If you want to watch a holiday special, you have a wide variety of movies and TV specials to choose from, including everything from Scrooged to Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer to Prancer. And if none of those are your particular flavor of eggnog, there’s pop culture fare such as Batman Returns and Iron Man 3, which both happen to be set during the holiday season.
However, this year, might we suggest a less obvious film to enjoy during the month of December, but one that has all the elements of a holiday movie:
The Empire Strikes Back.
Hear me out.
I could have chosen the Star Wars Holiday Special—which you can watch on YouTube if you’re so inclined—but since it’s just abysmal, despite the appearance of national treasure Bea Arthur, I figured I’d go another route, with the best Star Wars film ever produced. But it’s not just the fact that it’s the standout movie of the wide array Star Wars productions that I chose this one. It’s that it has elements of not just holiday specials, but of things—for good or ill—that we associate with the season.
Personally for me, and for many folks I know of a certain age, the Star Wars films will always be associated with the holidays, specifically Thanksgiving and Christmas. That’s most likely because, especially in the late 1980s and early 1990s, TV channels like TNT and TBS would have all-day marathons of the movies on those holidays like clockwork. If you didn’t own the films—and even if you did—you had a guaranteed place to catch them and delve into the magic.
Beyond that, however, The Empire Strikes Back in particular has a variety of touchstones of what we experience in other holiday fare, on screen and sometimes real life:
There’s a snowman in the form of the wampa! Look at that cuddly fellar, about to eat Luke Skywalker! Effing precious! Move over, Frosty, and your tired old jingle-jangle song.
And there’s an awkward family dinner. Han, Chewie, Leia, Threepio, and Artoo are led into a trap, courtesy of a boxed-in Lando, in a dining room complete with Darth Vader and Boba Fett. Pass the stuffing! It’s like National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation with two times the droids!
Snow! The first third of the movie takes place on the ice planet Hoth, home of the aforementioned wampa! And tauntauns! Snowball fights, guys! And be careful not to catch your death of cold!
And what’s a holiday movie without familial bickering? Sure, it’s not The Family Stone, but it does have a dad and son—Vader and Luke—having a heart to heart, complete with Luke losing a hand. Karma, amirite? Oh, and Vader gets to meet his daughter Leia’s boyfriend—and tortures him. That had to make dessert awkward.
Seriously, it’s all there! So put aside watching A Charlie Brown Christmas for the 100th time and understand how Yoda and Charlie are a bit alike. (Yoda can’t get a whiny kid under his care to listen to him, either.)