Skip to main content

Christmas Movie Guide: How To Choose Between Jack Reacher, Django Unchained And More

Going to the movies on Christmas Day is usually thought of as a tradition for Jews, or anybody else not celebrating the holiday who's got the day off. But really, no matter how you're spending the holiday, there's probably going to be a time that you want to get out of the house and away from the family or friends you've gathered with-- or maybe you want to take them with you, but just get to a place where you don't have to talk to them much.

That's where movies come in handy, of course, and this Christmas season is as packed as ever with new releases that ought to appeal to everyone in your crowd. Some of them are holdovers from Thanksgiving, and you can consult our Thanksgiving movie guide for the rundown on those films like Life of Pi, Lincoln, Skyfall and all the rest. For the stuff that's new, read below as we let you know what they're all about (with links to our reviews were applicable), and who you should bring to see them. See you at the movies!

When everyone's ready for a good cry, but is also emotionally stable enough to handle it: Les Miserables

Week after week of "Will it win Best Picture? Is it worthy of Best Picture?" buzz has drowned out the fact that it's exactly as crowd-pleasing and epic as the musical it's based on, and if anyone in your family has even been caught humming "Master of the House" while doing their chores, they're probably already planning to drag you there.

Best for: Families with at least one theater geek passionate enough to convince everyone to see a musical, dammit.

Kind of like that time you all saw… The King's Speech in 2010, because you heard it had Oscar buzz and knew everyone would at least sort of like it.


When you're all 100% in synch on most political issues and can handle a lot of blood: Django Unchained

Quentin Tarantino's new film is kind of a mysterious choice for a Christmas release, given its hard-R rating and gleeful stomping over many, many things considered within the realm of good taste. But for hardcore movie fans it's a must-see anyway, and so long as nobody at your holiday gathering is spoiling for a fight about gun control, it could be an interesting experiment for a group.

Best for: Actually, maybe it's best to just slip off and see this one by yourself.

Kind of like that time you all saw… Munich in 2005, and wanted a revenge tale with a little more blood and less historical accuracy.


When only the name of a very, very famous movie star will get anyone to go to the theater: Jack Reacher

Who would have guessed that Tom Cruise would be the option the entire family could agree on, but a year after Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol here we are, and Jack Reacher is the totally serviceable, straightforward drama that really could work with everyone you know.

Best for: That uncle, cousin, dad, or whoever is a big fan of the Lee Child books-- there's guaranteed to be at least one in your family. .

Kind of like that time you all saw… Vanilla Sky in 2001, and wished Cruise would just get on with it and kick some ass.


When everybody is either young enough not to relate or old enough not to worry: This is 40

Judd Apatow's latest uncomfortable comedy mines humor-- and endless awkwardness-- from his own home life, which makes the foibles and fights of This is 40 feel alarmingly real. It's not as funny as his most famous comedies, but not as depressing as Funny People, and might have the biggest famous-person quotient of any holiday release. That has to count for something!

Best for: Adults ready for some uncomfortable silences in the car ride home.

Kind of like that time you all saw… Spanglish in 2004, and mentally edited Adam Sandler out of it.


When you really want to get in good with your mom: The Guilt Trip

It helps, of course, if your mom is a big Barbra Streisand fan, but this comedy about an adult son bringing his mom along with him on a road trip ought to work for any mothers who wish they saw more of their kids-- and who doesn't? Be prepared for some potential guilt trips of your own once you leave the theater.

Best for: Your mom. And maybe your siblings, if you can form a united front in not getting talked into a road trip of your own.

Kind of like that time you all saw… It's Complicated in 2010, but wished there were fewer awkward sex scenes involving Alec Baldwin.


When you're in a major city and are ready to do a lot of thinking: Zero Dark Thirty

With the debates about its depictions of torture and all the awards buzz swirling around it, Zero Dark Thirty is clearly a must-see movie for many people-- but given that it will only be in a handful of cities until January, it's not exactly for everyone. Fans of All the President's Men and other slow-burn procedurals will dig it-- but at two and a half hours, it's a big commitment for even them.

Best for: Major government wonks who aren't going to go into it with a political agenda.

Kind of like that time you all saw… There Will Be Blood in 2007, and wanted the person who got killed at the end to be an actual person, and preferably a notorious terrorist.


When you just don't think Les Miserables will be emotionally devastating enough: The Impossible

You have been warned: this movie begins with an incredibly realistic and graphic depiction of the tsunami that devastated much of the South Pacific in 2004. The story that follows from there is a fairly encouraging one, about a family attempting to be reunited in the aftermath, but seriously: that tsunami has the power to ruin your holiday. Go in expecting the worst.

Best for: People getting nowhere near an ocean any time soon.

Kind of like that time you all saw… Marley and Me in 2008, except instead of just one dog dying at the end, thousands of people die.


When you've got kids to entertain at all costs: Monsters Inc. 3D

It's a weirdly fallow time for children's movies right now, and odds are most families already caught Rise of the Guardians if they were interested. So stick with a classic, and if you've got kids who have never seen 3D before, maybe they'll be dazzled by the upgrade.

Best for: Kids, and major Pixar fanatics.

Kind of like that time you all saw… Well, Monsters Inc., which opened in November of 2001.

When everyone else hasn't seen it yet: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

The Hobbit is going into the Christmas season a huge hit already, so there's a decent chance everyone you know who's up for a trip to Middle-earth has already gone. But these movies are a little more accessible and more kid-friendly than the Lord of the Rings films, so with that in mind, you might be able to sway a few more for your own second viewing

Best for: Everyone who doesn't mind a little Elvish and talk of Orcrist the Goblin Cleaver.

Kind of like that time you all saw… Fellowship of the Ring in 2001, mostly, since the plots of the movies are essentially the same.


Katey Rich

Staff Writer at CinemaBlend