Read on for our favourite films that defy the holiday clichés and unlock your inner Grinch.
5. Die Hard 2
We all know what went down when John McClane paid a visit to the Nakatomi Plaza. From ‘Yippee-Ki-Yay’, ‘Welcome to the Party’ and ‘Now I Have A Machine Gun. Ho Ho Ho’, Die Hard is the immensely quotable action classic that has wormed its way into the Christmas canon.
For our anti-Christmas list however, we’re going to argue that its sequel, the underappreciated Die Hard 2: Die Harder from 1990 deserves just as much love when the holiday comes around.
Set just two years after the events of the first film, Die Hard 2 finds John McClane at odds with his most tricky enemy yet—a busy airport on Christmas Eve. Featuring makeshift icicle weapons and a thrilling snowmobile chase, the film offers up the same ridiculous wintery excess that made Die Hard such a classic, and it should be considered essential viewing to put your last-minute panic buying into perspective.
4. In Bruges
You won’t find any Christmas cheer in Martin McDonagh’s pitch-black comedy, a grisly tale of guilt, booze, and murder. The film follows Ray (Colin Farrel) and Ken (Brendan Gleeson), two hitmen who are exiled to Bruges over Christmas after a job gone wrong. After some hopeless wandering around the cosy city that perfectly depicts the melancholy of a Christmas away from home, Ken is tasked with killing Ray and covering their tracks for good.
McDonagh has gone on to have great success with his Oscar-winning film The Banshees of Inisherin, but it’s this 2008 cult classic that will remain the favourite for many, as a dark counter to the cloying goodwill of the Christmas season.
3. Black Christmas (1974)
An early influence on the slasher genre, Bob Clark’s vicious 1974 horror Black Christmas is the perfect feel-bad antidote to any festive cheer. As students head home for the Christmas holidays, the Pi Kappa Sigma sorority house find themselves on the naughty list, as one by one the inhabitants of the house fall victim to an unhinged killer.
Featuring innovative shots from the killer’s point of view and a strong grasp of feminist themes as the women of the house battle the casual misogyny that allows killings, Black Christmas is a cult favourite that has spawned numerous imitators and a few remakes—though none have hit the heights of the original macabre classic.
2. Eyes Wide Shut
Our next entry is the legendary director Stanley Kubrick’s final film, the controversial and sinister 1999 drama Eyes Wide Shut. As the snow falls on the labyrinthine streets of New York City, the timid Dr Bill Hartford (Tom Cruise) embarks on a sexual odyssey after his wife Alice (Nicole Kidman) reveals she has contemplated having an affair.
Eyes Wide Shut is far from your traditional festive film, as the warm, familiar glow of Christmas lights slowly conjure up a nightmarish haze for Tom Cruise’s doctor. As Bill delves further into the seedy underbelly of the city, he begins to lose his grip on what is real and who he can trust, leaving us pining for the familiar comfort of an innocent kiss under the mistletoe.
Coming in top spot for our Anti-Christmas film list is Sean Baker’s energetic low-budget indie film from 2015, Tangerine. Shot with three iPhone 5S smartphones, Tangerine follows transgender sex worker Sin-Dee Rella (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez) who, upon release from prison, discovers her boyfriend has been cheating on her. With her best friend Alexandra (Mya Taylor) in tow, the pair set out on a chaotic few days around the holiday season to find the boyfriend.
With no snow or reindeer in sight, Tangerine is set in sun-kissed Los Angeles and features the many colourful characters that inhabit the city. Packed with blistering wit and tender heart, the film shows an alternative way of enjoying this festive season, celebrating the friendships that bring us together over the holidays.