It’s December, which means TV channels and streaming services will be flooded with the same perennial Christmas films that that many of us re-watch every year like Home Alone or It’s a Wonderful Life. However, you may find yourself wanting watch something a bit different this year. If you are then this list is for you: here are five films that are set at Christmas but aren’t necessarily about Christmas.
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)
The only James Bond film set during Christmas; 007 (George Lazenby) goes up against his arch enemy Blofeld (Telly Savalas) while also romancing an Italian countess (Diana Rigg). This entry was dismissed for many years due to the presence of one time Bond Lazenby, generally considered the weakest actor to play the role. Over the years though it has gained more acclaim for its faithfulness to the original Ian Fleming novel, one of the best Bond women in the form of Rigg, excellent action scenes and musical score and an incredibly heart-breaking ending, and is now considered one of, if not the best film in the franchise.
Black Christmas (1974)
A forerunner of the later slasher sub-genre, this Canadian horror from cult director Bob Clarke (who later directed A Christmas Story, a very different holiday film) follows the members of a sorority house being stalked by a psychotic killer. For fans of the genre this is a must see classic. Just avoid the terrible remakes.
Lethal Weapon (1987)
When it comes to action films set at Christmas, Die Hard is easily the most popular. However, many forget that the original Lethal Weapon is also one. Two mismatched police officers, suicidal loose cannon Riggs (Mel Gibson) and strait-laced family man Murtaugh (Danny Glover), are forced to work together to catch a gang of drug smugglers. The leads have excellent chemistry, and the action is fun, but there’s also plenty of strong drama, with Gibson delivering an intense and heartfelt performance that reminds us of why he was such a beloved star before his various controversies.
Batman Returns (1992)
Tim Burton’s second stab at the Batman franchise sees the Dark Knight (Michael Keaton) having to face not one but two new villains, Catwoman (Michelle Pfeiffer) and the Penguin (Danny DeVito). While the plot is a bit incoherent and Batman feels more like a supporting character than the hero, the film makes up for it with its beautiful cinematography and production design and the gothic, often surreal atmosphere that evokes German Expressionism. DeVito and Pfeiffer also give excellent performances and Keaton remains the definitive Batman.
From the North East
Anna and the Apocalypse (2017)
A gloriously entertaining horror/comedy/musical following sixth form student Anna (Ella Hunt) as her sleepy Scottish town is subjected to a zombie invasion at Christmas. Playing like a mash up between High School Musical and Shaun of the Dead, the film is filled with catchy musical numbers and plenty of gore to keep zombie fans happy. Comedian Paul Kaye is a highlight as the villainous and deranged headteacher. The film was unfortunately not a success at the cinema but is easily destined to become a cult classic that many will watch this time of year in the decades to come.
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