The holiday season is upon us, and along with it are the classic slew of Christmas movies and shows that help us get in a cheery mood. We have our Santa Clauses, our sappy Hallmark romances, and all the usual suspects. But for those of us who like a little bit more edge in our Christmas entertainment, we have David Harbour’s subversive Violent Night. Described by Harbour as a cross between Die Hard and Miracle on 34th Street, Violent Night is unlike anything audiences are used to when they think of Christmas movies, and that’s great.
Action-packed and irreverent, Violent Night earns its hard R rating, and we love it for that. Viewers at home might love it so much that they might want to keep going, looking for other films featuring a similar hectic and disruptive vibe. Luckily for them, Hollywood has delivered more than a few films that capture chaotic cheer perfectly. From horror films that will leave you shaking in your snow boots to thrilling adventures with plenty of heart, these films would make perfect companions to Violent Night.
Is Die Hard a Christmas movie? Not really, but it is a Christmas classic, and that’s more important. The film follows a New York City police detective who must fight off a gang of radical German terrorists who have taken over a Los Angeles skyscraper on Christmas Eve. Starring Bruce Willis and Alan Rickman, the film launched both their careers and revolutionized the action genre.
Die Hard is a very obvious comparison to Violent Night, with good reason. The latter seems to be deliberately evoking the former, although always coming from a place of genuine admiration and awe. Harbour makes for as much an unlikely everyman hero as Willis did when Die Hard first came out in 1988, and he even has his own worthy rival in the ever-reliable yet criminally underrated John Leguizamo. Violent Night can only aspire to become a modern Christmas classic like Die Hard, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see these two becoming a must-see double feature in future holiday seasons.
You can stream Die Hard on Starz.
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
Robert Downey Jr.’s comeback began not in 2008 with the one-two-punch of Iron Man and Tropic Thunder but in 2005 with Shane Black’s neo-noir black comedy Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Downey Jr. plays Harry Lockhart, a New York thief who, after being mistaken for an actor, travels to Los Angeles to train with a private eye in preparation for a movie role.
Absurd and chaotic, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is everything fans have come to expect from a Shane Black production. Christmas plays a central role in the story, although it never distracts from the mystery-solving shenanigans, and the duo of Downey Jr. and Val Kilmer is too good to resist. The film is more comedic than action-packed, but its tongue-in-cheek tone and fast-paced dialog will surely make it irresistible for audiences who want more of Violent Night’s peculiar take on Christmas entertainment.
You can stream Kiss Kiss Bang Bang on Paramount+ and Showtime. If you have a subscription to the latter, you can also watch it on YouTube.
Christmas horror debuted and peaked with 1974’s Black Christmas, a slasher that predates Halloween and might very well be the mother of the genre. Following a group of sorority sisters haunted by a shadowy figure during the holiday season, the film includes many of the classic elements that would come to define the slasher. Black Christmas received two remakes, one in 2006 and one in 2019; neither managed to recapture the original’s essence, but they both fulfilled their duty as slasher products of their time.
Although Black Christmas is straight-up horror in all its iterations, it has plenty of gore and violence to make it a suitable companion to something like Violent Night. After all, all films include a Santa-like figure committing gruesome acts of violence — that should be enough to keep thrill-seeking audiences entertained during a snowy Christmas day.
Black Christmas is streaming on YouTube, Tubi, The Roku Channel, Crackle, Prime Video (with an AMC+ subscription), Peacock, and PlutoTV.
Billy Bob Thornton gives one of his all-time best performances in this unconventional Christmas classic. Bad Santa centers on Willie, a small-time con man, and his cruel associate who pose as Santa and his helper to rob a department store on Christmas Eve. Thornton shines as the miserable Willie in a film that’s a character study posing as a biting black comedy.
Santa Claus is such a pure and wholesome figure in pop culture that seeing him perverted feels wrong, offensive even. However, Thornton is such an energetic ball of profane charm that Bad Santa is impossible to resist. Now, he has the perfect companion in Harbour’s equally deranged and subversive Santa Claus. The two versions of the character are unique and ridiculously entertaining; their films might have different genres and tones, but that doesn’t prevent them from being perfect companions for an inflammatory Christmas celebration.
Stream Bad Santa on Paramount+ and Showtime.
When it comes to action Christmas classics, we usually think of Die Hard. However, Richard Donner’s Lethal Weapon is as deserving of the title as the Bruce Willis picture. The plot follows two cops who must set their differences aside to catch a gang of drug dealers. Featuring the best elements of the buddy-cop genre, Lethal Weapon is among the all-time best action comedies.
Lethal Weapon might pose like a lighthearted action comedy, but the message at its core is far more compelling and Christmas-y than it seems at first sight. Fans wanting a thrilling experience will surely want to pair Lethal Weapon with Violent Night. Funny cops and vengeful Santa Clauses might sound like an unlikely pairing, but both films embrace the warm and fuzzy feelings that have become synonymous with Christmas while still delivering over-the-top action. What more could we ask of a Christmas movie?
You can rent Lethal Weapon from major digital vendors like Prime Video, Apple TV, and YouTube.