If the holiday season makes you want to run for cover rather than deck the halls, you may be a Christmas-hater. For all you holiday downers out there, we’ve compiled a list of films that raise the proverbial finger to the holidays, whether by exposing the stress of the holidays, expressing the dark side of human nature, or having nothing whatsoever to do with Christmas, thus, making the whole season more bearable.
This year, instead of drowning your sorrows in spiked eggnog, settle in for the night with one of these movies. The holidays will be over before you know it.
8. Edward Scissorhands (Tim Burton, 1990)
Burton’s imaginative modern-day fairy tale reaches its climatic moment during Christmas time, when the gentle Edward (Johnny Depp) must face his nemesis, the bully-boyfriend of Winona Ryder, in a final showdown of good versus evil. As Edward flees to his castle, the townsfolk, having turned against him, pursue him in a sea of red-and-green holiday garb, looking like a crazed Christmas mob ready to burn a witch. A merry Christmas? Not for poor Edward, who will spend this Christmas — and every one after — alone.
7. Die Hard (John McTiernan, 1988)
Don’t you hate it when terrorists hold your building hostage during the annual office holiday party? Enter John McClane (Bruce Willis), a NYC police detective who manages to single-handedly take down the team of criminals, saving lives, his marriage, and Christmas in the process. Die Hard has it all: a devilishly charming villain (Alan Rickman), plenty of action and violence, and enough irreverent, witty banter between Willis and Rickman to make Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye look like choirboys. Yippee-ki-yay, indeed.
6. Goodfellas (Martin Scorsese, 1990)
“What’s a matta with you?! Are you stupid? I told you not to buy anything,” scolds Robert DeNiro in Goodfellas, as the Ronettes’ brassy, ‘60s version of “Frosty the Snowman” plays in the background. No, DeNiro isn’t being a Scrooge: he’s a gangster, and it’s strictly business as he tries to move on up the Mafia hierarchy with two of his friends. One of Martin Scorsese’s finest films, Goodfellas features a terrific cast, incredible cinematography, and a captivating glimpse of the underworld that is the American mafia. Christmas? Heeey, forget-abba-it!
5. The Empire Strikes Back (Irvin Kershner, 1980)
No, there is no Christmas scene in The Empire Strikes Back, but the planet Hoth has enough snow to keep your Grinch-like heart nicely chilled. The second — and best — of the original Star Wars trilogy is filled with struggle, treachery, and betrayal — just like some of our holiday gatherings. But the flick is also the darkest in the series: by the film’s end, Vadar is winning, the rebellion is in jeopardy, and Han Solo is being frozen into carbonite — kind of puts your train wreck of a family Christmas dinner into perspective, doesn’t it?
4. Scrooged (Richard Donner, 1988)
In this modern adaptation of the Dickens story, the Holy City’s own beloved Bill Murray plays a cynical TV exec who comes face to face with his demons when three spirits visit him on Christmas Eve. Murray, who, in his best roles, teeters precariously between playful comedy and sordid selfishness, captures the essence of the modern Scrooge perfectly because no matter how depraved Murray may seem, his characters always surprise us with their humanity. Yes, there’s a happy ending, but there’s plenty of destructive behavior to make the ending tolerable.
3. Bridget Jones’s Diary (Sharon Maguire, 2001)
Facing the holidays alone? Bridget Jones understands how unbearable they can be when you’re a “singleton,” especially when your mother foists a hideous Christmas party outfit and boring men upon you. The adorable and relatable Jones (Renee Zellwegger) suffers many humiliations and setbacks but still manages to charm us all, including Darcy (Colin Firth). From counting the number of cigarettes smoked, alcohol drank, and pounds lost and gained, Bridget reminds us that New Year’s resolutions can be made — and broken — any day of the year.
2. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (Jeremiah S. Chechik, 1989)
All Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) wants this year is a good old-fashioned family Christmas, but a missing bonus check and a full house of insensitive in-laws and mooching relatives threaten to kill his seemingly boundless Christmas spirit. Although cousin Eddie (Randy Quaid) saves the day in the end, Christmas Vacation epitomizes the stress and strain of the holidays, providing a much-need cathartic movie-watching experience. “Hallelujah. Holy shit. Where’s the Tylenol?” Well said, Clark, well said.
1. Lars and the Real Girl (Craig Gillespie, 2007)
In this quirky comedy, Ryan Gosling shines as Lars, an awkward, grieving introvert who forges real companionship through — and with — a plastic, anatomically correct, blow-up doll. The setting — a small, snow-covered town in rural Wisconsin in the wintertime — creates a bleak feeling, but the story contains just enough eccentricity and surprises to distract you, so that you won’t notice when your heart grows three times in size and you discover your Christmas spirit.
As you can see, you’ve been tricked into finding the Christmas spirit after all. Don’t fight it: surrender and have a holly, jolly Christmas.