Let’s start here, as the rightly revered action masterpiece tends to kick off this conversation every December. Die Hard, of course, takes place in an L.A. high rise under siege by a group of thieves masquerading as politically motivated terrorists, with only a single off-duty New York City cop standing in their way. John McLane came to town hoping to reconcile with his estranged wife, never expecting her office Christmas party to be crashed by Hans Gruber and his pals. From the message he sends after defeating his first bad guy to the song that plays over the closing credits, Die Hard is packed with more subversive Christmas cheer than Santa Claus packing a fistful of mistletoe.
Die Hard 2: Die Harder
In many ways, Die Hard 2: Die Harder was a retread of the original, switching the setting from a high-rise building to an airport. In fairness, the Die Hard franchise had every right to rip off itself, as opposed to the copycat movies, like Die Hard on a bus (Speed), Die Hard on a boat (Speed 2: Cruise Control), Die Hard on a Navy ship (Under Siege), Die Hard on a train (Under Siege 2: Dark Territory), and one of our favorites at MovieWeb, Die Hard in a hockey rink (Sudden Death). Like its predecessor, Die Hard 2 takes place on Christmas Eve, one of the roughest times to be stuck at an airport.
Die Hard gets all of the Christmastime action movie glory, but Lethal Weapon actually hit theaters the year before. Both films kicked off what became long-running and lucrative franchises. Lethal Weapon opens to the sounds of “Jingle Bell Rock,” staged a shootout in a Christmas tree lot, and ended with Danny Glover’s character inviting his crazy partner, played by Mel Gibson, to his family Christmas.
In a 2017 editorial, The Guardian noted that plenty of festive classics “contain more than their fair share of murder, suicide, and doomed relationships,” with Trading Places toward the top of the list of movies that combine merriment and mayhem. The mix of social commentary and comedy helped cement the movie stardom of Eddie Murphy, released a year after the buddy cop comedy 48 Hours and a year before Beverly Hills Cop. One of the movie’s best sequences features Dan Akroyd in a dirty Santa suit, stuffing assorted meats into his pockets and waving a gun around.
There’d have been no reason to worry about bright light, water or late night feedings if Billy’s dad wasn’t out Christmas shopping in the first place. All of the action in the brilliant horror-comedy kicks off with Gizmo, the cute little mogwai Christmas present who inadvertently sends a whole town into Christmastime chaos. The Gremlins Christmas Eve reign of terror ends, naturally, in a department store.
The fourth installment of the underdog pugilist franchise is best remembered for death of Rocky rival turned BFF Apollo Creed and the introduction of titular villain Ivan Drago. Rocky IV was released over the holidays in 1985 and the Cold War climax, where Rocky faces Drago in the Soviet Union, takes place on Christmas Day.