6. Gremlins (1984)
We’re always warned against getting pets for Christmas, often in the form of the phrase “A dog is not just for Christmas, it’s for life”. This horror-comedy directed by Joe Dante takes this responsibility one step further in the form of a mogwai, the adorable and kind-hearted creature which, when not looked after properly, spawns tirades of horrific gremlins.
Instructed harshly to not allow the creature to contact water, direct sunlight, or food after midnight, Billy Peltzer (Zack Galligan) inevitably lets his caution drop and the festive season is soon overrun with the slimy, green abominations.
Gremlins is creepy, funny, and cute in equal measure, expressing accurately a time of the year when we can feel exhausted, confused, and overwhelmed with unwanted visitors.
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7. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)
If you’re looking to escape from Christmassy messages altogether, Shane Black’s 2005 crime-comedy might be for you.
Protagonist Harry Lockhart (Robert Downey Jr.) is also our narrator, guiding us comedically through a plot so zany that one can never predict the next scene. He is joined by Val Kilmer and Michelle Monaghan in what is only a Christmas film aesthetically; the lights, music, and costumes keep reminding us that it’s that time of the year, but the mad investigation and heart-warming unfoldings of the characters are by far the main priorities of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.
The writing is witty, the performances are faultless, and there is something oddly believable about this quasi-seasonal thriller; perhaps it’s because it knows how unbelievable it is.
8. 12 Monkeys (1995)
It seems Gilliam enjoys setting his dystopian thrillers during the Christmas period; perhaps it’s the darkly comic juxtaposition, and the way it highlights the shallowness of consumerist culture.
12 Monkeys follows James Cole (Bruce Willis), a man sent back in time to find a cure for a virus that has almost wiped out humanity. Thrown in a mental institution, he encounters Brad Pitt as the absolutely mad Jeffrey Goines, and ends up the subject of a mind-bending plot occurring over an innocent Christmassy backdrop. As with Brazil, Gilliam shows us a nasty side to the holiday season, though with considerably less of a clear message.
12 Monkeys is a strange and scary film, making no attempt to reconcile itself with any sort of Christmas theme; the things at stake for James Cole, and the ignorant human race, are far more important.