Violent Night: 7 Great Christmas Movie References In The Action Movie

A bloodied David Harbour holding a sledgehammer in Violent Night.
(Image credit: Universal)

SPOILER ALERT: The following article contains massive spoilers for Violent Night. If you have yet to see the 2022 Christmas action movie, please exercise caution.

Violent Night, the hard-hitting Christmas action movie starring Stranger Things all-star David Harbour as a not-so-jolly St. Nick finally arrived in theaters in early December 2022, and performed quite well at the box office, all things considered. The movie, which received 4 out of 5 stars in CinemaBlend’s official review, not only brought seasons greetings, but also some hellacious beatings, gun-battles, and some of the most unique fight scenes of the year.

But, on top of that, director Tommy Wirkola’s holiday dark comedy also featured an incredible amount of Christmas movie references to classics like Home Alone, Die Hard, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, and much more. And while this isn’t every single callback and Easter egg found in Violent Night (that will require repeated viewings), this is a good place to start. 

A dead terrorist with a Christmas message in Die Hard

(Image credit: 20th Century Fox)

The Die Hard Plot

Before Violent Night even opened on the big screen, it was hard to avoid comparisons to Die Hard, considering both are action movies that take place on Christmas Eve. Similarities don't stop there, as after watching the movie, it’s easy to pick up on multiple references to the long-debated 1988 Bruce Willis movie throughout its runtime. 

Unlike the other Christmas movie Easter eggs found on this list, there is more than one example of Die Hard being referenced. This includes the premise of terrorists raiding a Christmas party to steal a massive fortune, one guy standing in the way of the plan (John McClane in Die Hard, Santa in Violent Night), and intense violence. The only difference is there’s no Hans Gruber falling off Nakatomi Plaza

home alone cast

(Image credit: 20th Century Fox)

The Home Alone Booby Trap Sequence

Chris Columbus’ 1990 holiday classic, Home Alone, will forever go down as one of the best Christmas movies of all time. This sentiment can be attributed to multiple reasons, and the elaborate and shockingly violent booby traps constructed by Macaulay Culkin’s Kevin McCallister certainly don’t hurt this claim. These booby traps also happen to be one of the best Christmas movie references in Violent Night.

After the young Trudy Lightstone (Leah Brady) runs off and hides from mercenaries holding her family hostage, she hides in the attic and surrounds herself with a series of traps that would shock even Kevin McCallister. Similar to Marv and Harry, Gingerbread (Andre Eriksen) and Candy Cane (Mitra Suir) take a great deal of abuse from the young trap-maker. But, unlike their Home Alone counterparts, these goons don’t make it out alive, suffering extremely violent and crafty deaths.

Beverly D’Angelo in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Christmas Vacation’s Beverly D’Angelo In A Lead Role

The Violent Night cast is great from top-to-bottom, but one of the standouts is Beverly D’Angelo’s Gertude Lightstone, the tough-as-nails and powerful matriarch of the family being held hostage. D’Angelo is no stranger to holiday movies with an edgier tone, as she famously portrayed Ellen Griswold in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (which you can watch streaming).

Unlike the cool, calm, and overall warm character she played in the 1989 Christmastive classic, though, D’Angelo’s character is anything but in Violent Night. When speaking with EW ahead of the film’s release, D’Angelo talked about appearing in both movies, stating that she “relished coming at the holiday and embodying a completely different perspective.” 

John Leguizamo stands in the doorway of an empty vault in Violent Night.

(Image credit: Universal)

The Mercenaries’ Christmas-Themed Codenames

This next reference (or references) on the list have less to do with Christmas movies and more to do with the holiday season in general. The codenames of the team of mercenaries who raid the Lightstone estate are all based on imagery from the holiday, with the leader, John Leguizamo’s “Mr. Scrooge” being the best and most on the nose. 

The other members of the team consist of the aforementioned Gingerbread and Candy Cane, who are joined by Sugarplum (Stephanie Sy), Frosty (Can Aydin), Tinsel (Phong Giang), and Krampus (Brandon Fletcher), the sick and sinister henchman who takes pleasure in torturing and harming the family.

John Amos in Die Hard 2

(Image credit: 20th Century Fox)

The Die Hard 2 Double-Cross

Despite being shredded and derided over the years, Die Hard 2 is arguably the best John McClane sequel, and there’s a strong case to be made for the 1990 movie. But, that is for a different article. Instead, I have to point out that one of the best reveals in Violent Night pays homage to Die Harder, specifically John Amos’ double-crossing Major Grant. 

Throughout the early goings of Violent Night, multiple characters mention the Lightstone extraction team, a military-like group with a history of handling similar situations. However, once the team, led by Commander Thorpe (Mike Dopud), arrives, it is revealed that they are actually working alongside Scrooge, much like Major Grant working with the Die Hard 2 villain Colonel William Stuart (William Sadler).They are even wearing similar outfits (white snow suits) and John Leguizamo appears in both movies. 

James Caan in Elf

(Image credit: New Line Cinema)

The Power Of Christmas Magic Helping Santa Like In Elf

There is a lot of Christmas magic throughout Violent Night, with Santa placing his finger on his nose to go up and down the chimney, but the best example, and one that feels like it was taken directly from Jon Favreau’s 2003 Christmas comedy Elf, comes at the very end of the movie. 

Much like the late Ed Asner’s Santa getting a boost of Christmas magic from everyone in New York singing “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” to escape the Central Park Rangers, David Harbour’s Viking warrior is brought back from the dead after all the surviving adults proclaim they believe in Santa Claus, saving the holiday in the process.

Judge Reinhold in The Santa Clause

(Image credit: Buena Vista Pictures Distribution)

Mr. Scrooge’s Origin Story Being Similar To Neil’s In The Santa Clause

In the 1994 Christmas movie The Santa Clause, Charlie Calvin’s (Eric Lloyd) step-father Neil Miller (Judge Reinhold) reveals he stopped believing in Santa when he was three years old, after St. Nick failed to bring him an Oscar Meyer whistle. Leguizamo’s character, whose name is revealed to be Jimmy Martinez, has a similar origin story in that his life was forever changed when his father was laid off from work and they never had a great Christmas again. 

Instead of becoming a child psychologist, however, Mr. Scrooge became a career criminal, eventually leading the raid on the Lightstone estate. Neil would get some redemption in The Santa Clause and stick around for its sequels, but don’t expect to see Jimmy if Violent Night 2 actually happens.

Again, these are just some of the Christmas movie references found throughout Violent Night, and there are plenty that will need to be added to this article in the future. If you've already watched some of those movies referenced, check out the 2022 Christmas movie schedule to see when and where brand new Christmas films will be airing this holiday season. 

Philip Sledge
Content Producer

Philip grew up in Louisiana (not New Orleans) before moving to St. Louis after graduating from Louisiana State University-Shreveport. When he's not writing about movies or television, Philip can be found being chased by his three kids, telling his dogs to stop yelling at the mailman, or yelling about professional wrestling to his wife. If the stars properly align, he will talk about For Love Of The Game being the best baseball movie of all time.