‘Tis the season for making hot cocoa, gathering around the campfire, and watching bad guys get blown up.

We all love Miracle on 34th StreetRudolph, and Holiday Inn, but those who frequent this site probably like Bruce Willis and Batman just a little bit more.

Forget the deep cuts, let’s talk Christmas Action 101. Class is in session: 

Lethal Weapon (1987)

Not quite the buddy cop movie and not quite the Christmas action movie, but it’s pretty good at being both of those things. 

It succeeds as a buddy cop movie, of course, putting Mel Gibson’s suicidal (happy holidays!) Martin Riggs with Danny Glover’s Roger “I’m too old for this shit” Murtaugh, a pairing that rivals the Nolte/Murphy tandem from 48 Hours. Their back-and-forth banter and bullets spawned a money printing factory and led to three sequels. 

It succeeds as a Christmas movie for many reasons. First, Mel Gibson REALLY loves Christmas – for reasons that…well, you can guess. And screenwriter Shane Black will appear on this list again later as he’s set many of his films, like Last Action Hero and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, around the holiday season. Maybe he likes the juxtaposition as much as I do. He makes Christmas classics for those that could care less about Frosty, and this is the most popular of the bunch. 

Die Hard (1988)

Anybody who says “Die Hard isn’t a Christmas movie” is just boring to me at this point. It takes place on freakin’ Christmas Eve, it’s all about Bruce Willis’ valiant John McClane reuniting with his family, and who could forget “NOW I HAVE A MACHINE GUN HO-HO-HO?”

It’s the coke-fueled ’80s, where the go-go-go grind never stops, so the employees of the half-constructed Nakatomi Plaza would rather be screwing their secretary than home with their kids on Christmas Eve. When Alan Rickman’s Hans Gruber and his terrorist friends…

Why am I recounting the plot of Die Hard? You know it, you love it, it’s the Christmas action movie. 

Batman Returns (1992)

You probably didn’t remember that Batman Returns is a Christmas movie. You might even be asking yourself: is it?

Well, of course it is! It’s on this list, right? It’s got Christmas trees and red and green lights and lots of tinsel and it’s so cold you can see their bat, cat, and penguin breath. 

But is it a Christmas movie? Does it have the holiday spirit? Sorta – it’s all about social outcasts and what it means to belong and how to be a part of a community and why you should go out of your way to do good and how to make a difference. Couldn’t that describe It’s A Wonderful Life

Double it with one of the best episodes of Batman: The Animated Series, “Christmas With the Joker,” for the ultimate evening of Dark Knight naughtiness. 

The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996)

Screenwriter Shane Black returns on this list with another movie that takes place around the holidays. It has Geena Davis dressed as Mrs. Claus, Sam Jackson dressed like he’s auditioning to play the flugelhorn for the early lunch shows at Das Festhaus in Busch Gardens, Geena Davis in the shower not once but twice, the line “Yes, I’m a Mormon. That’s why I just smoked a pack of Newport and drank three vodka tonics,” and both redhead and blonde Geena Davis. In short:
God bless us, everyone.

Violent Night (2022)

Die Hard became its own subgenre: TVTropes.org even has a page dedicated to it, “Bad guys have taken over some location or vehicle, usually holding several hostages and almost always in an enclosed space, but, unbeknownst to the villains, one or more good guys are hiding out in their midst.” 

Die Hard on …” (“Die Hard on a bus” can describe 2008’s Exit Speed) or “Die Hard in …” (“Die Hard in an Olympic training center” can describe Albert Pyun’s 1997 film Blast) have become shorthand for a certain kind of movie.

What about “Die Hard with …”? How about Die Hard with the actual Santa Claus? Not a crappy mall Santa, it’s David Harbour as the legitimate Santa Claus who has to take down a crew of hostage-takers who overrun the house that he’s delivering presents to. Despite coming out this year, it’s already become a classic of this super-specific subgenre. It’s badass and awesome. 

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