Three Not-so-Christmas Movies from the 80’s


Miles Meschter (he/him), Staff Writer

The film decade of the 1980s carries memories of frizzy hair, excessive slime, square suits, and vibrant art. The era permanently affected many movie genres, including having action movies cemented, beloved coming-of-age movies, gross and cartoonish sci-fi, family favorite comedies, and produced a number of holiday movie classics. 

While National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989) and Christmas Story (1983) are among the first to be mentioned, there are other notable and more quirky films that are placed on the fringes of the holiday category. While containing the appropriate amount of carols, family, and Santa hats, these select films make celebrating the winter season a different experience. Blending Christmas with horror and comedy, or thriller and action, these three movies are the must-watches to enjoy for an alternative winter movie night.

Die Hard (1988)

Credit: 20th Century Studios Inc.

Holiday movie purists will passionately denounce Die Hard to be among the same genre as White Christmas (1954) and It’s a Wonderful Life (1946). Yet the holidays are ever-present when watching John McClain,Bruce Willis, climb and run about fighting terrorists in a city business tower. The entire action movie takes place during Christmas Eve when a seasonal office party is taken hostage by German radicals. Detective McClain, in pursuit to take down the terrorists, and ultimately unite his family, engages in a non-stop gunfight up and down the Nakatomi Corp. skyscraper. Through the explosion and gunfire this film is pure fun, and Bruce Willis knows it. There is plenty of bloodshed and expletives, yet the vibe of Die Hard is ultimately wholesome. McClain is on a mission to reach his wife to which he has struggled to connect with, and in the final conflicts, he shares an emotional radio conversation to a police officer watching on the ground. Die Hard is not sleepy or sweet, it’s an engaging action adventure that arguably holds up just as well as Miracle on 34th Street (1947).

Scrooged (1988)


Credit: 20th Century Studios Inc.

This film updates the classic ‘Scrooge’ by Charles Dickens with a Bill Murray-style of charm and humor. Dark humor is the movie’s strong suit, as the story opens with Frank Cross,Bill Murray, as the ruthless chief executive for a TV network. Murray leads the movie with his dry sarcasm and deadpan humor. The story shows his network broadcast a cheesy and corporatized TV movie of the story Scrooge, which eventually turns into Frank’s reality. He is visited by the ghost of an old colleague who warns that he will be visited by three more ghosts. The rest of the film sees him encounter the ghost of Christmas past,a time-traveling cab driver, the ghost of Christmas present,a sweet, ditzy fairy who repeatedly smacks Frank to get his attention, and the ghost of Christmas future,a demonic monster who Frank unknowingly steps in an elevator with. Each encounter proves hilarious, yet also reaches viewers emotionally as Frank relives his past, seeing his childhood, his lost girlfriend, and his ultimate decision to place career over love and family. Scrooged has the classic Bill Murray-style, coming off as sweet, with dry, dark, and raunchy humor. It’s a twisted sort of holiday movie that progresses past soppy family films.

Gremlins (1984)

Credit: Warner Bros Pictures

Gremlins is a wild, zany, campy film that is great to watch with friends. It ranks among the lesser of Steven Spielberg’s work, yet still is charmingly entertaining with decent characters. The film strength is the goofy chaos that ensues in the small town when rabid gremlins break loose and populate uncontrollably. The plot centers around an odd, fuzzy pet that a father gives to his son as an early Christmas gift he found while traveling Chinatown. The pet,known as a Mogwai, comes with three caretaking requirements: don’t show it sunlight, don’t give it water, and don’t feed it after midnight. One by one, the rules are accidentally broken, and after being fed past midnight, the Mogwai turn into lanky reptilian creatures who populate by contact with water. This turns the film much gruesome and dark, seeing townspeople be killed by the army of Gremlins. The violence is soft though, and anyone sensitive to such content will find themselves laughing and cringing at outdated 80’s wear and special effects. The gremlins are produced using puppets and animatronics, which certainly dates the movie. Slime is used in excess, which many will likely find gross. Summed up though, Gremlins is an ideal movie for cheap thrills and action that seem to lack in other Christmas movies.

Our culture has mistakenly confined the holiday movie genre to a narrow set of standards, requiring that a film must be a family-centric soppy drama that communicates the true message of Christmas. These three movies expand the genre, providing thrills, laughs and horror. Entertainment is entertainment, especially in this winter months, audiences more than ever seek content that provides a joyride. While people take this month to express their generosity and family values, let them also take time to seek violent gore and explosions.