Today on Tablet we are celebrating (or at least I am celebrating) the magnificence of Bad Santa, Billy Bob Thornton’s pièce de résistance and a film in which Christmas is laid low by Terry Zwigoff and the Coen Brothers. Given the film’s colorful dialogue, we’re supplementing the feature with a list of the Five Best Jewish Christmas movies in case a White Christmas keeps you indoors and away from your theater.
In no particular order:
Die Hard (1988): Bruce Willis takes an underdog’s fight to a group of highly-trained German mercenaries. A quintessential 1980s action flick replete with a sinister Alan Rickman, who utters jokes about Yasser Arafat and 60 Minutes, and a soundtrack that includes Handel’s Messiah. The second, considerably lousier Die Hard also takes place on Christmas.
Scrooged (1988): Sure, Bill Murray was coasting on his Ghostbusters fame, but if you have to submit to a civics lesson in late December, this is among the least worst options. Some great cameos, some wisecracks, and a love story to boot.
Trading Places (1983): One of the funniest films to ever include Dan Aykroyd in a santa suit stuffing salted fish into his beard. Both he and Eddie Murphy team up to get revenge on the one percent in this John Landis classic written by Herschel Weingrod. Hoppy Christmas!
Holiday Inn (1942): If you’re going to go for the full calendar experience, consider Irving Berlin’s Holiday Inn, a movie about all of the major American holidays (Gentile and secular that is). Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire will transport you back to an entirely different era of American life in the musical that spawned the song “White Christmas.” A little known fact, the bombing of Pearl Harbor took place during the production of the film, leading to a rejiggered and more bombastic Fourth of July scene.
Gremlins (1984): The ultimate cautionary tale about Christmas gift-giving gone wrong and the perils of late-night holiday snacking. Gremlins is the story of a father who buys his son a pet that turns evil and multiplies when it gets wet or is fed after midnight. Steven Spielberg, who makes a cameo, was the executive producer on the iconic Joe Dante film.
Adam Chandler was previously a staff writer at Tablet. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, Slate, Esquire, New York, and elsewhere. He tweets @allmychandler.