I know that some of you among the reading several plump for the more traditional pictures like A Christmas Story, It’s a Wonderful Life, or one of the iterations of A Christmas Carol, but these films aren’t my favorites to screen around holiday time.
Lethal Weapon (1987): I have some friends who watch Die Hard every year around this time, and though I have a lot of respect for Die Hard, my true preference is for this picture. Richard Donner’s action sequences are impeccable. The chemistry between Riggs and Murtaugh is strong. The movie puts time into their character development and it pays off.
And unlike the villain in Die Hard, whose plot really doesn’t make much sense if you break it down, the villains in Lethal Weapon have an entirely plausible goal: to bring in a large shipment of heroin. What makes the film thrilling is simply that when one of the villain’s henchmen says “They’re too big, and too powerful, and too skilled” we have every reason to believe them. Also, any movie in which one of the heroes refers to Christmas as “The silly season” can live in my house and be my friend.
The Exorcist 3: Legion (1990): This sequel to The Exorcist was supposed to have been called simply Legion, as the novel was, but the studio forced a title change, which required the tacking on of scenes involving an exorcist. Honestly, the studio should have left well enough alone, because what they had was a terrific horror picture, noted not only for the quality of its scares–Joe Bob Briggs said the hallway scene’s ending shocked him “and I’ve seen ALL the tricks”–but also for its character development. Lt. Kinderman, played here by George C. Scott, has a yule tide tradition of joining his friend, Father Dyer for a meal and a showing of It’s a Wonderful Life, which each keeps up because they think the other needs it. During their meal, Dyer and Kinderman have an exchange about death that I still love to quote:
Dyer: You wouldn’t want to live forever. You’d get bored.
Kinderman: I have hobbies.
Also, Kinderman lectures his fellow employees about the underlying themes of MacBeth, and it actually fits the themes of the film. I love that.
Eyes Wide Shut (1999): Stanley Kubrick’s final work made my list of 42 (now 43) best films since my birth. Everything I said about it there still goes. I’ll just add that it doesn’t seem like Christmas to me until I’ve seen a masked ball become the world’s most unsettling orgy.
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969): George Lazenby made only one Bond film, which is also the only film in which Britain’s hero gets married, and the only 007 adventure set around Christmas time. Let’s just say that seeing Blofeld decorating his tree and having a sugary European Christmas carol serve as counterpoint to a long, intense chase scene through Switzerland makes this film a seasonal must.
The Godfather (1971): The part the holidays play in the movie is small but significant. On the day Don Vito is shot, Tom Hagen is out buying Christmas gifts. (The Turk kidnaps him shortly afterwards). Michael and Kay, who were out seeing The Bells of St. Mary’s, find out about the shooting shortly afterwards, signaling the end of Michael’s (comparative) innocence.