Trading Places: A Christmas Classic Worth Celebrating

Black Friday has passed, but Americans still need something to fight about. Christmas has arrived, so fighting over the best Christmas movie seems like the logical next step.

If you are fighting the War On Christmas Movies, you probably fall into one of five camps:

1. Your Favorite is “It’s a Wonderful Life”: That means you have probably watched all of the AFI List specials.

2. Your Favorite is “Home Alone”: You grew up in the 90s. Also, you have a thing for setting up booby traps in your house.

3. Your Favorite is “A Christmas Story”: You will watch it during the entire 24 hour block that runs on TBS on Christmas Day. Also, you’re probably Jewish and couldn’t convince anybody else to go see something in theaters that day.

4. Your Favorite is “Die Hard”: You understand that “Die Hard” isn’t a Christmas movie in a traditional sense. But you don’t care, because you are way too cool for school.

5. Your Favorite is “Jingle All The Way”: Haha we get it. You like being ironic and you probably own a pair of bacon socks from Urban Outfitters and also you’re probably me.

However, I would like to stage a coup, and add a sixth film to the battle. Would anybody care to join me on Team “Trading Places”?

Okay, “Trading Places” isn’t the most traditional Christmas story. Like “Die Hard,” Christmas is more of a backdrop rather than front and center. But the holidays are an open and inviting time, just not for your drunk uncle who won’t stop talking about Obamacare.

In “Trading Places,” two rich old men with too much money and time on their hands want to settle the nature vs. nurture debate once and for all. So they find their lab rats in the form of stock broker Louis Winthorpe III (Dan Aykroyd) and homeless criminal Billy Ray Valentine (Eddie Murphy). Louis finds his money, safety, and sanity all gone. Billy Ray, meanwhile, ends up with millions. The way in which this all transpires is actually quite brilliant and elaborate. Along the way, you’ll get a glimpse of a young Giancarlo Esposito, and way more of a glimpse of Jamie Lee Curtis than you probably ever expected.

“Trading Places” came out in 1983, and is one of the best comedies of the 1980s. It is part of the trend of 80s comedies about how entertaining it is to make fun of the country club crowd. It has been playing on Comedy Central a lot lately, and it gets much better after multiple viewings. It contains some of the best work from all of its stars. It is also a sad reminder that Eddie Murphy was once one of the funniest people on the planet. “Trading Places” is a bit different from the likes of “Caddyshack” and “Ghostbusters.” A lot of jokes fall through the cracks upon a first viewing. It has a much drier sense of humor than most other mainstream American comedies of that time. Well, now that I think about it, watching all three of those movies back to back right now would be pretty awesome.

Anyway, “Trading Places” might be dark for a Christmas movie, but it still embodies the holiday spirit in a way that no Christmas movie starring Tim Allen ever could. “Trading Places” is a film about a bunch of completely different people coming closer together to defeat a common enemy. Who ever thought a businessman, a hobo, and a prostitute could get along? Well, the holidays are a time to put aside your differences and revel in warmth to escape the cold, dark winter.

While you might not have wanted your Christmas movie of choice to feature a lot of talk about whether or not man is good or evil, maybe you might want one where all the Scrooges get screwed to put you in a good mood. It’s nice that the moral in the end is that sometimes, stock fraud is okay.

Plus, if you wanted a good reminder of a few of the racist jokes you might hear during the holidays, look no further than Aykroyd’s blackface. It’s pretty offensive, but also really funny. It’s a forgiving time of year. So you can be forgiven for laughing at it.*

*You can still laugh at it any other time of year. In fact, the great thing about “Trading Places” is that unlike other Christmas movies, you are still legally allowed to watch during any time of the year that you want.

  • Terry A Davis

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  • Youth

    My all-time favourite is Edward Scissorhands. It has strong Christmas and winter themes to it both directly and indirectly, and Danny Elfman’s score to the movie captures the pure essence of winter wonder. I urge you – listen to the track “Ice Dance” on Youtube and ask yourself if that isn’t the very soundtrack to Winter itself. I can’t go through a winter without watching this movie several times and, if we get snow, I take long walks while listening to the score, it is a must-do Winter tradition for me. Hope you too find enjoyment in it!

  • Hugh Gass

    where is Christmas Vacation on this list? That’s a classic

  • Reno Berkeley

    I can’t believe you left off “Christmas Vacation.” That and “A Christmas Story” are two of my favorites.

  • Varnish Yourboard

    This isn’t a “great christmas movies” list, people! (or sock puppets, you never know these days). It’s a case to be made for Trading Places to be added to all those other lists. And I agree, it’s a classic!

  • Spocko

    THANK YOU! I agree. I LOVE this movie. The part that I like to point out to people is an exchange between Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy when Aykroyd wants to physically hit the Duke Brothers and Murphy suggests that “If you really want to hurt rich people, you take their money.”

    This is an important concept that I point out to activists. And if you can not only take their money, but get money in the process (like in the movie) you have REALLY won.
    Lots of talk about income inequality these days (thank you Occupy for bringing that issue up!)

    I don’t like talk of violence because the rich will protect themselves and have an excuse to crack heads in the process, but step to raise their taxes, remove their loopholes, fine them for breaking the few laws they haven’t brought yet are all good things. They have been “distributing the wealth” UP for decades. Time to take it back, especially when they do crap like what Wall Street (and the Dukes did.)

  • lordkipper

    Thank you! My family has watched this movie every single Christmas for the last 20 years. I just wouldn’t be Christmas with out it.

  • WingedWalnut

    Jamie Lee Curtis’s untethered breasts. Twice. Proof that there really IS a god.

  • epileptikitty

    “Rare Exports” if you are a very bad person. Highly recommended, along with the two short films.

  • Linda Leaver


    That is all.

  • Jonathan Cares

    Plus… You get to see Jamie Lee Curtis’ FANTASTIC boobs… it doens’t GET any better!!!!!

  • parfivesin2

    Trading Places is a comedic classic…full of double entendre. Beautifully written screenplay.