There are some movies Christmas just can’t be without, like turkey and roast potatoes certain films are a part of the festive magic. Most are tried and tested staples of the holiday season, but over the years several movies that happen to be set at Christmas have become just as essential viewing as ‘It’s A Wonderful Life ‘or ‘Miracle on 34th Street’.

So here’s a run down of some choice alternative viewing this Christmas, it doesn’t always take Santa to raise a festive cheer.

5. Hostile Hostages AKA The Ref (1994):
The late Ted Demme directed this black comedy starring Denis Leary, Kevin Spacey and Judy Davies. Leary plays Gus, a burglar who is forced to take a dysfunctional married couple hostage after his partner in crime abandons him during a robbery.

Over the course of night Gus has to play the ref as Mr and Mrs Chasseaur prove to be a fate worse than prison for him. It’s a great comedy that has been overlooked for far too long.

4. Lethal Weapon (1987):
The classic 80’s cop movie is perhaps the least Christmassy of these choices, but as Riggs no longer wants to shoot himself at the end of the film the Christmas feel goods are still there to be found.

Shane Black provides a razor sharp script and his directorial debut Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is also worthy of pre Christmas viewing. Danny Glover and Mel Gibson have an undeniable on screen chemistry; aided by director Richard Donner experienced hand. Shame Gibson had to go off the rails in real life.

3. Die Hard (1988)
Bruce Willis sealed his star status with this classic action thriller. A fifth movie is currently in the works to be released in 2013, which will mark the 25th anniversary of the original. Die Hard spawned an entire sub genre within action films, from Under Siege to Passenger 57 none have recaptured the brilliance of John McTiernan’s landmark movie. It just wouldn’t be Christmas without it.

2. Gremlins (1984)
Joe Dante directing a Chris Columbus script with Steven Spielberg as executive producer, sounds too good to be true but it’s a dream team that pays off. It has everything you could want from a Christmas movie, a family pulling together, snow, a adorable animal in a Santa hat, romance and of course crazed monsters who multiple in water that are overrunning the town.

The sequel might have been a bit too zany for it’s own good, but Gremlins stands the test of time as a bona fide classic.

1. Bad Santa
Billy Bob Thonrton as a drunk foul mouthed conman working as a department store Santa , hardly sounds like a movie to spread goodwill to all men. Thornton is perfectly cast as Willie the petty thief who inadvertently starts looking after a troubled young boy.

Every year Willie and his partner in crime Marcus get jobs in big shopping malls as Santa and his helper Elf, and every year they rob the place blind. After the department store head of security rumbles Willie’s plan, he wants a share in the loot. The late Bernie Mac and John Ritter both co-star in supporting roles, and news of a possible sequel has started to gather momentum. I have watched it on Christmas Eve since it’s release on DVD, never fails to bring on the Christmas spirit.

So there you have it, thieves, monsters, terrorists and a psychotic Mel Gibson with a badge. Next week I’ll be looking at some of the worst Christmas movies ever made.

Chris Suffield

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