Merry Christmas, ’80s style

Microwaved little green men. Roy Rogers references. Gary Busey.

What do these three things have in common? They’re The Icepick’s incomplete and utterly subjective list of the Best Christmas Movies of All Time That Have (Almost) Nothing to Do With Christmas.

I don’t know what it says that my top three picks …

  1. Gremlins
  2. Die Hard
  3. Lethal Weapon

… were made in the 1980s, except that it shows how deep the influence of that neon decade runs in the ole Icepick’s addled psyche; and that stuido execs in the ’80s liked to blow stuff up to the strains of “Ode to Joy.” Either way, I’m OK with it.

And please note, that yes, Die Hard is of course a better movie than Gremlins, but Gizmo and Co.’s treatise on small-town America and the dangers of eating after midnight gets the nod here because it’s more obviously a “Christmas movie.” For one, there’s snow (as opposed to the Southern California of the other two flicks), plus more caroling, an attacking Christmas tree, and a Santa. There’s Phoebe Cates. And especially, there’s the many subversive nods to that great (and subversive in its own right, as the Times has been noting all month) classic Christmas movie, It’s a Wonderful Life.

Lethal Weapon kind of made the list because I needed a third.

Which brings me to wonder, what other movies did I miss?

The qualifications are: the flick can’t obviously be a Christmas movie like A Christmas Story or National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation or Scrooged (though, what is it about the ’80s and Christmas? Just about every flick I’ve mentioned here was made in that decade except for Jimmy Stewart’s seminal film. Did every studio pitch from 1984 to 1989 begin with: “Christmas Day. In a world of man-eating muppets, Eurotrash terrorists, axe-wielding Santas, and Gary Busey… .” Did moguls re-discover Dec. 25 as something other than a date to release Oscar-bait films? But I digress).

To make this list, the movie must, however, take place during Christmas or use Christmas as a background to tell it’s larger story (technically, this is the case with It’s a Wonderful Life).

Just so you know, I’m on the fence about whether Bad Santa and Silent Night, Deadly Night count on this list. (Update: Because these are clearly classic Christmas movies in the It’s a Wonderful Life vein. Especially Silent Night, Deadly Night.)

Somewhat paradoxically, rankings will be based on how much the movie weaves Christmas into its story (see the Gremlins vs. Die Hard reasoning, above).

Merry Christmas, Mrs. Deagle.

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2 Comments on “Merry Christmas, ’80s style”

  1. sonnypi67 says:

    What about “When Harry Met Sally.” I’ve always considered this to be, more or less, a Christmas move. Or at least a holiday movie. Christmas and New Year figure prominently enough in the plot and yet it isn’t specifically about the holidays.

    What about Black Christmas, by Bob Clark, who also directed A Christmas Story?

    Final point: although It’s A Wonderful Life was not made in the 80s, wasn’t it in that decaded that it suddenly became popular? I haven’t researched but simply going on my sense of it. I could be wrong.

  2. The Icepick says:

    Completely forgot about When Harry Met Sally. Good pick as a Non-Christmas Christmas movie, and it was another Eighties flick, to boot. I’d put it No. 3 on our list, ahead of Lethal Weapon (the endless sequels did not do it for me in that franchise, whereas I liked the endless Die Hard sequels, except perhaps for the second one, a Non-Christmas Christmas movie that does not make my list).

    Never saw Black Christmas — sounds like Bob Clark tried to corner the market on Christmas flicks; I’m a big A Christmas Story fan (and a big fan of the 24-hour marathon on TBS every year), even if my baby is too young to try Flick’s dare and stick his tongue to a frozen flag pole. He can ID Ralphie on sight, though.

    I have no research to prove it, but I think you’re spot on with the resurgence of It’s a Wonderful Life in the Eighties. I seem to remember it coming out of “the vault” back then (or at least, that’s how I remember it was marketed). Sort of makes it an honorary Eighties Christmas movie, no?


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