Which Christmas movie will you choose this holiday season? You could go with a holiday classic like It’s A Wonderful Life, or a new classic like Elf, or a suddenly trendy not-really Christmas movie like Die Hard. You could do that, but we think you’d be better off thinking outside the box. Why not watch a sci-fi Christmas movie this year?
Since their inception, movies have loved to use holidays as a backdrop to the stories they tell. It makes sense. Celebrated by large swathes of the population, their inclusion lends an air of commonality to the proceedings, a sense that the people on screen are not so different from you the viewer.
Each holiday comes with its own set of easily recognizable tropes, and many bring with them their own set of complications and problems to add layers to a narrative. How many times have we watched a family gathering set on Thanksgiving, where people not usually in the same room with one another come to blows, real or metaphorical, when forced into close proximity? Instead, why not unite around a shared love of science fiction with a sci-fi Christmas movie?
Christmas, being the biggest kid on the holiday block, has easily amassed the greatest number of holiday-themed movies. Science fiction is not immune from taking part in the christmas movie festivities.
In honor of December 25 rolling around once again, we’ve put together a collection of the best Sci-Fi Christmas movies.
Send A Baby By Basket With Batman Returns
While Batman Returns may not actually be about Christmas, it’s set during Christmas and because it’s directed by Tim Burton (who has another movie on this list) it does a great job of capturing the feel of a snowy Christmas city under siege by an evil, penguin-shaped villain. It also contains a bunch of really strange hidden references to biblical stories (in particular Christ and Moses). Penguin is literally sent down a river in a basket to his adopted family. I’m surprised Charlton Heston didn’t make a cameo.
Batman Returns is also just a really good movie, maybe one of the most underrated superhero movies of all time. The original Tim Burton Batman movie gets all the credit, but the sequel might in its own way be even better. It’s a great way to start your sci-fi Christmas movie viewing.
Spend Christmas In Brazil
Part sharp political satire, part slapstick dystopian nightmare, Brazil is Terry Gilliam at the peak of his considerable filmmaking powers and its a sci-fi Christmas movie to the core. The battle to get the movie to the big screen is almost as epic as the film itself, with Gilliam in the role of the hero slaying the metaphorical monsters of studio executives.
Set against the backdrop of Christmas in an über-materialistic, overly bureaucratic society, Brazil is the story of Sam Lowry (Jonathan Pryce), a low-level office worker with an overactive fantasy life who smashes through all social mores and regulations to maybe save an imagined damsel in distress. Near equal parts hilarious absurdity and grim prognosticating, Gilliam’s Brazil shreds institutional and societal conventions with a razor wit, fabricating a world that is both entirely foreign and all too familiar. An early scene in Lowry’s office is eerily similar to the day jobs most of us slog through.
Feel The Sharp Power Of Christmas With Edward Scissorhands
Is Edward Scissorhands science fiction, fantasy, or is it just weird? It’s probably all three. Tim Burton, the man responsible for an undisputed holiday classic in The Nightmare Before Christmas was behind this strange Johnny Depp Christmas movie. For all his strangeness Burton really gets Christmas and goes back to it a lot, resulting in this being the second of two Burton movies to make this Sci-Fi Christmas movies list.
This one, unlike Batman Returns, is more overtly about the holiday season… and what it’s like to have really sharp hands. Edward Scissorhands is all about the power of Christmas and by the time it’s over you’ll feel it.
Get Drunk On Eggnog With Idris Elba In Prometheus
If you’re like us, and I suspect many of you are, the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the Alien universe is, of course, Christmas. Those slobbery, acid-blooded xenomorphs scream holiday spirit like nothing else in sci-fi.
Ridley Scott’s 2012 adventure Prometheus, takes this to heart, and the action goes down around Christmas. While not the game-changing event many fans hoped it would be, I’m of the camp that thinks Prometheus got a bit of a bum rap. Are there problems, big problems? To be sure. And it is full of the worst cinematic decision-making this side of the Hangover movies, but you’ll enjoy it.
It’s worth watching to see the scene with drunk Idris Elba and the Christmas tree alone. You might not want to watch it on the actual holiday, however, especially with family, that alien-fetus abortion scene could lead to some awkward dinner table conversations. Family gatherings are already tense enough without opening up that can of worms with a Christmas movie.
Be Traditional With Scrooged
Most people categorize Scrooged as just a straight up Christmas movie, given that it’s a riff on the classic A Christmas Carol tale. But this version is centered around a hardened TV executive and ends up involving a lot of strange high-tech imagery. One of the ghosts is literally made of televisions. Another ghost is more of a Walking Dead style zombie, than an actual incorporeal spectre. The result is the most science fiction feeling riff on A Christmas Carol that’s ever been done.
Scrooged is also just one of the best Christmas movies ever made, belonging firmly entrenched on any serious list about the holiday. So we’re slotting it in here, oddly positioned among a bunch of more purely Sci-Fi Christmas movies.
Get Stuck In A Chimney With Gremlins
Gremlins taught us many important life lessons, chief among them is that when a wise old man at a mysterious, hole-in-the-wall shop gives you a set of very specific instructions for the feeding and care of that strange pet you just bought, you follow those directions, to the letter. You don’t get it wet, no matter how bad it smells. You don’t feed it after midnight, even if it looks hungry and makes adorable I’m-hungry-please-feed-me-even-though-it’s-after-midnight noises. None of that. No, you listen to that wise old man because he is wise, and he is old, and he knows what the hell he’s talking about.
Now I know you’re a snot-nosed teen and you think you have it all figured out, but come on, there’s a reason he’s a wise old man and you’re just a punk kid. Also, be careful what you give as gifts this holiday season. Sure, it isn’t like giving a hyperactive kid a drum set, but a house full of Gremlins will most likely come back to bite you on the ass.
So before you dress up like Santa and drop down your chimney to surprise your kids with presents, make sure you watch Gremlins and pay attention to the worst Christmas story ever…
Celebrate The Birth Of A Savior With Children Of Men
Christmas is all about celebrating the birth of the child who ultimately became the savior of all mankind. Alfonso Cuaron’s 2006 film Children of Men is about a birth, one that many people want to stop, of a child who could very well be the key to the continued survival of the human race. Do you think it’s a coincidence that the dystopian drama is set around the holiday?
As much as I love his other work, like Y Tu Mama Tambien and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, this sci-fi Christmas movie is easily my favorite of Cuaron’s movies. Thematically dense and tonally damn near perfect, his breathtaking visual style, in my opinion, is even more impressive here than in Gravity. Children of Men is one of those rare movies that manages to be bleak and optimistic all at the same time, and isn’t that what this time of year is all about, dealing with crushing realities and trying to find a glimmer of hope anywhere you can?
Celebrate Christmas In Space With Santa Claus Conquers The Martians
This one sort of gives itself away, but we simply had to include it. With a name like Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, you know you’re on the right track. In reality, this 1964 sci-fi holiday movie isn’t very good. That much is probably obvious from the sheer number of worst-movies-ever lists it appears on.
That said, what a concept! The film delivers exactly what the title promises, a jolly fat man in a red suit battling it out aliens. Why, you may ask? For the kids, that’s why. See, Santa doesn’t just care about the young here on Earth. Oh no, he’s universal, and when the children of Mars need saving from their strict, overbearing parents, who better to help out than old Saint Nick?
Maybe you should watch it with the RiffTrax on. Cinematic Titanic and MST3K have also had their way with the film, so you have options. Do yourself a favor, if you do decide this is the sci-fi christmas movie for you, watch one of these versions, I’d hate to be responsible for ruining your holiday cheer.
Have A Creepy Christmas With Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale
It’s true that Jalmari Helander’s 2010 Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale is probably more horror than it is science fiction or fantasy, but it’s so much twisted holiday fun that we had to include it on this list. And it does at least involve a scientist, he’s the one who orders Santa’s grave to be excavated, thus dooming a bunch of unsuspecting Finns to rather unpleasant fates. This may be a tenuous connection, but we’ll take it and call this one of our sci-fi Christmas movies.
People need to learn that no good will come from disturbing an old grave, none at all. The basis for the original Santa Claus myth, this particular incarnation is more on the side of punishing the naughty children rather than rewarding those who behave, and in this day and age, there’s way more naughty than nice. Rare Exports certainly isn’t the first holiday slasher, but it is wildly original, and more than a little insane, and doesn’t that sound like one hell of a way to celebrate Christmas?
Watch Christmas Heal A Hero In Iron Man 3
Iron Man 3 is the only Iron Man film not directed by Jon Favreau. Instead they went to Shane Black, who had already proven his ability to capture the Christmas spirit in unusual places with the cult hit Robert Downey Jr. film noir Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and by writing the low-key Christmas themed Lethal Weapon.
The movie takes place almost entirely during the Christmas season. At one point Iron Man even ends up entangled in Christmas lights. But it’s more than just window dressing. Iron Man 3 finds Tony Stark struggling with post traumatic stress ands up being a movie about healing, the kind of thing which fits right in with any Christmas movie theme. That is, of course, in addition to plenty of scenes in which Iron Man kicks ass. Merry Christmas, let’s get Shawarma.