The Cult of Action: Holiday Action Movies
The best holiday action movies the human race has to offer, give or take a few.
Published on December 20, 2013 | Filed under The Cult of Action
The Cult of Action

Hello, action fans! It’s that time of year. The time when everyone watches Home Alone, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, It’s a Wonderful Life and a variety of other Christmas classics. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love all of these movies. I love them, and I watch them every year, and I will probably go to at least two of the Quote-a-long showings at my local Alamo Drafthouse. However, as a lifelong action fan, I feel the need to indulge in some holiday entertainment that is both less wholesome and more violent. I suspect you need the same, so, here is a list of some things to watch to get your action fix while you bake cookies, hang stockings or roast chestnuts.

Die Hard

Die Hard Ok, I probably don’t need to go into this much, since I’m sure everyone reading this recognizes that Die Hard is the greatest Christmas movie of all time. Also, I wrote pretty extensively about it in my first column here. So, yeah, you don’t need me to tell you that John McClane’s entire adventure in the Nakatomi Building takes place on Christmas Eve and is totally awesome. Moving on.

Rocky IV

Rocky IV Not often given its due as a Christmas movie, many seem to forget that Rocky Balboa knocking the communism out of Ivan Drago happens on Christmas day. It’s true. The red, white and blue taking down the hammer and sickle via a boxing match happens on the birth of our other savior, the one that isn’t Rocky Balboa. Plus there’s a ton of snow and wintry weather going on as Rocky trains on the frozen Siberian tundra or wherever the fuck he’s supposed to be pulling those logs in the snow.

Lethal Weapon

Lethal Weapon Remember when Mel Gibson only played a crazy person in movies? Ah, the salad days. Lethal Weapon is the film that introduced us to Riggs and Murtaugh, and let us know that the old cop’s age is never important, just that he’s “too old for this shit.” The entire film takes place in December, and after Riggs beats the living fuck out of Gary Busey’s Mr. Joshua on Murtaugh’s front lawn, he’s invited to Christmas dinner so Murtaugh’s eldest daughter can ogle his mullet and swoon at his Aussie accent across the table. (Side note: remember when Mel Gibson had an Australian accent?)

Santa's Slay

Santa’s Slay Ok, so, strictly speaking, this is more of a horror movie than an action movie, but the alternative was to include Santa with Muscles, and since I can’t recommend that movie to anyone for any reason, because it’s so completely unwatchable, I figured I’d go with this. This movie turned out to be better than I ever expected. Essentially, pro wrestler Bill Goldberg plays Santa. Evil Santa. See, what you don’t know is that Santa has always been evil, but he lost a bet with an angel 1,000 years ago over a curling match and he has to be good and bring toys to kids for 1,000 years. Uh-oh. Did you see that bit of math trickery? So… now he doesn’t have to be nice anymore, and chaos of the most excellent and self-aware kind follows. The people who made this knew exactly what they were doing, and this is evident from the first scene, when Santa kills Fran Drescher and Chris Kattan. Two thumbs up.


Trancers A low-budget attempt to do something sort of like Blade Runner, this film sees b-rate star Tim Thomerson as future cop Jack Deth travel to the past to bone a pre-“Mad About You” Helen Hunt and fight evil trancers, beings that are… ah, fuck it, they’re just zombies, but they don’t spread their disease with bites, there’s a bad guy who makes people trancers. The important thing is that punk rock Helen Hunt (you can tell, because she has a blue streak in her hair, you see) works as one of Santa’s elves at a shopping mall, and the first trancer we see get dispatched in the past is, you guessed it, Santa himself. Well, not himself, I guess. It’s a mall Santa, but whatever. It works. The film is something of a low budget masterpiece, with competent action sequences, laughable effects and stilted dialogue. Despite all of this, it spawned five sequels.

So, hey, get your action fix and your holiday fix at the same time. Make these movies just as much of a holiday tradition as gingerbread men and your yearly viewing of Scrooged.

Joe is the co-creator of the Action Cast!, a biweekly podcast about action movies hosted at OnTheStick.com, along with his other podcasts. He's also a film school dropout, a former pro wrestler and a struggling actor. He moved to Washington, D.C. in 2013, and so far has spent more money in D.C. on revival screenings than first run films.
Joe Drilling

  • Seth Goodkind

    Personally, I absolutely have to watch Invasion USA on Christmas day every year. One doesn’t often remember because it’s set in Florida and there’s no snow, but it takes place at Christmas and boy do those Soviets (and Cubans) have a grand old time stomping all over THAT American tradition. For a minute anyway.

  • Jox

    What about DARK ANGEL a.k.a. I COME IN PEACE?

  • Elwood Jones

    I know everyone gets exzcited about “Die Hard” at this time of year and with good reason seeing how it’s so darn awesome. But where is the love for “Die Hard 2: Die Harder” which also takes place at Christmas.

    Sadly the McClane’s would have terrorist free Christmas’s in the years which followed, but it is still a great double feature.