It’s official. We’re deep in the heart of ho-ho-holiday season—which means wholesomely sweet moralistic themed films are about to dominate television networks everywhere. Traditional gems like A Christmas Carol, Miracle on 34th Street, Charlie Brown Christmas, and It’s A Wonderful Life make me want to spit tinsel. A little seasonal sparkle goes a long, long way.
For example, Christmas makes only cameo appearances in non-secular classics like Lethal Weapon (1987) and Die Hard (1988). These movies take advantage of the Christmas setting and touch on general, more ubiquitous themes. If you don’t give a cuss when an angel gets its wings here are 12 more twisted flicks that aren’t the reason for the season.
12. Full Metal Jacket (1987) Written and directed by Stanley Kubrick (A Clockwork Orange (1971), The Shining (1980)). Any time’s a good time to watch a Vietnam war movie. The only hint of holiday is when Sgt. Hartman leads his Marine boot camp recruits in a chorus of “Happy Birthday to Jesus” on Christmas Day. Remember our troops, maggots.
11. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang (2005) Written and directed by Shane Black (Lethal Weapon, The Last Boyscout (1991), The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996)). A Los Angeles crime caper set during Christmas. The film opens with thief Robert Downey Jr. robbing a toy store, both for the dough and for the plaything atop his child’s Christmas wish list.
10. The Godfather (1972) Written and directed by Francis Ford Coppola (Apocalypse Now! (1979)). Christmastime in 1945 forms the backdrop for several murders and two attempts on Don Corleone’s life. “Leave the Gun. Take the Canolli.”
9. American Psycho (2000). A successful New York investment banking executive hides his alternate psychopathic ego from his co-workers and friends as he falls deeper into his illogical, gratuitous fantasies. The Christmas party features a Vietnamese potbellied pig.
8. The Apartment (1960) Written and directed by Billy Wilder (Some Like it Hot (1959), Sunset Boulevard (1950)). A young executive ascends the corporate ladder by loaning out his apartment to bosses for their extramarital trysts. The bulk of the film takes place between Christmas and New Year’s Eve.
7. 28 Days Later (2002) Directed by Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire (2008), Train Spotting (1996)). Jim and Selena travel together for several days before noticing a flat in a council building with Christmas lights on. A story of survival, and ultimately heroics, with nice subtext about mankind’s savage nature.
6. In Bruges (2008) A British-American neo-noir black comedy crime film written and directed by Martin McDonagh. Two Irish hit-men are directed to take refuge in Belgium during the holiday season.
5. Iron Man 3 (2013) Written and Directed by Shane Black. Out of the seven screenplays that Black has written, four of them are set during Christmastime.
4. Trading Places (1983) Written by Herschel Weingrod (Kindergarten Cop (1990), Twins (1988)). A rich man and a poor man class swap as part of a social experiment through the holiday season.
3. 2046 (2004) Written and directed by Wong Kar Wai (In the Mood for Love (2000), Grandmaster (2013)). A Hong Kong sci-fi writer engages in various sexual encounters through successive Christmas Eves while searching for true love.
2. Go! (1999) Written by John August (Big Fish (2003)). The story takes place in Los Angeles and involves three different people who all work together in the same supermarket during the holiday season. Delicious dialogue.
1. The Proposition (2005) Written by Nick Cave. In 1880s Australia, a captured outlaw is given until Christmas Day to find and kill his murderous older brother. A highly violent romp through the outback. There are no obvious good guys and bad guys, all the characters possess both positive and negative attributes.