As you may have gathered from reading this site, many of the contributors here have somewhat interesting holiday rituals and practices. When I was growing up, we didn't do things the "normal" way during the rest of the year and the holidays were no exception. Sure, we did some of the regular stuff like having a tree, lights, decorations and, of course, presents. But we also had a rather interesting ritual that I don't think most people practice -- the Christmas Eve action movie marathon.
The marathon was a fun thing to do around my house on the day before Christmas when the family was there and the kids (and a few adults) need to be entertained. Six or so of the coolest and best action movies that take place during the holidays, feature the holidays in a major way or the holidays are an important part of the plot. Since in our house we didn't open presents until Christmas morning, on Christmas Eve I was content with the gifts of car chases, explosions, firefights and the general mayhem of action-movie icons John McClane, John Rambo, Martin Riggs and Batman.
So, sit back, relax, grab a cup of nog and let's watch some great Christmas action movies.
Lethal Weapon (1987) -- This great movie started the whole "buddy-cop" trend that continues to this day. From the opening scene of the film, "Jingle Bell Rock" blaring, through Riggs's (Mel Gibson) shoot-out in the Christmas tree lot until the final confrontation on Murtaugh's (Danny Glover) front lawn, this Christmas action movie delivers the goods. It's a great ride that to this day still entertains -- and although it is starting to show its age a little bit, that just adds to the fun.
Die Hard (1988) -- New York cop John McClane (Bruce Willis) shows the true meaning of "giving" during the holidays as he gives some would-be robbers, led by Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman), a taste of their own medicine when they take hostages in an office building during a Christmas party.
Not only is Die Hard a great Christmas movie, but arguably its one of the greatest action films of all time. Other movies are still trying to copy it to this day and it also spawned a new way of describing action films. For example, the movie Speed was described as "Die Hard on a bus" or Under Siege as "Die Hard on a ship." But no matter how you describe it, Willis is great as the hero and Rickman is a treat as the bad guy. Die Hard is just great fun.
Die Hard 2 (1990) -- This time McClane must battle baddies in an airport during Christmas. This one was almost as good as the first and marked the high-point of director Renny Harlin's career. Willis is again terrific as McClane and I also love the always-good Dennis Franz as the gruff but eventually overcome with Christmas spirit airport police chief. Sure, its not Die Hard but its still fun and a great way to spend some time on Christmas Eve.
Batman Returns (1992) -- Tim Burton's sequel to Batman is almost as good as the original. A little darker, a little more evil but balanced out by the fact that it takes place during the holidays. In this one Michale Keaton's Batman battles The Penguin (Danny DeVito), the best Catwoman since Julie Newmar (played by Michele Pfeiffer) and an evil business mogul (Christopher Walken) for dominion over Gotham City. Dark, campy fun.
The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996) -- Renny Harlin's second best movie stars his then-wife Geena Davis as a housewife with amnesia and a secret she can't remember -- she's actually a trained assassin! Try to ignore some of the more glaring plot issues, suspend your disbelief and instead focus on the great action sequences, performances by Davis, my man Samuel L. Jackson and the under-rated Craig Bierko as the bad guy and decent dialog by Lethal Weapon scribe Shane Black. If you can do that, you might just enjoy yourself after all.
Reindeer Games (2000) -- I don't love Ben Affleck but in this film he's not so bad. Plus, its directed by the legendary John Frankenheimer -- who directed one of my favorite films of all time The Manchurian Candidate -- so that helps quite a bit. Even if Affleck makes fun of the movie now and almost no one watched this Christmas heist film when it was released in, of all months, February, I still like to watch it.
Sure, it has problems but its one of those movies that in many ways is so bad its good. Plus, it has the super-hot Charlize Theron in it and any movie with her can't be all-bad, right?
Turbulence (1997) -- When will the airlines ever learn? You don't transport prisoners on a plane -- at least not in the movies. After a shootout on said plane, a stewardess (Lauren Holly) must then outwit a smooth-talking serial killer (Ray Liotta) all while trying to land the plane herself after the crew dies in the shootout.
To make things worse, this all happens on Christmas Eve. Sure, this movie isn't great but watching Liotta go psycho is still great fun. Plus, Holly is pretty good in the movie and at this point in her career, pretty easy on the eyes too.
First Blood (1982) -- Like Turbulence, this is one of the more "covert" Christmas action movies we used to watch. During the film you can tell it obviously takes place during Christmas but its never explicitly mentioned during the film at all. For example, there are Christmas lights and decorations lining the streets of the town and a clearly visible Christmas Tree at the Sheriff's station.
The fact that its the holidays just adds another layer onto John Rambo's (Sylvester Stallone) problems. Not only is he a damaged man (both physically and mentally) but he's completely alone in the world. And at the worst time of the year to be alone -- Christmas.
So, those are some of my favorite Christmas action movies. What are yours?