Bah humbug! Best films for avoiding the holidays

Bah humbug! Best films for avoiding the holidays


Bah humbug

Christmas can be such a let-down, with the high-pitch voices of small children, dry turkey and a complete lack of decent TV all culprits. Escapism beckons. It used to be a time for great movies on TV, but now you're lucky if you get Finding Nemo or, worse, The Santa Clause on Christmas Day. Neither does the family-friendly Christmas cheer make for good TV – it's all repeats from the 1970s and Christmas Specials that are anything but. Bah humbug!

Fury (2014)

Bah humbug

Where to watch: NOW TV

Running time: 2hr 9mins

Nothing says Christmas like a good war movie, and Fury is one of the best WWII films since Saving Private Ryan and The Thin Red Line. It's is a Brad Pitt vehicle in the purest sense.

His Sgt. Warddaddy is a veteran US Army tank commander who's seen it all, but cracks start to show both in him and in his ever-loyal crew as his Sherman rolls into Germany in April 1945 to closeout WWII. It's shocking, it's disgusting, and it's addictively tense.

If you want to binge on blood and bravery on Boxing Day, try HBO's Band of Brothers boxset, or the underrated follow-up, The Pacific; both are available on Amazon Video.

The Hobbit Trilogy (2012-2014)

Bah humbug

Where to watch: Netflix

Running time: 2hrs 42mins/2hrs 41mins/2hrs 24mins

It's been a year since the new Hobbit films dried-up, so Christmas 2015 is our first festive chance to watch Peter Jackson's trilogy in its entirety. Amazon has the complete set – An Unexpected Journey, The Desolation of Smaug and The Battle of The Five Armies – and Netflix only the last two, but why stop there?

If you have time, Amazon also has The Fellowship of the Ring (3hrs 48mins) and The Two Towers (3 hours, 55 mins), from the Lord of the Rings sequel, though oddly lacks the final instalment.

Star Wars: A New Hope (1977)

Bah humbug

Where to watch: Now TV

Running time: 1hr 59mins

Seen The Force Awakens? Loved it? Hated it? Either way, the original is better. Obviously. Anyone old enough to remember the annual attempt to record a Star Wars film on a VHS tape on Christmas Day – complete with manual pausing during the adverts – will perhaps find watching the original after the Queen's Speech a little sentimental.

However, that original TV version from the 1980s is long gone, replaced forever by the rubbish 'special' effects and numerous additions inserted into the 2004 versions on Amazon and Now TV. But it's still the best space flick ever. Obviously.

Primer (2004)

Bah humbug

Where to watch: Netflix

Running time: 1hr 14mins

Forget The Blair Witch Project; here's how you make a gripping low-budget indie thriller. Made for a paltry US$7,000 a decade ago, this award-winning cult film follows the accidental invention of a time machine and its consequences, but the out-of-sequence narrative, blistering ending and (best of all) total lack of sci-fi flab begs a second and third watch.

Both Amazon Video and Netflix also have director Shane Caruth's follow-up, 2013's Upstream Color. Get to know him know him now; his next project is the pricier The Modern Ocean starring Daniel Radcliffe, Jeff Goldblum and Keanu Reeves.

Bad Santa (2003)

Bah humbug

Where to watch: Now TV

Running time: 1hr 35mins

Have yourself a sweary, sweary Christmas. Lewd; that's probably the best way of summing-up this anti-Christmas cult comedy caper about a loser who dresses-up as Santa Claus in a shopping mall so he can case the joint.

Dishing out endless, deeply offensive verbal abuse rather than gifts, Billy Bob Thornton's foul-mouthed Willie nevertheless finds some kind of redemption (well, it is Christmas!). But if you want festive spirit, go find the booze; Willie would.

Seriously, do not watch Bad Santa with children or elderly relatives – it's disgusting.

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya (2013)

Bah humbug

Where to watch: Amazon Video

Running time: 1hr 25mins

So Pixar flicks for kids contain hidden adult humour, yeah? If you're still peddling that desperate line, our Christmas gift to you – whatever your age – is the astonishingly creative work of Japan's cult animation house Studio Ghibli, whose recent work The Tale of Princess Kaguya is presently the only example available on any streaming service.

Set in 10th-century Japan, this is a powerful and immaculate allegory about a father's greed and the brevity of life is 'ideal for all the family' in that it lacks the moralising or predictability of Hollywood guff. It's also got that rarest kind of finale that will simultaneously make you smile and wobble your bottom lip while your jaw drops.

Now that's cinema.

Empire of the Sun (1987)

Bah humbug

Where to watch: Now TV

Running time: 2hrs 26mins

Considering that 2015 has seen the 70th anniversary of the dropping of the A-bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it's a good time to revisit this gripping wartime drama, and easily one of Steven Spielberg 's finest films. Based on author J G Ballard's (whose books have also spawned Crash! and the upcoming High-Rise) semi-autobiographical novel, Empire of the Sun tells the story of the hyperactive and increasingly un-hinged school-boy Jim Graham (played by a 13-year old Christian Bale) while held captive in a Japanese POW camp near Shanghai.

Watch out for the surreal Nagasaki A-bomb dream sequence near the tear-jerker of an ending.

Donnie Darko (2001)

Bah humbug

Where to watch: Amazon Video and Netflix

Running time: 1hr 53mins

28 days, 6 hours, 42 minutes, 12 seconds. That is when the world will end. So says The Bunny, but what does it all mean? This thriller about a suburban teen in a tangent universe and his search for Grandma Death's book The Philosophy of Time Travel is both bizarre and utterly refreshing. Breakthrough roles for Jake and Maggie Gyllenhaal aside, there's a slight festive angle if you need one; 2003's Christmas No.1 in the UK, Gary Jules' Mad World, is from Darko's 'alternative' 1980s soundtrack (think Echo and the Bunnymen, INXS and Joy Division). Netflix also has the Directors Cut (2hrs 13mins), while Amazon hosts the little-known (or loved) cash-in sequel, S. Darko – A Donnie Darko Tale.

The Passion of the Christ (2004)

Bah humbug

Where to watch: Amazon Video and Netflix

Running time: 2hrs 1min

Hang on, a nativity film? No, really, it's not. Whatever your beliefs, a modern Christmas now has more to do with Santa Claus and shopping than religion, but Mel Gibson's harrowing, violent biopic of Jesus Christ remains a powerful historical film.

Slated as being both anti-semitic and 'torture' porn' (obviously a popular mix – it made a staggering US$600 million in cinemas), this warts 'n' all depiction of the final 12 hours of JC's life is closer to being a horror movie that anything remotely religious.

Happy Winter Gifting Season!

And Now For Something Completely Different (1971)

Bah humbug

Where to watch: Netflix

Running time: 1hr 28mins

Straight after The Passion of the Christ would be a good time to stream the Life of Brian, but in the absence of that work of genius from streaming apps you'll just have to make do with And Now For Something Completely Different.

From gangs of old ladies attacking defenceless young men and Lion Tamer Accountant to the Lumberjack Song, The Ministry of Silly Walks and Upperclass Twit of the Year, this compilation of Monty Python's best sketches from the 1960s series, re-made in 1971, shows the gang at the height of their powers.

Don't miss the Townswomen's Guild of Sheffield's moving reenactment of the Battle of Pearl Harbour. Stop that, it's silly!


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