Shopping sprees, huge family meals, bitter political harangues at the dinner table, and all the other stressful things that come with the winter holidays are now upon us. While some of us might love the holiday rush and all the warm gatherings, others face them in a more Newtonian fashion: equal and opposite. In other words, some people dread them.
So while everyone is going about their holiday business, here are 11 movies that have nothing to do with the holidays to help those who dread such festivities to take their mind off them for a while.
1. Casino Royale
What better way to forget the holidays than James Bond? An orphan, Bond doesn’t even have a family to bring that stress into his life. Not every Bond film is free from the holidays, as The World Is Not Enough featured Bond girl “Christmas,” who might bring the stress surging back. But don’t worry, Casino Royale is safe.
It acts as an origin story for Bond, so there’s not much time to be worrying about who’s bringing desserts and whether the turkey is done cooking. Just good ol’ fashioned action and espionage — not to mention a bit of card playing. If you want to forget about the worrisome holidays, Casino Royale is a sure bet.
2 and 3. The Raid: Redemption and The Raid 2
Not every action movie may be safe from holidays — some throw them in as a gimmick — but you don’t have to worry about that in The Raid and its sequel. These are two high-octane martial arts films starring Iko Uwais and a host of other fantastic martial artists, like the shockingly intimidating Yayan Ruhian. These films take place in Indonesia, far from the capitalist hustle of the holiday season. The first film takes place over the course of a single day, and it’s not a holiday.
While the films do deal some with family, it’s not as in-your-face as that aunt who needs updates on every detail of your life during every family gathering. The Raid and especially The Raid 2 have such intense action sequences and gruesome combat that you’ll likely be too busy squirming to even think about how many dishes still need cleaning after a big holiday dinner.
4, 5, and 6. The original Star Wars trilogy
OK, so this trio of film does deal a lot with family, so it might not help you if you’re trying not to think about that. But at least the family struggles seen in Star Wars aren’t likely to resemble any of the ones you experience. Not many of us spend the holidays finding out that our dead dad is actually alive and super evil, and that the girl we hang out with is actually our sister.
This isn’t likely to bring up any real-life stress. On top of that safety, Star Wars IV through VI is just a fantastic saga. The films feature stunning visuals, imaginative design, likable characters, and gripping battles. The fact that this is a trilogy only makes it that much better, as that’s three times as many hours that you can spend not thinking about the holidays.
7. Kung Fu Panda
Kung Fu Panda doesn’t even have human actors. Watching it, you shouldn’t see any characters that remind you of anyone you know and force you to think about the holidays. It’s a fun, beautifully animated film with a host of great voice actors, and none of them go Christmas, Hanukkah, or Thanksgiving shopping — and to really stretch the holiday season safety net, none of the characters go Valentine’s Day shopping, either. Since it’s a children’s movie, if you have kids, you can plop them down in front of the TV to watch it with you. That way, they won’t come distracting you while you’re in the zone, forgetting about all your holiday woes.
8. Blue Velvet
Blue Velvet is a twisty mystery by David Lynch, but perhaps one of his less abstruse films. It takes place during a short time span, and, lucky you, that time span isn’t the holiday season. When Jeffrey Beaumont (Kyle MacLachlan) comes back from college after his dad has an accident, he finds a human ear in an empty lot. Things spiral out of control when he takes the detective work into his own hands, especially when a raving, maniacal Dennis Hopper enters the scene. You’ll be so wrapped up in the mystery of what exactly is going on in this seemingly simple town that you won’t have to think about whether you’re doing enough to help out for the holidays.
9. The Dark Crystal
Want to steer clear of holidays and humanity in general? Fantasy is a good way to go. The Dark Crystal comes from the mind of Jim Henson — yes, the guy who made the Muppets. But you won’t see too many cute fuzzies in this film, as it’s a bit darker than the Muppets. The film follows a struggle between good, evil, and the chosen one, who was prophesied to save the world from darkness.
It’s amazing to see what Henson can create and animate with puppetry, and it’s loaded with memorable characters — and not one of them mentions Christmas, Kwanzaa, or “we need to make sure there are enough clean champagne glasses for everyone.” Rest assured, this movie should take your mind off the holidays, especially if you focus your attention on how creepy a lot of the characters are.
10. 13 Assassins
From prolific Japanese director Takashi Miike, 13 Assassins tells the tale of a band of samurai who are tasked with assassinating a vile, heinous lord who is set to take political office. It features a lot of the thrilling action that Miike is known for, and all of the assassin samurai do a dazzling job as they take on hordes of opponents that vastly outnumber their meager 13. As far as recent samurai films go, this is among the best. Taking place in feudal Japan, this is far from the modern, consumerist America that makes the holiday season such a stressful time. To top it off, they don’t celebrate any Japanese holidays during the film, either.
11. March of the Penguins
It doesn’t get much safer than a documentary film exclusively about an animal that lives far, far away from the hustle and bustle of humanity. March of the Penguins follows the journey of emperor penguins and is narrated by the soothing voice of Morgan Freeman. It might even induce a nap that helps you take your mind even further off the holidays, unless you’re prone to stress dreams.
These penguins don’t speak English or any other language, so they won’t sound like a grumpy relative, nor will they ever say anything that your grumpy relative would say. Unfortunately for those living in colder climates, this film won’t help you forget the hell of winter. For that, these seven movies may at least help make winter look bearable.
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