Around the holidays we can expect to get a healthy dose of classic Christmas movies, from A Christmas Story (1983) to Miracle on 34th Street (1947) and many more that make the list. However, there has been much debate circling this list of holiday movies, and many have argued that it contains a few more out-of-the-ordinary titles. So far, we’ve settled the cases of Edward Scissorhands (1990), Die Hard (1988), and Lethal Weapon (1987) and their respective standings as a verified Christmas movie, but there is one more title still up for debate.
To put an end to yet another so-called Christmas movie dispute, we are putting the 80’s, comedic-horror classic Gremlins (1984) on trial and laying out our evidence to prove once and for all if this title has earned its place in the holiday movie canon.
If the movie’s overall setting isn’t enough to persuade you, we’re not sure what else will. From the very first scene of the movie, the whole town is wrapped up for the holidays in Christmas lights and decor, It’s A Wonderful Life (1946) is playing on TV, and door-to-door Christmas carolers are belting out some holiday classics. Right from the get-go to the end of the movie, the audience is made well aware that the Christmas season is upon us.
Even the premise of the movie is set around a Christmas gift received by Billy Peltzer that was given to him by his father. When Billy discovers the cute, little Mogwai inside the box, we don’t realize that we are gearing up for some delightfully grim Christmas carnage. After some negligence to the high-maintenance little fuzzball, more and more evil Mogwai continue to spawn, bringing chaos onto the town and giving us constant reminders of the season, including Gizmo playing the keyboard in a santa hat and even the evil Gremlins singing Christmas carols and getting jolly at a local bar.
Though the movie is certainly wrapped up in some Christmas imagery, we can’t forget that the entire movie is essentially about monsters—not your typical Christmas theme—rather than about Christmas itself. Really, this movie could be watched anytime between Halloween and Christmas, and it would feel about the same. That being said, many people classify Gremlins as a dark, horror-comedy; the Gremlins do hysterical things, kill in ridiculous ways, and play a pretty comical role as the antagonists of the movie.
Aside from the snowy landscape that the movie falls on, the overall messages of the movie don’t quite hit on the traditional themes of Christmas—the only major theme that truly applies is “family.” But this is quickly overshadowed by the destruction that is brought on by the Gremlins throughout the remainder of the movie. For most, anything revolving around monsters and/or bloodshed is immediately thrown out as a Christmas movie—but tell that to the producers of the recently released Christmas horror, Black Christmas (2019).
Billy Peltzer (Zach Galligan), Lynn Peltzer (Frances Lee McCain) and Randall Peltzer (Hoyt Axton) in Gremlins (1984)
Overall, Gremlins is a morbid, yet campy take on holiday gift-giving. Quite frankly, the whole movie may be a cautionary tale of kneejerk consumerism around Christmas in an effort to buy the affection of a loved one. Or, it could just simply be Steven Spielberg shattering the mold of traditional holiday movies. Either way, if you’re looking for a different kind of Christmas classic to add to your rotation, Gremlins is certainly the movie for you this year.
Final Verdict: Gremlins is a Christmas movie.