids.
2. Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Actually directed by Henry Sellick, who more recently completed the equally depraved Coraline, the animated tale of how Jack Skellington, the King of Halloween Town, attempts to take over Christmas is a perpetual delight. It’s also just plain odd.
When Jack gets a bit peeved by the monotony of being the big cheese in a town where Halloween is all they live for, he stumbles across Christmas Town and decides to mix things up.
Deliciously dark fun that reeks of Burton’s flair for the off-kilter.
1. Gremlins (1984)
The greatest alternative Christmas film of all time, Joe Dante’s comedy-horror about a malevolent horde of demonic monsters overrunning a small town still stands up incredibly well since it was first released in 1984.
After his dad buys him a rare and exotic mogwai as a Christmas present, Billy (Zach Galligan) decides to completely fucking ignore the explicit instructions he was given about taking care of it and ends up spawning a bunch of malicious little gremlin pricks.
You’ll never look at a food mixer or microwave the same way again.