Best 12 Thriller Christmas Movies (Christmas 2023)

Shikhar Jauhari

Best 12 Thriller Christmas Movies (Christmas 2023)

Try one of these ten thrillers with a Christmas theme for a change of pace this holiday season. These holiday-themed flicks provide something fresh to viewers, with titles like Black Swan, Violent Night, Die Hard, and Black Christmas among them.

‘R Xmas (2001) 

'R Xmas

Stream now on Vudu

Run Time: 1h 25m

Playing the role of a drug dealer’s wife in New York City, Drea de Matteo must rescue her husband from the clutches of kidnappers demanding ransom. The peculiar, gritty mood, reminiscent of Lynch, Cronenberg, Pasolini, or Kubrick’s works, is achieved through shots such as a couple conversing in an apartment, a wife traveling across town for ransom money, or a close-up of him cutting cocaine before packing it into little bags.

In contrast to the romanticization of drug trafficking in modern American cinema, Ferrara presents the industry as a whole and treats it as just another type of business. The video follows a family going about their Christmas traditions in the days running up to Christmas, including seeing the tree and carriage ride at Rockefeller Center and shopping at FAO Schwarz.

Despite sharing certain parallels with Ferrara’s King of New York, R Xmas retains its charm. What sets it apart is the absence of car chases and gunplay, favoring instead leisurely driving without any fruit stands being hit.

Die Hard 2 (1990) 

Die Hard 2

Stream now on Prime Video, Disney+, Hulu

Run Time: 2h 4m

Released on November 28, 1989, Die Hard 2 follows John McClane as he travels to Washington Dulles International Airport for an action-packed mayhem with some interesting new characters. Renny Harlin of Finland directed the film.

Throughout, McClane shows his versatility by navigating through baggage conveyor belts while grabbing onto plane wings. He then sprints onto the runway and even ejects from one aircraft seconds before it explodes into flames, creating another unforgettable scene.

The story’s emphasis on reiterating critical points from the original film’s paradigm was something I liked. I find the idea of mercenaries or terrorists compromising an airport’s communication systems to cause plane crashes to be rather interesting. Action scenes involving Stuart and his guys demolishing communications masts and 747s are spectacular. Explosions, both magnificent and terrible, are a recurring theme in Harlin’s film.

Black Christmas (1974) 

Black Christmas (1974)

Stream now on Prime Video, Peacocktv, Netflix

Run Time: 1h 38m

The 1974 film Black Christmas Movie depicts a frightening and unsettling image of adolescent girlhood. One of the many timely topics addressed in the movie is the all-too-common occurrence of sexual harassment and assault, which is particularly highlighted when the authorities botch an investigation into the disappearance of Clare’s acquaintance. The Black Christmas Movie delves into female identity difficulties, particularly the pressures of parenting. The protagonist, Jess, has difficulty choosing between pursuing her job aspirations and being a good mother.

Bob Clark used a captivating and straightforward concept. He made it into a horrific thriller, which is especially impressive given that it came out when slashers were famous. Furthermore, it had an advantage that many sequels couldn’t replicate because of its unsolved killings, reminiscent of Peeping Tom and Psycho.

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Black Christmas has a lot of funny moments that are well-timed and executed because of the great supporting characters and their scripting. Black Christmas uses its supporting cast to provide much-needed humor without sacrificing suspense or tension, unlike other horror films that may solely depend on protagonist or antagonist characters for humorous relief.

Lethal Weapon (1987) 

Lethal Weapon

Stream now on Vudu, Netflix, HBO Max

Run Time: 1h 49m

In 1987, Lethal Weapon came out. Even 30 years after its debut, it is still considered a masterpiece of the odd-couple buddy cop genre. To this day, Lethal Weapon is still considered a classic in its genre and a seminal work in its field. It’s no surprise Gibson and Glover star together in so many films of this genre; they have great chemistry as the lead characters.

The writing by Shane Black for Lethal Weapon is genuinely remarkable, and the characters are fantastic; they have depth and are completely developed, which is rare in contemporary action films. Lethal Weapon stands out due to its action sequences and the development and interaction of its two heroes.

That a different ending was shot but ultimately removed from the film is a testament to how expertly handled the conclusion is. Had they stuck with that other ending, the film may have had a very different vibe, which says a lot about how fantastic it was.

Black Swan (2010) 

Black Swan

Stream now on Prime Video, Netflix, Disney+

Run Time: 1h 48m

The movie Black Swan came out in 2010. A gifted teenage dancer named Nina (Natalie Portman) is at the core of the drama as she struggles with an increasingly heated battle for her fate. Nina has attained technical perfection in ballet through devotion and obsession with practice. Still, she has sacrificed her mental health and well-being for performance greatness.

A haunting, hallucinogenic drama, Black Swan explores the female protagonist’s mind in great detail. It chronicles her spiral into madness like Polanski’s Repulsion or Powell and Pressburger’s Rosemary’s Baby. Its strong psychological tone resembles classic horror films with eerie Manhattan interiors. The close-up camera moves to heighten oppressive claustrophobia.

Iconic ballet imagery is juxtaposed with depictions of physical ruination throughout the video, including gushing toes, skeletal spines, and raw, scraped skin. Natalie Portman gives a stunning performance as a young girl who dreams of being a dancer, adding depth and resonance to this timeless melodrama.

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005) 

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

Stream now on Prime Video, Apple TV

Run Time: 1h 43m

After Shane Black, writer of Lethal Weapon, departed for good, his directorial debut, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, gave viewers a fun, humorous criminal thriller. Despite Pulp Fiction’s superior plot and character development, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang makes full use of its R rating to sexually bombard viewers with a plethora of sexual innuendo, brutal violence, seductive allusions, and bizarrely funny ideas.

Studios in Hollywood are so impressed by Harry Lockhart’s unintentional audition for the part of a private eye in a film that they quickly whisk him away to Los Angeles for more screen tests alongside real-life detective Perry Van Shrike (Val Kilmer). Before long, he is entangled in a murder case with all the usual suspects—romance, betrayal, and unexpected turns.

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While Downey is attractive and charming, Kilmer steals the show as Perry. The electric chemistry he creates with Michelle Monaghan as the tough-talking guy is palpable in this fast-paced film full of snappy dialogue, amusing voiceovers, and surprising editing decisions; the new version splits the extras evenly between the two sides for more straightforward navigation.

Three Days of the Condor (1975) 

Three Days of the Condor

Stream now on Prime Video, Vudu

Run Time: 1h 57m

Since its debut, Sydney Pollack’s 1975 award-winning thriller Three Days of the Condor has held viewers’ attention. In this chilling thriller, Robert Redford plays the role of Joseph Turner, a naive and academic CIA researcher who becomes mired in a web of betrayal and murder.

Some topics explored in this iconic spy thriller from the 1970s include paranoia, patriotism vs. blind allegiance, and government monitoring. Actors Faye Dunaway and Cliff Robertson play pivotal roles in compelling stories that have stood the test of time.

In this film, the fervently pro-war bureaucrats depicted inside a covert intelligence agency come across as both believable and unsettling figures, evoking the paranoia that accompanied its release following Watergate and before the Church Commission revealed COINTELPRO, a CIA program designed to track and manipulate Nixon’s political opponents.

As his trademark role—a hero who is both credible and calm under pressure—Redford is at his best as an investigator. Instead of facing the hit squads head-on, he expertly avoids them.

Violent Night (2022) 

Violent Night

Stream now on Prime Video, Apple TV, Netflix

Run Time: 1h 52m

David Harbour, who plays a terrifying Santa in the 2022 film Violent Night, starred in the show Stranger Things. Norwegian filmmaker Tommy Wirkola expertly blends genres in this action thriller that feels like a cross between Die Hard and Bad Santa.

Even though it almost deserves an R rating, this hilariously absurd and unabashedly violent film keeps its audience in stitches. Harbour, who brings a lot of wit and charm to the role of Santa, heads up a fantastic ensemble that makes the film entertaining. Gunfire, snowmobiles, Christmas music, explosions with gratifying bangs, and amusing gloops create a fascinating mood. At the same time, vibrant night scenes are well-lit, and the sound mix is robust. Contrarily, bullets provide an additional sound for emphasis!

With an impressive ensemble like Cam Gigandet, John Leguizamo, Alex Hassell, Beverly D’Angelo, and Alexis Louder, Violent Night is sure to wow. However, the film truly shines when David Harbour portrays the charismatic mythological figure. In this role, his acting skills are on full display.

Better Watch Out (2016) 

Better Watch Out

Stream now on Apple TV, Peacocktv

Run Time: 1h 29m

Armored invaders trying to get into your house while you’re stuck on a suburban street—what could be scarier than that? Better Watch Out is based on this idea. This Australian horror flick seems equally natural and gripping compared to other horrific thrillers like It and Get Out.

Similar to a modernized Black Christmas (without the outdoor snowmen and caroling), Better Watch Out provides insightful commentary on privilege by revealing that even our seemingly secure suburbs can have hidden hazards that are difficult to perceive.

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Playing the role of babysitter Ashley, Olivia DeJonge excels as the woman who is set to leave her posh neighborhood. Luke, played brilliantly by Levi Miller, is a 12-year-old who is going through the initial stages of puberty: his voice starts squeaking, and he has his first sexual yearning.

Knives Out (2019) 

Knives Out

Stream now on Prime Video, Netflix

Run Time: 2h 10m

The 2019 Release of Knives Out The vivid retro explosion from Rian Johnson is Knives Out. One of the most fascinating films 2019 is this complex and humorous murder mystery. Here we go again, demonstrating that creative pursuits and leisure activities are not incompatible.

In the gripping family drama Knives Out, the murder of 85-year-old mystery writer Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) turns the entire huge gothic restoration estate into a murder scene. The role of master detective Benoit Blanc, played by Daniel Craig, is crucial in the story. Marta Cabrera, played by Ana de Armas, is their maid and has a terrible medical condition that requires her not to lie.

Bradford Young’s photography captures every crevice of a huge home, brilliantly reimagining Agatha Christie staples like interrogations, motivations, and dubious alibis in Knives Out, written by Rian Johnson and John Rogers. A lot of the suspense comes from Nathan Johnson’s soundtrack; the film’s gloom and cynicism are well-complemented by his piano motif.

Die Hard (1988) 

Die Hard

Stream now on Prime Video, Apple TV, Disney+

Run Time: 2h 12m

Intense action and well-timed comedy provide a captivating viewing experience in Die Hard, setting it apart from previous flicks.

Bruce Willis performs superbly as James McClane, a regular guy in a remarkable predicament. His performance as a strong yet vulnerable hero with witty banter is excellent. On the other hand, Paul Gleason, Bonnie Bedelia, and Reginald VelJohnson contribute to Hans Gruber’s convincing performance; Rickman plays the villain brilliantly, bringing a wicked sense of humor to his villainous character.

In contrast to other action flicks of the same period, the hero of Die Hard does not embark on a heroic quest to eradicate evil or end injustice. De’Voreaux White plays the role of Detective John McClane, a New York Police Detective who plans to spend Christmas break in Los Angeles with his girlfriend, Holly Gennaro McClane. However, when he gets to Nakatomi Plaza for the company Christmas party, he gets caught up in a terrorist attack and the subsequent takeover of the plaza.

L.A. Confidential (1997)

L.A. Confidential

Stream now on Prime Video, HBO Max, Disney+

Run Time: 2h 18m

One of the most riveting thrillers is L.A. Confidential, a neo-noir criminal thriller released in 1997. The narrative of this exciting film is so surprising, with elements of corrupt police officers, murder, betrayal, and 1950s Hollywood glamour, that audiences will be captivated from start to finish. As this story plays out, the characters’ complicated moral uncertainty only heightens their appeal.

Three detectives from the corrupt and ruthless Los Angeles Police Department in the 1950s use their unique perspectives to solve a mystery involving a conspiracy involving shotgun killings at an all-night cafe; the plot is based on the multi-layered novel by James Ellroy. Their inquiry delves deep into a crooked labyrinth that encompasses the drug trade, pornography, prostitution, and the dirty underbelly of Hollywood. Still, Hanson deftly juggles all these storylines without boring or losing your interest.

From the period-accurate production design and cinematography to the period-appropriate wardrobe selections, the film expertly depicts 1950s Los Angeles.

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