Christmas film recommendation: The Ref

Every year I recommend that people forget the standard Christmas films and check out instead the 1994 film The Ref. With great performances by Denis Leary, Kevin Spacey, and particularly Judy Davis, it is a hilarious story of a burglar on the run from the law who takes a seriously dysfunctional family hostage on Christmas eve and then has to keep them from fighting with each other while trying to make his escape. I discovered that the full film is available in one stream on YouTube in good quality.

During the opening credits, it looks like your standard Christmas schmaltz but veers off into comedy territory as soon as they are over. The op

Leary was on The Daily Show promoting his latest book. I tend not to enjoy so much Jon Stewart’s interviews of TV and film celebrities but his interviews with Leary, clearly an old friend of his, are pretty funny.

(This clip appeared on December 3, 2012. To get suggestions on how to view clips of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report outside the US, please see this earlier post.)


  1. brucegee1962 says

    Unless a movie is posted by the actual studio that owns the rights, I’m suspicious of any movie that’s posted in its entirety on Youtube. I tend to think it’s not only illegal to post a movie you don’t own the rights to, it’s immoral.

  2. Psychopomp Gecko says

    I know what you mean. It’s that Repo: The Genetic Opera isn’t really considered a good Christmas movie.

  3. Psychopomp Gecko says

    Doubt this is what you were asking for.

    Only one I can think of isn’t even set during the season. Just one Christmas day, we wanted something on TV and I saw Renaissance Man (starring Danny Devito as an adman who gets fired and has to get a job as civilian teacher for the army)was on. I don’t really know why, but that’s now the movie I want to see most every Christmas day. Just a fun little movie with some good lessons.

    If you want to give it a try other times of the year, that’s not bad either.

  4. flex says

    Last year at the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor we stumbled across a great christmas film, in a very black comedy sort of way.

    Rare Exports.

    A Finnish film, it explores the idea that Santa Clause may not be all that nice, and when his tomb is exposed all the children are taken from the small Lapland village. The pacing is a bit slow in the start, and the filming is somewhat dark (it is Lapland in December after all). Yet, the slow start helps build the tension for the reveal at the end, which creates a most satisfying christmas moment.

    Released on DVD last year, it will be a holiday tradition in our family for many years to come.

  5. Tracey says

    Oh, Renaissance Man is a great, great movie! Danny DeVito does a marvellous job. That movie is a great example of unexamined privilege: a well-educated, high-earning, upper-middle-class adman sees how others are not born with a silver spoon and how it affects their lives. If you like to think, this is a good movie for you. If you like mindless slapstick, this is also a good movie for you.

  6. Greg says

    Leary was on the Craig Ferguson show last night promoting his book. It turns out that they’ve known each other for 20+ years, and toured Scotland as comics.

    Leary’s book is probably R rated, but the 100% of his proceeds go to fire companies across the country.

    One Xmas eve in the 80’s, my family sat with some really good pizza and watched Ghostbusters on HBO. That’s a pretty good movie for the family; decently written and funny, but not so racy that kids can’t watch it.

  7. Mano Singham says

    Thanks for these suggestions. I have already queued them up to watch.

    Keep the recommendations coming!

  8. Jared A says

    One wintry holiday a few years ago I watched the first half hour of “The War of the Roses”. Every since Christmas has been a context cue to remind me to finish it. Maybe this is the year I actually will.

  9. Psychopomp Gecko says

    I see it more as teaching about the value of learning no matter where you’re at in life and no matter how you get the education. Well, as long as it is information and not misinformation.

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