Full Metal Jacket to Rocky IV: the least festive Christmas movies ever

It is time to officially retire the “Is Die Hard a Christmas movie?” debate. We will never find consensus on this matter. It is too partisan a subject. The lines have become too entrenched, and the prospect of changing anybody’s mind on the matter is all but impossible. As much as it hurts to admit, we will never truly know whether Die Hard is a Christmas movie, even though it definitely is. But that’s OK. The death of this debate means that we now get to start all over again with a bunch of new films. I would like to propose that the following films are also Christmas movies, and that they should be enjoyed around an open fire by the entire family every Christmas for ever …

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Iron Man 3

This is arguably the most definitive Christmas movie of the last decade. Remember the scene where Tony Stark wears his prehensile Mark XLII suit technology for the first time? There’s a Christmas tree in the background. Or the scene where Happy Hogan is critically injured when a man spontaneously combusts, destroying Grauman’s Chinese Theatre and killing scores of innocent people? There’s a Christmas tree in the background. Or the scene where the antagonist attempts to murder the president by blowing up Air Force One on live television? One of the passengers is wearing a Santa hat. Merry Christmas everyone!

Jaws: The Revenge

Jaws is not a Christmas movie. Jaws 2 is not a Christmas movie. Jaws 3-D is not a Christmas movie. But in an early scene of the fourth film in the series, Jaws: The Revenge, Brody’s son gets in a boat and a great white shark bites his arm off. He screams for help, but nobody can hear him. Then the shark returns, bites a hole in the boat and murders him for good. And why did the good citizens of Amity Island fail to respond to his cries? Because they were all too busy singing The First Noël on the beach. This means that Jaws: The Revenge is 100% a Christmas film, and everyone should watch it on Christmas Day straight after the Queen’s Speech.

A Force of One

Dreaming of a fight Christmas ... Chuck Norris in A Force of One.
Dreaming of a fight Christmas ... Chuck Norris in A Force of One. Photograph: United Archives GmbH/Alamy

A Force of One is a 1979 martial arts film in which Chuck Norris plays a karate champion tasked by the police force to track down and kill the mysterious karate expert responsible for killing several narcotics agents (and also Chuck Norris’s adopted son) with the power of karate. The poster for A Force of One is a photograph of Chuck Norris sitting naked in a triangle. It was co-written by The French Connection’s Ernest Tidyman who, just one year after its release, declared “I only wrote it to buy my mother a house”. Anyway, there is a surprising amount of tinsel in this film.

I’m Thinking of Ending Things

Apart from one scene where the lyrics of the song Baby It’s Cold Outside are debated at length, Charlie Kaufman’s latest isn’t very heavy on traditional Christmas signifiers. But hear me out. There is snow. There are tedious journeys to have awkward dinners with people you don’t like. There are conversations so long and monotonous that the participants end up abandoning their sense of identity. It is totally a Christmas movie.

Full Metal Jacket

At one point Gunnery Sergeant Hartman tells his troops: “Today is Christmas. There will be a magic show at zero nine thirty. Chaplain Charlie will tell you about how the free world will conquer communism with the aid of God and a few marines. God has a hard-on for marines, because we kill everything we see.” Is this the only reference to Christmas in an otherwise bleak and dread-soaked war movie? Yes. Is it enough to make it count as a Christmas movie? Also yes.

Rocky IV

A classic like Rocky IV comes packed with plenty of iconic moments. The death of Apollo Creed. The frozen training montage. The exploding fists. The robot. But these standout scenes help to mask the fact that Rocky IV is actually a festive extravaganza on a par with It’s a Wonderful Life. For instance, do you know when Rocky’s climactic fight with Ivan Drago takes place? On Christmas Day. And do you remember how Rocky Balboa ends his final post-fight speech (the one where he inspires Mikhail Gorbachev to stand up and applaud him for making a humanist case for the conclusion of the cold war while draped in an American flag)? By wishing his son a merry Christmas. This is just about as Christmassy as it gets.