10 Great Movie Christmas Parties

Hark! Film critic Alonso Duralde picks 10 classic big-screen yuletide celebrations.

by | December 20, 2016 | Comments

‘Tis the season to awkwardly clutch a plastic cup full of lukewarm egg nog while having awkward conversations with co-workers and distant relations as “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” plays loudly in the background. Or you could ditch the boring holiday get-togethers on your calendar and check out the wild and crazy merriment from some of our favorite Christmas movies:

It's a Wonderful Life (1946) 94%


You’ve got a roomful of your closest friends and most beloved family members, everyone is there to tell you you’re awesome (and to give you money in your time of need!), Mr. Martini is pouring the wine, and Burt the cop is playing the accordion. What else do you need at a Christmas party?

Desk Set (1957) 100%


With the prospect of looming unemployment because of the computer that’s being built in their department by Richard Sumner (Spencer Tracy), the research librarians at the Federal Broadcasting Network – led by the usually level-headed Bunny Watson (Katharine Hepburn) – cut loose at their annual Christmas party, knocking back the drinks, dancing around a piano stolen from one of the TV studios, and generally making mad merriment. “How does champagne go with Four Roses, scotch, martinis and Bloody Marys?” asks Peg Costello (Joan Blondell).

The Apartment (1960) 93%


Three years after Desk Set, Billy Wilder’s acclaimed tragicomedy upped the stakes on the great American office party, showing the kind of corporate bacchanal that would send modern-day HR officers into a frenzy. It’s a wild time, but it also captures the film’s horrendously sexist microcosm, where dorky executives cheat on their wives, exploit their secretaries, and generally mow down any woman in their path in true Mad Men fashion.

On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969) 81%


This being a 007 adventure – the only one to date set during the Yuletide season – there’s a Christmas party involving a bevy of beautiful women from around the globe (including future Absolutely Fabulous star Joanna Lumley). Of course, the presents they receive are actually hidden vials of biological warfare chemicals that the evil Blofeld (Telly Savalas) is hypnotizing them to take out into the world, but no one ever said all these parties were strictly for fun.

Scrooge (1970) 74%


We’ve all got our favorite screen version of the Charles Dickens tale, and this one’s mine. One of the best things it’s got going for it is Albert Finney, one of the few actors to play the young, idealistic Ebenezer as well as the old crabby one. Since this version is a musical, it spends more time on the singing and dancing revelry at the Christmas party thrown by young Scrooge’s employer Fezziwig (Laurence Naismith).

Fanny & Alexander (1982) 100%


One of Ingmar Bergman’s more life-affirming films opens with the lavish Yuletide revelry of a prominent Swedish theatrical family. (In the U.S. theatrical version, this happens over the first half an hour or so; in Bergman’s longer miniseries for Swedish TV, Christmas takes up the entire first episode.) Even as we get to know the problems and conflicts of each of the relatives, their dinner and celebration is gorgeous and opulent, the holiday you’ve never had and always wish you could.

Die Hard (1988) 94%


Putting aside the nonsense argument that this somehow isn’t a Christmas movie – even though it’s about an estranged couple working out their differences on December 24 – all the action takes place at a lavish Christmas party that goes south rather quickly. You wouldn’t want to be a guest at this one, what with all the shooting and explosions and Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) holding everyone hostage, but watching John McClane (Bruce Willis) save the day is a blast for all seasons.

The Ref (1994) 72%


Maybe Caroline (Judy Davis) watched Fanny and Alexander too many times, but her idea of a Christmas feast is a Scandinavian smorgasbord that includes seven-day-old lutefisk. Joining her and her husband Lloyd (Kevin Spacey) this year is on-the-lam burglar Gus (Denis Leary), who’s trying in vain to be their surrogate marriage counselor so their constant bickering doesn’t blow his cover to the police. The food at this holiday meal sounds iffy, but everyone looks good in a fully-lit Lucia wreath.

Go (1999) 91%


X is for Xmas but also for Xtasy in this ensemble piece about young L.A. types buying, selling and doing drugs at a wild Christmas Eve rave. It’s a movie full of actors who were just starting to be famous (Katie Holmes, Timothy Olyphant) crossing paths with ones who weren’t famous yet (Melissa McCarthy), and the rave scene – such a snapshot of late 20th century debauchery – illustrates the lengths to which some people will go just to get out of the house on Christmas.

Office Christmas Party (2016) 41%


The boozy secretaries of Desk Set and The Apartment might find these goings-on a little too wild even for them, as district manager Clay (T.J. Miller) tries desperately to throw a decadent bash that will attract the client (Courtney B. Vance) whose business will stop Clay’s sister (Jennifer Aniston) from closing the branch. Anarchic revelry meets white-collar rage as word breaks out mid-fiesta that the employees may be sacked before year’s end; nuggets like that make this Party feel as relevant to the current moment as the Eisenhower-era bashes in those earlier movies were to theirs.

Alonso Duralde is the author of the quintessential holiday film guide Have Yourself a Movie Little Christmas. Follow him on Twitter at @aduralde.

Tag Cloud

GoT cartoon hispanic werewolf Pet Sematary travel finale serial killer cults 4/20 TCM FOX Netflix Mary poppins indiana jones independent aliens news YouTube Premium CNN Freeform LGBT mutant Music Polls and Games Sundance Now VH1 archives sag awards Teen DC Universe anime Video Games emmy awards Lifetime Ghostbusters TCA dragons nature SundanceTV italian ESPN composers Rom-Com Lifetime Christmas movies Funimation name the review diversity Academy Awards Discovery Channel universal monsters critics GIFs quibi award winner 21st Century Fox First Reviews Britbox Marvel Television political drama politics thriller anthology reviews asian-american Epix sports Universal E3 Vudu Paramount Network Toys Peacock PaleyFest X-Men documentary technology Disney+ Disney Plus E! TCA 2017 Holidays laika Countdown OneApp sitcom Christmas DGA National Geographic Horror all-time blockbuster mission: impossible crime drama YouTube The Academy Sony Pictures Disney Song of Ice and Fire binge Television Academy a nightmare on elm street Musicals historical drama Avengers Hulu adaptation Opinion reboot Esquire Summer Holiday scary movies green book Marvel Studios GLAAD comics TV renewals zombie President tv talk toy story Box Office worst movies Hear Us Out Quiz mockumentary cops comiccon Character Guide Acorn TV ITV Nickelodeon Rocky San Diego Comic-Con worst crossover History war revenge Film spinoff nfl Emmys toronto Pirates biography SDCC Fantasy hollywood adventure FX FX on Hulu Schedule Star Trek BBC One Disney Channel Mystery Warner Bros. based on movie Creative Arts Emmys CW Seed crime thriller sequel Film Festival Reality robots rotten 2019 teaser New York Comic Con VOD miniseries Fox News VICE supernatural Cannes Dark Horse Comics animated Turner Classic Movies Stephen King Lionsgate TNT Sundance TV free movies Writers Guild of America police drama children's TV ABC Family Disney streaming service YA comedies dark 71st Emmy Awards Endgame ABC concert cancelled television Trailer Chernobyl Comedy Central AMC Adult Swim halloween tv Shudder El Rey canceled TV shows Election Turner Showtime elevated horror PBS remakes BET 007 HBO Go screenings unscripted DirecTV Rock cinemax dramedy streaming 24 frames BAFTA Animation true crime spanish USA spain spider-man comic Anna Paquin Calendar foreign Apple TV+ Drama doctor who game of thrones psycho The Witch Heroines Mudbound batman Spring TV Extras die hard dceu Set visit medical drama MSNBC The CW crime transformers TBS WGN RT History rotten movies we love docudrama latino Lucasfilm Trivia Amazon Studios parents singing competition satire Pride Month spy thriller Binge Guide Watching Series Food Network Comedy RT21 Baby Yoda canceled BBC America IFC Spectrum Originals Television Critics Association dc Action TLC sequels zombies Black Mirror child's play Spike festival Western cancelled TV series PlayStation science fiction Sneak Peek Logo Chilling Adventures of Sabrina television Pop TV Best and Worst Tubi Thanksgiving Awards Tour Fall TV APB classics Columbia Pictures football The Arrangement movies 2016 Mindy Kaling series Trophy Talk Sundance Comics on TV cancelled TV shows jamie lee curtis Rocketman romance 2017 boxoffice Arrowverse stand-up comedy venice OWN CBS Pixar spanish language breaking bad cancelled blaxploitation Women's History Month dogs HBO Max 72 Emmy Awards video on demand Tomatazos directors 2018 versus witnail Super Bowl Musical nbcuniversal romantic comedy strong female leads YouTube Red 20th Century Fox Mary Poppins Returns A24 space facebook what to watch MTV golden globes Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt chucky Classic Film The Purge richard e. Grant french Certified Fresh Amazon Prime Red Carpet Interview Infographic superhero vampires Masterpiece theme song social media Kids & Family Premiere Dates ghosts Paramount best justice league franchise fast and furious Crunchyroll A&E harry potter screen actors guild films Starz TCA Awards Superheroes Sci-Fi CMT game show Country slashers Black History Month stop motion psychological thriller Grammys movie Ovation kids American Society of Cinematographers Bravo Reality Competition book WarnerMedia Comic Book Pop stoner TV The Walking Dead Apple TV Plus twilight Tumblr DC streaming service 2020 hist Marvel period drama Cosplay CBS All Access MCU talk show Apple Photos cars Star Wars festivals Winter TV halloween disaster Year in Review Shondaland ratings casting Winners SXSW Superheroe cooking Hallmark cats discovery Ellie Kemper Syfy BET Awards Nat Geo obituary BBC christmas movies Disney Plus 45 video TIFF 2015 criterion Tarantino Nominations IFC Films Martial Arts NBC documentaries Amazon natural history Emmy Nominations Amazon Prime Video Crackle Biopics Elton John Hallmark Christmas movies south america scorecard Netflix Christmas movies Brie Larson Family First Look FXX NYCC See It Skip It TV Land indie Captain marvel joker Awards Mary Tyler Moore TCA Winter 2020 Fox Searchlight Podcast DC Comics HBO LGBTQ Walt Disney Pictures Cartoon Network Travel Channel renewed TV shows Oscars zero dark thirty Valentine's Day USA Network TruTV Marathons