The 2 key themes that make a true Christmas movie

Published: Wednesday, December 8, 2021 - 11:32am
Updated: Saturday, December 25, 2021 - 7:57am
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It started with “Die Hard” — but it won’t end there. The debate over just what makes a movie a Christmas movie has become an annual tradition, as heated as arguments over the merits of fruitcake and whether that eggnog from last year is safe to drink.

Craig Outhier stands firmly on the side of Bruce Willis. He is now the editor of PHOENIX magazine, but he spent much of the beginning of his career as a film critic at the East Valley Tribune.

“If you take every move that takes place during Christmas and make that a Christmas movie, that strikes me as kind of a low bar to set,” Outhier said.

So what makes a true Christmas movie? Outhier said it comes down to two key themes.

“Reuniting with family, which is something that's what Christmas is all about for a lot of people. And transformation, too, at least just for a few weeks during the year. Which is why ‘A Christmas Carol’ resonates still. Because your cold heart is thawed, at least for two weeks a year.”

Craig Outhier’s Christmas hits and misses

  • “A Christmas Carol” (1951): “The lead actor is amazing, Alastair Sim. He gives, to me, the best Scrooge performance ever in a movie.”
  • “Die Hard” (1988): “That movie is also really about a guy trying to reunite with his family, which is the best and the oldest Christmas trope out there.”
  • “Four Christmases” (2008): “To me, that was just kind of an anemic sex comedy crammed into the shell of a Christmas movie.”
  • “Scrooged” (1988): “What's Bill Murray’s final transformation into a good person? How does he reach that Christmas apotheosis? He propositions his girlfriend on live TV.”
  • “Gremlins” (1984): “Actually, I think ‘Gremlins’ is a pretty good Christmas movie, to be honest with you.”

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