BMD Picks: Our Favorite Christmas Movies

Happy Holidays, you fucking heathens.

Now I have a machine gun. Ho-Ho-Ho. 

It's the most wonderful time of the year, and - as brave terrorists in the War On Christmas - the team here at BMD wishes you well, regardless of whatever holiday you celebrate. While many debate whether or not Die Hard is now a cinephile cliché to cite as your favorite X-Mas viewing pleasure (it isn't, live your own truth), we thought it'd just be better to get together and share our own picks for our personal holiday filmic rituals. Whether it's John Waters, Joe Dante, or Douglas Sirk, there's defintely a ton of diversity to pick from here. A stocking full of goofy gold, instead of coal, if you will...

Ernest Saves Christmas [1988] (d. John R. Cherry III, w. B. Kline & Ed Turner)

I don’t tend to get into the Christmas spirit much, which also means I don’t have a typical movie I feel like watching every December. But that was less true when I was a youngster, and in addition to Die Hard and Christmas Vacation, one holiday film that always stuck with me was Ernest Saves Christmas. Look, children aren’t smart.

I admit I don’t like the film as much now, but I have fond memories of it nonetheless, and its Christmas bona fides are legit. Above all, I’d like to point out how great Jim Varney was in this role. In addition to Ernest, Varney also had a handful of goofy side characters he could transform into, and they were all complete, bizarre performances. The whole Ernest thing is pretty silly, but I’ve always felt robbed of the interesting character actor Varney could have become, had he dropped the shtick. - Evan Saathoff 

Scrooged (d. Richard Donner, w. Mitch Glazer & Michael O'Donoghue)

Pretty much everyone I know has a movie they watch every Christmas. Lots of Love Actually, lots of Gremlins, lots of Christmas Vacation, lots of people watching Die Hard and making sure everyone knows they're watching Die Hard so they can collect their annual pat on the head for being so clever. In my household, we watch Scrooged, because we are animals and because we have exceptional taste.

It must be noted that Richard Donner's 1988 retelling of A Christmas Carol is not for all tastes. It's dark, frequently mean-spirited, probably a bit too scary for children (nevermind that grotesque grim reaper that pops up in the third act: the scene that always freaked me out as a kid involved the frozen hobo corpse in a sewer), and features a delightfully off-putting performance from Buster Poindexter. This thing was co-written by Michael O'Donoghue, a misanthrope of the highest order, and that disdain for humanity creeps into almost every scene, even many of the ones that are supposed to register as "sweet".

Scrooged is a movie I don't think I'll ever get tired of watching. Bill Murray's performance (he's this version of the story's Scrooge stand-in, a sleazebag cable TV executive named Frank Cross) is one for the ages, and the incredible speech he delivers during the film's climax - completely improv'd, according to legend - leavens much of the bitterness that precedes it. Add in performances from Karen Allen, Bobcat Goldthwait and an absolutely batshit-crazy turn from Carol Kane, and you've got one of the strangest Christmas movies ever made. Do yourself a favor and watch this one instead of Die Hard this year; you've seen that one enough as it is. - Scott Wampler

Patti Rocks [1988] (d. David Burton Morris, w. John Jenkins, Karen Landry, Chris Mulkey & David Burton Morris) 

I have about a dozen VHS tapes left from my once-massive collection. Most of these have been kept because they never came out on DVD or Blu, and in that meager pile is one of the formative films of my youth: 1988’s Patti Rocks, directed by David Burton Morris. It’s a heavily improvised story about a dopey man-child named Billy (Chris Mulkey) who, one Christmas Eve, ropes his estranged pal Eddie (John Jenkins) into an all-night car ride to convince his eponymous mistress (Karen Landry) to have an abortion. For an hour we’re prepared for a certain version of this woman, and when we finally meet her, we find she’s smart, thoughtful, confident - and not about to let a guy she was just fucking for fun decide what happens next with her body.

Marketed as a raunch fest (the extemporaneous blue streak whipped up by Billy and Eddie on their long drive garnered the film an X rating back in ‘88), Patti Rocks is actually a fairly grown-up, somber affair. As a kid in the ‘80s, watching a movie that subverted its viewers’ expectations about the female lead was no small thing, and seeing a film that was literally just people talking kind of blew my mind.

If you can find it, you’ll discover that Patti Rocks is audacious, funny, surreal, and - set as it is during Christmas - quietly but massively melancholy. - Phil Nobile Jr. 

The Santa Clause [1994] (d. John Pasquin, w. Leo Benvenuti & Steve Rudnick) 

Christmas is best with a side of light-hearted murder. Conveniently enough, that’s exactly how The Santa Clause kicks off. Scott Calvin (Tim Allen) must then take up the mantle of Santa Claus after he inadvertently murders The Big Guy while also trying to find a way to be a good dad. He does neither well, and the whole thing takes off from there. There’s nothing overly special about The Santa Clause, but it remains one of my holiday favorites for the same reason many of us have our festive go-tos: nostalgia. Yes, the Millennial is writing about nostalgia, groundbreaking (deal with it).

My father and I have never had a lot in common, but movies were something we always bonded over. We don’t see each other often anymore, but every year it’s a mug of cocoa, some fuzzy blankets, and The Santa Clause; sometimes even the sequels, because I’m a monster. - Amelia Emberwing 

Female Trouble [1974] (d. & w. John Waters) 

“Fuck you both, you awful people! You're not my parents! I hate you, I hate this house, and I hate Christmas!”

Every kid has had that one truly disappointing Christmas morning. You've spent the better part of a year hinting to your parents that you want one specific thing; as the big day approaches, you've thought of little else; but when you unwrap your presents, your quarry is nowhere to be seen.

It's a crushing feeling, but few can claim to have reacted quite as dramatically as Divine in John Waters’ Female Trouble. Denied the cha-cha heels she so covets, high-school troublemaker Dawn Davenport runs away and embarks upon a freewheeling career of crime, committing countless heinous acts and accumulating legions of fans on her way to the electric chair. It's probably my favourite John Waters film, possessed as it is of an A-grade demonic Divine performance and reflective of the director's obsession with criminal celebrity (the film is dedicated to a member of the Manson family). You'll rarely see a film that approaches crime with quite this much delightfully batshit energy, or this much disregard for good taste.

Not a particularly Christmas-y movie, then - but it all comes back to that fateful Christmas morning, and those cha-cha heels that failed to materialise. Parents: take notice. - Andrew Todd

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation [1989] (d. Jeremiah S. Checik, w. John Hughes) 

In just two years, I'll be as old as Chevy Chase was when he first appeared as Clark Griswold in the original Vacation, which means every time I watch it after that I'll be looking at a man who is younger than me. "HOW CAN I BE OLDER THAN CLARK GRISWOLD?!?" I'll likely scream to no one, but at least I still got more time until I find myself older than the Clark who wanted nothing more than to give his family a fun old-fashioned family Christmas in 1989's holiday classic Christmas Vacation (i.e. the only sequel that's worth defending). I'm getting more used to getting older, but this movie in particular is gonna be rough, because I was only ten when the movie came out, and I can't watch it without thinking of all the "because I was a kid" memories that accompany it. I didn't get to see it in theaters because I was a kid (I begged my dad to take me, even offering to pay for it with my Christmas money, but no dice). When it came to HBO, I watched it over and over because I was a kid who had the time to do such things. I have the movie's entire audio track memorized down to the sound effects because I worked in a video store for minimum wage for a few Christmases, as high school kids are wont to do. The idea that I now watch this movie, which I have probably seen more than any other film in history, through an adult lens is kind of earth-shattering, because I came to the film as someone younger than Rusty, and in relatively brief time I'll be older than Clark.

As I got older, I obviously stopped watching it as often; there have even been a couple of Christmases where I skipped over the usual tradition. But it hasn't lost much of its magic when I DO revisit it, and that's a testament to how well the movie holds up, because I can still watch and enjoy it today, when so many other films from my childhood have turned out to be of no interest to my adult eyes. I've grown to truly appreciate the film's terrific supporting cast, in particular Beverly D'Angelo who (all due respect to Goldie Hawn) is the best movie wife Chevy ever had and matches her screen husband's penchant for physical comedy and quick, likely unscripted gags (personal favorites: stopping to read a bit of the torn piece of paper from Clark's sap-covered magazine page, and returning her hand to his crotch after shaking someone's hand during the "Freeze!" sequence). And I love how the various family members come together (Grampa Clark reading to Ruby Sue - who is from Ellen's side of the family - always struck me as particularly sweet), moments that younger me didn't care much about because they didn't involve Chevy Chase falling down or saying something I'd repeat ad nauseum until my parents told me to stop it.

But Chevy's still the main draw, of course, and now that I'm a father, I "get" Clark more than I ever could have imagined the first fifty times I saw the movie. I've always been clumsy, anyway, so if I end up falling off my own roof someday because I wanted to decorate it for my Christmas-light loving kid, I can at least take comfort in the idea that I'm just living up to my childhood hero. Hopefully my antics won't eventually lead to SWAT teams and explosions, but I'm more than happy to look like a moron for the sake of my son (I'm dressing as Santa this weekend, in fact) if it means making his Christmas more special, and at the end of the day that's the driving force behind every single thing Clark does in the film. The perfect tree, the 25,000 imported Italian "twinkling" lights on the house, the big dinner with his own parents and his in-laws (plus some uninvited cousins)... you know that Rusty and Audrey will forget about the mishaps (well, maybe not the SWAT team) when they're older and have their own kids and will just remember the most epic Christmas their dad ever gave them, and I can only hope I do that for my own kid(s?) by the time 2026 rolls around and I mathematically become Clark's equal. - Brian Collins

Krampus [2015] (d. Michael Dougherty, w. Todd Casey, Zach Shields & Michael Dougherty) 

On its face, Krampus is a Christmas/Horror/Comedy that doesn’t do well in any of its individual areas. Underneath that is a movie that takes the meaning of Christmas and sends the message that if you don’t understand that meaning, a monster is going to come eat you. What’s not to love about that? We all give holiday movies a little bit of leeway, because how many times can you tout The Reason for the Season before someone dies of an overdose of false sincerity? That’s what makes Krampus great. The message is still there, but it pulls from history and myth to create something brutal and dark (and funny) instead of the usual fluffy and fabricated fare we get for the holidays. If that doesn’t do it for you, well, there’s still beardy Adam Scott. - Amelia Emberwing

All That Heaven Allows [1955] (d. Douglas Sirk, w. Peg Fenwick)

All That Heaven Allows superficially plays like a drugstore romance come to life, fulfilling the fantasy of every bored middle-aged woman in America who was tired of being told that their reveries didn’t matter as much as their lesser halves’ macho war and detective stories. Sirk’s films – for all their intellectual insight – are remarkable works of majestic, soapy escapism. By never toning down his Technicolor bravura, he made an enduring masterpiece that told as many tales as the individual audience member wanted or needed; a Christmas snow globe where the narratives of the figurines trapped inside matter on multiple levels - from the metatextual trappings of star Rock Hudson's sexuality, to Jane Wyman's equally imprisoning Hollywood perception as an "aging actress". But Sirk's masterwork could also be relished for its base emotional core, if need be. All That Heaven Allows is a somber, gorgeous holiday tale about embracing the love and life you want, public opinion be damned. That's the greatest gift anyone can give themselves. - Jacob Knight 

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