What makes a movie a Christmas movie?

I will repeat the question so the OP is not empty. What makes a movie a Christmas movie?

There will be no agreement. Please see the Die Hard thread. Started in 2013 and still no agreement.

I started this because that thread has no definition of a Christmas movie. It is arguing the merits of one particular movie in regard to it’s Christmasness. I’ll make note of that fact that the first response was to bring up a controversial thread instead of any attempt to answer the question or even address it.

I guess you could draw a line between movies that use Christmas as a setting and those that are about Christmas.

So how do you define ‘about Christmas’? Other than a movie about the birth of Jesus what would make the movie about Christmas? I really don’t understand where a line would be drawn. There are a ton of movies that take place around Christmas time where the holiday is part of the plot. How do they reach the point of being ‘about Christmas’?

Limiting it to just animated shows, Charlie Brown’s Christmas is one of the few about Christmas. Frosty is set during Christmas. Grinch is almost about Christmas without being religious, so I don’t know how to classify it. (The same goes for the Grinch movies)

If the movie is set during Christmas and it figures into the plot or dialogue, that’s a Christmas movie. Example: Gremlins.

If it’s set during Christmas but it doesn’t figure into the plot or dialogue, that’s a perifestival film. It’s suitable for showing during Christmas, or as part of a Christmas-themed movie marathon, but should not be presented alone as a Christmas movie. Example: Die Hard.

You’ll have to explain how the plot and dialogue of Gremlins is more Christmas-y than that in Die Hard.

That is the state of affairs. I think the conflicts that arise about some movies of indeterminate Christmasality are due to trying to define one sub-category of Christmas Movies as the One True Type of Christmas Movie. I believe the qualities of Christmas movies should be diverse and they all qualify as Christmas movies.

The Patient Zero gremlin was a Christmas present. The story takes place on Christmas Eve, the decorations are worn and interacted with by the characters. There are iconic photos of both good and evil Gremlins wearing Santa hats. At one point a character goes off on an extended morbid soliloquy about terrible things that happened in her Christmas childhood. You couldn’t remove Christmas from Gremlins without having to alter a great deal of the dialog.

To me, Die Hard doesn’t really meet the bar. It’s set during Christmas, there were vague nods to it, but it’s still just about a guy shooting stuff. It could have as easily been set in Easter or Halloween without materially changing anything but the backdrop.

As has been said, there’s no agreement yet on what makes a Christmas movie.
But personally I think that ‘Die Hard’ is one … because of the soundtrack, which includes:

  • Winter Wonderland
  • Christmas in Hollis
  • Let it snow!
  • Jingle Bells

If people look at you funny for playing it in May, it’s a Christmas movie.

  1. Takes place at Christmas or the run up to it (not counting flashbacks).
  2. The characters are dealing with Christmas throughout – celebrations, gifts, Santa, etc. A mere mention of it does not make it one.
  3. Hints of magic or the supernatural.
  4. No violent deaths portrayed on screen.
  5. The movie couldn’t be set any other time.

Hmm… Does the cat being electrocuted exclude Christmas Vacation?

Hadn’t seen that. I should have specified deaths of humans, but since Christmas Vacation meets other criteria, it’s not disqualified.

Personally, I would say it’s “about Christmas” if a one-sentence description of what the movie is about (such as those found on IMDB) must mention Christmas in order to give a clear picture of what the movie is about.

For example, Gremlins is described on IMDB as

A fair description of the movie, which makes no mention of Christmas. So, Gremlins is a movie set at Christmastime but not a Christmas movie.

Would the film make sense if it took place some other time of the year? If not, then it’s about Christmas.

Madame P. asked me today if I thought The Princess Bride was a Christmas movie. I still say no.

There are precisely two definitions: those which are crafted to include Die Hard and those which are crafted to exclude it.

Once again there is a 300+ comment (400+ comment thread now) thread on this where all these arguments have been dealt with and nauseum. McClain is in LA to reconcile with his wife because it’s Christmas. He goes to attend a Christmas Party. The villians choose Christmas Eve because of lower security while having people in the building (said Christmas Party). There are Christmas songs. “I have a machine gun Ho Ho Ho”. The gun in the final scene is attached to McClain’s back with Christmas wrapping tape.

There is plenty of Christmas in it. Arguably as many references as It’s a Wonderful Life.