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SYFY WIRE FANGRRLS' ultimate holiday movie playlist

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Dec 25, 2019

Let's be real: Since the Doctor Who Christmas special moved to New Year's Day and because 24 hours of A Christmas Story and that Chinese restaurant scene is basically torture at this point, December 25 is a rough day for vegging out in front of the TV.

Luckily for you, your FANGRRLS have come through to give you our ultimate playlist to avoid your family well into 2020.

 

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Krampus

Sure, holiday movies are supposed to be about good tidings and great cheer and joy for all people, but what about movies that really remind you of the important lessons to be gleaned around Christmastime — namely, that your family is often the last group of people you'd want to be snowed in over the winter break with? Of course, most families don't have to deal with the rise of an ancient demon spirit thingy who kinda looks like a cross between a goat and a man and decides to target them specifically for giving up their Christmas spirit, but I digress. As a creator, Michael Dougherty is definitely known for his holiday-themed horror flicks, and there's a lot to love about his earlier cult classic, Trick 'r Treat, but there's just something about Krampus that feels horrifically delightful and makes you want to cozy up with a cup of hot cocoa at the same time, all while you watch a largely terrible set of humans try to deal with everything from killer gingerbread men to creepy, sentient toys to the Big Man himself — and no, we're not talking about Santa. - Carly Lane

Batman Returns

I'll admit I wasn't fully on board the 'this is a holiday movie' train until my fellow FANGRRL Kristy Puchko revisited the film in her excellent Deja View, but now that I've approached it with X-mas viewing in mind, I can concur without a doubt that there might be no better addition to put on your list for marathon viewing because it's honestly the Batman movie that has everything. With its deeply gothic, undeniably Burtonest of Tim Burton influence, this sequel brings back Michael Keaton to reprise the role of Bruce Wayne/The Batman during what's supposed to be a time of Christmas cheer in Gotham. Of course, crime doesn't necessarily take the holidays off, and not only are we treated to a scene-and-fish-chewing performance by Danny Devito as the Penguin, but we get perhaps one of the defining portrayals of Catwoman (and maybe her most bonkers origin story) with Michelle Pfeiffer as Selina Kyle, who cathartically goes from bullied, mild-mannered secretary to a witty, whip-wielding badass — and definitely gives Batman more than he can handle. Who could forget their iconic first "kiss," OR Catwoman's iconic line about mistletoe? - Carly Lane

The Nightmare Before Christmas

Look, I rarely ever pull rank when it comes to nerd elitism, but I will say that when it comes to The Nightmare Before Christmas, I have truly been there since the beginning. Before Danny Elfman was doing live concerts of the score. Before Hot Topic made it the crux of their fourth-quarter sales every year. Before Blink-182 slipped a reference to it into their “we’re back but moody now” eponymous release in 2003. Before Disneyland started letting it take over its Haunted Mansion every year. I saw it in theaters when it dropped and remember the weird ads for Burger King and their tie-in watches (which, what?). But it’s no surprise to me that the movie did finally reach the epic popularity it deserves. That Jack did ultimately grow bigger than Halloween to be kind of a merchandise empire with Sally by his side. While the easy jokes can be made about it as the pinnacle film of cultural appropriation, the fact is that the feeling of looking at your place in the world and longing to be elsewhere is extremely universal. Add that to some truly infectious songs from Elfman, some delightful sight gags, and groundbreaking stop-motion armature animation that gives the whole thing a visceral yet simultaneously otherworldly feel, it’s no wonder that it has had the generational staying power it has. It’s so rare that a movie perfectly blends darkness and delightful absurdity so flawlessly, giving it as much appeal to children as adults indulging their inner goths. There are camps that want to push it out of the Christmas movie genre and claim it for Halloween, but there is enough joy in Nightmare to go around. - Riley Silverman

Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas

Up until its Blu-Ray release last year, and this year’s news of a possible remake movie with music by Bret McKenzie, Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas was the epitome of a cult classic. I was more likely to get a confused stare or arched eyebrow than a nod of appreciation when I’d list it as my absolute favorite Christmas special. The special has a strange following for sure, give the way it bounced around from network to network across the ‘70s, ‘80s, & ‘90s. You may have found it on Canada’s CBC or on HBO, ABC, or even Nickelodeon. Depending on the current copyright ownership of the Muppet characters, it may or may not have included narration by Kermit the Frog. But what always could be found is an overwhelmingly pleasant little trip down a river full of animals, with a mother and son otter engaging in their own version of the classic Gift of the Magi story. As a child, I was into it for the fun Jim Henson puppets and things like the goofy jug band songs and the idiosyncratic existence of a hard rock band in an otherwise depression-era setting. As an adult, and having recently lost my father very close to this holiday season, the special lingers in a very different way. Despite the fun elements, it’s a pretty sad, downer of a story. Emmet and his mother, have almost nothing and are just trying to scrape by some semblance of happiness for the other during Christmas, remembering the joy of the holidays before his father’s death. Suddenly this strange little special from before I was born feels like it was made for me this year. I need it now more than I ever have. It’s a somber, quiet little Christmas story. There’s no Santa Claus to be found. No magic at all aside from the anthropomorphic animal puppets. But there’s a warmth and love to it that resonate deeply in the wake of a profound loss, a sense of the importance of togetherness that comes with the best parts of a holiday. A sense of how continuing on the traditions that our loved ones hold dear is how we keep them with us. So while I have to wipe away a lot more tears during “When the River Meets the Sea” than I ever have before, it remains my favorite Christmas special ever. - Riley Silverman

Scrooged

"A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens is one of the most adapted festive stories going as far back to the 1901 silent short “Scrooge, or, Marley's Ghost.” FX has gone all-in on a gritty f-bomb laden version this holiday season because that’s what this story needs, apparently. The iconic Muppet version cannot be beaten (see further down this list); however, the contemporary-set Scrooged is worthy of a spot in your festive rotation. It’s a lot more cynical than most versions and a great snapshot of late ‘80s film industry excess, which it is both critiquing and reveling in. Directed by The Goonies and Superman’s Richard Donner, this 1988 comedy stars Bill Murray as Frank Cross, a successful TV executive who has everything (except any meaningful relationships). It all gets a bit meta as he’s producing A Christmas Carol for a live TV performance and it’s all falling apart (imagine the live-tweeting possibilities of a hot mess like this!). This is Bill Murray at his most snarky and sardonic, with signature deadpan responses as the movie opts for vitriol at times. But the real scene-stealer is Carol Kane as the Ghost of Christmas Present. Dressed as a fairy godmother, she gives a delightfully out-there performance that also grounds the emotion and gives us something to care about when it comes to Frank. Audiences know how this story is going to pan out, but what Scrooged reminds us is that the story works in any period and at any time, and it’s far better to have a version that will make you laugh than one leaning into the serious. - Emma Fraser

Gremlins

A perfect cautionary tale about how not to do the festive season, Gremlins is a good reminder of the importance of following instructions when you get a new gift and why chimneys are not to be climbed down (no matter the outfit). This movie is the perfect mix of humor, scares, and a family coming together to defeat some unwanted guests. Sounds like every holiday! Despite its June release date (it came out in 1984 on the same weekend as Ghostbusters), this has been my go-to Christmas movie for as long as I can remember. Gizmo singing a lullaby is as vital as Mariah Carey and Bing Crosby, and the theme song will be stuck in my head until the New Year. This might sound like a nightmare earworm, but to me it is perfect. - Emma Fraser

The Long Kiss Goodnight

For every person who declares Die Hard to be the best Christmas action movie, there is a herd of (mostly queer) Geena Davis fans braced for battle because they know the real truth. Only one action film reigns supreme as the Christmas action movie: The Long Kiss Goodnight. Featuring Davis as Samantha Cain, an assassin trapped inside the life and mind of a housewife, and Samuel L. Jackson as Mitch Hennessy, a P.I. turned best friend of Cain, it’s everything you want from a holiday film, complete with a sleeper assassin coming to life with exceptional knifework, Jackson playing the best put upon P.I. you could ever hope for, many big explosions, and tacky Christmas decorations. Part spy thriller, part sci-fi amnesiac tale, The Long Kiss Goodnight is the Christmas tale we deserve. - SE Fleenor

Bell, Book and Candle

Jimmy Stewart has the holiday season wrapped up with It’s a Wonderful Life, but his lesser-known witchy romp is just as worthy of being a festive classic. Starring Kim Novak, Gillian is a witch who runs an art store in New York City longing for normalcy (or a humdrum life). A Christmas Eve meet-cute is heightened by magic-infused shenanigans, snow, and some meddling relatives. It’s the 1950s so some of the gender politics feel outdated, but on the whole, it’s seductive, fun, and swoon-worthy. Serving up plenty of style ideas regardless of the season, Gillian's costumes are part beatnik cool, part seductive glam. All I want for Christmas is Kim Novak’s arched eyebrows and a cat like Pyewacket. - Emma Fraser

The Muppet Christmas Carol

Growing up as an obsessive fan of all things Jim Henson, there was a true sense of wonder at the existence of The Muppet Christmas Carol. I’d seen Henson’s funeral, I knew he was gone. But this movie was such a major sign that his creations would live on. As an adult, I’m still taken every year by the charm of this shockingly faithful adaptation of Dickens’ tale. The interplay between Gonzo and Rizzo, the perfect selection of each Muppet for the characters they’re playing. I’m particularly partial to the choice of adding a second Marley so that Statler and Waldorf could play them. The songs are legitimate earworms and some of the few Christmas songs I find myself actively getting excited to sing as the season draws near. One of the most impressive things about it though is that while many other Christmas Carol adaptations lean heavily on making their Ebeneezer Scrooge comically cruel and wicked, the Muppets version really hones in on the sadness in him. From the very opening number, which on the surface is about how much the whole town hates Scrooge, there are hints at the way loneliness and indifference chills your heart. There’s some really deep, soul searching happening in this broad family comedy, especially “When Love is Gone,” a song which, depending on the version you see, may or may not be included. Despite this, the film is gleefully optimistic and presents the possibility of a road towards happiness for even the most lost seeming causes. It’s hard to always believe that in life, but it’s a welcome message at a time of year that can sometimes be made even harder by how cheerful the outside world is presenting itself. - Riley Silverman

All I Want for Christmas

Not only is 1991's All I Want for Christmas my favorite holiday movie, it was the birth of my eternal crush on Ethan Embry, the beginning of my adoration of Thora Birch (come back to us, girl!), and my childhood introduction to Lauren Bacall because this cast is stacked. A yuletide Parent Trap, All I Want for Christmas follows Ethan (Embry) as he tries to make his little sister's (Birch) wish to Santa come true: to get their parents back together. Featuring Leslie Nielsen as Santa, a bunch of cute rats, Kevin Nealon being frozen alive in an ice cream truck, and the best line of any Christmas movie ever ("We're gonna revive my grandmother, and then open presents"), All I Want for Christmas is the cutest tiny baby child star rom-com ever and it's not the holiday season without it. - Courtney Enlow

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