Best 1980s Holiday Movies: Christmas Vacation, Scrooged, Die Hard | Phoenix New Times

Film & TV

The 8 Best Holiday Films of the 1980s

As everyone knows, the 1980s were the cultural high-water mark for Western civilization. Everything that is good came out of the '80s, from the Rubik's Cube to the Nintendo Games System and the neon leg warmers that you wear while doing the Jane Fonda Workout. So, it stands to reason...
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As everyone knows, the 1980s were the cultural high-water mark for Western civilization. Everything that is good came out of the '80s, from the Rubik's Cube to the Nintendo Games System and the neon leg warmers that you wear while doing the Jane Fonda Workout. So, it stands to reason that the holiday films of the '80s also were epic.

A Christmas Carol
This film is the measuring stick that all other modern holiday films are measured by. It has become so popular that, once a year, TBS will devote a day to nothing but this film. A Christmas Story is the tale of young Ralphie growing up in Indiana in the 1950s, and getting into mischief in the days leading up to Christmas. While this movie is entertaining and very quotable, it teaches us all a valuable lesson: Don't ask for a BB gun for Christmas, or you will shoot your eye out.

Charles Dicken's A Christmas Carol is one of the most adapted stories in the English language; most of them tend to stay close to the original story, but this 1988 version made the decision to adapt it to modern times and make it more slapstick. Bill Murray stars as Frank Cross, an arrogant television executive who treats his employees poorly and tries to staple antlers onto mice. As in the original, he is visited by three ghosts, and eventually learns the true meaning of Christmas. Bill Murray is supported by an excellent cast, including Bobcat Goldthwait as his Bob Cratchett stand-in, and Karen Allen as the love interest that got away.

A Christmas Carol
For a more traditional version of the Christmas Carol story, you can't go wrong with this 1984 adaptation starring Oscar winner George C. Scott. This was released theatrically in the UK, and then broadcast in America on CBS. This production stays very close to the original novel, and does a great job recreating the time period in which it takes place.

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
Those wacky Griswolds are at it again! This film rescued the Vacation franchise after European Vacation bombed with the critics and general public. Chevy Chase and Beverly D'Angelo return to their roles as Clark and Ellen Griswold, who decide to stay at home and have a traditional Christmas with their son and daughter. These plans are complicated by tree problems, overambitious lighting plans, and family members that drop in unannounced. Soon after this movie was completed, Chevy Chase took a vacation from being funny, which lasted for 20 years, until he started his role on Community.

A Very Brady Christmas
Is there anything that says "traditional family values" more than the Brady Bunch? In this 1988 TV movie reunion, the kids are all grown up and have families of their own, but they all come back to the house that they grew up in for the holidays. While everyone has their own problems to deal with, the family comes together to support father Mike Brady, who gets trapped in a building that he designed.

Better Off Dead
This is one of the funniest films ever made, and it helped to launch John Cusack into stardom. When Lane Meyer's girlfriend dumps him for the captain of the ski team, he decides to commit suicide. With the aid of a beautiful French transfer student and a slacker best friend, he regains his self-confidence and confronts his nemesis on the K-12, the most dangerous slope in all of Northern California. This film is filled with plenty of oddball characters and weird subplots, one of the best being Lane's mom and her enthusiasm for Christmas. This film also teaches a valuable lesson: Always pay the paperboy the $2 that you owe him.

Lethal Weapon
A by-the-book police officer is teamed with a suicidal loose cannon, and hilarity ensues. The duo must overcome their differences to stop a drug smuggling operation and survive the holiday season. One of the best films of the "buddy cop" genre, these two mismatched partners must learn to work together, and eventually grow to become friends.The Christmas setting just enhances the drama, providing an unusual setting for a drug bust and a motivation to survive the twin threats of Gary Busey and "the world's lousiest Christmas turkey."

Die Hard
This is the preferred Christmas film for ironic hipsters all over the world. When terrorists take over the Christmas party at the Nakatomi Plaza, they didn't count on vacationing cop John McClane to crash their party. This movie was a star turn for Alan Rickman, who played Hans Gruber, the leader of the terrorists and one of the greatest villains in film history. The Christmas party setting allows for many riffs on the holiday season, including McClane not recognizing Run DMC's Christmas in Hollis as Christmas music, and the immortal line, "Now I have a machine gun. Ho ho ho."

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