Welcome to Flavorwire’s streaming movie guide, in which we help you sift through the scores of movies streaming on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and other services to find the best of the recently available, freshly relevant, or soon to expire. As you may have noticed, the holiday season is upon us, so we’ve gathered up some of our favorite traditional and non-traditional Christmas flicks, including the likes of Bill Murray, Tom Cruise, Robert Downey Jr., Chevy Chase, Nicole Kidman, Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thornton, John Cusack, Lauren Graham, Kevin Spacey, Eddie Murphy, Dan Aykroyd, Denis Leary, Michelle Monaghan, Judy Davis, Val Kilmer, Mel Gibson, Jamie Lee Curtis, Danny Glover, and more. Check them out after the jump, and follow the title links to watch them right now.
An obvious pick, sure — but for good reason. Screenwriter John Hughes’ third installment of the Griswold family saga has become the most beloved of the series, but that’s not just because of cable stations with holiday airtime to fill. Hughes and director Jeremiah S. Chechik stack one classic comic sequence on top of another, but with just enough acid (Clark’s rant at his bonus-shafting boss), snark (Chevy Chase’s distaste for Randy Quaid’s Cousin Eddie is the gift that keeps on giving), and genuine heart to make this one a deserved Christmas classic. Shitter’s full! (Streaming free on Netflix and Amazon Prime)
Bill Murray had been absent from the silver screen (save for his Little Shop of Horrors cameo) for four long years when he finally returned to star in Richard Donner’s ‘80s take on Dickens, kind of a Christmas Carol meets Wall Street. The film has acquired the reputation of a typical feel-good holiday charmer, and its warm, heartfelt closing sequence (much of it reportedly improvised by Mr. Murray) certainly bears that rep out. But until then, this is dark, twisted, funny stuff, with such unexpected touches as mushroom cloud-heavy holiday promos (“That looked like the Manson family Christmas special!”), discussions of TV nudity (“Well, I’m sure Charles Dickens would have wanted to see her nipples”), and a sugarplum fairy with a mean right hook (“the bitch hit me with a toaster!”). In its first two hilarious acts, Scrooged feels less like Dickens than Saturday Night Live, where screenwriters Mitch Glazer and Michael O’Donoghue cut their teeth in the show’s early years. (Streaming free on Amazon Prime)
Bad Santa, on the other hand, has exactly the reputation it deserves. This is a rude, crude, uproarious bit of bitter-tasting holiday backwash, with Billy Bob Thornton playing a horny, unshaven, unshowered, piss-drunk (and piss-pantsed) department store Santa as if perpetually in the clutches of a particularly wicked hangover. There’s plenty here to offend, with Thornton’s hammered Santa beating the shit out of papier-mâché animals, urinating on himself in the Santa chair, and sodomizing a clerk in the plus-size dressing room. Lauren Graham adds able support as the poster girl for Santa fetishists everywhere. (Available for rental on Amazon)
Billy Bob Thornton does the sour Yuletide thing again, this time co-starring with John Cusack in Harold Ramis’ underrated adaptation of Scott Phillips’ darkly comic crime novel. The duo play a lawyer and businessman who rip off the mob on Christmas Eve, resulting in multiple double-crosses and dead bodies, copious holiday drinking, and such holiday cheer as “Only morons are nice on Christmas” and “Christmas Eve. Ho ho fucking ho!” (Streaming free on Netflix)
Not a Christmas movie per se, but with one very memorable Christmas sequence, in which Dan Aykroyd’s fallen businessman, who could give Bad Santa’s Willie Stokes a run for his money in both the drunkenness and body odor department, dons a Santa suit to sneak into his former employer’s Christmas party and plant drugs in the desk of his replacement. It goes, well, poorly, but Aykroyd does manage to make it out of the bash with a full side of salmon, which he then consumes on a city bus. Happy holidays! (Streaming free on Netflix and Amazon Prime)
Decades back, parents’ groups picketed (and, for a while, buried) the Santa-themed slasher movie Silent Night, Deadly Night. Director Dick Maas’s 2010 Dutch film is actually not that different, thematically — but what a difference a skewed approach can make. Instead of doing a straight Friday the 13th rip-off, Maas constructs his film as a clever parody of horror conventions (and of tough-cop action flicks to boot), and crafts his story around the original St. Nick story instead of the jollier modern counterpart. Twisted, sharp, and wickedly funny stuff. (Streaming free on Netflix)
Forget religious observance, holiday cheer, and the warmth of family. Stanley Kubrick’s 1999 final film, set during the Christmas season, knows what that time of year is really all about: the quest for jealousy sex to get back at your hot, taunting wife. (Available for rental on Amazon)
I can remember, a few years back, when it was still a big laugh to pronounce Die Hard your favorite Christmas movie; with its template-setting action and endless sequels, everyone had kinda forgotten about its Yuletide flavor, from the company Christmas party setting and jingle bells buried in the score to the “HO HO HO” sweatshirt and key role of wrapping tape in the big climax. The joke has dried up from over-telling these days. It’s no longer subversive to queue up Die Hard at Christmastime, but merely an excuse (like you need one!) to watch it once a year. (Available for rental on Amazon)
Writer/director Shane Black’s wickedly funny 2005 comic mystery makes even less use of the holiday than Die Hard — it’s mostly just background and occasional comic counterpoint, but if including it on this list will get this little masterpiece in front of a few more sets of eyes, hey, that’s my little contribution to peace on earth and goodwill to all. (Available for rental on Amazon)
Shane Black’s love for the Christmas season is kind of a running joke in his films (Iron Man 3 is also set, incongruously enough, during the holidays), going clear back to his first big script, for Richard Donner’s 1987 buddy cop comedy. Of course, most Christmas movies don’t include a drug deal and shoot-out at a Christmas tree lot, but hey, it was the ‘80s. (Available for rental on Amazon)
Quick, what’s the single greatest line of dialogue in any Christmas movie? “God bless us, every one”? “Teacher says every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings”? “You’ll shoot your eye out”? Nah. This one’s easy: “You know what I’m going to get you next Christmas, Mom? A big wooden cross, so that every time you feel unappreciated for your sacrifices, you can climb on up and nail yourself to it.” (Available for rental on Amazon)
Our own Alison Nastasi recently shared this horrifying “Santa Claus fever dream” from director R. Winer, but trust me: watching it is not the kind of ordeal you’ll want to undertake alone. Instead, I suggest a guided tour from the Mystery Science Theater 3000 alumni at Rifftrax, who offer up this surreal, peculiar, and downright horrifying film for streaming over at their site, with appropriately befuddled (and uproarious) commentary.