Best Christmas movies to watch if you think Die Hard is a Christmas movie

Bruce Willis (as John McClane) crawls in a vent in Die Hard, which is arguably a Christmas movie
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Is Die Hard a Christmas movie? That debate is as ageless as your aunt’s fruit cake, and just as divisive. Yes, its halls are not as well-decked as It’s a Wonderful Life's. No, it doesn't have the saccharine energy of Elf. But there still seems to be a consensus that John McLane fighting an international crew of thieves — which happens to take place during a holiday party — is, in fact, a Christmas movie. 

And this got us thinking about all the other movies that are Christmas-adjacent enough to sit along Die Hard as Christmas movies for people who don't exactly love Christmas movies. These films deliver some sentiment here and there, but we've got plenty of dark comedies here that will keep you entertained while not drilling the standard meaning of Christmas messages into your brain.

So, if you think the events at the Nakatomi tower are as festive as Miracle on 34th Street or any Hallmark Christmas movie, then roast some chestnuts and cuddle up for these holiday flicks. 

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

One of two Shane Black movies on this list, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang shows that Christmas is a perfect backdrop for a mystery noir film. A serpentine story that zigs and zags around the life of thief Harry Lockhart (Robert Downey Jr.), who is just trying to steal the right gifts for his kid this holiday season. But whilst trying to pilfer the proper present, Harry stumbles into an audition. And, wouldn't you know it, this gives the bumbling crook the chance he's needed to revive his acting career. But this is just a setup for Harry to stumble into a murder mystery involving his childhood crush Harmony (Michelle Monaghan) — the main plot of the film. Throughout it all, Lockhart is aided (barely) by Perry van Shrike (Val Kilmer), as the two bicker more than anything else. Hilariously enough, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang came out less than a decade before Downey Jr. would actually revive his actual film career as Iron Man. Speaking of which… – Henry T. Casey

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Iron Man 3

Iron Man's armor may have as many lights as a Christmas tree, but Iron Man 3's locale of Southern California doesn’t exactly scream “Christmas,” no matter how many lights you string up on palm trees. About the only thing that would let you know that Iron Man 3 is a Christmas movie is the two-story-tall stuffed bear that Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) gets for Pepper Potts (Gweneth Paltrow). This installment sees Stark wrestling with his inner demons as he fights one of his own creations in Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce). Arguably better than its predecessor, Iron Man 3 (the other Shane Black movie on this list) has a lot of levity amidst the chaos, helped in no small part by Sir Ben Kingsley, who owns every scene he’s in. — Mike Prospero

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Home Alone

“Die Hard in suburbia” is one way to describe Home Alone, which pits a pre-adolescent Macauley Culkin (Kevin McAllister) against Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern (the Wet Bandits). This battle of inventful youth vs dogged stubbornness arises when the pair seek to rob the McAllister house, thinking the family is away for the holidays. Fortunately for the family, Kevin was accidentally left behind — and protests the base. While there’s no “Yippie ki-yay…” and the criminals meet much less violent ends in this PG-rated movie, there are plenty of other memorable lines and scenes — one of the reasons Culkin had such a hard time landing other roles after this movie came out. Written by John Hughes and directed by Chris Columbus, Home Alone is funny, festive and sentimental, all in the right proportions. — MP

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Better Off Dead

One of the classic 80s comedies sees Lane Meyer (John Cusak) dumped by his girlfriend for the captain of the high school ski team. And right before Christmas, too! Meyer considers ending it all before he finds love and redemption in the arms of Monique (Diane Franklin), a French exchange student. The movie culminates in a winner-take-all race between Meyer and the ski team captain to see who can make it down the hill first. If you like this movie as much as me, you’ll be quoting it decades later, too. — MP

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Batman Returns

The sequel to Tim Burton’s Batman sees Michael Keaton return to face the Penguin (Danny DeVito), Max Schreck (Christopher Walken) and Catwoman (Michelle Pfeiffer). Gotham is as gothic as ever — even around the holidays — and Batman Returns has an even darker tone than the original. Pfeiffer really owns her role, as the mousy and timid Selina Kyle reincarnates as the powerful and self-assured Catwoman. This was the last Batman movie made by Tim Burton, and arguably the last good one until Christopher Nolan rebooted the franchise. — MP

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Bad Santa

Billy Bob Thornton stars as a drunken, inept thief who takes a job as a shopping mall Santa so he can rob all the stores in the mall on Christmas. However, this seemingly irredeemable character develops a soft spot for a bullied kid who’s neglected by his parents. Thornton revels in the loutishness of his character, and is buttressed by great supporting performances from Tony Cox, Bernie Mac, Lauren Graham and — in his final role — John Ritter. It’s a movie that’s ultimately as tender as it is profane. — MP

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In Bruges

The holiday season serves as a perfect backdrop for a pair of disagreeable hitmen on holiday … in Bruges. Ray (Colin Farrell) is the mentee of Ken (Brendan Gleeson), and nothing Ray does really goes well. In Bruges signals its dark comedy status early, when Ray accidentally kills a young boy on a mission to take down a priest. This mistake is what brings Ken and Ray to Bruges, a Belgian city that the former adores and the latter detests. The two have their own little adventures, but a mission from their boss — that serves as Ray's punishment — throws the whole trip into the trash. In Bruges is the film that made people see Colin Farrell as more than just a brooding face, as he delivers both comedic and dramatic moments superbly. — HTC

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Gremlins

Randall (Hoyt Axton) is just trying to give his kids good holiday presents. And this winter, he's making a big mistake by going off-list. Instead of some gadget or popular toy, he gives his son Billy (Zach Galligan) a mogwai, a furry little critter with three simple caveats. When an accident causes water to spill on the mogwai — who's been named Gizmo — everything goes haywire, and parents who bought their kids the wrong thing this year look all the better by comparison. Other, more diabolical, mogwai spawn out of Gizmo's back, and go nuts. This causes a series of more and more mogwai to arrive. A campy horror movie that puts the holiday season's greed in the cross-hairs, Gremlins is a classic in its own way – HTC

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A Midnight Clear

War movies and Christmas movies don't sound like one and the same, which makes sense: there haven't been many at all. But 1992's A Midnight Clear uses the holiday perfectly: as a means for a surrender. Down on their luck in the Battle of the Bulge, six soldiers make up a reconnaissance squad that's living out of an abandoned chateau near the German lines. And while they initially distrust the Germans they come in contact with, they soon realize that the offer of a "Christmas truce" is something far more interesting — and one that will require believing the enemy's honesty. One of the most soulful war films, A Midnight Clear is far from your average Christmas movie — and all the better for it. – HTC

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Scrooged

Arguably the closest thing to a traditional Christmas movie on this list — 'Scrooge' is literally in its title — this 1988 film transposes the classic to its own era. Here, we meet Frank Cross (Bill Murray), a greedy and cynical TV executive in need of a recalibration, and he's so far-gone that Scrooged's ghosts have to practically bully him to break his grizzled and bitter spirit into something more appropriate. One of the classic alternative holiday films, Scrooged is so good it's practically seen as one of the regular Christmas movies. Full credit to the casting agents who believed Bill Murray should reinterpret the classic crotchety weirdo. He always understands the assignment. – HTC 

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Mike Prospero
U.S. Editor-in-Chief, Tom's Guide

Michael A. Prospero is the U.S. Editor-in-Chief for Tom’s Guide. He oversees all evergreen content and oversees the Homes, Smart Home, and Fitness/Wearables categories for the site. In his spare time, he also tests out the latest drones, electric scooters, and smart home gadgets, such as video doorbells. Before his tenure at Tom's Guide, he was the Reviews Editor for Laptop Magazine, a reporter at Fast Company, the Times of Trenton, and, many eons back, an intern at George magazine. He received his undergraduate degree from Boston College, where he worked on the campus newspaper The Heights, and then attended the Columbia University school of Journalism. When he’s not testing out the latest running watch, electric scooter, or skiing or training for a marathon, he’s probably using the latest sous vide machine, smoker, or pizza oven, to the delight — or chagrin — of his family.

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