I’ve Got Your Yippie-Ki-Yay Right Here: Five Non-Traditional Holiday Films

By Alexa Day
December’s holiday activities tend to keep us all busier than usual, both inside the house and out, and that’s probably for the best, since there isn’t anything to watch on TV this month. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m on the lookout for my favorite film version of A Christmas Carol (it’s the one with Patrick Stewart on TNT), and I will not hear anyone speak against my treasured Rankin-Bass specials. But there are stations running whole days of those painfully sweet home-and-hearth Christmas movies. If you’re already struggling to maintain your sanity this month, that’s not really what you need.
In the spirit of the season, then, I’m going to give you five of my favorite Christmas movies. These are films that contribute to my own less-than-sweet holiday traditions, but in a non-traditional way. This year, if you can’t take any more of the sweet stuff, give one of these fine films a try!
Die Hard
“Now I have a machine gun. Ho. Ho. Ho.” Be honest. You’ve thought it at least once, haven’t you? Of the Christmas action films, Die Hardmight be the most Christmasy. From Reginald VelJohnson’s “dum-de-dum delightful” rendition of “Let It Snow” to the climactic surge of the Ode to Joy, this movie won’t let you forget about the most wonderful time of the year. Save it for the most stressful night of the season – you know, the one where you left yourself too much to cook in too little time and you’re just realizing that a necessary ingredient is missing. Tiny Tim can’t help you the way that John McLane can. Yippie-ki-yay!
Trading Places
When work starts to get crazy at the end of the year, Trading Places provides us with both perspective and wish fulfillment. If you’ve ever thought your bosses were out to get you (or just trying to screw with you), if you’ve ever daydreamed about sweet corporate revenge on company time, or if you’ve ever faced the cleanup that follows an out-of-control Christmas party, this one’s for you. And you can look to Coleman the butler for some top-notch career advice. “Just be yourself, sir,” he says. “Whatever happens, they can’t take that away from you.”
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
I spent many Christmases trying to figure out a way to get a moderately normal Christmas from my decidedly abnormal family. I never managed to do that. Time has taught me, however, that I’m not the only person trying far too hard to obtain impossible results each and every year. For all of us who have a hard time accepting the “fun” in dysfunctional, I give you National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Without getting preachy or cheesy, Christmas Vacation explores that eternal paradox: “How can I love these people so profoundly and still spend several days every year wanting to kill them?” You might find the answer in Clark Griswold’s old home movies. And you will never complain about your holiday turkey again.
Lethal Weapon
Christmas is about nostalgia, right? There’s nothing better than Lethal Weapon for nostalgia. Step back in time and see Mel Gibson and Gary Busey before the various stresses and pressures and motorcycle accidents of later years got to them. (Actually, Gary Busey had the motorcycle accident the very next year, in 1988.) If you think you have it tough, watch jolly ol’ Mr. Joshua set his forearm on fire. If he can get through that, you can get through the ordeal of mall parking.
Eyes Wide Shut
Stanley Kubrick’s last film is proof that you don’t need to be with the whole family to feel the strain of the holidays. Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman play a married couple in crisis. Is extramarital sex the solution? Of course it isn’t. But those two need the entire film – complete with a masked orgy – to arrive at that conclusion. Aren’t you glad they made a real effort to answer that question? Now all you’ve got to do is watch them struggle through their predicament with beautifully Kubrickian discomfort. It’s one honey of a palate cleanser if you have no choice but to watch those sweet movies.
Wherever you go this year, be safe, enjoy yourself, and remember that this only happens once a year. That has a lot of meanings to a lot of people, but don’t worry. I’ve got a wineglass that says I know which one you’re thinking of.
What’s your favorite non-traditional holiday film? Hit me up in the comments.

7 thoughts on “I’ve Got Your Yippie-Ki-Yay Right Here: Five Non-Traditional Holiday Films

  1. Very interesting list there, Alexa! Definitely not your usual Holiday fare, but definitely something spice up the watch list. I love our comment “the fun in dysfunctional” – cracked me up! My holiday list is more on the sweet side because, well, what can I say? I'm Pollyanna. My fav Scrooge is the one with Albert Finney. Yes, it's a musical, but I love it and I dare you to get “Thank you, very much” out of your head after you've heard it. Also, Serendipity is another movie that incorporates the holiday. And there's The Holiday which I caught a glimpse of just the other day, but had to forgo for another show. And there's always Love Actually, but now I'm sure I've tipped it way over the sweet limit, so I'll stop. I look forward to seeing what other suggestions folks have to offer.

  2. I love Bruce Willis and Die Hard!!! And just reading the title of your post makes me want to pop one from the franchise into the DVD (or rather locate it on Amazon Prime).

    This list helps me to realize that not every Christmas movie has to be sappy, and filled with holiday cheer, but can also have a good amount of gun fights. Happy Holiday! 🙂

  3. Oh my gosh, Alexa…I had four out of your five in my head before I even scrolled down the page! Perfect selections! In fact, 30 minutes ago I told my son I HAVE to see Trading Places this year. I even have it queued up in my Netflix list! I'm 100% with you on the Patrick Stewart version of Scrooge too, although George C. Scott did a great job as well. I have to differ with Eyes Wide Shut–not one of my favorite movies any time of year. But then I'm not much of a Kubrick fan in general. Great list!

  4. The little details put Stewart just ahead of Scott (who was the Scrooge I grew up with). Stewart's Scrooge, after his conversion, wants to go to church with everyone else but has to be reminded to take off his hat. He wants to sing but doesn't know the words. And the moment where Bob Cratchit takes up the poker and looks down at the floor, worried that his boss has finally flipped out — that's my favorite.

    As for Eyes Wide Shut … well, no way was I going to leave a cinematic orgy off the list at Christmas. 🙂

  5. I've seen Love Actually, and it's not bad! Now that I know Andrew Lincoln from The Walking Dead is in it, I may have to try to catch it again. But yes, that's a *lot* of sweetness! In fairness, you have to count musicals twice. 🙂

  6. I love, Love Actually. It's one of my favorite movies – period, so put me in the sweet category as I also dislike just about everything Stanley did. And what about Fiddler on the Roof? Although not a 'Hanukkah' or holiday movie, it's still one I think about this time of year.

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