Greetings and salutations to all, and to all a Merry Christmas! Yes folks, we’ve reached the final leg of 2022 and Christmas is just upon us. We all have our own traditions when it comes to Christmas- whether we celebrate it or not. I for one, have this habit of re-watching a particular movie that doesn’t really have much to do with the holiday other than its setting. That movie is Die Hard.
On every Christmas eve or day, I’ve made it a point to watch this movie, and an important question tends to cross my mind: Is Die Hard a Christmas movie? I’ve debated this internally and extensively on both sides of the argument.
Of course, it’s all in the spirit of the season. Die Hard fans like myself don’t really need the season of Christmas to watch what is widely regarded as one of the best action movies of the late 1980s. This 1988 thriller sees a lone cop taking down terrorist who’ve seized a high-rise building, made Bruce Willis a huge movie star. It also started a long-running franchise with four sequels, with the last being A Good Day to Die Hard back in 2013.
Still, there’s a clear case to be made for both why it is and isn’t a Christmas movie, and here’s why:
Yes, Die Hard is a Christmas Movie
In the movie’s opener, the first scene we see is New York City police detective John McClane (played by Willis) disembarks from a plane that has just landed in Los Angeles and the flight attendant wishes our protagonist a merry Christmas. He also carrying a giant teddy bear with a bow on it- surely a Christmas present for one of his kids.
From there onwards, the movie never lets you forget its Christmas. Christmas music, include Run-DMC’s rendition of “Christmas in Holis” can be heard throughout the movie. John proceeds to head to Nakatomi Plaza, where his estranged wife, Holly (Bonnie Bedelia), works to attend her company’s Christmas Party. That’s where he’s trapped when terrorist, led by Hans Gruber (portrayed by the late, great Alan Rickman), take over the building.
As John and the terrorist duke it out back and forth with both wits and guns, they also say Christmas-themed exclamations. The now iconic phrase “Now I have a machine gun. Ho ho ho,” the John writes on the body of one of Han’s henchmen has become a must have sweater gift for any movie buff on Christmas. Another would be when the Hacker Theo (Clarence Gilyard, Jr) wants to warm his fellow ne’er do wells of the cops impending arrival, he starts with, “Twas the night before Christmas…”
Thematically, Die Hard focus on John’s need to reconcile with his family, which is one of the most common messages of Christmas themed movies. Like, I mean, his wife’s name (Holly) is Christmas themed.
No, Die Hard is not a Christmas Movie
Okay, just because a movie is set during Christmas doesn’t automatically make it one. Over the years, movie studios and direct to streaming (like Netflix) have hones in on the precise ingredients for a Christmas movie. These films, the holiday is the central focus on the story. This applies to both Hallmark’s mega-successful, mega-cheesy and campy Christmas romance movies- like, take Netflix’s Christmas rom-com from the previous year for example, Love Hard, is a direct jab at Die Hard’s cult status a Christmas movie.
As much as in pains me to say this, but could Die Hard take place on a different holiday like Halloween or 4th of July (which it did for the 4th movie), or just some random day of the week? Yes, it definitely could. The holiday has no bearing on the actual story. Hans Gruber and his goons aren’t attacking Nakatomi Plaza because it’s Christmas. Even John’s visit is more about connecting with his with wife and children than any specific holiday tradition.
While yes, Die Hard does begins and ends with wishes of merry Christmas and features a plethora of the season’s iconography in the background. Unfortunately, there’s nothing Christmas related at all that’s relevant to the plot of the movie.
Die Hard is a great action movie because of its expertly written screenplay and directing, which again, has no relevance to Christmas.
While many fans (like myself) consider Die Hard a Christmas Movie. You can find many Die Hard-related Christmas products, like the sweater I’ve mentioned before. Since it’s an action movie first, I equate Die Hard to eating a steak dinner as oppose to the sugary-sweet Christmas rom-coms and family friendly movies. The addition of Christmas into the story doesn’t really the overall plot, but the inclusion gives a feeling of whimsy- the twinkling lights reminding us our childhood.
So, there’s other movies too that take place during Christmas but aren’t about Christmas, just take a look below: