Cinema Reservoir
Breaking Cinematic Opinion and Observation

Incidental Christmas Movies

Not too long ago, in an argument with a friend of mine, in which I was defending my dislike of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, I spouted off my favorite Christmas movie… and you know what?  It wasn’t even a Christmas movie at all…. Yet it takes place on Christmas, so how is it NOT a Christmas movie?? This got me thinking about all the movies that take place around that time, yet aren’t really holiday movies in the strictest sense.

As I alluded to earlier… My favorite Christmas film is Batman Returns, but who would ever think of this a Christmas movie…  yet Christmas factors heavily into its plot.  Consider the repeated attempts at lighting the Gotham Christmas tree, once to be foiled by the Penguin’s circus gang (arriving explosively in giant Christmas presents) and the second to be accidentally lit by the ‘Ice Princess’ as she falls to her death, framing Batman in the process.  The films entire production design, in fact, depends on its Christmas time setting…. I’m thinking of Penguins Arctic World lair, Selina Kyle landing in the snow, the stocking of ”evidence” the Penguin presents to Schreck as extortion (including, quite graphically, a severed hand).  Catwoman has a great final line as she kills Max Schreck with a “kiss of death” from a tazer when she lists off all the times people have killed her, getting down to number seven, stating that she “thinks she’ll save one for next Christmas.”  And, who can forget the final image of the film… A snowy Batsignal with the silhouett of Catwoman looking on?

Gremlins is another film that most people wouldn’t associate as a Christmas movie, yet Christmas is at the very heart of its themes.  Mr. Peltzer gets his son a mogwai for a Christmas present.  His son Billy works at a bank, which introduces us to Ruby Deagle, the town Scrooge, who gets her comeuppance on Christmas night as the gremlins supercharge her chairlift and catapult her out of her house.  They also notably eat a guy dressed as Santa Clause alive.  Billy’s girlfriend also tells a ridiculous story about how she hates christmas because of an unfortunate incident involving her father getting stuck in the chimney whilst dressed as Santa.

Edward Scissorhands is a movie that many may associate with Christmas, yet it is singular as far as Christmas movies go in that there is no snow.  It, of course, takes place in Florida a place where there is very rarely snowfall, yet it seems to be relaying the fable about how snowfall came to that particular suburb of the Sunshine State in December.

I would mention White Christmas, which is really a dancing movie, with only the end taking place at Christmas, but it has Christmas in the title and is something that I watch on Christmas religiously, so…

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3 Responses to “Incidental Christmas Movies”

  1. Here’s my working definition of a Christmas movie: If you can write a plot summary and avoid mentioning Christmas, then it falls into the “incidental” category. You could summarize Batman Returns following those criteria, as you could Love Actually, which, sadly, is the only movie I can contribute at the moment.

  2. Great topic John! I get this conversation started every year around this time when the question of my favorite Christmas movie is inevitably asked! I say Gremlins just to hear “That’s not a Christmas movie!”

    Yes it is, Scooter!

    However, I just do that to get my film geek on, my favorite Christmas film, and my favorite movie is “It’s a Wonderful Life” 🙂


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