‘Tis the season for holiday cheer and merriment! Whether you are a fan of the clique holiday rom-com, the nostalgic animated specials, the longstanding heartfelt classics, or even the newest retelling of our favorite stories, there is a Christmas movie genre for everyone who celebrates the holiday. Often forgotten and underutilized is the Christmas action movies. Action movies typically don’t invoke the same kind of feel that the other aforementioned genres do, so it’s not surprising that the pickings are usually slim. Coupled with the age-old debate on whether Die Hard is even a Christmas movie overshadowing the genre, it can be hard to find a movie to curl up on the couch with some egg nog and get your blood pumping. But if you’re like me, you will find a way to get that heart rate up while still enjoying all the wonderful themes and tropes associated with the holiday season.
Two years ago, Fandom Entertainment looked extensively at Die Hard to determine whether or not it is actually a Christmas movie. In their analysis, they looked at various markers that may indicate you are watching a Christmas movie: Christmas trees, Christmas decorations, Christmas carols, uses of the word “Christmas”, Christmas references, goodwill, generosity, and altruism. In the end, Die Hard can be considered more Christmas-y than even Home Alone. But what other action movies can be considered Christmas movies? Well, here is a list of some of the best Christmas action movies that aren’t Die Hard to get you through the holiday season.
The Tower is a South Korean disaster film set in heart of Seoul on Christmas Eve. After a Christmas party demonstration goes horribly wrong, a high-stakes evacuation will place you on the edge of your seat. You may have heard about this film being compared to Skyscraper (2018), but take heart, it is much better. While not the same fun and comedic tower rescue seen in Die Hard, The Tower brings the best of a disaster movie with plenty of dramatic saves that can only be explained through the magic of Christmas. If you are looking for some thrills in your Christmas action movie, this is the one.
Die Hard 2
Want the over the topness you get in Die Hard? Then Die Hard 2 is the Christmas action movie you are looking for. Long over is the debate on whether or not Die Hard is a Christmas movie thanks to Fandom Entertainment. However, that doesn’t mean that John McClane is only festive during the Nakatomi Corporation Christmas party. Two years after the events of the first film, John McClane finds himself being the unconventional hero on Christmas Eve. This time though, he’s at the airport. Despite not living up to its predecessor, there is no question that Die Hard 2 embodies the stress there is to travel during the holidays. While not everyone is stopping government corruption while picking up their wife on Christmas Eve, everyone can relate to delayed flights, stressful boarding processes, and dealing with sketchy airlines just like McClane does.
Regardless of your feelings about the Tim Burton Batverse, Batman Returns is without a doubt one of the most fun movies to take place during Christmas. Batman Returns is certainly one of the more well-acted from the bunch while mixing in the campiness that makes the Tim Burton Batverse so great. Come for Michael Keaton’s Batman but stay for the terrorizing of Gotham City during the most wonderful time of the year. Danny DeVito’s Penguin and Christopher Walken as Max Schreck provide some of the best representations of Christmas villains there are. You can’t tell me Schreck isn’t a scarier Ebenezer Scrooge and Penguin isn’t a textbook Grinch. If campy comic book fun is your jam, then Batman Returns is your Christmas action movie.
Iron Man 3
While the Marvel Cinematic Universe may not what you think of when you think of Christmas, there is no question that Iron Man 3 embodies the holiday spirit to the tee. If you can push past the third-act twist, you will find a very heartfelt Christmas action movie. Robert Downey Jr. and Shane Black are no strangers to unconventional Christmas movies with Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Iron Man 3 tackles the amplified loneliness that is all too prominent but discussed nearly enough around the holiday season. Tony Stark must find himself again through his interactions with Harley Keener. If Iron Man 3 takes place during the middle of the summer, I am not sure if has the same impact as the film guides viewers into a bit of introspection during a time that is supposed to be filled with happiness and joy.
Rocky IV is certainly the least Christmas-y of the bunch. However, it gives sports drama fans their best Christmas action movie to date. Rocky trains in the heart of Russia during the holiday season so there are plenty of references and gifts to be given during its duration coupled with training montages and intense boxing scenes. Even holiday rom-com lovers can find one of the best couples in the media as they deal with their trials and tribulations. Further, underneath a simple lot of an out-of-his-prime boxer trying to avenge his friend, lies themes of the US’s over-celebrated passion for consumerism that is all too relevant during Christmas.
Shazam! was not the first movie I would have thought of for a Christmas action movie but after a recent rewatch to wash the stain of Black Adam out of my head, it certainly checks all the right boxes for a holiday season rewatch. While fans are introduced to Billy Batson and the lore of Shazam, they are taken on a ride of self-discovery, found family, comedy, and some great action sequences. While not marketed as a Christmas movie or even released during the holiday season, there is no question about what time of year the film takes place adding a little bit of extra sentimental value and room for Christmas jokes as Shazam! progresses. Of all the Christmas action movies on this list, this definitely one for the entire family.
After this year, the Christmas action movie Mount Rushmore has to include Violent Night. David Harbour as an ass-kicking Santa Claus is something I did not know I needed in my life. Further, Violent Night gives the best things about all the great Christmas movies regardless of genre. A world devoid of cheer that needs a child to rekindle the Christmas spirit like Elf? Check. Wacky antics that only feel right around the holiday season like Home Alone? Check. A family coming together after a divorce through the power of Christmas like a typical holiday rom-com? Check. A rescue attempt from a grumpy but badass hero like Die Hard? Check. Quirky humor that is intentionally on the nose but still generates some laughs like The Santa Clause? Check. Violence at a level that exceeds any film on this list? Double check!
At the end of the day, Christmas can encompass a wide variety of genres. With the current success of Violent Night, it is clear movie-goers will show up for something unconventional during the holiday season as long as the themes of goodwill, generosity, and altruism are clear where the plot wouldn’t happen without it being Christmas time. What better present than seeing violence, explosions, and thrills with those you cherish most?