Celebrated as the most wonderful time of the year, Christmas is all about sweet gingerbread, toasty warm hot chocolates, and visions of sugar plums dancing in our heads. With movies like Home Alone, Elf, and The Grinch, cinematic Christmases never fail to appeal to children. With presents stacked up to the ceiling and the whimsy of a snow day, Christmas is marketed as one of the most wholesome of holidays.
But not all Christmas movies share the same sentiment. While it is a holiday most commonly associated with children, there are some movies that depict a very different holiday experience. With their R-rating and more mature content, these are the Christmas movies that are more naughty than nice.
‘Violent Night’ (2022)
For a healthy dose of “season’s beatings,” Santa goes up against armed mercenaries in Tommy Wirkola’s action comedy Violent Night. On Christmas Eve, young Trudy (Leah Brady) is gifted a walkie-talkie which her parents tell her is a direct line to Santa. So when armed mercenaries break into the wealthy family’s home, it’s up to Santa (David Harbour) to deliver the gift of justice to anyone he finds on his naughty list.
From the producers behind Nobody and Bullet Train, Violent Night is a festive take on a classic action story with plenty of creative Christmas stunts to spread the holiday spirit. This is one Santa whose naughty list you wouldn’t want to be on.
‘Die Hard’ (1988)
It’s Christmas Eve in L.A., and New York cop John McClane’s (Bruce Willis) plan to reconcile with his estranged wife is thrown into chaos after her office building is overtaken by a group of terrorists led by the calculating and ruthless Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman).
One of the most highly-debated Christmas movies of all time, John McTiernan’s Die Hard is a heart-racing action thriller that keeps you on the edge of your seat. With his iconic blood-soaked white tank top, witty remarks, and composure in the face of danger, McClane is a festive take on the typical action hero.
‘Lethal Weapon’ (1987)
Reckless young cop Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson) teams up with the experienced LAPD detective Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover) in Richard Donner’s buddy cop action comedy Lethal Weapon. Set during Christmastime in Los Angeles, Lethal Weapon underscores its action-packed thrill ride with holiday classics like “Jingle Bell Rock,” “I’ll Be Home For Christmas,” and “The First Noel.”
Exploring a lot of well-known holiday feelings – the pressures of the perfect family holiday and feeling lonely at the thought of Christmas without a special someone – Lethal Weapon is filled with enough hope, heart, and joy to bring the holiday cheer.
‘Black Christmas’ (1974)
Before Halloween and Scream came Bob Clarks’ Black Christmas; one of the earliest slasher films that was unique with its festive setting. Set during the Christmas season, a sorority house is terrorized by a stranger who makes frightening phone calls before picking off each of the sorority members one by one.
Based on the 1960s urban legend “the babysitter and the man upstairs,” and inspired by real-life murders that took place in Montreal, Black Christmas wielded its cultural influence to earn itself a cult following for its broader influence on the slasher genre. Balancing classic slasher tropes with a Christmas setting, Black Christmas gives a whole new and horrifying meaning to “he sees you when you’re sleeping.”
‘Anna and the Apocalypse’ (2017)
Nearing the end of the school year, Anna (Ella Hunt) is close to graduating from high school and dreams of traveling before attending university. But on the night of the school’s Christmas show, her plans take a different turn as a zombie apocalypse threatens the quiet town of Little Haven.
Directed by John McPhail, Anna and the Apocalypse sees Anna and her friends fight, slash, and sing their way to survival. Blending a classic Christmas musical style with a gorey zombie outbreak narrative, Anna and the Apocalypse is a genre-bending movie that transcends tradition.
‘A Bad Moms Christmas’ (2017)
A lot of work goes behind creating the perfect Christmas. From the present wrapping, to the shopping, cooking, and decorating – duties that often fall onto the mom of the family. But when three under-appreciated and over-burdened moms have had enough of the seasonal pressure, Amy (Mila Kunis), Kiki (Kristen Bell) and Carla (Kathryn Hahn) rebel against the tough expectations placed on them to finally enjoy the holidays.
Scott Moore and Jon Lucas’ holiday sequel, A Bad Moms Christmas highlights the struggles of being a mother during the festive season. Allowing themselves to let loose and enjoy the holidays, Amy, Kiki, and Carla celebrate Christmas in their own way.
‘The Night Before’ (2015)
Three lifelong best friends – Ethan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), Isaac (Seth Rogen), and Chris (Anthony Mackie) – run through the streets of New York on Christmas Eve for their annual tradition of seasonal debauchery. On what may be their last yearly reunion before Isaac becomes a father, the trio are on a mission to find the Holy Grail of Christmas parties.
From the creators behind Neighbors and This is the End, Jonathan Levine’s The Night Before is a celebration of Christmas where children aren’t allowed. From tipsy karaoke bars to drug-fuelled encounters with Jesus, The Night Before is the perfect stoner Christmas movie.
‘Love Actually’ (2003)
Christmas is the time of being with the people you love, and for the ultimate romantic comedy capturing the euphoria and hysteria of the holiday season, look no further than Richard Curtis’ Love Actually.
Intertwining the stories of its ensemble cast, the vignettes of Love Actually range from the wholesome first love of a young boy, to the blossoming romance between two professional body doubles filming the erotic scenes on the movie set. With its raunchy comedy and mature topics like adultery, Love Actually is a surprising R-rated Christmas film for the holiday season.
‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’ (2001)
During the holiday season, for anyone who’s single, “how’s your love life?” is the question that strikes fear into the heart. So when Bridget (Renée Zellweger) gets introduced to Mark (Colin Firth) during her parents’ Christmas party, her New Year sets off between rekindling a possible romance with an old childhood acquaintance, and vying for the affections of her attractive boss Daniel (Hugh Grant).
Based on the novel of the same name, Sharon Maguire’s Bridget Jones’s Diary is a romantic comedy about the agony and ecstasy of being single during the holiday season. Told through Bridget’s personal diary, the movie is a humble, imperfect depiction of the holiday season without the flashy lights.
Carol follows aspiring photographer Therese (Rooney Mara) who is working in a department store during the busy Christmas season when she meets the elegant Carol (Cate Blanchett). The two form a secret romance, set against the beautiful backdrop of the snow-covered streets and domestic glamour of 1950s Manhattan. Despite the tensions that rise when Carol’s soon-to-be ex-husband sends an investigator to follow the couple, it is the love between Carol and Therese – despite the consequences – that endures throughout.
Carol is proof that not all R-rated Christmas movies are raunchy comedies, violent action-packed thrillers, or blood-chilling horrors. As Todd Haynes’ Carol shows, some are quiet, meditative dramas exploring forbidden desire and romance in 1950s Manhattan.