It’s that time of year again. Time to cosy up by the fire, eat warm cookies, drink eggnog, and turn your favourite Christmas movie on. But is your favourite holiday film actually a Christmas movie, or just a movie that somehow got looped into the holiday season? Does it deserve more views outside of Christmas time? Here are our picks for seven Christmas movies… that aren’t actually Christmas movies.
7. Steel Magnolias (1989)
This one is easy to mix up. Every major scene in the film revolves around a holiday; including Christmas. A common correlation between non-Christmas films and a Holiday viewing is if it’s gonna jerk a tear. It is also a film that you can watch with the whole family, and everyone will bond, which is another reason it might get a Holiday viewing. But Steel Magnolias is a non-Christmas tear-jerker to watch no matter the season.
6. Little Women (1994)
For the purposes of this article, I’m talking specifically about the 90s version with Winona Ryder. Little Women is another story that sort of has a Christmas vibe, and there are several Christmas/snowy set pieces. This version specifically tends to have more of a wintery feel. This story is not a Christmas story though. It follows the relationship and lives of the March family. It goes back to a classic rule; just because a movie has a Christmas scene in it, does not mean it’s a Christmas movie.
5. Gremlins (1984)
This one is unique because the marketing for Gremlins revolved around Christmas. It’s sort of about a Christmas gift gone wrong, so it’s easy to throw in with Christmas movies. But for a Christmas movie to be a Christmas movie, I would argue that it can’t be intentionally scary. The Christmas marketing was set up more as a shock factor, than to actually convince the public that Gremlins is a Christmas movie.
4. It’s a Wonderful Life (1947)
Okay, okay I know this one is controversial. It’s been a Christmas staple for so long! In truth, almost nothing to do with Christmas actually happens in this movie. The only Christmas thing there is the end, which is probably where the confusion comes from. It just so happens that the end of the movie happens to be on Christmas, and they close with a little bit of Christmas cheer. The rest of the movie follows George Bailey’s life and explores what makes every person’s presence special and meaningful. For that reason, It’s a Wonderful Life is not a Christmas movie, and deserves to be watched year-round.
3. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
This is another long-standing debate, is The Nightmare Before Christmas a Christmas movie, or a Halloween movie? It certainly has it’s Christmas-viewers. The Disney Parks even outfit the Haunted Mansion in Nightmare Before Christmas decor for the holiday season. But I’m going to have to go ahead and call it a Halloween movie. While Christmas is a major theme, the story is about Halloween screwing up Christmas. 90% of the film takes place in Halloweentown, not Christmastown.
The theme of the movie is about learning to be content where you are, and that place for Jack Skellington is Halloween. Not to mention the soft-scary imagery and the very gothic soundtrack. I personally always get the bug to watch it around Halloween as well. This movie is best viewed from October-December. There’s even an argument to be made that this film could have a spot between the two holidays on Thanksgiving.
2. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001)
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone has definitely grown into a Christmas-season movie, but it’s unclear why. There is a big Christmas set-piece, but it’s not a major part of the plot. It had a Thanksgiving release, so it might have had some Christmas-time viewers in the theatre. But at the end of the day, I think it boils down to nostalgia. Most Christmas movies tap into a childlike nostalgia, remembering what it felt like to be a kid on Christmas morning.
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone does not tap into a Christmas nostalgia, but it does invoke that child-like wonder. The most whimsical and innocent of the Harry Potter films, for people who grew up with the series, watching this movie is like coming home. Nearly twenty years after it’s release, most Harry Potter fans are all grown up, and watching this movie is an extremely nostalgic event. It can be best encapsulated in the last track of the film, Leaving Hogwarts by John Williams (the king of 90s nostalgia). It captures what it felt like to be a kid who still believes in magic- and that is what Christmas movies are all about. Nevertheless, nothing about Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone particularly screams Christmas, so it is not a Christmas movie. I’d watch it every day if given the chance.
1. Die Hard(1988)
Ah, Die Hard. Probably the biggest contender on the list… and to be honest the verdict is still out. While the film takes place on Christmas Eve, it doesn’t quite have a “Christmas Theme.” The point of the movie is to get John McClane (Bruce Willis) out of a tough spot, not to spread Christmas cheer. Most of the Die Hard cast has sided with the “it’s not a Christmas movie” argument. Bruce Willis himself declared that it’s not a Christmas movie “it’s a goddamn Bruce Willis movie!” While filming, the entire cast and crew have stated that they never viewed the film as a Christmas movie, nor was that their intent. So in this case, we’re gonna have to say that Die Hard is not a Christmas movie, just a movie set during Christmas. It deserves some plays outside of the Christmas season as well.
Now we can’t tell you what to do, so if you want to watch any of these films on Christmas Eve – go for it! At the end of the day, if a movie is a good movie, it’s a good movie and should be enjoyed on any given day. Just don’t go telling people that Die Hard is your favourite Christmas movie.
And that’s our list of Christmas movies that aren’t actually Christmas movies? Did we miss any? Have we ruined your Christmas? Let us know in the comments below.
Check our Home Alone what traps would’ve killed Harry and Marv article HERE.
Read IMDB information about Die Hard HERE.
No Time To Die – Review
No Time To Die is the 25th instalment in the official James Bond series. It’s the VERY long-awaited follow-up to 2015’s Spectre. The 6-year gap between the two films is only matched by the same gap between Timothy Dalton’s last outing in 1989’s Licence To Kill and Pierce Brosnan’s debut in 1995’s Goldeneye. Here’s our review of No Time To Die.
SPOILERS: If you’re reading this then you’ve probably seen the film, but if not there are spoilers ahead.
Of course, there are mitigating factors in that enormous gap. Namely COVID. Which made No Time To Die the first major film to delay its release due to the pandemic. Although, this film has had a difficult gestation irrespective of the global situation in the last 18 months. As soon as Spectre was released the speculation over Daniel Craig’s future in the role began. With him initially suggesting he would rather slash his own wrists than play the iconic spy again. He did a mea culpa on Stephen Colbert’s Late Show in August 2017, where he confirmed he would appear as Bond for a fifth and final time. The original director and writer, Danny Boyle and John Hodge, left the project a year later over creative differences. Cory Joji Fukunaga took over as director. While Bond script veterans Robert Wade and Neil Purvis took charge of the screenplay – with a sprinkling of magic from Fleabag’s Phoebe Waller-Bridge.
Originally slated for release in April 2020, at long last, we finally get to see Daniel Craig’s denouement as 007. His portrayal of Bond has been very much in keeping with the character of Ian Fleming’s original novels. His performances have certainly followed the dramatic lineage of Sean Connery and Timothy Dalton. Rather than the lighter portrayals by Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan. Yet his Bond has displayed a vulnerability only really demonstrated with any plausibility by George Lazenby in his solitary outing as 007 in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
The deference to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is presented in stark relief throughout this 2h43min epic. Making this the longest Bond film in the series. As this was the first film I’ve seen at the cinema since before the pandemic, I was already excited before I even sat down. As a massive James Bond fan as well, I was close to apoplexy! I felt a tangible shiver go down my spine as the iconic gun barrel sequence appeared before we see James cruising around Italy in the classic DB5 with Madeleine Swann at his side. This anticipation was clearly felt by other cinema-goers. They have made No Time To Die break the UK box office record for the biggest opening weekend. It took almost £26m, breaking the record previously held by Skyfall.
I’m not going to spoil the plot for those who’ve not seen it. I had made a conscious decision to avoid spoilers before I went.
A step up?
This film is another shot in the arm for those who see Craig as the definitive Bond. This was aided by a refocusing of the Bond canon after the main tropes of the series were stretched to breaking point by the invisible cars and melting ice palaces of Die Another Day. And then stretched still further by Madonna’s cameo as a fencing instructor. Daniel Craig was given leeway to truly regenerate James Bond for the 21st Century. The stripped-back nature of Casino Royale, without most of the supporting characters that have been a staple of the series like Q and Moneypenny. Gave him licence (pardon the pun) to explore the deepest and darkest recesses of the Bond psyche. Some well-drawn female leads and villains really allowed Craig’s Bond to spar with them with depth and genuine emotion.
That exploration continues and grows in No Time To Die. We get to see an ageing, truly world-weary Bond, whose past he appears unable to escape. This leaves him in a state of almost constant angst. Paradoxically though, we also see him truly relaxed at times. In a way I can’t recall ever seeing James Bond in any of his previous cinematic outings.
The issue with that exploration is that a number of characters then have their screen time cut. Moneypenny is reduced to little more than a cameo. And Remi Malek’s Safin is almost secondary as he features in the opening moments as his story is told, but then disappears for what seemed like an eternity. He of course reappears but he almost seems a mild irritation within the plot and merely a conduit to allow us to see the climax of Daniel Craig’s Bond era. It’s a disappointing underuse of a terrific actor. One with a captivating screen presence, who could have been one of the most menacing Bond villains of all time. That said, the influence of his dastardly but highly sophisticated plan is felt by all of the main protagonists. Christoph Waltz’s Blofeld continues to wreak his havoc with malevolent glee from his cell. He again revels in the chaos of his twisted sibling rivalry with Bond.
Lea Seydoux is wonderful again as Dr Madeleine Swann, picking up where she left off in Spectre and giving Bond as good as he gets in every way imaginable.
There are new characters who definitely cut through. Ana De Armas is utterly charming in her relatively brief time on-screen as Paloma, while Lashana Lynch takes no nonsense from Bond as Nomi. She also gives us a potential indicator as to the future direction of the franchise. Which has been the subject of much discussion in all quarters. That debate has even made its way into the political sphere with even Boris Johnson weighing in on what gender the next actor to play 007 should be.
Hans Zimmer’s score is classic Hans Zimmer, adding power and bombast to the usual mix of stunning scenery and brilliantly choreographed stunts. He brilliantly weaves nods to previous entries in the Bond musical tapestry throughout his score. While his cues are always thunderous, they never overpower the action on screen, but do add a sonic rumble that I don’t think has been heard in a Bond score for quite some time. I found Fukunaga’s direction a bit mixed, with some of the cinematography unnecessarily showy. Some of the tracking shots almost gave me motion sickness while some (admittedly beautifully composed) shots of the scenery seemed to have made the edit purely so as whoever the drone operator was could demonstrate their skills.
The film is much too long, although at no point did I check my watch. It’s not that any of the plot points are superfluous, more that the pacing is a little slow in places. Some of the dialogue feels cliched and clunky, making what is a great story feel a tad generic. Which doesn’t do anyone justice. However, there were some excellent jokes, and I laughed out loud several times. You don’t have to be a 007 super fan to get some of the self-referential humour that they seem to enjoy sprinkling throughout the film.
Billie Eilish’s theme song is a worthy addition to the collection and certainly sits comfortably within the top half of the ‘Bond Theme Chart’. It’s definitely more memorable and evocative than Sam Smith’s ‘Writing On The Wall’ for Spectre. Her voice trembles at times as you can almost feel she recognises the significance of singing the theme for Daniel Craig’s final appearance in the franchise.
It was also very pleasing to see that this film has moved with the times and reflects the world of 2021 with its portrayal of women. Every single female character had a genuine purpose and important role within the plot. While of course, the female actors playing those roles are all irrefutably glamorous and attractive. There was genuine respect and no objectification of women.
I came out of the screening with mixed emotions. Glad to be back in the cinema on one hand, sad that Daniel Craig’s stint ordering Martini’s was over on the other. I was pleased that such a good climax had been created to bring this era of Bond to a close, and all its story arcs had been brought to conclusions. I’m also excited and apprehensive in equal measure for the future of such an iconic film series. But I was disappointed with some of the characters not getting the necessary screen-time to truly develop their characters. Surprisingly, I was almost tearful at the final few moments, especially as the credits rolled.
Overall, this is a loving homage to the James Bond series, past and present. It’s a solid if unspectacular film in its own right, but the performances of Daniel Craig and Lea Seydoux, as well as the Bond history it wraps itself in, elevate it beyond that.
It’s not Craig’s best Bond film, as Skyfall is almost untouchable in my opinion, but it does bring closure to his tenure in the tuxedo in a manner that should please Bond fans across the board. It also tantalises us as to what the 6th age of Bond will look like. Let the intense speculation begin!
CULTURE CROSSING SCORE 7/10
Thank you for reading our review of James Bond No Time To Die. Do you agree or disagree with our points or have anything to add? If so, leave us a comment below.
Check out who we think could be the next James Bond and why HERE.
Read IMDB information about No Time To Die HERE.
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