Every holiday season the same dozen or so movies get played over and over again. Heck, “A Christmas Story” is annually aired for 24 hours on Christmas day. But there are alternatives — films that aren’t necessarily about the holiday season, but feature key scenes or plot points centered around Christmas or New Year’s Eve. Here are five options to help provide something different this holiday season.
“The Apartment” (1960)
This Billy Wilder comedy stars Jack Lemmon as an office worker who is promised upward mobility if he allows executives to use his apartment for their trysts. Things become complicated when Lemmon falls in love with the spurned mistress (Shirley MacLaine) of his boss (Fred MacMurray). It is on New Year’s Eve that MacLaine has to decide between the two men in her life in this poignant, surprisingly dark look at love.
“Trading Places” (1983)
A couple of Wall Street bigwigs (Ralph Bellamy and Don Ameche) decide to switch the lives of one their star traders (Dan Aykroyd) with a street hustler (Eddie Murphy) and bet whether Murphy will rise to the occasion and Aykroyd will become just another bum. Aykroyd spends a good chunk of screen time as a drunken Santa before teaming up with Murphy to get payback. Their revenge scheme includes a lengthy New Year’s Eve party sequence on a train involving, among other things, Aykroyd in black face, Jamie Lee Curtis in a mountain climbing outfit and a gorilla.
“Die Hard” (1988)
It is easy to forget that “Die Hard,” the movie that made Bruce Willis an action star by trapping him in a building with sophisticated terrorists led by Alan Rickman, is set during the holiday season. In fact, it was a Christmas party that brought Willis' New York cop to the Los Angeles office building in the first place. The holiday backdrop is just one aspect that helps to fuel the tension and adds an extra layer of humor. It was a theme that was carried over to “Die Hard 2.”
“When Harry Met Sally” (1989)
One of the quintessential modern romantic comedies chronicles the relationship of the title characters (Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan) over the years from adversaries to friends and eventually lovers. The closing scenes are at New Year’s Eve party in which the couple finally realizes that they’re perfect for each other. It is a satisfying conclusion to a movie that is an observant, funny and smart look at relationships.
“About a Boy” (2002)
Hugh Grant stars as a man who lives off the royalties from a Christmas song his father wrote. He invents an imaginary child to pick up women at a single parents support group, but instead of finding a fling he picks up a new friend in the form of an awkward 12-year-old boy with a suicidal mother. This odd couple helps each other to become better version of themselves. There are scenes at an oddball Christmas party and, more crucially, Grant meets the first woman (Rachel Weisz) he ever wanted something real with at a New Year’s Eve party. It may sound trite and cloying, but it is funny, heartfelt and genuine.