12 Christmas Scenes We Love

By  · Published on December 24th, 2012

I should have known that the Film School Rejects team would be all about Christmas scenes from horror films. I reached out to the site’s other editors and writers this week to compile some favorite moments from both legitimate holiday movies and other films that just happen to have Christmas scenes in them, and a third wound up being classifiable as being from the horror genre. Three others are from versions of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, which is a pretty scary story as well. Then there’s my personal pick, which is a rather cynical and frightening bit (I would have gone with The Thin Man, but I’d be repeating something I wrote years ago for the now-defunct blog Cinematical). Fortunately (depending on your tastes this time of year), we also have some more conventional people among our staff, and you’ll find some Jimmy Stewart and Chevy Chase here as well.

Oh, and it just wouldn’t be Christmas without a shot of William Fichtner’s buttocks. So, check out 12 of our favorite Christmas scenes after the jump, and tis the season for giving, so let us know the scenes you love in the comments section.

Receipt for Your Husband from Brazil

Let’s begin with the near-opening scene from Terry Gilliam’s satirical dystopian classic. I tend to forget this film is set during Christmas – though I’m not sure I’d necessarily call it a Christmas movie – which is stupid since the holiday is so ironically significant to its plot and themes. While other moment of the film showcase Christmas shopping and even an evil man dressed as Santa, the following bit has often been cited as an amusing twist for the yuletide setting. After a child asks his mother how Santa will visit them on Christmas Eve given their lack of a chimney, military police storm into the apartment from above, through a hole in the ceiling. And instead of dropping off a gift they take one for themselves: the incorrectly nabbed Archibald Buttle (instead of Tuttle). – Christopher Campbell

The F***ing Love of My Life from Love Actually

Love Actually is crammed with wonderful Christmas moments that, despite being generally just bonkers (that Keira Knightley/Andrew Lincoln cue card scene? Hello, stalker? Hugh Grant – the prime minister – crashing a holiday play and promptly making out with one of his employees on stage? Inappropriate much? Anything with Colin Frissell?), are still guaranteed to bring a tremendous smile to my face again and again. But, hands down, the scene I’ve grown to love the most involves Bill Nighy’s jackass former pop star, Billy Mack, suddenly realizing what (and who) really matters, all thanks to Christmas (and some Christmas champagne, no doubt). It’s a terrible, terrible mistake – but it’s a wonderful one. – Kate Erbland

Squirrel On The Loose from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

The Griswald’s were already having a less than ideal Christmas, but when patriarch Clark (Chevy Chase) goes off the deep end and drags a brand new Christmas tree into the house, it gives us one of the film’s best scenes. It is easy to forget that cutting down your own Christmas tree could mean cutting down a little furry creature’s home, and the moment Clark finds this out is so surprising and terrifying, it is hard to keep from laughing. From Clark’s mom hitting the deck to Uncle Lewis (William Hickey) falling asleep despite all the chaos, watching a tiny squirrel cause so much mayhem is hilarious. Sadly, I do not think Julia Louis-Dreyfus will ever agree. – Allison Loring

George Bailey Runs Ecstatically Through Bedford Falls from It’s a Wonderful Life

After it got tons of play on television through the 80s and 90s, there was a bit of a backlash to this Frank Capra classic. But It’s a Wonderful Life remains an expertly made, heartwarming film. It has so many great scenes to highlight, from straight-up comedy to holiday messages. Still, it’s George Bailey’s climactic run through Bedford Falls after things return to normal that never fails to make me tear up. (Apologies for the colorized clip.) – Kevin Carr

Confederated Products from Go

I love Go. I love how incredibly strange it is, and how I can never actually remember that it’s technically a Christmas movie. The chemistry between Jay Mohr and Scott Wolf works because it’s a little bit bland, believably a gay couple that has started to lose interest. William Fichtner, on the other hand, takes on the role of a narcotics officer with the utmost skeeviness. In this scene, he’s invited the boys over for dinner with his wife (Jane Krakowski!), initially under a bit of duress. Fichtner has been eyeing both younger men for the whole movie, feeling them up and complimenting their physiques. We’re expecting the inevitable, that he and his wife will invite them into some sort of odd, sexual arrangement. And then it turns out they’re just trying to recruit them to sell “Confederated Products”? In Go, a movie full of drug dealers, the most unsettling characters are the married couple of straight cops. What’s not to love? – Daniel Walber

Ignorance and Want from Scrooge (1951)

The 1951 Scrooge is still the best of any film version of the Charles Dickens classic A Christmas Carol. Just make sure to bypass the colorized version in favor of the original in glorious black and white. In this scene a conflicted Scrooge has his own words thrown back at him by the Ghost of Christmas Present. – Rubin Ruinsky

“It Feels Like Christmas” from The Muppet Christmas Carol

It’s true, in fact, that wherever you find love, it feels like Christmas. I learned that long ago. Sometime in the early ’90s following the release of The Muppet Christmas Carol on VHS. My family wore that old tape out over the years, creating in Brian Henson’s take on Charles Dickens’ classic a wonderful Miller Household tradition. This scene, part of the Spirit of Christmas Present’s time with Ebenezer Scrooge (as played by the dutiful, ever-crotchety Michael Caine), is a microcosm for what makes this film such a vibrant, amazingly detailed and lively experience. It’s jolly, full of life and paired with a wonderful message. The great scenes from Holiday movies make us happy. The greatest make us feel loved. This one accomplishes both. – Neil Miller

“I’m Not Crazy” from Scrooged

There’s no such thing as a Christmas movie without a message. These are message movies, by design. They speak of Christmas miracles, good will toward men, giving to others and being one with humanity. And there may be no such message delivered so passionately as Bill Murray’s rant near the end of Scrooged. A cynical, modern take on the Scrooge story, this one ends with a bang. Even the mute kid talks! If that doesn’t warm your heart… Well, the exposed nipples in the Christmas show will. Either way, it’s a warming experience. – Neil Miller

The Most Depressing Christmas Story of All Time from Gremlins

It’s true that Gremlins is a little bit darker than most Christmas movies, what with it being about murderous little monsters and all, but it’s still a fun movie at its heart. Gizmo is adorable, the Gremlins are a little bit silly – even when they’re killing people – and the whole thing is infused with small town charm. So what’s with the super depressing story Phoebe Cates tells about her dead dad? It doesn’t really add anything to the movie or her character, it’s a total downer, and it even makes the horrifying-to-children claim that there isn’t a Santa Clause. This scene is great simply because of how bat-shit crazy it is that it made it into the movie. Could you get away with something like this these days? Also, watch for Gizmo’s reaction to Cates’s big reveal. That’s some decent comic timing for a Mogwai. This little guy can act. – Nathan Adams

Crazy Grandpa Scene from Silent Night Deadly Night

While most will flock to their Wonderful Lives and their Red Ryder Christmas Stories, my holiday is marked by significantly darker fare. Each year, on Christmas, I look forward to a visit from Santa Claus. No, not the Santa Claus who comes to town as a Rankin & Bass marionette, and put to rest the assumption that anyone experiences miracles on any titular thoroughfares. My Santa Claus brandishes an axe and, like Black Peter before him, punishes the naughty. Silent Night Deadly Night is a b-movie through and through but its simple construction, surprisingly committed performances, and incendiary conceit make it well worthy of revisit each and every Christmas Day. The most traumatically brilliant moment of the film is the moment dubbed “Crazy Grandpa Scene.” A young boy is left for a moment next to his thought-to-be-catatonic grandfather as his parents go into the next room. However, grandpa was just playing possum, or vegetable I guess, and he suddenly springs to life to deliver a mind-blowing and terrifyingly sincere monologue about how Santa is coming to punish the boy and that he should run if he see’s him. Actor Will Hare elevates this schlocky creeper into a truly memorable harbinger of doom. – Brian Salisbury

Creepy Phone Call From Inside the House from Black Christmas

If you’d just watched the original Black Christmas for the first time, we’d forgive you for decrying it as a string of hoary cliches. Once we stopped chuckling ’cause you said, “hoary,” we’d have to set you straight. This is a film that forged the template for a long string of horror flicks, most notably, John Carpenter’s Halloween. The POV shots of the killer stalking his prey, the holiday-themed bloodletting – Carpenter’s 1978 film borrowed heavily from Bob Clark’s 1974 classic. A few other slasher films would later borrow this film’s premise, that a murderous stalker was taunting and harassing his prey by calling them from within their own house. Here’s Olivia Hussey (perfectly cast as the heroine; she positively radiates intelligence and vulnerability) receiving one of those unsettling calls. Keep your visions of sugar plums. This is the stuff Christmas nightmares are made of. – Jorge Sosa

Santa is For Sale from Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale

Forget what you think you know about Santa Claus. In the bold holiday tale from Finland Rare Exports, we meet a new and terrifically frightening version of the Santa Claus legend. The kind that doesn’t bring gifts, but takes kids and eats them. Which is way more fun, if you think about it. Because it turns a rag-tag group of snowmobile-riding woodsmen into Santa hunters. In this particular scene we get a brief look at this evil “Santa” figure, following his capture. The dirty, wiry frame. The deadly gaze he casts upon the lone child in the room. This Santa means business. – Neil Miller

Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.