The world is full of beloved Christmas movies for plain ol’ ordinary folk – A Christmas Story, It’s a Wonderful Life, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, Elf; to name but a few. But what about those of us who need a few robots, superheroes, or monsters to go along with our healthy helping of warm Yuletide cheer and heart-warming lessons about the true meaning of the Holiday? What’s suitable for geeks to bust out on Christmas Eve and slap in the Blu-Ray player when all of our dull relatives are finished watching A Miracle on 38th Street? Well, the good news is there are plenty of sci-fi, fantasy, and even superhero movies chock full of the stuff geeks love. Here are the five all-time best:
(Ed. Note – Many of you may read this list and say, “Where’s Die Hard?”, or “Where’s this other movie?” Well, it’s because I had to set some criteria for the list. In order to qualify as a “geek” Christmas movie, it had to contain at least one of the following: superheroes, creatures of some kind, robots, spaceships, magic, or some other form of supernatural, sci-fi, fantasy, or horror element.)[divider]
5.) Iron Man 3 (2013)
Coming in at number five with a bullet, it’s the third installment of everyone’s favorite billionaire genius playboy philanthropist superhero: Iron Man! Yes, that’s right, Iron Man 3—like all Shane Black movies—is set during Christmastime, and there are a number of Christmas-y scenes during the flick. In addition to visiting a small Kentucky town bedecked in lights and wreaths, We also see Tony Stark’s Malibu mansion all decorated for the holidays (including a weird giant stuffed bunny Tony buys Pepper as a Christmas present). And later of course, Tony makes his newfound kid buddy Harley’s Christmas dreams come true by installing a high-tech engineering workshop in his barn. But above all else, according to screenwriter Drew Pearce, the Christmas setting of Iron Man 3 helps set the mood and the tone for the lonely journey of self-discovery Tony embarks on in the film:
“There’s something about Christmas as well, like when you’re telling a story about taking characters apart, it almost has more resonance if you put it at Christmas and if you’re also telling a story about lonelier characters as well. That loneliness is heightened at Christmas.”
4.) TIE: The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)/Harry Potter & The Sorcerer’s Stone (2001)
Okay, so there are no spaceships, robots, or superheroes in The Muppet Christmas Carol, but this movie is chock full of something that geeks absolutely love: Jim Hensons funny and magical puppet creatures, The Muppets! Admittedly, this version of Charles Dickens’ immortal classic isn’t the greatest, so that’s why I’m copping out and also suggesting an alternative if The Muppets aren’t your thing (why aren’t they your thing?).The first Harry Potter flick doesn’t have much to do with Christmas, but there is a scene set during Christmas where Ron stays behind with poor Harry at Hogwart’s and the two of them sit by the tree opening their presents (an Invisibility cloak for Harry, a crappy sweater for Ron) and pigging out on chocolate frogs and Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans. Plus, it has that whole heartwarming holiday cheer thing going for it, as Harry finds a true family and a place where he finally belongs, blah blah blah…[divider]
3.) Batman Returns (1989)
“Santa Claus? ‘Fraid not…I’m just some schmoe who got lucky, so sue me if I want to give something back. I just wish I could hand out more than expensive baubles. I wish I could hand out world peace and unconditional love, wrapped in a big bow.” So goes Max Shreck’s (Christopher Walken’s bizarro businessman character) big speech in a gothic, German Expressionst Gotham City festooned with lights and ribbons for the Holidays, just moments before the Penguin’s homicidal Red Triangle Circus gang bursts out of giant gift boxes and shoots the hell out of all the shiny glass ornaments.
Christmas plays a big role in the events of Batman Returns: we see the Penguin’s birth—and his subsequent abandonment by his parents—occurring during Christmas; there’s a big action set-piece that takes place at a tree-lighting ceremony in Gotham square; snow is constantly falling in the majority of scenes; The Penguin crashes a huge Christmas party put on my Gotham’s social elite; Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle share a romantic Christmas Eve dinner by the fire; and just like Iron Man 3, the Christmas setting only intensifies the feelings of isolation experiences by the characters.[divider]
2.) The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
What says “Christmas” more than a tall, slender visage of death and horror kidnapping Santa Claus and taking over his duties on a coffin-sleigh pulled by three reanimated reindeer skeletons and a ghostly dog? Well okay, many other things do, but the point is, Jack Skellington’s heart was in the right place. Tim Burton’s beautifully macabre stop-motion holiday classic is all about lost and lonely people searching for something missing in their lives, and discovering it in the magic and warmth of Christmas. Well, that, and giant creepy striped snakes who eat Christmas trees whole. Ho Ho Ho!
1.) Gremlins (1984)
Joe Dante’s horror-comedy masterpiece is set in the idyllic little town of Kingston Falls, New York, which is a lot like Potterville from It’s a Wonderful Life. But instead of the townsfolk rallying to provide a Christmas miracle for someone like George Bailey, Billy Peltzer and the citizens of Kingston Falls are besieged by tiny demonic creatures straight from the bowels of hell (Well, actually they’re from Chinatown). Gremlins has great Christmas setting, with plenty of snow, garland, lights, and Christmas trees for Stripe and the his marauding band of critters to destroy (or use as weaponry!). Even the plot of Gremlins spins out of Billy’s Dad’s quest to get him a very special, one-of-a-kind Christmas gift, which ultimately serves as a cautionary tale about greed and personal responsibility.
But the real reason Gremlins tops this list is the absolutely horrific reason that Phoebe Cates’ character Kate has for her hatred of Christmas. While holed up in a department store hiding from the chattering critters, Kate tells Billy one of the most unforgettable stories in cinematic history; one that involves someone dressed in a Santa suit dying in a chimney. Nothing will warm the cockles of your heart during the Holidays quite like the thought of decomposing flesh, eh? Merry Christmas!