Top 10……Films Set Around Christmas!

It’s Christmas time and holiday cheer is very much on the horizon which often involves people watching classic festive films like ‘Scrooge‘, ‘A Christmas Carol‘, ‘Santa Clause: The Movie‘, erm ‘Jingle All The Way‘ or many of the special TV episodes filmed for this time of the year.

Others like ‘Home Alone‘ (1990), ‘Die Hard‘ (1988), ‘Gremlins‘ (1984) and ‘Lethal Weapon‘ (1987) which are just set during the Christmas season are also popular choices so I have delved into the archives to find some movies (of course ones that I have been to some filming locations of!) with seasonal connections whether it be a major one or a really tenuous link!

So here then, in no particular order, is the TF top 10……

1. In Bruges (2008) – Certainly not the first one that comes to mind when you think of films taking place at Christmas! Two Irish hit-men hide out in Belgium during the holiday season not that it’s at all important to the storyline. The woman at the Relais Bourgondisch Cruyce Hotel, where they stay, is doing something with the Christmas tree in one scene and their angry boss, Ralph Fiennes, shouts at his wife in front of their tree and kids in another.

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2. Ghostbuster II (1989) – The sequel is set in New York City during the Christmas period and culminates on New Years Eve as a crowd of locals sing ‘Auld Lang Syne’. A Christmas tree is visible during at least one scene and I guess one other festive link this has is that it was made (according to some critics!) to sell toys at Christmas time!

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3. Eyes Wide Shut (1999) – This Stanley Kubrick-directed erotic thriller is not your traditional Christmas film in any way! It opens at a big Christmas party before  Tom Cruise’s jealous character goes on a sexual odyssey so that he can feel equal to his “cheating” wife. However, not all is straight forward as he soon witnesses a secret sex society and people begin dying. It’s lacking in festive tunes and the common joviality shown by many at that time of the year. Christmas trees can be seen throughout as London doubles up for New York in holiday season.

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4. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969) – In his one and only appearance as James Bond, George Lazenby takes the reins of the double agent in the sixth 007 movie. Part of the film takes place at Grindelwald in Switzerland during the Christmas season snow is all around. Festive connections include a Christmas tree at the Piz Gloria clinic, presents for the ladies and there’s even a Christmas song called “Do You Know How Christmas Trees Are Grown.”

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5. Love Actually (2003) – By far the most festive film in this list as a large group of inter-related people are followed for the five weeks leading up to Christmas, exploring their various love-states. An all-star cast take part in this feel-good film.

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6. About A Boy (2002) – Bachelor Will (Hugh Grant) has no job and doesn’t need to have one as he can just live off the royalties of “Santa’s Super Sleigh”; a Christmas song his father composed in the past. Towards the end of the film we see Will hosting a Christmas gathering at his place with his new extended support system.

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7. Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001) – Thirty-something singleton Bridget is introduced to Mark Darcy (Colin Firth) at her parents’ Christmas party and is not impressed. He’s snooty and wears Christmas jumpers but as we know that eventually changes over time among several pivotal holiday-themed/snow scenes.

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8. The English Patient (1996) – A Hungarian cartographer choosing to maintain the assumption by others that he is an Englishman is badly burned in a plane crash during World War II and relays parts of his past via flashbacks and one of these includes a Christmas party scene where amidst a chorus of Silent Night, Katharine (Kristin Scott Thomas) is seduced by Almásy (Ralph Fiennes).

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9. When Harry Met Sally (1989) – Several Christmas and New Year’s-related scenes take place in this romantic comedy which spans over 15 years.

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10. I am Legend (2007) – A viral outbreak occurs on Christmas Eve 2009 in Manhattan, and quickly spreads across the world. The epidemic seemingly begins in the lead up to the Christmas season and festive decorations can be seen throughout the early parts of this Will Smith movie.

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Bonus: The Bourne Identity (2002) – Remember when Bourne and Marie seeked refuge in the French countryside? Well, they go to stay at her stepbrother’s place where Bourne notices the Christmas lights are still on. That sign of recent occupancy tells him that they have to leave before the owners return. It is also snowing throughout most of the film which is usually a good indication that it’s the holiday season.

Bruges Filming Locations: In Bruges (2008)

Due to a bout of heavy snowfall and subsequent Eurostar problems I had to cancel my planned trip to Bruges back in December 2009. I wasn’t gonna let the money I’d spent on a guidebook go to waste though so I took a day trip there back in January when I was over in mainland Europe.

It really was a lovely, picturesque place with its many bridges, canals and medieval buildings. As much as I appreciated that I was there to hunt down the filming locations for the 2008 dark, comedy thriller ‘In Bruges’ featuring Colin Farrell (Ray), Brendan Gleeson (Ken) and Ralph Fiennes (Harry). The former two are Irish hit-men lying low in the Belgian city and they stay at Relais Bourgondisch Cruyce Hotel (Wollestraat 41-47) which took me a while to find and in the end I could only snap it from the other side of the water.

 

The centre-piece of the place is the Belfry and its 366 steps to the top. Like Ken I chose to pay to go up the tower but wish I hadn’t bothered as the view at the top was very restricted with half under repair and the sun shining very brightly through another part. Ray doesn’t go up in the film because he says he can see “the view of down here” from down here. The negative side of me kind of thinks he may have had a point!

   

‘t Zwart Huis (the Black House) is the bar where Ray hands a pint of beer to Ken with the not-so politically correct words “One gay beer for my gay friend, one normal beer for me”.

  

Gruthuse was a really beautiful area and appears in the film a couple of times. Its where Ray discovers a movie with ‘midgets’ (his words not mine!) is being made and its also used at the end of ‘In Bruges’ itself.

 

Above right is Jerusalem Church on Jerusalemstraat that doubled up as the ‘Basilica of the Holy Blood’ where Ken and the intellectually-challenged Ray go sightseeing with Ray using it as an excuse to get out of the hotel which they’re supposed to be hiding away in.

Beneath the Jan Van Eyck statue is where Ken and Ray have a heart-to-heart chat about people they’ve killed with particular regard to the young boy accidentally killed by Ray.    

Cafedraal at Zilverstraat 38 is a bar with an awful pun and is where Ray takes Chloe on a date and proceeds to punch a Canadian couple whilst she’s in the toilet. Its not all bad for the pair though as they have a reconcilliation outside on the Meetstraat Bridge between Vismarkt and Groenerel.

    

Ken is sent by Harry to get a gun from Yuri who lives at 17 Raamstraat which is in reality Koningstraat. Armed with the gun he then goes to kill Ray (who is feeling suicidal) in Koningin Astridpark where the childrens playground and ornamental pavillion both feature.

       

The photo above right is the real bell at the top of the Belfry but as space is very, very limited at the top of the tower Ken’s confrontation with Harry was filmed in the studio. Apart from that, the rest is real with the Marketplace being where Ken plummets and manages to utter a few last gasp words of importance to Ray.