There are plenty of play-it-straight, distinctly Christmas movies to watch in the month of December, but these 10 flicks deserve equal footing in the Christmas film collection.
"Die Hard" (1988)
Nothing says Christmas like German terrorists holding hostages in a Los Angeles high-rise while a New York City police detective just happens to be visiting his estranged wife. Bruce Willis cemented his action hero legacy as John McClane, while the late Alan Rickman became a household name after his performance as terrorist mastermind Hans Gruber.
Memorable Christmas moment: After McClane disposes of some bad guys, he sends a message to the rest of the group. Gruber reads the message, written in blood on the shirt of a dead terrorist, aloud. "Now I Have A Machine Gun. Ho-Ho-Ho."
"Die Hard 2" (1990)
Two years after the events of the first film, McClane is waiting for his wife (once again played by Bonnie Bedelia) to arrive at Washington Dulles International Airport on Christmas Eve when terrorists take control of the air traffic control tower. Obviously, McClane intervenes and helps save the day.
Memorable Christmas moment: The airport's police captain (played by "NYPD Blue" tough guy Dennis Franz), who has been a thorn in McClane's side throughout the movie, rips up a parking ticket intended for the film's hero just before the credits roll, telling him, "Ah, what the hell! It's Christmas!"
"Lethal Weapon" (1987)
The original buddy cop action-comedy pairing Mel Gibson with Danny Glover is set during Christmastime in Los Angeles. Gibson plays Martin Riggs, a suicidal police officer who has been labeled a "lethal weapon." He is reassigned from the narcotics division and partners with homicide investigator Sgt. Roger Murtaugh (Glover), who is nearing retirement. At first, they don't get along, but a few thrills and kills later, the duo learns -they make a good team as they take down a drug syndicate with ties to Murtaugh's former war buddy. The final showdown between bad guy Joshua (played by Gary Busey) and Riggs takes place in the rain in the front yard of Murtaugh's home, amid the backdrop of Christmas lights and decorations.
Memorable Christmas moment: The movie begins with a woman jumping to her death from her apartment balcony. Christmas lights illuminate various balcony railings, including the one from which she leaps. Bobby Helms' version of "Jingle Bell Rock" plays during the opening credits before fading into the ominous score that sets the scene.
A struggling inventor finds the perfect Christmas gift for his son -- a mogwai named Gizmo. Warned that owning Gizmo comes with great responsibility, he brings the gift home to Kingston Falls. Things are peaceful in the beginning as Billy (played by Zach Galligan) learns the rules for his new pet, but when Billy's friend (played by a young Corey Feldman) accidentally spills a glass of water on Gizmo (getting him wet is a no-no), five more mogwai are spawned. They aren't as sweet, as the rest of Kingston Falls soon learns after the creatures manipulate their metamorphosis into the titular characters.
Memorable Christmas moment: Billy's mother is introduced to the creatures when one of them jumps out of the Christmas tree and attacks her. Later in the movie, the gremlins spook the nasty old neighbor when she opens the front door of her house to find them singing Christmas carols in her yard.
"Trading Places" (1983)
Dan Aykroyd stars as Louis Winthorpe III, a successful, soon-to-be-married commodities broker. Eddie Murphy stars as Billy Ray Valentine, a wisecracking street hustler whom Winthorpe has arrested on suspicion of robbery. Their lives intersect, for better or for worse, when Winthorpe's bosses place a friendly wager. Much hilarity ensues in Philadelphia during Christmastime.
Memorable Christmas moment: A down-and-out Winthorpe, in a desperate attempt to get his job back, is caught planting drugs in Valentine's desk during his employer's Christmas party. Winthorpe, disguised in a Santa outfit, pulls a gun on Valentine as he picks up the telephone to call security. "Hello, security? Merry Christmas!" Valentine says before hanging up the phone.
"Home Alone" (1990)
Macaulay Culkin, the "it" child star of the 1990s, rose to fame in the role of Kevin McCallister, who gets into a fight with his family on the night before their Christmas vacation in Paris and gets accidentally left behind in Chicago. Kevin enjoys his newfound freedom, eating the food that he wants and having free reign of his house. That is, until he has to fight off two bumbling crooks (Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern), setting booby traps for them in a climatic confrontation.
Memorable Christmas moment: Kevin dupes the crooks into thinking that the house is occupied, staging an elaborate phony Christmas party complete with a cardboard cutout of Chicago Bulls star Michael Jordan being carried along a toy train track, a mannequin spinning in circles on a record player, the soundtrack of Brenda Lee's "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" and lots of rope.
"The Ref" (1994)
Funny man Denis Leary is a burglar who is forced to play referee for a bickering couple (Kevin Spacey and Judy Davis) he holds at gunpoint inside their home on Christmas Eve. Who needs therapy when a foul-mouthed gunman can do the trick?
Memorable Christmas moment: An intoxicated, Champagne-toting neighbor dressed as Santa crashes a neighborhood family's Christmas celebration when he is taken to task by one of the children. "Santa doesn't drink Champagne. Santa drinks milk," the boy says. "Look, Santa can't drink anymore milk tonight," the drunken Santa replies. "Santa has a lactose intolerance. It gives him horrible gas pains. You want to see Santa farting down everyone's chimney?" Then Santa wishes the group a merry Christmas and chugs from his Champagne glass.
"Edward Scissorhands" (1990)
Johnny Depp stars in the title role of this Tim Burton-directed dark comedy. Created by an old inventor (played by Vincent Price in his final film), Edward Scissorhands is aptly named since he has scissors for hands. A door-to-door saleswoman discovers him alone in a Gothic mansion and takes him, introducing him to the colorful world of suburbia during Christmastime. Alas, this modern-day Frankenstein story ends much the same, with Edward being run out of town and banished back to the familiar confines from which he emerged.
Memorable Christmas moment: It turns out those hands are plenty helpful on the domestic circuit, as his hosts soon learn. Edward uses his talents to bring an ornate style to the neighborhood's yards, eating shish kabob, cutting hair and making ice sculptures. Edward's sculpture is of an angel, and the shavings create a snow effect as they fall on his inspiration and love interest, played by a blonde Winona Ryder. She dances in the falling snow -- Christmas lights glistening in the night's sky -- as Edward puts the finishing touches on his creation.
"Eyes Wide Shut" (1999)
Christmas in New York City is bleak in this Stanley Kubrick film wrought with infidelity, mistrust and even an orgy. The colorful Christmas lights that illuminate almost every location in the movie are a stark contrast to the dark and brooding desires of the central characters, played by then-husband-and-wife team Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman.
Memorable Christmas moment: The final scene features Bill (Cruise) and Alice (Kidman) at a store Christmas shopping for their daughter. Alice advises Bill that there is something they must do as soon as possible to get past all that has come between them in the film. "What's that?" Bill asks. Her reply -- the final spoken word before the scene cuts to black and the credits begin -- is a four-word expletive that rhymes with luck.
"Less Than Zero" (1987)
Based on the Bret Easton Ellis novel, "Less Than Zero" deals with drug addiction and youth angst set against the backdrop of sunny Southern California. There's plenty of snow in this movie, but not in the traditional sense. Andrew McCarthy stars as Clay Easton, a college freshman who returns home for Christmas break and finds that his high school girlfriend, Blair (played by Jami Gertz), and his best friend, Julian (played by Robert Downey Jr.), are drug addicts. Blair seems willing to seek help, but Julian continues to spiral out of control. Clay quickly realizes that those around him -- namely an old classmate named Rip (played by habitual 1980s baddie James Spader) -- are encouraging Julian's habits, forcing Clay's hand. But is it too late?
Memorable Christmas moment: Clay and Rip dispense with the pleasantries during a totally '80s, lavish, drug-filled Christmas party.
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