Sometimes the glittery tinsel, the jolly fat man in the red suit, the bright glass baubles and the twinkling lights of Christmas all get a bit too much and your deep-seated bah humbug-ness crawls out. You know it – that dark inkling that makes you want lock yourself in a room with six seasons of Dexter and ignore all the festivities.
While the vast majority of Christmas movies seem to be saccharine-laced frivolities, thankfully there’s plenty of darker fare out there for those who need some respite from the gooey feel-good stuff.
Bad Santa. This 2003 classic should satisfy anyone who wants to give the middle finger to the holidays. Billy Bob Thornton’s alcoholic, expletive spouting, depressive criminal posing as a shopping mall Santa and squatting in a lonely kid’s house will take much of the cheer out of the season.
Edward Scissorhands. Johnny Depp’s freaky, sharp handed outsider makes a run for it in the falling snow with Winona Rider on Christmas Day. A perfect bleak Christmas ending ensues.
Prancer. This 1989 movie about a little girl who rescues a reindeer and nurses him back to health may sound cute and festive, but the presence of Sam Elliot as the child’s neglectful father who sells the reindeer add a pleasantly depressing note to the proceedings. It all ends happily enough though.
The Apartment. OK, so technically it’s not a Christmas movie, but Shirley McLaine’s attempted suicide in this Billy Wilder classic happens on Christmas Eve.
In Bruges. Two Irish professional hitmen played by Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson hide out in Bruges, Belgium after a hit goes wrong around Christmastime. Festive lights and lit-up Christmas trees form a cheery background to this very dark comedy/drama.
Brazil. Terry Gilliam’s science fiction-noir of a dystopian future features a quintessentially festive scene of a family in front of a tree as the mother tells a story about Santa coming down the chimney. What sounds like sleigh bells turn out to be stormtroopers who suddenly burst through the ceiling and take Dad away in a sack they’ve brought along. A Santa moment in reverse. Unmissable.
The Snowman. It’s only 26 minutes long, has no words, just one song, but it’s moved grown men to tears. The friendship between a boy and the snowman he’s built and the magical journey the pair go on ends next morning when the sun comes up. It’s not the only thing that ends. Snow + sun = one sad ending.
The Ice Harvest. Billy Bob Thornton again, this time as a strip club owner on the run with mob lawyer John Cusack after the pair rip off their boss. Icy roads prevent them getting out of town. The movie’s slogan is “Thick thieves, thin ice”. It’s not some warm and fluffy fare, but if you’re looking for some dark comedy and drama to get you through the holidays, this is the one for you.
It’s a Wonderful Life. Sure, sure, it may be one of the all-time favourite American movies for Christmastime with an uplifting message and a happy ending, but it’s a story about a guy who wants to kill himself.
Nightmare Before Christmas. You’re allowed to start watching this movie around the end of October as this is a Halloween/Christmas movie really. It’s dark, it’s stop motion animation, it’s Tim Burton. What else could you ask for?