Every year, film scholars meet to debate one of the most important philosophical issues of our time: Is Die hard a Christmas movie? Opinions on both sides of this argument are surprisingly heated.
Yet there is a clear case on both sides. Here’s the proof you need to argue whether or not Die hard is a Christmas movie.
Yes, Die hard Is a Christmas movie
In the first scene of the movie, New York City Police Detective John McClane (Willis) gets off a plane that has just landed in Los Angeles and the flight attendant wishes him a Merry Christmas. He also has a giant teddy bear with a bow on it – a Christmas present for one of his children.
From there, the film never lets the audience forget that it is Christmas Eve.
Christmas music, including classic compositions to Run-DMC’s “Christmas in Hollis,” is played throughout the film. John goes 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 terrorists, led by Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman), take over the building.
While John and the terrorists engage in a lengthy battle of wits and weapons, they often use Christmas-themed exclamations. ‘Now I have a machine gun. Ho ho ho, ”John writes on the body of one of Hans’s henchmen. When hacker Theo (Clarence Gilyard, Jr.) tries to warn his fellow criminals about the impending arrival of the police, he starts with, “‘Twas the night before Christmas …”
Thematic, Die hard addresses John’s need to reconcile with his family, which is one of the most common messages from Christmas movies. Even his wife’s (Holly) name has a Christmas theme.
No, Die hard Is not a Christmas movie
The fact that a movie takes place at Christmas does not make it a Christmas movie. Over the years, movie studios and TV networks (like Hallmark) have honed the precise ingredients for a Christmas movie. In these films, the holiday is always central to the story. This is true both for Hallmark’s mega-successful, mega-cheesy Christmas romantic films, as well as the booming sub-genre of Christmas horror films.
Real Christmas movies are about Christmas from start to finish. They would fall apart completely without the holiday element.
Could Die hard take place on, for example, Independence Day, Halloween or just any Tuesday? Of course that’s possible. The holiday does not affect the actual story. Hans Gruber and his cohorts don’t attack Nakatomi Plaza because it’s Christmas. Even John’s visit is more about reconnecting with his wife and children than any particular holiday tradition.
Yes, Die hard starts and ends with Merry Christmas wishes and includes some symbolic holiday themes in the background. But there is nothing Christmas-related at all about the plot of the movie.
Die hard is a great action film because of the expertly crafted screenplay and tight, dynamic direction of John McTiernan, neither of which has anything to do with Christmas.
The last word
Obviously, many fans are considering Die hard a Christmas movie. There is even a huge industry of it Die hard-related Christmas products including the illustrated children’s style storybook, A Die Hard Christmas: The Illustrated Holiday Classic. There are also ugly Christmas sweaters and Christmas decorations, as well as other authorized (and unauthorized) items.
Of course, Willis made his point quite clear during his Comedy Central Roast 2018.
“Die hard is not a Christmas movie, ”he stated. “It’s a fucking Bruce Willis movie!”
The debate continues.
You can stream Die hard on HBO Max ($ 14.99 per month). It is also available for digital purchase ($ 7.99 +) or rent ($ 2.99 +) on Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, and FandangoNow.