On a recent episode of his Savage Love podcast, Dan Savage indulged in what has become a Yuletide tradition: railing against Christmas-themed erotica. His implicit objection to Santa-hatted self-pics and the like is simple enough to understand; he thinks Christmas just isn’t sexy. He’s not alone, and most of these Sex Scrooges are right — there’s nothing inherently libidinous about a holiday centered on tree ornamentation, elf labor, and Jesus. But a handful of films have dared to forge an alliance between Christmastime and Sexytime.
5. Bad Santa
Though he certainly has his fans (and lest we forget, no less than Angelina Jolie was once among them), there’s nothing sexy about Billy Bob Thornton in Bad Santa, Terry Zwigoff’s pitch-black Christmas comedy from 2003 — he’s a burping, pants-wetting, perpetually hung-over mess, in dire need of a shave and a shower. The sex appeal of Bad Santa comes in the form of the lovely Lauren Graham, best known at the time of the picture’s release as the spunky young mom on the squeaky-clean dramedy Gilmore Girls. But she was miles away from Lorelai Gilmore here, as a purring bartender who does a couple of shots with Thornton’s department store Santa, then sneaks out to the parking lot for a front-seat quickie. Her explicit, repetitive, rapid-fire instructions became one of the movie’s most notorious moments (and that’s saying something); within two scenes, Graham had become the mascot for Santa fetishists the world ’round.
4. Die Hard
It’s always helpful to remember that when Die Hard was released in summer of 1988, Bruce Willis was known not as an action hero, but as a wisecracking comic actor (thanks to his weekly turn on the screwball comedy/mystery series Moonlighting). So, with that in mind, it’s almost comical to watch the narrative handsprings that the screenwriters turn in order to justify getting Bruce down to his undershirt (and, later, out of even that), in order to show off his new, toned bod. See, the terrorists take over Nakatomi Plaza while John McClane is in the executive bathroom, washing up after his long flight from New York, and being a cop, he reacts instinctively — he just doesn’t have time to put a shirt on! Whatever the excuses, you can hardly blame the funnyman for wanting everyone to see how much time he’d spent at the gym; he looks great, and I’m betting that under those end credits, he and Holly Gennaro McClane are already getting started on some killer make-up sex in the back of Argyle’s limo.
3. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
Shane Black’s woefully underseen noir action/comedy from 2005 isn’t really a Christmas movie, but it does have Michelle Monaghan cavorting in a well-tailored Santa dress, which is reason enough for it to be on this list (and yes, it’s got Robert Downey Jr. for the ladies). The movie’s hottest scene comes up around the 70-minute mark, when childhood sweethearts Monaghan and Downey end up back in his hotel after some heavy mid-day drinking. Only half-aware that he can see her in a hallway mirror, an exhausted Monaghan peels off her Santa dress (“I really didn’t need that last shot of tequila…”) and slithers into his bed in her birthday suit. “You can sleep here, Harry, but it’s only gonna be sleeping,” she informs him. “If that’s gonna frustrate you…” He considers it for about half a second before responding thus: “Let’s see!” The scene rings true to anyone who’s ever found themselves alone with an object of desire, but a little too drunk and/or drowsy for anything heavy; its afternoon-delight eroticism is rarely seen in films, holiday-themed or otherwise.
2. Reindeer Games
Let’s be clear here: Reindeer Games is a terrible, terrible movie, a collection of contrived double-crosses and heist movie clichés so dull and lifeless, Dimension Films bumped it from its original December 1999 release date to February of 2000 (because everyone’s in the mood for a Christmas caper two months after Christmas). But it has, without question, the raciest scene ever scored by a classic Christmas tune. Ben Affleck’s just-released con has met up with Charlize Theron, who thinks he’s the guy she’s been sending perfume-scented love letters to. That guy bit the big one in the big house, so rather than leave her (or himself) lonely for the holidays, Affleck masquerades as his deceased buddy, and engages in a spirited, furniture-smashing round of motel coitus with Theron. You’ll never hear “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!” the same way again.
1. It’s a Wonderful Life
Yes, that’s right, It’s a Wonderful Life. “Sexy” might not be the first adjective that springs to mind when thinking of this holiday perennial from 1946, but lest we forget, the romance between James Stewart and Donna Reed was the film’s original selling point, and their first scenes — Stewart’s re-introduction to the knockout Reed at a high school dance, and their flirtation during a moonlight walk — are charmingly sweet. But their next encounter is an absolute scorcher. Their spark still unrequited, Stewart pays Reed a visit four years later, after she’s returned from college and is ostensibly dating his childhood friend Sam Wainwright. The reunion is awkward, packed with the tension of unfulfilled expectations. He ends up leaving when Sam calls, but comes back for his hat; she takes the opportunity to make Stewart jealous by vamping it up on the phone with Sam, who tells her to bring Stewart to the phone too. The mere proximity that they share in the course of that call, their faces barely close enough to touch, ends up driving them into each others’ arms; they burn up the frame. Christmas classics aren’t supposed to get this hot, but there you are.