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Top 10 Unusual Christmas Movies of All Time

By Shawn McKenzie 12/11/2002

What am I talking about when I say the top 10 "unusual" Christmas movies?  Basically I mean either movies that aren't on everyone else's Best Christmas Movie list or movies that aren't necessarily thought of as Christmas movies at first.  You won't see It's a Wonderful Life or Miracle on 34th Street here.  You won't even see one of my favorites, 1983's A Christmas Story, only because it has become so much of a classic that it has taken over George Bailey's story as the most overplayed movie of the season.  Check out this list so you can get some good alternative Christmas viewing ideas to rent or buy.  They may not be all warm and cuddly movies, but they are all fun, some in very weird, twisted ways!


10.Turbulence (1997)-After a shootout on a flight transporting prisoners, a stewardess (Lauren Holly) must outwit a smooth-talking serial killer (Ray Liotta) and land the plane herself.  All of this is happening on Christmas Eve.  Okay, this one is a bit of a stretch, but the whole movie takes place during the Christmas season, so technically it counts.  Besides, it's a great little action film, and it's always fun to watch Liotta going psycho.


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9.  Less Than Zero (1987)-Clay (Andrew McCarthy), an eighteen-year-old freshman, comes back from his first term at a college in New Hampshire to spend his Christmas vacation with his broken-up wealthy family in Los Angeles.  His former girlfriend, Blair (Jamie Gertz), is now involved with his ex-best-friend, Julian (Robert Downey Jr.)  She warns Clay that Julian needs help: he is using a lot of cocaine and has huge debts.  It is based on a Brett Easton Ellis novel (an author that also wrote novels that were turned into American Psycho and The Rules of Attraction.)  Depressing but still cool movie that takes place around Christmas time and is filled with brat-packers.  As a matter of fact, my own collection of Christmas music includes the Bangles' version of Simon & Garfunkel's "Hazy Shade of Winter" from the soundtrack to this movie.



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8.  The Ref (1994)-A cat burglar (Denis Leary) is forced to take a squabbling, dysfunctional family hostage on Christmas Eve.  It also stars Kevin Spacey as the dad and Judy Davis as the mom.  This comedy lets Leary do some of his famous rants, all of which are very funny.


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7.  Reindeer Games (2000)-After assuming his dead cellmate's (James Frain) identity to get with his girlfriend (Charlize Theron), an ex-con (Ben Affleck) finds himself the reluctant participant in a casino heist.  It also stars Gary Sinise, Dennis Farina, and Donal Logue.  I think I may be the only person who liked this movie (even Affleck himself makes fun of it, along with his friend, filmmaker Kevin Smith.)  I just can't resist a Christmas heist movie that was intended to be released in December, but came out in February instead and predictably bombed in the box office!


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6. Trading Places (1983)-A stuck-up stock investor (Dan Aykroyd) and a scheming street con artist (Eddie Murphy) find their positions reversed as part of a nature-versus-nurture bet by two insensitive millionaires (Ralph Bellamy and Don Ameche.)  It also stars Jamie Lee Curtis as a hooker who takes pity on Aykroyd and tries to help him.  Classic con game comedy that takes place around Christmas (remember a drunk Aykroyd dressed up as Santa and waving a gun around?)


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5.   Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)-A young boy watches his parents killed by a thief in a Santa suit.  He spends his youth in an orphanage, staying quietly to his self, but his mind is further bent by an ironhanded Mother Superior (Lilyan Chauvin.)  He (Robert Brian Wilson) finally gets a job at a local store, where he finally snaps when he is required to wear a Santa suit, and goes on a killing spree that leads him slowly back to the orphanage.  It was followed by four sequels.  After 1978's Halloween, apparently every holiday needed a serial killer, and this is the main horror series representing Christmas.  It's a goofy little horror movie that might shake up your next Christmas party.


4.   Santa Claus Conquers the Martians: The Mystery Science Theater 3000 Version (1964)-Martians kidnap Santa (John Call) and two kids because there is nobody on Mars to give their children presents.  This movie is painfully horrible on its own, but in the hands of Joel and the Bots from Mystery Science Theater 3000, it becomes painfully hilarious!  The original version is available on VHS, but if you can track down this version, you won't regret it (I'm hoping Rhino will release this movie on DVD soon.)


3.  Better Off Dead (1985)-A teenager (John Cusack) has to deal with his girlfriend (Amanda Wyss) dumping him among family crises, a homicidal paper boy (Demian Slade), and a rival skier (Aaron Dozier.)  Another movie that just happens to take place around Christmas, it became the template for future "ski comedies."  In fact, so many people were ripping it off that it was skewered by a recent episode of "South Park."  It is still an incredibly funny movie.


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2.  Gremlins (1984)-A boy (Zach Galligan) accidentally breaks three important rules concerning his new pet and sets free a mass of nastily mischievous green monsters on a small town during Christmas.  Also stars Phoebe Cates, Hoyt Axton, Polly Holliday, Judge Reinhold, and Corey Feldman.  This hilarious (and actually pretty scary) movie will really make you think twice about getting weird pets, or at least will get you to follow the directions of a weird pet.


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1.   Die Hard (1988)-New York cop John McClane (Bruce Willis) gives terrorists, led by Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman), a dose of their own medicine as they hold hostages in an L.A. office building during a Christmas party.  Not only is it a great Christmas movie, but arguably one of the greatest action films of all time.  Films are still copying it to this day.


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I hope these suggestions will help shake up your Christmas movie-watching season.  Merry Christmas everyone!

Disagree with my choices?  Do you have a few suggestions of your own for the best unusual Christmas movies of all time?  Please go to the Home Page and post your opinion on the Entertain Your Brain Message Board!

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