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) 94%


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) 82%


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) 72%


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) 93%


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) 40%


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

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