Now is the time of year when a lot of people become insufferable, spouting their Christmas cheer all over the place. And I bet there was a good chance you reacted negativel to me saying that, right? Probably with something like, ‘Don’t be a scrooge! Cheer up, it’s chriiiissstmaaas!’ Well, this is exactly the sort of thing that drives me mad. To be honest, I’d be fine with Christmas, if it didn’t seem like everyone was forcing you to be merry all the time.
Which brings me on to movies. Most Christmas flicks are awful. Soppy and sickening affairs (although I do have a soft spot for Santa Claus: the movie; mostly because of John Lithgow’s performance).
So when it comes to settling down with loved ones to get in that tragically perky Christmas spirit, it’s either watch one of those type of movies, or have an argument about whether Die Hard is or isn’t allowed into the Christmas club. For argument’s sake, if it does get in, what others could be allowed in too?
Here’s what I came up with. My alternative Christmas movies, if you will.
1. Gremlins (1984)
This is such a fun film. There are rules: don’t get your mogwai wet, don’t feed it after midnight or it’ll turn into an evil gremlin with a mohawk, that sort of thing. I also found out, years later, that they used the same small town set for Back to the Future.
2. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)
This is highest Shane Black film on my list (there are a few more below) and this one is significant, because it marked the return from Hollywood wilderness for one Robert Downey Jr (he went on to do some kind of superhero film, I hear). It also had fantastic performances from rising star at the time, Michelle Monaghan, and marked a return to form for Val Kilmer.
3. Batman Returns (1992)
Arguably, whisper it, the best Batman film of the Keaton era? Actually, I am torn. Batman was truly great and set the blueprint, but Batman Returns gave us Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman, Danny DeVito as the Pengiun and Christopher Walken as, er, evil business dude. Max something. It’s the better movie. There, I’ve said it.
4. Go (1999)
Written by legendary screenwriter John August, this is the screenplay that put him on the map as a feature movie writer. It has a soft spot in my heart, being a film I watched a lot growing up. It was so cool. The story revolves around a group of characters. We initially follow one of them. The story then returns to the start to follow another. Eventually, they intertwine and come back together.
5. Trading Places (1983)
Dan Akroyd, Eddie Murphy and Jamie Lee Curtis team up to take down a couple of corrupt, rich old white guys. You could say this film is still painfully relevant in 2019 (at the time of writing). Politics aside, it’s a very funny film with actors at the top of their game. Akroyd, dressed as Santa, also eats salmon through his beard at one point. What other movie can you say has that?
6. The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996)
This is my second Shane Black film on this list. Before Angelina Jolie, Kate Beckinsale and others took up the mantle as the action women of Hollywood, we had bad ass housewife Gina Gershon. Here she plays an assassin that’s lost her memory and living life as a housewife. Things happen and she starts to remember her past. She teams up with Samuel L. Jackson to take down the bad guys down.
7. In Bruges (2008)
A job goes wrong for two hit man, so they head to Bruges to lay low. One (Brendan Gleeson) loves the city, the other (Colin Farrell) hates it. Their somewhat unhinged boss (Ralph Fiennes) orders them to stay put. He then heads out to meet them and things blow up after that . This is a darkly comic slice of genius from writer-director Martin McDonagh, one that’s great to revisit, time and again.
8. Lethal Weapon (1987)
The film that put Mel Gibson on the map as a Hollywood leading man. This is also the film that got writer (and now director) Shane Black in the door, kickstarting his career. It’s also kind of interesting, in that this first film had live wire cop Riggs (Gibson) really struggle with his demons. The sequels were funnier, but this first film went to some dark places.
9. Iron Man 3 (2013)
After helping revive Downey Jr’s career with Kiss Kiss Bang Bang RDJ returned the favour by having his friend Shane Black direct him in this third instalment of Iron Man’s story in the MCU. It was a good decision, some might say, as this film went on to be one of the highest grossing movies for Marvel.
10. American Psycho (2000)
The film that put Christian Bale on the map as an intense character actor. And also a leading man, in a weird way. He’s since gone onto an incredibly varied career as one of the best actors working today. But for a long time, he was known as ‘the guy that played Patrick Bateman’.
Honourable mentions also go to:
Filth, Bad Santa, Home Alone, About a Boy, Brazil, Edward Scissorhands.