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7 Christmas Movies That Aren’t Actually Christmas Movies

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Gremlins Christmas image
Warner Bros.

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.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Kirby Vennes

    December 12, 2020 at 4:56 pm

    i like this just right post

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Movie News

Jungle Cruise – Review

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Jungle Cruise image
Walt Disney Studios

Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt swing in with force in Disney’s new Jungle Cruise. And while the movie has fun callbacks to the Disney Park ride and a clever plot, if this movie is trying to be the next Pirates of the Caribbean, it falls short. Here’s our review of Jungle Cruise.

SPOILERS: Warning there are spoilers ahead.

Plot

To be honest, I was expecting a much less creative plot from this movie. Following suit with typical adventure movies, I was expecting this film to be a less-funny version of the Jumanji reboot. But the plot has an unexpected emotional centre and a clever twist. And while the film suffers from CGI villain goopiness, it gives the CGI villains actual heart and motivations.

The film centres on Lilly (Emily Blunt), a botanist in search of a healing petal. The petal is said to be able to cure any illness and resides deep in the Amazon Rainforest. She is accompanied by her little brother, McGregor (Jack Whitehall) and their hired skipper, Frank (Dwayne Johnson).

But a curse resides around the petal. Spanish conquistador Aguirre (Edgar Ramirez) and his crew went in search of the petal four hundred years ago. The petal can only be found with an arrowhead sacred to the Umbala or Headhunter tribe of the region. When Aguirre and his crew are on the brink of death, the Umbala tribe saves them. But Aguirre betrays them to get his hands on the arrowhead, and the chief of the Umbala tribe curses Aguirre and his party. They can never stray from the river, or the rainforest will take them. For four hundred years, they’ve lain dormant, having strayed too far from the banks of the river. They cannot die.

Now the arrowhead rests with a sexist scientific community. Lilly steals the arrowhead, just before it was set to be sold to Prince Joachim (Jesse Plemons). Joachim works for the German government during the height of World War One. He believes that the petal will not only bring victory to Germany, but will make him a world ruler. (How he thinks it will do that is unclear).

As Lilly, McGregor, and Frank make their way down the Amazon in search of the Petal, Joachim follows and occasionally attacks them in his submarine. Deciding he needs more help, he wakes up Aguirre, now a monster of the Amazon, and his crew. Aguirre, who is now made out of snakes, and his two colleagues, one of which is made out of honey and bees and the other mud and tee frogs, are sent on Lilly’s trail.

What happens next is the usual adventure. White water rapids, a run-in with the Umbala tribe (who become allies), submarine fights, swinging on jungle vines; you name it.

But after a run-in with Aguirre, Lilly learns the truth about Frank. In a plot twist I absolutely did not see coming, it turns out that Frank is actually Francisco, Aguirre’s cartographer. We learn that Aguirre was not looking for the petal for glory or gold, but to save his deeply ill daughter. Aguirre and Francisco grew up together, and they were willing to do anything to save his daughter. But when Aguirre betrays the Umbala tribe, Francisco tries to stop Aguirre. Francisco was also cursed to be unable to leave the riverbank, but Aguirre kept returning to fight and defeat (stab) Francisco.

Tired of constantly getting stabbed, Francisco traps Aguirre in a cave. Letting the Amazon have him and turn him into the monster he is today. Francisco then built a town on the river banks, built a boat in search of the petal, gave up, and now runs river cruises.

While the plot is very complicated, it’s easy enough to follow while watching the film. I will say that the motivations of Joachim are a little hard to follow. But the plot twist with Frank was very clever. It gives a CGI-heavy Aguirre a human heart. Now all he wants to do is break the curse and be allowed to die. To do so he needs a petal. The plot in and of itself was much more clever than I expected.

Characters and performances

One character that pleasantly surprised me was McGregor. At first, I thought he was merely queer-coded. He definitely fell into some gay stereotypes, but I thought that was all it was going to be. A guy who was subtly a little queer. But, when Frank asks him why follows Lilly, even through a jungle, he gives a surprisingly candid answer. He explains to Frank that he is gay and that Lilly is the only one who supports him.

When the world turned his back on him, she stood with him, and for that, he would “follow her into a volcano.” This is the first time I can remember that a Disney character was very, clearly openly gay. Disney has had about a dozen “first gay characters,” but all of them have been off to the side. None of them has stated their sexuality or been open about it. McGregor not only states it outright but is not ashamed of it and it is not his only character trait. He becomes brave and capable and is a good friend to both Frank and Lilly. It was really surprising to see good representation from Disney in this film.

Emily Blunt also gives a wonderful performance (as she always does). She’s headstrong and stubborn, but kind. The sexism was a little on the nose, with a tired bit about how she wears pants, but she was delightful.

And Dwayne Johnson was… okay. He plays the exact same character in every movie he’s in. And while his performance was good in this movie, I can’t help but think that another actor could have done better. He and Emily Blunt have a romance in this movie, but they have absolutely no chemistry. It was hard to believe their romance. I think another actor could have added a little more to Frank’s character. Frank is an interesting character, and another actor could have done more with him. This movie might have been better without Dwayne Johnson.

This movie also might have been better without Joachim. His motivations were really hard to follow. At the end of the day, he was just another stereotype of a German general who only complicated the plot.

Summary

It feels as though Jungle Cruise might be Disney’s attempt to re-make the magic of Pirates of the Caribbean. But I can’t see this film becoming a franchise. The first Pirates movie is masterful, with amazing rewatchability. But Jungle Cruise, while fun, is forgettable. It’s not a movie I see myself rewatching anytime soon. If this is an attempt to create a new franchise for Disney; it falls short. But, the film was fun to watch and was a good movie theatre experience.


CULTURE CROSSING SCORE 5/10


Thank you for reading our review of Jungle Cruise. Do you agree or disagree with our points or have anything to add? If so, leave us a comment below.


Read our review of Emily Blunt in A Quiet Place Part Two HERE.

Read IMDB information about Jungle Cruise HERE.

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