As much as we love a feel-good Christmas movie, there are few entries that are the anti-feel good -- even some classics like It's a Wonderful Life. For those who feel seasonal anxiety and extra Grinch-y this time of year, here are some Christmas movies to watch that are dark AF.
'Batman Returns' (1992)
Yep, the rampages of the Penguin and Catwoman take place during a chilly Gotham Christmas. That public tree-lighting ceremony is so glum, it's practically begging to be attacked by a supervillain.
'Eyes Wide Shut' (1999)
Stanley Kubrick's sexual tour of the lives of rich New Yorkers begins at a Christmas party and ends at a toy store. In between, Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman both spend a lot of time fantasizing about having sex outside their marriage. By the time Cruise crashes the orgy, even he seems to have forgotten it's Christmastime.
Gizmo may be the cuddliest Christmas stocking stuffer ever, but his mutant relatives wreak deadly havoc on a small town. But the film's grimmest moment comes from human cast member Phoebe Cates, who tells the most horrible, traumatizing story ever about why she can't enjoy Christmas.
'Die Hard' (1988)
Worst. Office. Christmas. Party. Ever. By the time it's over, the boss has been shot in the head, the building has been all but destroyed, McClane is pulling glass shards out of his bloody bare feet, and there are dead Euro-thugs all over the place. On the plus side, all the carnage brings McClane and the wife closer together; that wouldn't have happened if the movie had taken place on, say, Arbor Day.
In Bill Murray's update of "A Christmas Carol," there's treacly uplift at the end, but the master's cynicism and misanthropy up until then are a lot more fun.
'Bad Santa' (2003)
Billy Bob Thornton's miserable, drunken, self-loathing, safecracker-disguised-as-Santa seems determined to whiz on all things Christmas and seasonal good will. This makes him funny as hell. (Unlike the sequel, which in turn whizzes all over the original.)
'The Ice Harvest' (2005)
In this darkest of dark comedies, two crooks easily figure out a way to embezzle $2 million from the midwestern gangster they work for. But getting out of town on Christmas Eve proves an impossible task that leaves bloody mayhem in its wake.
'In Bruges' (2007)
The movie suggests that Christmas in Belgium is pretty much what you'd expect, except with less chocolate and more bloodshed, inept gangsters, hookers, racists and dark comedy.
'It's a Wonderful Life' (1946)
The story of a man whose lifetime's worth of thwarted attempts to escape his small town and his family's financial ruin drive him to the brink of suicide. Also the story of the predator who steals the man's fortune and gets away with it.
Is this recent horror comedy about the dark Christmas legend a future classic or a footnote? You decide.
'Lethal Weapon' (1987)
This Christmas tale starts with a poisoned hooker taking a swan dive from a high-rise and continues with Mel Gibson going nuts in a Christmas tree lot. The buddy-cop prototype is set in Los Angeles, so there's no snow, except for what some of the characters put up their noses.
'Less Than Zero' (1987)
In this adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis' book, poor Andrew McCarthy comes home from college to Los Angeles for Christmas break and falls back into bad habits with his rich friends. Highlight is Robert Downey Jr.'s poignant and almost heartbreakingly prescient portrayal of a self-destructive addict.
'One Magic Christmas' (1985)
An angel (Harry Dean Stanton) puts a poor and miserable woman (Mary Steenburgen) through the trials of Job -- including the violent loss of her family -- all because she has (understandably) lost the Christmas spirit. As in "It's a Wonderful Life," the celestial message seems to be: "Buck up! As awful as things are, they could be even more horrible."
'Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale' (2010)
In this dark Finnish tale, Santa Claus is more like one of those bloodthirsty monsters unwittingly dug up from the bowels of the earth in an old horror movie.
'The Ref' (1994)
Burglar Denis Leary takes a squabbling couple hostage and finds himself mediating among their venomous family during a Christmas dinner worthy of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" As the husband in this brutally funny comedy, Kevin Spacey goes on a dry run for his future "American Beauty" role.
'Silent Night, Deadly Night' (1984)
The most notorious of all Christmas-themed slasher movies finds a traumatized kid growing up to be an ax murderer in a Santa suit who goes after both the naughty and the nice. For anyone who ever found the whole "he knows when you've been sleeping, he knows when you're awake" thing a little creepy.
'Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas' (1993)
Tim Burton and animator Henry Selick delightfully mash up the cheerful generosity of the Christmas season with the anything-for-a-scare attitude of Halloween. Sure, it's a stop-motion movie released by Disney, but it also has a scene where Santa is strapped to a torture wheel by a villain who's a walking bag of worms.