At the end of every year, most TV networks are content to trot out the same lineup of undisputed Christmas classics: It’s a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street, and White Christmas among them. But for every heartwarming fable about family and togetherness, there’s a darker holiday-themed movie for those who prefer their entertainment coal-black instead of snow-white. Here are 12 Christmas movies on the “naughty” list:
1. Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964)
This bizarre B-movie, in which Santa Claus is kidnapped by Martians who want to secure presents for Martian children, has been voted the 84th worst film in history by IMDB users, but the film remains a cult hit for a certain segment of the “so bad it’s good” crowd.
2. Black Christmas (1974)
This holiday-themed slasher movie, released years before similar films such as Halloween or Friday the 13th, features a series of un-merry yuletide murders that include a death by Christmas ornament. A remake hit theaters in 2006.
3. Gremlins (1984)
Joe Dante’s horror-comedy Gremlins begins when the protagonist’s father buys him a mysterious creature called a Mogwai for Christmas. Disaster follows when he fails to follow the specific instructions for Mogwai care, including the most pivotal rule: Never let the creature get wet.
4. Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)
This horror film, which features a deranged killer who dresses as Santa Claus, proved so controversial that commercials featuring its axe-wielding St. Nick — including the following ad — were pulled due to complaints.
5. Die Hard (1988)
This Bruce Willis-starring action classic (a fourth sequel is coming out next year) relies heavily on the unjolly juxtaposition of terrorists and Christmas time for its mood. Note the immortal line: “Now I have a machine gun. Ho, ho, ho.”
6. Die Hard 2: Die Harder (1990)
When Die Hard proved a smash success, producers elected to set its sequel on the subsequent Christmas Eve, making Bruce Willis’ John McClane the unluckiest yuletide reveler ever.
7. Bad Santa (2003)
Every minute of this raunchy black comedy — which stars Billy Bob Thornton as a boozing, cursing mall Santa who uses his position to rob the shopping center every Christmas Eve — earns its R rating. A sequel is reportedly in the works.
8. 2046 (2004)
This Shanghai-set drama by director Wong Kar-Wai chronicles a lonely young writer’s relationships with several women over the course of several Christmas Eves. Dense and atmospheric.
9. Santa’s Slay (2005)
According to this over-the-top horror-comedy, Santa Claus is actually Satan’s son. Unsurprisingly, Satan Jr. decides to reinvent Christmas as a season devoted to spreading "a little yuletide fear.”
10. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)
Long before breaking back into the A-list with Iron Man and Sherlock Holmes, Robert Downey Jr. mounted his comeback in this stylish comedy-noir about a series of murders that take place in Los Angeles over the Christmas season.
11. Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010)
The latest and most critically acclaimed film in the Christmas horror canon is a strange tale about the discovery of the “real” Santa Claus, who turns out to be a lot less kindly than the St. Nick of lore.
12. A Very Merry Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas (2011)
In the third entry in the stoner-comedy franchise, the titular characters' quest to replace a destroyed Christmas tree leads to a series of bizarre encounters with everyone from Santa Claus to Neil Patrick Harris.