5 Christmas movies that aren't really about Christmas

Here's some worthy contenders to add to your Christmas movie collection
Bruce Willis in 'Die Hard' and Mel Gibson in 'Lethal Weapon'
Posted at 6:00 AM, Dec 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-24 14:32:08-05

There are plenty of play-it-straight, distinctly Christmas movies to watch in the month of December, but these five flicks deserve equal footing in the Christmas cinema collection.

"Die Hard" (1988)

'Die Hard' movie poster

Nothing says Christmas like German terrorists holding hostages in a Los Angeles high-rise while a New York City police detective just happens to be visiting his estranged wife. Bruce Willis cemented his action hero legacy as John McClane, while the late Alan Rickman became a household name after his performance as terrorist mastermind Hans Gruber.

Memorable Christmas moment: After McClane disposes of some bad guys, he sends a message to the rest of the group. Gruber reads the message, written in blood on the shirt of a dead terrorist, aloud. "Now I Have A Machine Gun. Ho-Ho-Ho."

"Lethal Weapon" (1987)

'Lethal Weapon' movie poster

The original buddy cop action-comedy pairing Mel Gibson with Danny Glover is set during Christmastime in Los Angeles. Gibson plays Martin Riggs, a suicidal police officer who has been labeled a "lethal weapon." He is reassigned from the narcotics division and partners with homicide investigator Sgt. Roger Murtaugh (Glover), who is nearing retirement. At first, they don't get along, but a few thrills and kills later, the duo learns -they make a good team as they take down a drug syndicate with ties to Murtaugh's former war buddy. The final showdown between bad guy Joshua (played by Gary Busey) and Riggs takes place in the rain in the front yard of Murtaugh's home, amid the backdrop of Christmas lights and decorations.

Memorable Christmas moment: The movie begins with a woman jumping to her death from her apartment balcony. Christmas lights illuminate various balcony railings, including the one from which she leaps. Bobby Helms' version of "Jingle Bell Rock" plays during the opening credits before fading into the ominous score that sets the scene.


"Gremlins" (1984)

'Gremlins' movie poster.

A struggling inventor finds the perfect Christmas gift for his son -- a mogwai named Gizmo. Warned that owning Gizmo comes with great responsibility, he brings the gift home to Kingston Falls. Things are peaceful in the beginning as Billy (played by Zach Galligan) learns the rules for his new pet, but when Billy's friend (played by a young Corey Feldman) accidentally spills a glass of water on Gizmo (getting him wet is a no-no), five more mogwai are spawned. They aren't as sweet, as the rest of Kingston Falls soon learns after the creatures manipulate their metamorphosis into the titular characters.

Memorable Christmas moment: Billy's mother is introduced to the creatures when one of them jumps out of the Christmas tree and attacks her. Later in the movie, the gremlins spook the nasty old neighbor when she opens the front door of her house to find them singing Christmas carols in her yard.

"Trading Places" (1983)

'Trading Places' promotional with Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy
Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy in a scene from "Trading Places."

Dan Aykroyd stars as Louis Winthorpe III, a successful, soon-to-be-married commodities broker. Eddie Murphy stars as Billy Ray Valentine, a wisecracking street hustler whom Winthorpe has arrested on suspicion of robbery. Their lives intersect, for better or for worse, when Winthorpe's bosses place a friendly wager. Much hilarity ensues in Philadelphia during Christmastime.

Memorable Christmas moment: A down-and-out Winthorpe, in a desperate attempt to get his job back, is caught planting drugs in Valentine's desk during his employer's Christmas party. Winthorpe, disguised in a Santa outfit, pulls a gun on Valentine as he picks up the telephone to call security. "Hello, security? Merry Christmas!" Valentine says before hanging up the phone.

"Less Than Zero" (1987)

Jami Gertz, Robert Downey Jr. and Andrew McCartney in 'Less Than Zero'
Jami Gertz, Robert Downey Jr. and Andrew McCartney in a scene from "Less Than Zero."

Based on the Bret Easton Ellis novel, "Less Than Zero" deals with drug addiction and youth angst set against the backdrop of sunny Southern California. There's plenty of snow in this movie, but not in the traditional sense. Andrew McCarthy stars as Clay Easton, a college freshman who returns home for Christmas break and finds that his high school girlfriend, Blair (played by Jami Gertz), and his best friend, Julian (played by Robert Downey Jr.), are drug addicts. Blair seems willing to seek help, but Julian continues to spiral out of control. Clay quickly realizes that those around him -- namely an old classmate named Rip (played by habitual 1980s baddie James Spader) -- are encouraging Julian's habits, forcing Clay's hand. But is it too late?

Memorable Christmas moment: Clay and Rip dispense with the pleasantries during a totally '80s, lavish, drug-filled Christmas party.