Although it's nearly 70 degrees in the Philadelphia area and it feels nothing like the holiday season, Christmas is here and it can't be averted. For many, the holidays are synonymous with a strict movie catalog. Christmas films have always been a huge staple in society, but I've never really embraced any such tradition. Therefore, since I never was one for iconic winter-time movies like A Christmas Story, It's a Wonderful Life and Home Alone, I will spend my Christmas morning and movie list of the month outlining my favorite "not so" Christmas movies (November's List). These are movies that are set during the holiday season but aren't your traditional Christmas classics. Enjoy and have a wonderful holiday!
Honorable Mention: Edward Scissorhands, Gremlins and Just Friends
#5. Trading Places (1983)
Whatever happened to the golden days of comedy? Nowadays the genre is filled with shock value laughs at the expense of the male anatomy and other reprehensible cheap tactics. But back in 1983, comedic stars Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy teamed up to make humor history with Trading Places. After a pair of brokerage firm tycoons debate whether a person's environment or heredity play a bigger factor in one's success, they put their theories to the test by orchestrating a plan to fire and defame a promising businessman (Aykroyd) and replace him with a street con artist (Murphy). The laughs are endless and the Christmas time setting paints a wonderful backdrop for this comedy classic.
#4. Love Actually (2003)
"Christmas is all around us ... " sings fictitious musician, Billy Mack (Bill Nighy), at the onset of Richard Curtis' wonderful holiday tale, Love Actually. A large collection of fantastic performers interweave eight love stories that culminate in an exceptional movie experience filled with laughter and emotion at every turn. Richard Curtis has always told valuable and personal stories, but Love Actually works in conjunction with its holiday backdrop to deliver an impressive outside-the-box Christmas title.
#3. The Ref (1994)
Next up on the list is a bit of a more obscure selection with Ted Demme's riotously funny gem, The Ref. Denis Leary stars as Gus, a caper who's abandoned by his partner during a heist and forced to kidnap a dysfunctional couple and pose as their marriage counselor during a big Christmas Eve dinner. With local police traveling from door to door in order to find the missing burglar, Gus must rely on his hostages and their delinquent son in order to escape the pursuit of law enforcement. The Ref shines as a result of clever one liners and edgy dialogue delivered wonderfully by Leary and co-star, Kevin Spacey. This is a rare holiday treat that flies under the radar, but it's also one that you should definitely see. Make sure to check out The Ref, which is now available on Netflix, if you haven't already.
#2. Die Hard (1988)
In wouldn't be an unorthodox Christmas movie list without the action classic, Die Hard. We all love NYPD officer John McClane (Bruce Willis), but many may have forgotten that he got his start on Christmas Eve. McClane travels to Los Angeles to try and rectify his marriage at his wife's work Christmas party. Yet, a gang of bank robbers led by Hans Gruber take control of the entire building and hold everyone hostage except for McClane, who plans to foil the heist. John McTiernan's action masterpiece captured 4 Oscar nominations in technical categories and still stands as a monumental film of its genre.
#1. Bad Santa (2003)
It's really the antithesis of Christmas, but perhaps that's what makes Bad Santa such a brilliant film. Billy Bob Thornton stars as Willie, a deadbeat drunk and small-time thief that poses as a mall Santa every Christmas to scout out his holiday robbery target. But when Willie weasels his way into the life of a helpless and bullied youngster, he finds a soft spot for the kid and tries to finally do something right in his life. Although it's an overload of Christmas vulgarity and raunchy humor, Bad Santa is unwavering in its cynicism and embraces its anti-hero. Hysterical from start to finish and unforgettable thanks to a fully committed performance from Billy Bob Thornton, Bad Santa is a holiday movie classic in its own right.