Deliciously Dark Christmas Movies

Deliciously Dark Christmas Movies


Deliciously Dark Christmas Movies: Contents

Krampus (2015)

What happens if you let the director of the outstanding Trick R’ Treat loose on Christmas? The answer is the delightfully dark Krampus, a movie that laces European folklore with the horror-comedy of Gremlins and shocks of Poltergeist. Here we find the family home invaded by a series of fantastical festive creatures ranging from spooky and sinister elves to killer gingerbread men as Christmas becomes a matter of life and death. But, aside from its devilishly brilliant horror, Krampus is also a delightful celebration of Christmas. Here, the film’s central themes of faith, family conflict, and commercialism are astutely woven into the comic book horror. Is Krampus one of the best Christmas horrors out there? You bet your candy canes it is!

Director: Michael Dougherty

Cast: Adam ScottToni ColletteDavid Koechner, Emjay Anthony, Krista Stadler


Batman Returns (1992)

Is Batman Returns one of the most underrated comic book films of the past 25 years? In my opinion, there is no doubt that this is true. In Batman Returns, Burton would delve even deeper into the gothic fairytale horror of his Gotham in a sequel that was darker, grittier and more fairytale-like in its structure. Here Buron would bring together the Bat, the Cat and the Penguin for a nightmare Christmas in DC Comics’ darkest city. Burton allows Keaton to build on his debut outing as Batman, alongside Pfeiffer’s psychotic yet sensual Catwomen and DeVito’s damaged and dangerous Penguin, as the Christmas lights of Gotham are enveloped by darkness.

Batman Returns is Tim Burton with the gloves off, the stress of making the first picture work a distant memory. Here Burton dovetails his love of fairytales with the heart-pounding action in a rare Christmas comic book adventure full of bite. However, unfortunately, Batman Returns proved too dark for Warner Brothers and sadly marked the end of Keaton, Pfeiffer and Burton’s involvement in the franchise. But, if you’ve got a go, go in style.

Director: Tim Burton

Cast: Michael KeatonDanny DeVitoMichelle Pfeiffer 

Die Hard (1988)

Die Hard was released during the summer of 1988, a world away from the Christmas season it represented. However, since then, Die Hard has rightly earnt its place as an essential Christmas movie, its testosterone-fuelled story a near-perfect slice of 80s action. Die Hard is sweat-drenched muscles, blood-soaked string vests and Shakespearian terrorists in all their 80s overblown glory. Here Bruce Willis is nothing more than an overgrown boy scout thrown into a world of counter-terror as Beethoven’s Ode to Joy rings in our ears through a haze of gunfire and explosions. But let’s make no mistake, it is the late, great Alan Rickman who steals the show as the festive lights and coke-sniffing capitalism of the Nakatomi Plaza building are engulfed in a wave of terror. 

Director:  John McTiernan

Cast: Bruce WillisAlan RickmanBonnie Bedelia 


Gremlins (1984)

Like so many films on our list, Gremlins had its worldwide premiere during the height of summer in 1984. However, Gremlins is, of course, pure Christmas comic book horror. Here the dangers of buying cuddly creatures for your children during the festive season are laid bare as Billy’s new pet, ‘Gizmo,’ gives birth to bloody anarchy. The result is a wild ride as the Christmas holiday turns from Joy to the World to Danse Macabre in the small town of Kingston Falls. 

It would be easy to label Gremlins as 50s-inspired creature horror, but amid the carnage, there are more profound social messages, from 80s consumerism to American fears of growing foreign power in technology. Meanwhile, the horror of Christmas is vividly brought to life when Billy’s girlfriend (Phoebe Cates) recounts the story of her father’s unfortunate death during the festive holiday. Here the comic-book anarchy takes a short break for campfire-inspired horror before it resumes with the Gremlins Snow White sing-a-long. 

Director:  Joe Dante

Cast: Zach GalliganPhoebe CatesHoyt Axton

Home Alone 2 – Lost in New York (1992)

Leaving your child home alone once could possibly be forgiven, but leaving them at an airport and allowing them to travel independently to a capital city is unforgivable. We tend to view Home Alone (1990) and Home Alone 2 – Lost in New York (1992) as the perfect festive family movies. However, there is a decidedly dark side to both of these slapstick comic book adventures. Home Alone 2 places a pre-pubescent child into an adult cityscape as our young hero learns that money can buy safety in the 90s Trump-owned Plaza Hotel.

Meanwhile, the slapstick humour of the first film is turned up to the maximum, with the traps becoming even more sadistic in the hands of city-dwelling Kevin. Here Kevin seems intent on killing the hapless burglars rather than injuring them, but hey, I guess that’s what a few days in the big smoke does to a child. Yes, it’s still funny, and it’s full of Christmas cheer, but Home Alone 2 – Lost in New York also has a dark and sinister edge not found in the original, as a city of extremes eats away at a young mind. 

Director:  Chris Columbus

Cast: Macaulay CulkinJoe PesciDaniel Stern 


Black Christmas (1974)

We rarely question just how creepy the concept of Santa Claus stalking houses once a year is, which is strange when considering the darkness inherent in the original legend. It is, therefore, astonishing that up to 1974, nobody had linked the creepiness of this with the serial killer. Bob Clark’s groundbreaking Black Christmas did precisely that as it subverted the joys of Christmas with a genre-defining slasher film. Black Christmas would go on to inspire Carpenter’s Halloween while providing the template for the teen slasher horror of the 70s, 80s and 90s. Here Bob Clark keeps his killer in the shadows while using handheld point-of-view camera work to elevate the tension in a film that gave birth to a whole new sub-genre of horror.

Director:  Bob Clark

Cast: Olivia HusseyKeir DulleaMargot Kidder


Edward Scissorhands (1990)

Imagine trying to eat your Christmas turkey with two giant scissors for your hands. The frustration alone would surely ruin your Christmas dinner and cause significant discomfort to those around you. Alas, this is just one of the problems facing young Edward in Tim Burton’s gloriously dark and emotional fairytale. Here, Tim Burton offers us a beautiful slice of gothic fantasy that pays homage to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Carlo Collodi’s Pinocchio as we are taken on a tender journey into loneliness, discrimination and forbidden love. Edward Scissorhands is yet another festive-themed movie that would find itself released during the height of summer in 1991. But, its story firmly inhabits a world of Christmas-like wonder, discovery and magic, as Burton explores themes of intolerance and belonging in a gentle yet powerful tale of difference.

Director: Tim Burton

Cast:  Johnny DeppWinona RyderDianne Wiest, Anthony Michael Hall

Scrooged (1988)

There is no hiding away from the inherent darkness of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol or the fact that his story gave birth to nearly every Christmas movie ever made. However, with Scrooged, Dickens’ classic finds a unique voice in the capitalist utopia of 1980s New York. Here Donner’s film takes aim at the growing commercialism of TV and film while dissecting the influence of big business on our festive celebrations. Scrooged cleverly adapts A Christmas Carol through a range of themes Dickens himself would have been proud to endorse. Here Donner’s cutting comedy places the greed and selfishness of 1980s society centre stage, its message, sadly, even more relevant today.

Director: Richard Donner

Cast:  Bill MurrayKaren AllenJohn Forsythe

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010)

Which version of Santa Claus do you believe in? The Coca-Cola-inspired fat man covered in red and white? Or the far more scary Santa Claus of ancient folklore? Rare Exports takes us on a journey unlike anything else in the festive fantasy genre. Here Helander combines the legend of Santa Claus with John Carpenter’s The Thing. The result is a lively mix of folklore and horror that takes aim at Christmas classics like Santa Claus the Movie. Here Helander’s narrative ensures you will never look at the man who comes down your chimney on December 25th in the same way again. Rare Exports is, without doubt, an audacious glimmering gem in the deliciously dark Christmas movie catalogue.

Director: Jalmari Helander

Cast: Jorma TommilaOnni TommilaPeeter Jakobi 


The Poseidon Adventure (1972)

Ronald Neame’s New Year’s Day from hell didn’t just fire the starting gun for a whole host of disaster movies; it set the template. Here Christmas and New Year are turned upside down by a gigantic rogue wave as the SS Poseidon takes one final and fateful trip. Based on the novel by Paul Gallico, Ronald Neame’s The Poseidon Adventure places a motley group of survivors into a pit of hell as they climb giant Christmas trees, swim through tunnels, and navigate upside-down kitchens. The Poseidon Adventure would turn the joy of the New Year on its head with a disaster film of epic proportions and groundbreaking special effects.

Director: Ronald Neame

Cast: Gene HackmanErnest BorgnineShelley Winters

Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979)

He’s not the messiah; he’s a very naughty boy! Do we really need to say much more? Monty Python’s – The Life of Brian remains one of the most audacious, surreal and damn right silly films ever made. Despite highly critical early reviews, The Life of Brian would go on to achieve massive box office success following its premiere in April 1979. However, this is a movie that also caused a significant stir in the church, with many claiming it to be blasphemous. Of course, the church’s disapproval only further enhanced the movie’s appeal, especially among young cinema-goers. However, would a film like Life of Brian ever reach the screen today? It’s a fascinating question, and the answer is probably no. So sit back and enjoy one of the most extraordinary cinematic achievements in silly satire.

Director: Terry Jones

Cast: Graham ChapmanJohn CleeseMichael Palin 

Go (1999)

Doug Liman’s 1999 hit Go has largely vanished since its initial release. Yet this is a film that encapsulates Christmas for Generation X like no other. Liman’s high-energy rollercoaster follows three young people who all work together in the same supermarket as the clock countdowns to Christmas. But this is no ordinary festive movie, as their lives become entangled in a web of drugs, partying and crime. Here the festive season is reflected through high-octane action and the fire of youth as the 90s bow out and the millennium dawns. Go has the soul of Tarantino’s early work and the banging score of Human Traffic; in fact, one could argue that both films are stylistic siblings.

Director: Doug Liman

Cast: Sarah PolleyJay MohrScott Wolf, Katie Holmes, Timothy Olyphant

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