Like so much about the yuletide season, when it comes to our Christmas movies, we tend to fall back on tradition. Hence, at some point in December, we feel obligated to sit down and watch one or all of the following: "It's a Wonderful Life," "A Christmas Story," "Miracle on 34th Street," "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" and/or "Elf."
And hey, there's nothing wrong with that. I also feel like something is amiss if I haven't spent time with George Bailey or Ralphie Parker before the holidays are over.
But sometimes it's nice to mix it up. Which is why, five years ago, I wrote this list of unconventional holiday movies to watch on DVD. That first list led to a second list , then morphed into an annual little Washington Post tradition of its own. This year's rundown of 10 unconventional holiday movies -- the fifth -- appears online and in today's Weekend section of the Post.
With five years of Christmas flicks under my belt, this seemed like a good time to devote a Friday list to five of my favorite unconventional holiday movies from the past half-decade's worth of lists. The criteria for making the cut: each movie must either be set during the fa-la-la season or include at least one memorable Christmas scene. Of course, there are still plenty more that haven't made my lists, so feel free to chime in with your favorites by posting a comment.
"The Sure Thing" (from the 2006 list)
John Cusack must be subconsciously drawn to offbeat holiday fare. He's appeared in a few films that fall into that category, including "Better Off Dead" (yes, the Lane Meyer Story does include some yuletide moments) and the little-seen "The Ice Harvest." But 1985's " The Sure Thing " -- in which Cusack and an uptight Daphne Zuniga fall in love while trekking across country during the holidays -- is my favorite. Who can resist Cusack as Walter Gibson, buying a holiday round and joining in a sing-along of "The Christmas Song"?
"The Thin Man" ( the 2007 list )
Speaking of drinking, let's turn to Nick and Nora Charles, the banter-trading, crime-solving couple (played by William Powell and Myrna Loy) who manage to solve a murder while throwing killer holiday cocktail parties in this 1934 classic. Shooting at the Christmas tree while drunk never seemed so classy.
"American Psycho" ( the 2008 list )
A satire about a yuppie who murders people? Yeah, that's about as far away from usual holiday cheer as it gets. Does anyone sound less genuine saying the words holly, jolly Christmas than Patrick Bateman, as played by a deliciously evil, Huey Lewis-loving Christian Bale?
"The Apartment" (from the 2009 list)
Billy Wilder's romantic comedy about navigating relationships while climbing the corporate ladder gets better and better with age. It's so revered that people often forget it's a Christmas movie, and one that features a "swingin' office party" that even outdoes the holiday soiree featured on last season's " Mad Men ."
"Jarhead" ( from the 2010 list )
Sure, there are better war movies. But I still say that "Jarhead" never got the accolades and attention it deserved, and that includes praise for a performance by Jake Gyllenhaal that's far stronger than his work in "Love & Other Drugs" ... and, coincidentally, also involves a bit of partial Gyllenhaal nudity .