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20 Movies To Fire Up The ‘Is This Really A Christmas Film’ Debate

Almost everyone has a favourite Christmas movie they watch every single year. It’s freezing out, we’re all tired from schlepping to the shops to buy presents and prep for the holidays, and there’s really nothing that feels more festive than watching a movie on the couch with a box of Quality Street and hot chocolate. But the subject of Christmas movies is a weirdly controversial one. There are the classics (both new and old) such as A Christmas Story, or Bad Santa. There are Christmas rom-coms like The Holiday or Love, Actually. There’s even the Christmas horror genre with movies like Krampus.

The thing is, those movies are all very clearly Christmas-y. Their entire plots are based around Christmastime and the stories wouldn’t make sense without Christmas as a backdrop. But what about the movies that are non-Christmas-Christmas movies? Like, movies that take place around Christmas but aren’t technically Christmas movies? Or movies that could go either way? There are certain “Un-Christmas” movies that spark conversation every year, making us wonder if they’re theoretically allowed to be called Christmas movies or not.

Here’s a list of movies that have caused some heated debate over whether they’re actually Christmas movies or not.

Die Hard


Die Hard is the most well-known controversial Christmas movie. Almost every person on the planet has an opinion about this, including Bruce Willis (the star of the film says it’s not a Christmas movie, it’s Bruce Willis movie) and screenwriter Steven E. Souza (he says it is, in fact, a Christmas movie). And, the thing is, the first Die Hard movie is set on Christmas Eve. On his way to a Christmas party to make up with his wife, NYPD detective John McClane (Willis) is intercepted by a German terrorist, and drama and action ensues. There’s no Santa, presents, or really any cozy feelings here. Just lots of action scenes and that part where McClane says “Yippee Ki-Yay, motherfucker!” Still, tons of people watch the Die Hard movies on Christmas every year.Photo: 20th Century Fox/Kobal/Shutterstock.


Gremlins is definitely less of a controversial “Christmas” movie because it actually takes place on Christmas, and it does start with Randall Peltzer (Hoyt Axton) looking for the perfect present for his son, Billy (Zach Galligan). Obviously, we end up with Gizmo (who even wears a Santa hat at one point). He’s a mogwai, who spawns a bunch more mogwais when Billy accidentally spills water on him. These mogwais are led by an evil leader called Stripe, who ends up jumping in a pool and creating an army of “gremlins” who wreak havoc in the town. However, many argue that Gremlins isn’t a Christmas movie because it would totally make sense any time during the year — Christmas merely serves as a backdrop. Photo: Warner Bros/Kobal/Shutterstock.

The Nightmare Before Christmas

Even though Henry Selick, the director of The Nightmare Before Christmas, has declared the movie a Halloween movie, many fans are still divided. The story begins in Halloween Town, which is ruled by Jack Skellington (voiced by Chris Sarandon), who’s basically the town’s #influencer. There are ghouls and witches and even a big bad monster called the Oogie Boogie. But then the next town over is Christmas Town, which Jack wants to take over because he thinks it would be fun to play Santa. In fact, most of the movie is centred around Jack preparing for Christmas (which ends up being a total disaster). At the end of the day, we can watch The Nightmare Before Christmas on Christmas and Halloween (but just sayin’ — the best songs in the movie are about Halloween).Photo: Moviestore/Shutterstock.


People treat Frozen like it’s a Christmas movie because a) the first and second Frozen instalments were released in late November, and b) they both have a lot of snow (thanks to Elsa’s powers). There’s also a snowman and reindeer, which are traditionally Christmas-y characters.However, there’s literally nothing about Frozen that truly makes it a true Christmas movie. Not that this fact is stopping us from watching both Frozen flicks over Christmas vacation.Photo: Moviestore/Shutterstock.

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

There’s a tiny bit of Christmas in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, but it’s mostly about a not-super-bright criminal pretending to be an actor and running into crazy situations involving corpses. Robert Downey Jr. plays Harry, who is trained by private investigator Perry van Shrike (Val Kilmer), who’s openly gay. Shrike’s orientation is, for some reason supposed to be hilarious — it’s all very early 2000s and very uncool. Perry initially is just training Harry for a role as a private investigator but then things get super real when they accidentally witness a car getting dumped into a lake.This movie could totally exist during any time of the year but is considered a non-Christmas Christmas movie because it does take place during Christmastime. Photo: Warner Bros/Kobal/Shutterstock.

Batman Returns

Besides taking place during Christmas, people make the argument that Batman Returns is the ultimate Christmas movie because it’s all about folks with no family at all coming together: Bruce Wayne (Michael Keaton), an orphan; the Penguin (Danny Devito) who was abandoned and left to drown by his parents when he was a baby; and Selina Kyle (Michelle Pfeiffer), whose only friends are her cats. Some also argue that it’s the “subversion” of Christmas, but at this point, couldn’t that be just about any movie?Photo: Zade Rosenthal/Warner Bros/Dc Comics/Kobal/Shutterstock.

Trading Places

This classic, yet extremely dated, Eddie Murphy comedy is almost a Christmas movie. It’s about two wealthy brothers (Ralph Bellamy and Don Ameche) who own a commodity-trading firm. They make a bet about “nature versus nurture” when they meet Billy Ray Valentine (Murphy), a beggar.They take Valentine off the streets after their managing director Louis Winthrope (Dan Aykroyd) falsely accuses Valentine of trying to steal his briefcase, and make the two trade places. The hypothesis is that if Valentine is given all of Winthorpe’s amenities and privileges, he’ll turn into an upstanding citizen. Meanwhile, if they force Winthorpe into homelessness, they theorize if he’ll turn to crime.

The only reason why Trading Places is even remotely considered a Christmas movie is that it takes place during the holidays, and there’s a corporate holiday party. And yes, Winthorpe ends up in a Santa costume and it’s super ridiculous.Photo: Paramount/Kobal/Shutterstock.


Carol, which came out in 2015, was called the “Lesbian Christmas Movie of My Dreams” by Bitch Media, as it focuses on the affair between two women living in Manhattan and takes place during the holiday season. While the film is more about the affair itself versus Christmas festivities, there’s no arguing that Carol is very festive: mall employees wear Santa hats and “Silver Bells” plays at one point during the film. While I wouldn’t say Carol is a quintessential Christmas movie (it could take place during any time of the year), I do hope it at least paves the way for many more queer holiday films, because there certainly aren’t enough.Photo: Killer/The Weinstein Company/Kobal/Shutterstock.


While Metropolitan is a ‘90s indie version of Gossip Girl, it has some Christmas flare to it. Metropolitan, which is about middle class misfit Tom Townsend (Edward Clements), who decides to go to a debutante ball one night, which leads to him befriending a group of rich Princeton college kids. It’s really not so much a Christmas movie as a movie that takes place on the East Coast during the holiday season. While there are plenty of lit trees and red bows, Vulture calls it a “winter break film.”Photo: Moviestore Collection/Shutterstock.

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

Some say On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is a James Bond Christmas movie. Bond, James Bond (played here by George Lazenby), finds true love and gets married! He spends quality time in the Alps! It’s a super cozy, fun movie that’s not quite a Christmas movie, but since it’s James Bond, maybe we’ll just go with it.Photo: Sportsphoto/Alamy Stock Photo.

Eyes Wide Shut

Is Eyes Wide Shut a Christmas movie just because there’s a Christmas party with a big ‘ole Christmas tree? Some seem to think so. The movie isn’t exactly super festive or full of cheer; in fact, the film, which stars Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, goes into topics such as AIDS, cheating, secret sex clubs, and child prostitution. If it really is considered a Christmas movie, it’s definitely one the most darkest ones out there.Photo: Warner Bros/Kobal/Shutterstock.

Catch Me If You Can

While Catch Me If You Can is really about a con artist named Frank Abagnale Jr. (Leonardo DiCaprio), there is admittedly a lot of Christmas imagery scattered throughout the film. The story starts during Christmas of 1969 (in prison, no less), and we go back to Christmas in 1964, when Frank is being honoured with a lifetime membership in the New Rochelle Rotary Club. Frank is (spoiler!) eventually arrested on Christmas Eve, too. Is Catch Me If You Can technically a Christmas movie? Probably not, but you do you.Photo: Moviestore Collection/Shutterstock.

The Harry Potter Movies

Many Harry Potter fans think of Harry Potter as the ultimate Christmastime franchise for several reasons. First off, a lot of the Harry Potter films were released between November and December. Second, Freeform (nee ABC Family) always airs Harry Potter marathons around the holidays. But besides the timing, there are so many great Christmas moments in Harry Potter.

Remember when Harry gets his invisibility cloak as a Christmas present from Dumbledore? Or the Yule Ball in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire? Ron’s terrible Christmas sweater? Hogsmeade and how amazing a butterbeer sounded? Plus, Hogwarts is always decorated so magnificently during the holiday season, it puts Christmastime Disneyland to shame. Harry Potter may not be a Christmas movie, but it has the heart and soul of a Christmas movie, and maybe that’s all that really matters when we talk about our fave Christmas films.Photo: Warner Bros/Courtesy Everett Collection.


Credit: Original article published here.

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