I already revealed my favorite Christmas comedies but decided to supplement the previous list with a more mature collection of films. Those who enjoy their holiday flicks served with profanity, violence, and adult drama should get a kick out of the following offerings.
Ill-mannered, foul-mouthed, sex addict Willie Soke (Billy Bob Thornton) spends his holidays posing as Santa Claus in shopping malls he eventually robs with his diminutive pal Marcus (Tony Cox). His attitude changes when he meets a young boy named Thurman (Brett Kelly) and a woman named Sue (Lauren Graham). This incredibly vulgar 2003 dramedy goes to some extremely dark places but will entertain those able to stomach the nonstop bleak humor.
The Night Before
Similarly, The Night Before has all the drugs and low-brow humor one could ask for but still manages to weave a festive tale about three friends trying too hard to hold onto the past. Starring Seth Rogen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Anthony Mackie, this Jonathan Levine production will make all but the shrewdest laugh.
Like Gremlins, Michael Dougherty’s Krampus offers a violent counter to the atypical light-hearted yuletide fare via Santa Claus’ evil shadow — Krampus. When a family Christmas gathering goes awry, young Max (Emjay Anthony) decides he’s had enough of the holiday season and renounces his belief in Santa. Doing so leaves his family (and neighborhood) susceptible to Krampus, a demonic entity that preys on unbelievers. Featuring a terrific cast, some wickedly dark humor, and plenty of wild shenanigans, Krampus is a must-watch over the holiday season.
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
No Christmas movies list is complete without Shane Black’s incredibly entertaining detective thriller-cum-comedy. Robert Downey Jr. and Val Kilmer are in top form as our resident odd couple — the former is a crook, the latter a private detective — and demonstrate incredible chemistry. Black’s script delves deep into the seedy underbelly of Hollywood and gleans plenty of darkly humorous misadventures for our duo to overcome. For the older crowd. Co-stars a wickedly sexy Michelle Monaghan.
The Shop Around the Corner
Let’s lighten things up a bit, shall we? The Shop Around the Corner will put younger viewers to sleep, but couples seeking a rom-com with some heft should check out this 1940 classic. James Stewart and Margaret Sullivan star as a pair of rivals working in a general store in Budapest. Unbeknownst to the couple, they are currently in a romance with one another through the mail. If that plot sounds familiar, you’ve likely seen the 1998 remake You’ve Got Mail with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. The Shop Around the Corner is better.
It’s a Wonderful Life
Sticking with James Stewart, my holiday season isn’t complete until I’ve wept with the Baileys. This Frank Capra production follows the life of a man named George Bailey (Stewart), a kind-hearted man who can’t escape the clutches of his hometown. One Christmas Eve, he bumps into an angel who shows him what the world would look like without him. Delectable holiday fare and one of my all-time favorite films. Co-stars Donna Reed.
If you liked Violent Night, the ultra-violent Santa Claus epic currently playing in theaters, I urge you to check out Fatman. More a leisurely western than an out-and-out action fest, Fatman stars Mel Gibson as a Santa Claus grappling with our ever-changing society. Complicating matters is the arrival of a hitman (Walton Goggins) hired by a spoiled brat (Chance Hurstfield) to kill jolly old St. Nick, resulting in a violent standoff at the North Pole. The world-building here is unique, and directors Eshom and Ian Nelms squeeze a surprising amount of emotion from the premise. Fatman is a Christmas classic.
Sentimental but ultimately heartwarming, Richard Curtis’ sprawling tale about love boasts an incredible cast — Hugh Grant, Colin Firth, Emma Thompson, Liam Neeson, Keira Knightley, and Alan Rickman, among others — and plenty of good-natured humor. The film follows several storylines seeped in romance and heartbreak, leading to a stirring finale that will put a smile on all but the most cynical.
I mean, obviously. Die Hard is the crème de le crème of Christmas flicks and one of those movies I have to watch when December rolls around. Starring Bruce Willis as put upon John McClaine, a New York cop battling criminals in an LA skyrise on Christmas Eve, Die Hard kicks all sorts of ass but has enough holiday cheer to counter the ongoing violence and death. Alan Rickman practically steals the show as the criminal mastermind behind the attack. A genuine classic.
Likewise, no Christmas movies list is complete without a dash of Lethal Weapon. Directed by Richard Donner, this action classic packs plenty of machismo but deftly wraps its action beats around a dark tale about a suicidal young cop teaming up with an old pro. Mel Gibson and Danny Glover bring the heat, Shane Black’s script crackles, and director Richard Donner keeps the production racing ahead. A perfect film.