Movies Like 'Violent Night' to Watch Next

Keep the adrenaline pumping during the holiday season.
by Danielle Turchiano — 

David Harbour in 'Violent Night'

Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures' 2022 holiday film Violent Night may have Santa in a starring role (played here by David Harbour), but it is not a family-friendly, feel-good title.

This Santa is disgruntled after delivering presents to greedy little kids for thousands of years, and he takes Christmas Eve breaks at bars around the world while out delivering presents. He also takes breaks to drink the alcohol of those who live in the homes he visits, as well as utilize their high-end gear. And that last bit comes to bite him when he hangs out a little too long at the Lightstone manor and gets caught up in a home invasion.

The uber-rich Lightstones all gather at matriarch Gertrude's (Beverly D'Angelo) estate to kiss her ring, so to speak, and enjoy a very well-stocked home. But this time, the employees working their evening are really working for Mr. Scrooge (John Leguizamo), a man who hates Christmas and the rich and is there to steal $300 million from Gertrudge's vault and maybe kill everyone while trying.

The youngest Lightstone family member, Trudy (Leah Brady) manages to secretly communicate with Santa during this invasion, and boy, is she thrilled to learn he is the real Santa. But her whole family should be thrilled he is there because he has a surprising background that gives him a particular set of skills at taking out bad guys — which comes in extra handy when it turns out the extraction team Gertrude thinks is coming to save her is also working with Mr. Scrooge. 

As the title suggests, things turn violent (and bloody) very fast, but there are also some other interesting twists and a couple of quintessential "magic of Christmas" moments along the way, too.

Screenwriters Pat Casey and Josh Miller were inspired by such holiday films as Die Hard and Home Alone when working on the script for Violent Night, so it should be no surprise that those are two films that should be on your queue to watch next if you like Violent Night. But they're far from the only ones that will keep the adrenaline pumping during the holiday season.

Here, Metacritic highlights 10 films to watch next, ranked by Metascore.


Bruce Willis in 'Die Hard'

20th Century Fox

Die Hard

Metascore: 72
Best for: Fans of blue-collar heroes
Where to watch: 

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Runtime: 131 minutes

Let the debate about whether this movie really is a holiday movie continue! Set on Christmas Eve, this 1988 start to a franchise follows Detective John McClane (Bruce Willis) who just wants to reconcile with his wife at a holiday party but instead gets caught up in stopping Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) from trying to steal more than half a billion dollars from the building's vault. John works for the NYPD, but he is in Los Angeles where his wife has been living because they are separated, which means he can't just call up his friends at his precinct for backup and the local cops he does reach are skeptical at first about his story, leaving him to take out a number of armed men alone, in an infamous white tank top.

"A logistical wonder, a marvel of engineering, and relentlessly, mercilessly thrilling." — Hal Hinson, The Washington Post


Billy Bob Thornton in 'Bad Santa'


Bad Santa

Metascore: 70
Best for: Fans of Santa behaving badly
Where to watch:

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Runtime: 91 minutes

This 2003 black comedy stars Billy Bob Thornton as Willie T. Soke, a thief who only takes gigs as Santa so he has good enough access to rob the stores at which he is stationed. The film is one of the less violent ones on the list, and it also doesn't have nearly the amount of action that Violent Night does, but what it does have in common with the new film is how Willie's plans get turned a bit around when he meets a young boy (played by Brett Kelly). He still wants break into a safe for a holiday windfall, and he still drinks a lot and feeds his sex addiction, but he does come to the kid's assistance, not only in getting him the gift he wants as the real Santa would, but also in teaching him to stand up for himself against his bullies. More than a dozen years after this film was released came a sequel, but it received much worse reviews. 

"First-rate talent and a uniquely dyspeptic mood separate this effort from more routine, populist stabs at tasteless yukkage." — Dennis Harvey, Variety


From left to right: Mel Gibson and Danny Glover in 'Lethal Weapon'

Warner Bros. Pictures

Lethal Weapon

Metascore: 68
Best for: Fans of buddy-cop stories
Where to watch: 

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Runtime: 110 minutes

Like Die Hard, there is debate over whether this film (another start of a franchise) should count as a holiday film, but no matter what side you come down on, it still shares themes and characteristics with Violent Night. While Violent Night features the important duo of Santa and Trudy working side-by-side in their own way to take down the home invaders, Lethal Weapon focuses on the more traditional pairing of police partners: Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson) and Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover). They have opposite approaches to cases, but they team up to help Murtaugh's friend get answers about who killed his daughter. In doing so, it leads them to a much more complicated conspiracy, which includes a kidnapping, a faked death, and torture. And the holiday part? Riggs and Murtaugh eat together on Christmas, after they successfully close the case, and Riggs gives Murtaugh a very special gift.

"Mad Max meets The Cosby Show. ... It works better than a fastidious mind might imagine." — Richard Schickel, Time


The cast of 'Anna and the Apocalypse'

Vertigo Releasing

Anna and the Apocalypse

Metascore: 63
Best for: Fans of zombies, musicals, and comedy — all wrapped up into one film
Where to watch: 

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Runtime: 93 minutes

Violent Night is a mashup of comedy, action, and family drama genres, with a dash of horror. The 2017 Anna and the Apocalypse takes things even further by blending comedy, zombie drama, and musicals. The titular character, played by Ella Hunt, has big post-graduation plans, but unfortunately they get upended when a zombie outbreak occurs during the holiday season. She and her friends are left to take out what zombies they can while trying to save their loved ones and, eventually, each other. Suddenly her desire to leave her town after graduation seems both much more important (because maybe the outbreak hasn't occurred out there), but also much less likely (because of the odds of survival).

"What's strangest about this almost-comedy, though, isn't its mish-mash of unlikely genres, but the earnest approach to them. Apocalypse begins as a High School Musical look-alike with poppy group numbers in cafeterias and hallways." — Johnny Oleksinski, New York Post


Macaulay Culkin in 'Home Alone'

20th Century Fox

Home Alone

Metascore: 63
Best for: Fans of kids getting to save the day
Where to watch: 

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Runtime: 103 minutes

John Hughes' 1990 action-holiday film stars Macaulay Culkin as Kevin McCallister, a plucky 8-year-old who gets (you guessed it) left home alone while his family jets off to Paris for Christmas. It would be one thing if he just had to manage braving the basement and learning to shop for groceries, but he also takes it upon himself to defend his house from the Wet Bandits (played by Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern), thieves who plan to rob the houses of those they know are out of town for the holidays. Kevin creates an elaborate booby trap system that ends up inspiring Trudy in Violent Night, but because Home Alone is aimed at a more youthful audience, the violence Kevin inflicts is played for laughs. And he does it all again in the 1992 sequel, subtitled Lost in New York before the IP is rebooted with different kids, families, and intruders.

"Even though Macaulay Culkin's alternately muggy and inexpressive lead performance hasn't worn well, the supporting turns by Catherine O'Hara and John Candy are especially crackerjack, as is John Williams' buoyantly cartoony score." — Noel Murray, The A.V. Club


Denis Leary in 'The Ref'

Buena Vista Pictures

The Ref

Metascore: 59
Best for: Fans of dysfunctional families and holiday robberies that occur in the home, not due to high present prices
Where to watch: 

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Runtime: 96 minutes

Christmas Eve for the Chasseurs (played by Judy Davis and Kevin Spacey) is looking pretty crappy in this 1994 dark comedy because they are in marriage counseling. But things get even worse when thief Gus (Denis Leary) takes them — and the other family members who end up coming home — hostage. Whether their family is as bad as the Lightstones in Violent Night may be debatable (teenage Jesse, played by Robert J. Steinmiller Jr., has been blackmailing a school official, for one thing and tries to convince Gus to take him on as a protege of sorts), but they are certainly fight amongst themselves just as much. As the night drags on, that fighting escalates, but it doesn't turn violent, and there's more of a stereotypical happy ending for all involved.

"The Ref is the sort of project that stands or falls on its writing — it needs to be deep and deliciously dark. But as scripted by Richard LaGravenese and Marie Weiss ... and directed by Ted Demme ... all we get is superficial rage." — Stephen Rea, The Philadelphia Inquirer


'Silent Night' (2012)

Anchor Bay Films

Silent Night (2012)

Metascore: 53
Best for: Those looking for a better reviewed and more modern version of Silent Night, Deadly Night
Where to watch: 

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Runtime: 94 minutes

Santa is a slasher in this 2012, well, slasher. But don't worry, it's not the real Santa; it's just a guy who dons the red suit as a disguise and borrows Santa's motive of punishing those who he considers naughty when he goes on a killing spree. On the case is Sheriff Cooper (Malcolm McDowell) and Deputy Bradimore (Jaime King), and the No. 1 suspect is a guy named Jim (Donal Logue) who is a drunk and has a job playing Santa. But of course, the answer is not as obvious as that! The blood and gore level in this film matches Violent Night, but it plays more like a horror flick with holiday themes and therefore follows a very familiar formula.

"This brisk reimagining of the 1984 slasher Silent Night, Deadly Night delivers the seasonal goods with admirable efficiency and not a little wit." — Jeanette Catsoulis, The New York Times


'Silent Night' (2021)


Silent Night (2021)

Metascore: 52
Best for: Fans of family gatherings that end in quiet death
Where to watch: 

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Runtime: 92 minutes

If you walked out of Violent Night wishing more of the Lightstones didn't make it, this movie might just be for you. The family and friends that gather at Nell (Keira Knightley) and Simon's (Matthew Goode) country estate are not as obnoxious as the majority of the Lightstones, so arguably they don't deserve a terrible fate, but unfortunately not every can get what they want, not even at Christmastime. In this world, everyone is counting down to an incoming poisonous gas cloud, but because of the fear around how painful a death from such a thing could be, the government has given its citizens suicide pills. The gathering is one last hurrah before the end, although some characters are still debating whether or not to take the pills. There is also the question of whether the gas cloud really is coming, and what it will do if it arrives. The film is more psychologically terrifying than violent, but it also hinges on an innocent young child at the center of the story.

"Writer/director Camille Griffin's feature filmmaking debut is an ambitious but muddled mix of Christmas comedy and apocalyptic drama." — Christy Lemire, RogerEbert.com


The cast of 'Krampus'

Universal Pictures


Metascore: 49
Best for: Fans of Santa-like creatures behaving really badly — murderously badly
Where to watch: 

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Runtime: 98 minutes

This 2015 horror comedy is another film that features a dysfunctional family and a little kid (Max, played by Emjay Anthony) who is desperately trying to hold onto hope of Santa and of Christmas. Unfortunately for him, he gets mocked for that hope and his belief. Unfortunately for them all, losing the Christmas spirit means Krampus is coming to get you. The titular demon begins to take out family members, leaving Max to try to bargain with it to save them. Although it is dark, there is a bit of Christmas magic in the movie, especially at the end, but we won't spoil exactly what that means.

"While the violent sequences are very effectively staged, the results are a strange hybrid that doesn't quite work. Lacking the antic, witty humor of something like the similarly conceived Gremlins or the full-out gore of a traditional horror flick, Krampus never really finds it niche." — Frank Scheck, The Hollywood Reporter


Adam Goldberg in 'The Hebrew Hammer'

Strand Releasing

The Hebrew Hammer

Metascore: 41
Best for: Those who want more inclusive holiday movies
Where to watch: 

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Runtime: 85 minutes

Adam Goldberg stars as the titular vigilante of sorts who has dedicated his life to defending his fellow Jewish people in this 2003 comedy. In this film, the onslaught of Christmas decorations, the "othering" Christian students and teachers made him feel, and Santa destroying his dreidel is what pushes him down this path. But once he goes down it, he is celebrated for it. And his work never becomes more important than when Damian Claus (Andy Dick) kills his father to become the new Santa and decides to wipe out all other December holidays. Thankfully, he won't have to do it alone though, as he teams up with some very special representatives of other religions and cultures. It may feel like a stretch, but in this scenario, his character is comparable to Santa in Violent Night, who ends up getting unexpected help from the Lightstones.

"The corker-to-groaner ratio heavily favors the latter as the bagel-and-dreidel jokes begin to lose their spark, as does the story." — Robert Abele, LA Weekly