Are these films actually Christmas movies?

4 December 2023, 13:00

Unlikely "Christmas" movies: Edward Scissorhands, The Shining and Die Hard.
Unlikely "Christmas" movies: Edward Scissorhands, The Shining and Die Hard. Picture: Alamy Stock Photo

Radio X looks at the films which - surprisingly - appear to be set during the festive period. But would you put them on come Christmas Day?

What makes a Christmas movie a Christmas movie? Is it snow? Christmas trees? The appearance of Mr Santa Claus? Or a general feeling of seasonal cheer? Radio X looks at selection of movies that are obviously meant to be set over the Christmas period... and some that are less likely candidates.

Radio X

By Radio X

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  1. Die Hard (1988)

    The film that kicks off ever discussion of what constitutes a Christmas movie. Bruce Willis arrives in LA on Christmas Eve and the action-based shenanigans kick off at a Christmas party.

    Is it a Christmas movie? We've dug deep into the evidence for and against here

    Die Hard | 30th Anniversary Trailer | 20th Century FOX

  2. Edward Scissorhands (1990)

    Tim Burton’s enchanting fairy tale sees Johnny Depp as the ultimate outsider brought to the sunny suburbs with manicured lawns. But, the most memorable scene has the titular character creating a huge ice sculpture of an angel while his beloved (Winona Ryder) looks on. Is it a Christmas movie?

    Undoubtedly - Danny Elfman's beautiful score turns up in nearly every Christmas ad, too.

    Edward Scissorhands - Official® Trailer [HD]

  3. The Shining (1980)

    Jack Nicholson is the winter caretaker of the haunted Overlook Hotel in Stanley Kubrick’s classic adaptation of a Stephen King novel. It’s the most horrible Christmas job imaginable as the family sit out the festive months while dad goes slowly psychotic.

    Is it a Christmas movie? Not at all. More of a "lousy winter" movie.

    The Shining - Official Trailer [1980] HD

  4. Batman Returns (1992)

    Tim Burton again. Danny DeVito’s Penguin makes his first appearance at Gotham’s annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony. Season's Greetings everyone!

    Is it a Christmas movie? Ehhhh... not really.

    Batman Returns (1992) Official Theatrical Trailer HD

  5. Gremlins (1984)

    Young Billy Peltzer gets a Mogwai as a last minute Christmas present from his inventor father, and the whole sorry affair kicks off with the sounds of Darlene Love’s festive classic Christmas (Baby Please Come Home). But the seasonal aspects of the story take a back seat to the cartoonish gremlin-on-human horror. It was originally released in June in the US, too (but we got it in December!).

    Is it a Christmas movie? Absolutely!

    Gremlins | Trailer | Warner Bros. Entertainment

  6. In Bruges (2008)

    Irish hitmen Ray (Colin Farrell) and Ken (Brendan Gleeson) head to the Belgian city of Bruges at Christmas to lay low after a job goes wrong and a young boy is killed. Someone isn’t going to see Boxing Day.

    Is it a Christmas movie? It's not very festive, to be honest.

    'In Bruges' Trailer

  7. Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

    Stanley Kubrick’s last film, a torrid tale of sexual adventures and misadventures starring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, kicks off at a Christmas party and things get stranger from then on. Christmas lunch must have been awkward.

    Is it a Christmas movie? Depends what you tend to get up to over the festive season...

    Eyes Wide Shut Official Trailer 1999] HD

  8. Lethal Weapon (1987)

    This Mel Gibson / Danny Glover cop/buddy movie is set at the end of December… hell, there’s even a shoot-out in a parking lot where Christmas trees are being sold. The film winds up with Gibson spending Christmas Day with Glover. Aw, nice.

    Is it a Christmas movie? Not really.

    Lethal Weapon (1987) Official Trailer - Mel Gibson, Danny Glover Action Movie HD

  9. Psycho (1960)

    The events of Alfred Hitchcock’s legendary horror-thriller take place (according to the opening caption) from 11 December onwards… and Christmas decorations are briefly seen as Janet Leigh’s character takes off with her stolen money. Seems like Norman Bates was too busy to put up his tree, maybe?

    Is it a Christmas movie? Definitely not.

    Psycho (1960) Theatrical Trailer - Alfred Hitchcock Movie

  10. First Blood (1982)

    The original Rambo movie sees Sly Stallone’s alienated, traumatised Vietnam war veteran heading to a bleak Washington town, only to be persecuted by the local cops. He flees to the countryside and a mini-war ensues. And all of this is set in December 1981, with Christmas decorations in the windows. Rambo, you’ve ruined Christmas!

    Is it a Christmas movie? Seriously, no.

    First Blood (1982) - Trailer (HD)