Christmas parties are one of the best things about being an adult. And the older you get the better the Christmas house parties get — last weekend I hit one up and the theme was Die Hard.
Granted, the seminal 1988 Christmas actioner starring Bruce Willis as an NYC cop who saves Christmas, his failed marriage and the world is not easy to put a costume together for. But what better way to enjoy the festive season than getting together to eat cheese and play reindeer games in celebration of what's not only the greatest shoes-off ass-kicking movie of all time, but also one of the Five Notes From the Back Row Christmas Quintessentials to get you through the holidays.
Starring as John "Yippee Kai Ay" McClane, this was actually Bruce Willis' first big action flick and kicked off the entire Bruce Willis-saves-the-world genre. Set on Christmas Eve, 12 terrorists take over a multinational corporation's Christmas party to protest corporate greed (nice Christmas message!) and barefoot McClane must save the day. Interestingly, Die Hard is a Christmas movie that actually came out in mid July (1988) and did you know Bruce Willis donated the iconic white undershirt from the film to the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian?
There has been a bit of debate as to whether this is a Christmas movie or just a horror that takes place at Christmas but 1984's Gremlins was originally slated for a Christmas release (before being bumped to summer because it was so awesome). It also has one of the greatest Christmas stories ever told (Phoebe Cates: "And that's how I found out there was no Santa Claus") and a very festive message about being careful what you wish for, not getting greedy and following the rules. This on also has solid '80s pedigree: Judge Reinhold and Corey Feldman also star and Spielberg produced. Sure, the snow is super fake but this one is Christmas all the way.
National Lampoons Christmas Vacation
Released in 1989 this Chevy Chase Humdinger is a straight-up classic but have you seen the made-for-TV sequel? Me neither, but National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation 2: Cousin Eddie's Island Adventure exists! Released in 2003, Randy Quaid is steering the ship this time, it's set in Hawaii and it's probably smart to not get your hopes up. It sounds like Gilligan's Island only with banana-brew beer and a half-assed Christmas message. Apparently, this is the worst movie ever (so kind of a must-see), but you can't go wrong with the original.
Bad Santa or Scrooged
Both are epic in how they eschew the Christmas spirit (in the tradition of Ebenezer Scrooge or the Grinch) but amidst plenty of great comedy (R-rated in Bad Santa) our heroes buy in. Bill Murray's Scrooged is a nice companion/replacement to the Netflix A Very Murray Christmas, which had some nice songs but was lean on laughs.
The best of the lot, and also one of the few instances where the sequel holds up to the original (although Die Hard 2 was pretty good). Fubar 2 sees classic Canadian headbangers Terry and Deaner head up to the oil sands to find their fortunes. Instead they find a surprisingly touching Christmas message about forgiveness, family and what really matters for the holidays. Plus there is singing.
The Grinch (animated or live action) and Home Alone take top nods in the children's category and for those who can't sit through an entire feature-length movie Treevenge is a Canadian-made short film with an environmental spin. Be warned, your in-laws might think you are strange but Treevenge is a staple at my house, and it's free online.
Here's hoping Santa gifts us with The Hateful Eight, the 8th flick from Quentin Tarantino. Back in the Western genre for this one, Tarantino has assembled an all-star cast centered by Sam Jackson (of course) and Kurt Russell and Jennifer Jason Leigh. This one is about eight unsavoury frontiers-y types holed up in a haberdashery/saloon while the plot literally thickens around them.
It's three hours and self-indulgent but it's also awesome and totally Tarantino. In any case, Netflix has already spoofed The Hateful Eight, in title at least, with a new straight-to-download spoof entitled The Ridiculous 6.
I heard Star Wars is playing too. Merry Christmas.