So You Want to Be a Christmas Movie Hipster: Pretentious Christmas Films to Talk About Instead of Die Hard

Tis the season, the season where everybody wants to tell you that Die Hard is a Christmas movie, and that their favourite Christmas movie is Die Hard.

So, let’s get it out of the way: Die Hard is a Christmas movie and is a great movie, but this is hardly a hot take. The issue here is that many of the ‘Die Hard is my favourite Christmas movie’ crowd are doing it to be alternative, or even edgy. That train has left the station; here are pretentious films you could talk about instead to make yourself seem more interesting, and much more insufferable, this Christmas.

1. Santa Claus (1898)

How about proclaiming that you favourite Christmas film is the very first Christmas film of all time. This one minute long technical marvel is, as far as we know, the earliest existing example of parallel action (two scenes happening simultaneously in a timeline but in different locations). This wonderful piece of early film is built around showing the possibilities of cinema when the possibilities were still so open.

The beauty here is in the pairing: for many Christmas is synonymous with magic and this film utilises the magic of Christmas to demonstrate the magical capabilities of cinema.

2. Fanny and Alexander (1982/1984)

Nothing says Christmas like a three hour long Swedish film from Ingmar Bergman (The Seventh Seal). Well, maybe the five and a half hour expanded version (the TV cut).

Check out the look on somebody’s face when they have proclaimed Die Hard as their Christmas movie of choice and you retort with an Ingmar Bergman film and then discuss the merit of its different versions, who is the insufferable one then? Also, what better way to avoid actual family conflict at Christmas than to make the entire family sit down for five and a half hours to watch Fanny and Alexander. First of all, its length means less time for any familial feuds; secondly, it is a film about a dysfunctional but endearing family, and a move away from that into a stricter and crueler dynamic. It will make you appreciate your family more, for all their foibles, and will fill you full of familial good will.

Is it a Christmas movie? Well, the opening act is entirely set at Christmas and it is the most luscious and wonderful Christmas party you will ever see. Legendary cinematographer Sven Nykvist (Persona and The Sacrifice) finds splendour in every frame. The production is rich, warm and luxurious; the camera angles are often low and give you a view of entire rooms, making the experience like watching a beautiful Christmas diorama (or peering into an old fashioned advent calendar).

3. Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence (1983)

Your favourite Christmas movie is Die Hard? Well, my favourite Christmas film is about British soldiers in a Japanese Prisoner of War camp; is rich with homo-erotic sexual tension; stars David Bowie; has a beautiful synth score and is a profound exploration of cultural divides and the inherent evils of imperialism.

That will shut the conversation down for sure.

Is it a Christmas movie? Well, not really. There are Christmas scenes though and the concept of Christmas is integral to the plot – and the themes around cultural divides and tradition. Is this the kind of film you are going to sit down with your family to watch on Christmas Day? Well, it depends how cool your family are I guess.

4. Tokyo Godfathers (2003)

Our second Japanese entry is from legendary Anime filmmaker Satoshi Kon (Perfect Blue and Paprika). This is a film about three homeless people in Tokyo – a drag queen, an alcoholic and a runaway – who discover a newborn when sifting through trash. The film takes place during Christmas Eve and follows the misfit trio as they attempt to get the baby to where it belongs, and find out about themselves – their pasts and desires – on the way.

This is definitively a Christmas movie and is the kind of quirky fun, with enough emotional resonance, that could become a real household classic. It is perhaps uneven in the way it balances sincerity and frivolity and does not ways nail its wider social themes – but it is a lovely film and a hell of a hipster choice.

5. Emerald Cities (1983)

This utterly bizarre, and for a while completely lost, 80s gem is the most hipster of hipster choices you could ever dream of. This is beyond a b-movie; an experimental and bizarre film that tells the story of a young woman who runs away from her home in Death Valley to seek her fortune. Doesn’t sound weird? Well, she is followed by her drunken father, who is stuck in a Santa suit from a local Christmas pageant.

The film primarily follows the father and oscillates between: bizarre vox-pop interviews about Santa (the death of Santa being a key topic), consumerism and 1984 induced paranoia; punk music performances from Flipper and The Mutants; and TV footage of nuclear destruction and hypnotic surrealities.

The film is wild, completely beyond the realm of eclectic and, if somebody wants to claim it as their favourite Christmas movie, you should probably avoid them… But you may also want to have a chat with them, they sure are going to be interesting.

6. Bonus: The Real Insufferable Choice

Really want to come across as insufferable with your Christmas movie choices this year, well, pick Love Actually. A stance so horrifying that it needs no further explanation.

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