With December almost upon us I thought I share my five favourite Christmas films…
#5: Scrooged / Dir: Richard Donner / 1988
A 1980s ‘greed is good’ take on the Charles Dickens classic. Bill Murray stars as the Scrooge like character Frank Cross. Frank is a stressed, uptight, anything to get to the top TV exec who is trying to produce a live action version of a Christmas Carol for Christmas Eve.
Like Scrooge from the book over the cause of one night Frank is visited first by the ghost of his old mentor Lew Hayward and then by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present & Future.
The humour is close to that of Ghostbusters and Bill Murray is on fine form. There is great support from Carol Kane (Present) and David Johnson (Past) as well as the scene stealing Bobcat Goldwait.
This film would be higher up my list except it has a slightly cheesy and much Americanised ending.
#4: It’s a Wonderful Life / Frank Capra / 1946
Over the years this film has been misrepresented as a cheesy all American feel good movie. In actual fact it has elements of a very hard hitting post war social commentary.
During its 130 minute running time the film deals with such topics as recession, poverty, religion and suicide. Maybe it’s for these reasons the film, when released, was a box office flop.
Over the years it has slowly become a staple of the American Christmas time TV schedule and one of the most critically acclaimed films of all time.
James Stewart gives a wonderful performance. Given his character both a depth realism that helps you connect with the super natural elements of the film.
#3: Home Alone / Chris Columbus / 1990
The synopsis of this early 90s classic almost reads like a home invasion horror. In fact it’s still one of the funniest Christmas films of all time.
The cartoon style violence is well directed and stunt choreographed. So much so that most of the films final third leaves the audience both laughing and wincing at the same time.
Even though this is the young Macaulay Culkins film; the Wet Bandits, played with mass of energy by Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern, steal the final third. Also an honourable mention must go to Devin Ratray and his portrayal of the big brother from hell Buzz.
#2: Die Hard / John Mctiernan / 1988
The first two Die Hard films almost created a Christmas based action subgenre. In fact the only real Christmas element to both films is the time of year they are set.
Die Hard very much a 1980s action film. A brave individual, against the odds, taking on a foreign enemy and winning with both charm and a few one liners. You’d almost expect it to star Arnold Schwarzenegger or Sylvester Stallone.
Instead it’s Bruce Willis who provides us with are hero in the white vest. He gives a great almost, at times, comedic performance. I can’t be alone at feeling his pain as he slowly walks across broken glass.
It is, I’m afraid, the foreign bad guy, Hans Gruber, that steals the film. Alan Rickman gives a sinister performance but, as with Bruce Willis gives his character a slight comedic edge.
#1: Gremlins / Joe Dante / 1984
I spent my childhood, and if I’m honest my adult years, wanting a Mogwai. Of course I feel I would be more careful in sticking to the rules then Gremlins main character Billy Peltzer.
This Christmas based comedy horror brings to life the legendary Gremlins described by combat pilots during both the second and Vietnam wars.
Lead Zach Gilligan as the afore mentioned Billy makes one too many mistakes with his early Christmas present. This leads to his home town of Kingston Falls. This leads to his town being invaded and terrorised by the little monsters of the films title.
There are a number of great performances in support. Hoyt Axton as Billys inventor father and Phobe Cates whose characters, Kate Beringer, tragic back story is one of the films funnier running jokes.
Despite being directed by Joe Dante you can defiantly feel the presents of both executive producer Steven Spielberg and writer Chris Columbus.
Well worth a watch anytime of the year.