Many of us, when pressed, are able to give a favorite holiday movie or two in casual conversation. I know a few staples are It’s a Wonderful Life – featuring Jimmy Stewart rehashing his childhood and adult life and what it would have been like without him around. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer – a claymation film with a cute reindeer protagonist who is exiled for his differences and then exploited for them later on (relax, I kid – I still watch it every year). Santa Clause – in which Tim Allen accidentally becomes Santa. Even Die Hard – in which an office Christmas party goes awry when terrorists decide to crash it. The list goes on and as I said – almost everyone can name at least one or two favorite.
One movie that always seems to be a surprise to many folks as a Christmas film is Gremlins (1984) – and Gremlins is hands down my favorite Christmas movie of all time, and I think it should be up there on a lot of people’s lists.
If you’re shocked at Gremlins being a Christmas movie – you wouldn’t be if you simply re-watched it. At the beginning of the film, Billy (Zach Galligan) is given a Mogwai named Gizmo (Howie Mandel) – who was the original Baby Yoda in cuteness level – for Christmas. From there, lots of hijinks ensue – but all of them take place among a distinct Christmas landscape.
From Billy’s rusty Volkswagen Beetle having trouble starting in the snowy, winter weather of Kingston Falls – to the infamous “Do You Hear What I Hear” scene inside Billy’s house as Billy’s mother Lynn (Frances Lee McCain) fights off marauding gremlins – right up to the horrific Christmas childhood story told by Kate Beringer (Phoebe Cates) – Christmas is essential to the Gremlins storyline which therefore makes it a Christmas film.
Now – the reason I think it’s the BEST Christmas film is that it’s so unlike most of the other Christmas movies out there. At its heart, Gremlins is still a warm holiday movie based around the Christmas traditions and principles we’re used to seeing around Christmas time. Billy lives with his typical 1980’s American family, the neighborhood citizens are all pretty likable, and Kingston Falls seems like it would be on a Christmas postcard from Maine. However, that’s what makes it so interesting when Gizmo and the Gremlins show up and start wreaking havoc, killing people, and toying with their streetlights. I mean, c’mon – if we’re going to have to listen to the same ol’ Christmas songs, why not do it with the backdrop of deadly mayhem?
The animatronics and effects still largely hold up in Gremlins and I think you’d be surprised at how great the movie still is in general if you haven’t seen it in a while. On top of that, we seem to be – as far as pop culture goes – swinging back to the 1980’s with Stranger Things and songs like Take On Me being so popular again. So – why not give it a shot as one of your Christmas films this season? It’s currently streaming on Amazon Prime, YouTube, iTunes and elsewhere.