With some downtime around the house this time of year, thoughts naturally turn to that oh-so-sweet blend of holiday action films.
Here is a rundown of some of our favorites and why.
Now we aren't talking about the 1950s B&W version-- which starred James Arness of Gunsmoke fame as the eponymous alien creep-- this is the 1982 John Carpenter classic. Starring Snake Plissken, err Jack Burton, err we mean Kurt Russell, this frozen sci-fi horror flick has some great guns-- including an airborne scene with an HK93-- in use as a band of Antarctic researchers and their helicopter pilot get down and dirty with a shape-shifting invader from another planet. While not set at Christmas itself, it has a lot of the other essential elements to a great holiday movie such as atmosphere, hope, and redemption.
The Long Kiss Goodnight
While you don't think of Geena Davis as an action star, she portrayed a Jason Bourne-esque forcibly retired assassin in this 1996 film by the guy who messed up Die Hard 2. Davis goes blonde, teams up with hard-luck private dick Samuel L. Jackson, and goes looking for some payback. In the end, the film is about family, a common Christmas theme, and naturally, redemption. It also helps that the movie is set at Christmas itself, with the opening scene even taking place at a Christmas party. Further, there are some great guns including a 6-inch stainless Colt King Cobra used by SLJ ("This ain't no ham on rye, pal.") and a satin nickel West German Sig P226. Even rare sub guns like a Steyr TMP and Walther MPL make cameos. All in all, not too shabby.
This Chuck Norris classic starts with suburban America getting ready to drink eggnog and sing carols-- the opening line of the trailer is "Merry Christmas,"-- but random and easily killed international terrorists arrive to pull the grinch card. This causes Chuck, in his pre-Glock days, to don a Canadian tuxedo and a pair of DeSantis shoulder-rigged Micro UZIs before serving up a Christmas smackdown punctuated by epic one-liners. The Georgia Army National Guard even lent armor and air support to the film, so the SFX is on point for 1985.
Perhaps the king of 1980s action movies with redemption in the final act, Rambo: First Blood is totally a Christmas film. The town that Stallone's Rambo enters quietly is named Hope, there are holiday decorations at the sheriff's office, and elsewhere, and the former Green Beret's lack of family and friends sets the stage for the resolution where Col. Trautman-- his last semblance of a family-- arrives on the scene. Christmas. Action. Movie.
This one is such a layup for this category we were almost ashamed to include it. Reviewed previously in these pages, Fatman is centered on a grizzled Chris Cringle, portrayed by Mel Gibson, as he fights off persistent assassination attempts by a disgruntled former Santa letter writer-turned-hitman played by Walton Goggins. Filled with Christmas tropes and spiced up with a bit of gunplay, there is no way this film is mistaken for anything other than what it is: a great holiday action movie.
The movie that sold thousands of Beretta 92s, 1987's Lethal Weapon is without a doubt an action movie. Also without a doubt is the fact that it is a Christmas movie. Mel Gibson's Martin Riggs is a broken man whose redemptive journey translates to the story of Christmas and, in the end, leaves him with a new family that accepts him despite his sharp edges. Besides, it opens with "Jingle Bell Rock" and includes a fight in a Christmas tree lot. Come on.
For a further debate on this, see competitive shooter Caleb Giddings's take on the subject, below, where he compares it directly to one of the most iconic Christmas films, It's a Wonderful Life.
While Bruce Willis says it isn't, Die Hard director John McTiernan this year confirmed to the American Film Institute that this 1988 film is a Christmas classic. Set at a holiday party crashed by a Eurotrash band of top-shelf crooks, Willis's John McLane tosses a Santa hat on a dispatched bad guy, and Run-D.M.C.’s "Christmas In Hollis" runs in the opening credits. Plus, if you are a Beretta 92 of HK MP5 fan, this movie is an icon. As they say, "It's not Christmas until Hans Gruber falls from Nakatomi Plaza."
For a deep dive into the film, including validation of the McLane Duct Tape drill, check out James Reeves's nearly 20-minute take on Die Hard, below.