Christmas movies can be absolutely brilliant, but sometimes all of the sweetness and light can get a bit much. We need to cut through that sugar with a little bit of sour and spice, writes Rory Cashin. Which is where this list comes in: a countdown of a dozen movies that are set at Christmas, but aren't exactly overflowing with the Christmas spirit
12 BATMAN RETURNS (1992)
This is perhaps the sexiest superhero movie in existence, with Batman and Catwoman discussing wearing rubber and using whips, all while the Penguin is causing absolute chaos in Gotham with exploding Christmas trees and throwing the "ice princess" from the roof of a skyscraper. It is the perfect Christmas movie for people who hate Christmas movies, because all of the nice and happy Christmassy things are somehow weaponised.
11 BLACK CHRISTMAS (Various)
The 1974 original is considered to be one of the very first slasher movies, inspiring the likes of Halloween and Friday the 13th. The 2006 remake is surprisingly violent, and perhaps has the word "Christmas" uttered in it more than any other movie in existence. The 2019 film isn't great, but all three versions basically involve a group of sorority sisters being stalked by an unknown killer, while a huge Christmas storm rages outside.
10 CATCH ME IF YOU CAN (2002)
Spielberg's tale of a teenager (Leonardo DiCaprio) who becomes one of the world's greatest con artists before he even turns 18, and the FBI agent (Tom Hanks) who makes it his life's goal to catch him (if he can!)... It might not seem Christmassy, but there are many scenes of the leading duo set at Christmas time, with DiCaprio realising his life of crime has left him all alone at the time of year he needs people the most. Sniffle.
9 EYES WIDE SHUT (1999)
After a work Christmas party, unhappily married couple (in the movie!) Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman have an argument, and she confesses she's had thoughts of cheating on him. So he heads off into Manhattan to calm down, but happens across an invitation to a Christmas-themed orgy. Director Stanley Kubrick spent 400 days in production on this movie, which still holds the world record for the longest continuous film shoot. For that alone, it is worth your time.
8 GREMLINS (1984)
When a dad forgets to get his son a Christmas present, he resorts to a last-minute decision to buy a weird creature in a weird store, and that is how we're introduced to Gizmo. However, it isn't long before his three rules - no contact with water, no food after midnight, no direct light - are broken, and then we're introduced to Gizmo's angry, much-less-cute brood.
7 IRON MAN 3 (2013)
The Christmassy stuff is put so deep into the background that you barely notice it here. The giant bunny that Tony buys Pepper is a Christmas present, for example. Or when he crash-lands in the small town after the attack on his Malibu home, it is snowing and there are decorations up everywhere - but again, it is all background noise for Stark's story of redemption and personal rediscovery.
6 JUST FRIENDS (2005)
OK, this is VERY Christmassy, with Ryan Reynolds returning to his small home town as a successful and handsome grown man, having been a nervous and shy teenager. But the brilliantly quirky rom-com at the centre of it all does a great job of making you forget about the Christmas stuff. Especially Anna Faris's bonkers portrayal of a pop star who is convinced she can save the world by recording a duet with Bono.
5 KISS KISS BANG BANG (2005)
An old-school murder mystery set in a very modern version of Hollywood - we've got pre-Iron Man Robert Downey Junior and a scene-stealing Val Kilmer investigating a missing-person case, which all kicks off after a Christmas party at a movie producer's mansion goes awry. Still one of the most underappreciated, smart comedies ever made.
4 KRAMPUS (2015)
Imagine everything you love about Christmas. Just close your eyes there and think about it. The family reunion. The presents. The food. Getting cosy around the fire because the weather outside is frightful. Now, imagine a demon has the power to turn all of that into evil, malevolent creatures that try to kill you. Toni Collette, Adam Scott and Anchorman's David Koechner star in this dementedly dark horror comedy that is sure to delight those who are sick of the Christmas sweetness.
3 LA CONFIDENTIAL (1997)
Russell Crowe, Kim Basinger, Danny DeVito, Kevin Spacey, Guy Pearce and more star in this tale of police corruption and organised crime, and it is a movie that still stands tall as one of the greatest crime dramas ever made. But what does any of it have to do with Christmas? Well, it all kicks off when a police officer testifies in a case known as "Bloody Christmas", and the rest of the plot revolves around the aftermath of that case. Without getting into spoilers, a case known as "Bloody Christmas" doesn't end well for everybody.
2 LETHAL WEAPON (1987)
If we're not including Die Hard, then we have to include this one. Mel Gibson and Danny Glover are mismatched detectives who are forced to work together on a suspected murder case. It leads to shoot-outs, explosions, double crosses... everything you'd expect from one of the greatest buddy-cop action comedies ever made. And it all leads up to Glover inviting Gibson over for Christmas dinner, and they become one big, happy, very well-armed family.
1 THE LONG KISS GOODNIGHT (1996)
Geena Davis is the loving wife and mother who was found eight years earlier on a beach, suffering from amnesia. This Christmas, her gift is the sudden return of her memories, and it turns out she used to be a highly trained assassin. She ends up teaming up with Samuel L Jackson to get revenge on those who have done her wrong, all while still trying to keep her husband and young daughter unaware of how lethal she truly is.