Is 1999’s erotic thriller ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ a Christmas movie?

Entertainment
Dr. William Harford (Tom Cruise) and Alice Harford (Nicole Kidman) in Stanley Kubrick's "Eyes Wide Shut."

Dr. William Harford (Tom Cruise) and Alice Harford (Nicole Kidman) in Stanley Kubrick’s “Eyes Wide Shut.” (Photo by Warner Bros)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Are you tired of being asked if “Die Hard” is a Christmas movie?

While the 1988 Bruce Willis action film has sucked up much of the oxygen in recent re-examinations of movies that happen at Christmas but aren’t traditionally considered Christmas movies, many other happens-at-Christmas-movies don’t receive the same attention. The “Die Hard” discourse spawns several thinkpieces each year, including a Tuesday IGN poll of over 23,000 people. “Yes,” won handily with 18,011 votes to 5,122.

Detractors argue “Die Hard” isn’t a Christmas film because Christmas doesn’t factor into the film in any major way. But there are many other non-traditional movies that feature Christmas, including one that seems to have escaped the conversation.

Released in 1999, “Eyes Wide Shut” stars then celebrity supercouple Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman in auteur Stanley Kubrick’s final film. Set in the weeks ahead of Christmas, “Eyes Wide Shut” follows Bill (Cruise) on a dreamy and phantasmagoric journey through masked orgies hosted by a shadowy enclave — an occult group that may or may not be stalking and murdering.

The entire film’s events also might not even have even happened, but you’ll have to be the judge.

Nevertheless, it could be speculated that the film is more of a Christmas movie than “Die Hard.” The holiday actually does factor into the plot. A Christmas party and a Christmas shopping outing bookend the movie. Christmas decorations are also visible throughout the movie. There’s even an eight-year-old YouTube supercut of “Every Christmas Tree in Eyes Wide Shut.”

The R-rated “Eyes Wide Shut” was recently featured among a TIME list of dark Christmas movies.

Rolling Stone film critic David Ehrlich called “Eyes Wide Shut” a “bizarro holiday classic” in 2015, writing that Cruise’s character is “haunted by the Ghost of Carnal Knowledge Past” and audiences watch him meet the “Ghost of Orgies Present.”

Meanwhile, Keith Phipps dissected the film in 2018 for Decider, concluding: “Verdict: Ultimately, yes, [it’s a Christmas movie] even if its Christmas movie-ness doesn’t become apparent until the final moments. That also makes it the only Christmas movie to end with an F-bomb, which feels appropriate, really.”

Upon its arrival in July 1999, “Eyes Wide Shut” was highly anticipated due to a steamy marketing campaign featuring Cruise and Kidman in various states of undress. While the film was generally lauded by critics, it was left out of most major film awards categories. Nevertheless, it went on to earn $162 million at the box office against a $65 million budget. “Eyes Wide Shut” has increasingly been viewed by many as Kubrick’s masterpiece.

It goes without saying that “Eyes Wide Shut,” which required several alterations to avoid being rated NC-17, is probably not family viewing. But if you’re having an adults-only Christmas wine night, this might be your winner. Will it become a future “Die Hard”? Only time can tell.

For some, the time’s already come.

For SlashFilm in 2018, Britt Hayes heralds the film and its Christmas-ness, writing: “What could — and will — be argued, however, is that ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ is the best Christmas movie of our lifetime.”

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