We all may think that we’re beautiful and unique snowflakes, but one thing that unites us all is tradition and never is tradition stronger than around Christmas time. From gift-giving and tree lightings in Christian households to Chinese food and trips to the movies for our Jewish friends, you can typically set a clock to what people will do every year when December 25 rolls around. Not everyone, however, sticks to these traditions. Some folks decide to venture as far away from “normal” as you can find. Where do most of these people live? On the silver screen, of course.
Below we have brought together a list of fifteen films in which a particular character spends Christmas in the most bizarre and spectacular way they can, from walking through glass to trick ‘r treating. Check it out!
Willie in Bad SantaSanta’s “Naughty” list exists for scum like Willie (Billy Bob Thornton). The hard-drinking, foul-mouthed criminal poses as a department store St. Nick so he and his pint-sized partner (Tony Cox) can rob the joint on Christmas Eve. Willie isn’t in the habit of doing right by people. So when he has a change of heart at the end of Terry Zwigoff’s coal-black comedy, he’s rewarded for his uncharacteristic act of kindness by being shot in the back. Ho, ho, holy crap, is that a dark way to ring in the season.
Martin Riggs in Lethal WeaponDamn, Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson) looks so pissed when Mr. Joshua (Gary Busey) gets away after a foot chase and shootout in downtown Los Angeles near the end of Lethal Weapon. So it’s clearly “Christmas come early” for Riggs when he and Murtaugh (Danny Glover) intercept the jack-rabbit son of a bitch at his partner’s suburban abode … leading to one of the nastiest fights in ‘80s action movie history. “You lose,” Riggs belches at battle’s end, but we all win.
Rudy Duncan in Reindeer GamesWhat is it about the holiday season that brings out the greedy Grinch in some people? Similar to Billy Bob’s Bad Santa, Ben Affleck, Gary Sinise and a team of Santa suit-wearing criminals use the holiday as a distraction to bump off a casino. And like Thornton’s thug, they get a dose of lead for their efforts. Games goes down as one of Affleck’s lamest forays into the action genre, and (hopefully) put an end to holiday-themed crime thrillers.
Kevin McAllister in Home AloneThough a grim situation when you think about it, Kevin's battle against dimwitted burglars Larry and Marv is a children's Christmas fantasy. Your annoying siblings are gone, you can eat junk food and even put on aftershave if you want, and when the bad guys come knocking, you're prepared with an arsenal of pranks that only an 8-year-old would come up with. It's not a traditional Christmas, but one that every kid has dreamed of at least once.
John McClane in Die HardAny action hero can defend a skyscraper against bad guys on Christmas Eve. But in the first Die Hard John McClane does all of it with shards of broken glass in his bare feet, a handicap that's just enough to keep the super cop from winning the day too quickly, and also enough to make you believe the guy is Superman. Has Santa ever walked through broken glass to deliver your presents? I thought not.
The Gremlins in GremlinsA Mogwai makes a perfect Christmas present, cute and cuddly and patiently waiting in a box under the tree. But when the Mogwai eat after midnight and become Gremlins, all hell breaks loose, and eventually you have to fight them off in the sports section of a department store. It's a duty that must be done, and you'll end Christmas feeling like a hero... but with a lot of broken tennis rackets to pay for.
Billy in Black ChristmasMost people are dreaming of a white Christmas. Billy, or 'The Prowler,' prefers his black. Bob Clark's seminal horror flick, set inside a sorority house, opens with the girls throwing a little holiday shindig. Billy wasn't invited - probably because of his nickname - but decides to crash the party and spread some joy with a few phone calls ("I'm going to kill you" is my favorite holiday sentiment). A few suffocations, hangings and stabbings later and Billy is pretty close to opening all his presents alone - good thing he still has Jess thinking she's safe, sound asleep down stairs.
Jack Skellington in The Nightmare Before ChristmasOf all of Tim Burton presents, Henry Selick's The Nightmare Before Christmas is one of the best. Oh, it's Tim Burton presents... Either way, in this uncanny stop-motion holiday musical the two popular and yet totally dissimilar holidays of Christmas and Halloween collide. While Christmas Town spends the holidays, well, having Christmas the residents of Halloween Town, including Pumpkinmaster Jack Skellington, trick or treat. Except this year, Jack is intent on brining Santa Claus (or 'Sandy Claws') and X-Mas to Halloween Town and he, uh, besides the torture and a few other minor details, does a pretty good job. Happy Christmas!
John McClane in Die Hard 2“How can the same shit happen to the same guy twice?” our beleaguered NYPD hero wonders during Renny Harlin’s snowy sequel. We don’t mind a bit, though, as McClane spends a second consecutive Christmas being the “monkey in the wrench” of yet another terrorist group’s master plans. Yet in taking down General Esperanza (the great Franco Nero), McClane also manages to build a big enough bonfire from the bodies of fallen enemies to land a bevy of planes, ensuring loved ones avoid deadly airplane crashes and get home for the holidays.
Bruce Wayne/Batman in Batman ReturnsSuperheroes celebrate the holidays differently. Superman probably makes time for the Kents in Smallville, Lois in Metropolis and saving the day. However, in Tim Burton's Batman Returns, Bruce Wayne doesn't seem big on holiday cheer, probably since he has no family to spend it with (and no ward yet either). Thankfully, both Catwoman and Penguin are intent on keeping him busy with various presents including a dead beauty queen and an army of Kamikaze penguins. He could spend Christmas at home with his crusty old butler but instead the caped crusader gives Gotham the gift of swift justice.
Cousin Eddie in Christmas VacationClark Griswold (Chevy Chase) discovers that the Christmas bonus he was counting on has been replaced by a year’s subscription to the Jelly of the Month Club. Clark launches into one of the great all-time onscreen tirades. Cousin Eddie (Randy Quaid), big of heart but small of brain, tries to save the day by delivering Clark’s boss, wrapped up in a Christmas bow. Then the SWAT team bursts in. Hallelujah, holy shit. Where’s the Tylenol?
Gay Perry in Kiss Kiss Bang BangPrivate eye Gay Perry (Val Kilmer) and ex-con turned actor Harry Lockhart (Robert Downey Jr.) have been tied to chairs and Harry’s getting his nuts electrocuted by a bad guy. Just when you think they’re done for, Perry shoots their captor with a derringer he keeps hidden near his balls (homophobes never search there). It’s a classic Shane Black moment, capped by Harry’s relief that Perry had a gun in there and it wasn’t “some big gay thing.”
Samantha Caine/ Charly Baltimore in The Long Kiss GoodnightChristmas of 1996 was a rough one for Samantha Caine. She discovers that she’s actually an elite CIA assassin named Charly Baltimore, she gets viciously attacked by a one-eyed fugitive, her former mentor is killed, she is almost drowned, her daughter is kidnapped and learns that her former lover is plotting a huge terrorist attack. When that much shit is thrown onto your lap in one sitting, there’s really no better way to end it then by speeding away from an exploding chemical bomb on the US/Canada border. Merry fucking Christmas.
Charlie Arglist in The Ice HarvestIt’s understandable why Charlie Arglist (John Cusack) doesn’t want to spend Christmas with his family. His wife left him for his best friend, he’s an irresponsible father with a son that hates his guts, the ex’s parents are in town….and he just robbed $2 million from a local gangster who has plans to mount Charlie’s head on a post. For obvious reasons he’s feeling a bit down in the dumps, so what better way to spend Christmas then in a strip club? Hell, if I lived in Kansas I’d probably do the same thing.
Gus in The RefAll Gus (Denis Leary) wanted to do was steal some jewelry, get away from the cops, and make it to the docks so that he can live a long happy and healthy life. Shame the family that he tries to lay low with is chock full of dysfunctional assholes who can’t stop arguing with each other for more than five minutes. When your protagonist is a professional criminal you need to do something to make him sympathetic, and whenever Gus is around Lloyd and Caroline Chasseur you can’t help but feel sorry for him.