It’s the most wonderful time of the year… JUNE. Probably. I wrote this in April. That’s far closer to Christmas than when this will, inevitably, be published. Of course I could have saved this for Christmas but here’s my thinking… every year, people Google, ‘Is the movie “Die Hard” a Christmas movie?’ If I published this in December, it would get lost in a sea of argument. If I published this in the summer, I’ll be on this island all on my own. My voice will be heard! Instead of being lost in a virgin sea. But this is a very important question, one that has been debated since the dawn of time or… since this movie came out, and today we will settle this once and for all… is ‘Die Hard’ a Christmas movie? Yes. Of course it is. Next question. Oh, you want more? Eurgh, God. I wanted a bacon sandwich, you cretins…
Sigh. Let’s do this. COME ON! Die Hard is a 1988 American action film directed by John McTiernan and written by Jeb Stuart and Steven de Souza. It spawned Die Hard II. Then III. Then blah… blah… blah… it’s a real surprise the next one isn’t going to be named ‘Old Habits’, but what can you do. ‘Die Hard’ remains one of the greatest films ever made and all can agree it is set at Christmas. Does that make it a Christmas film? This is the debate that has raged for 33 years. BECAUSE NO-ONE HAS ANYTHING BETTER TO DO!
The movie, based on the 1979 book ‘Nothing Lasts Forever’, stars Bruce Willis as Santa Claus, Alan Rickman as The British Villain, Alexander Godunov and Bonnie Bedelia. The movie follows New York City police detective John McClane as he is caught up in a terrorist takeover of an LA skyscraper whilst visiting his estranged wife. AT CHRISTMAS. It’s often named the greatest Christmas movie ever made. But is it one?
It’s a question everyone has an opinion on. The ‘no it isn’t crowd’, and those who are right, the ‘yes it is crowd’. But how can a film about terrorists and violence be a Christmas movie? That’s a great question. I’m glad you asked. Because I have, and this is true, 14 pages of notes on why it is. MERRY JUNE-MAS!
Let’s start by going to the horse’s mouth. Steven de Souza, one of the writers of Die Hard, considers the movie part of the Christmas genre. Saying to his face that it isn’t is like saying to that porn star with a 14 inch wang that his penis is not ridiculously large. If he thinks it is… it is. You wouldn’t argue with him even if he whipped it out and started twirling it around. It’s a ridiculous argument. Yes, I know Bruce Willis does not think Die Hard is a Christmas movie but that is the man who fought tooth and nail to bring Die Hard 4, 5 and 6 to our screens and yes, I do have a soft spot for Die Hard 4, but that man is clearly a lunatic.
It’s hard to escape the fact that Die Hard is set at Christmas. Nobody is saying that makes it a Christmas film but… well, it does. It is literally set on Christmas Eve. It’s certainly a festive film, right? Yes, Alan. Thank you for agreeing. Hans Gruber crashes a Christmas party for heaven’s sake! And sure, you might say, ‘Well, a terrorist has never crashed my Christmas party!’ No, but the fallout from that time Cindy cheated on her boyfriend on the photocopier could be considered just as disastrous as the time Hans shot that cocky bloke through the head. Just sayin’.
Even more than this, the events of Die Hard could not take place any other time of the year. Offices only hold these sorts of parties at Christmas so Hans knew the plot had to happen at Christmas. It was the only time security was this lacking and the only time when all the executives would be in one place. Would Die Hard work set on Shrove Tuesday? Exactly.
The book also takes place at Christmas, in case you’re wondering. In the book, John McClane, who in the book is named Joseph Leland, deals with the guilt over missing out his daughter’s life due to his career and alcoholism by wanting to use Christmas to atone for it. It is the most wonderful time of the year after all. The book is irrefutably a Christmas book. But this isn’t about the book. It’s about why ‘Die Hard’ is definitely a Christmas film.
So what does a Christmas film need to be a Christmas film? Set at Christmas? Check. Christmas music? Check. Die Hard is filled with Christmas music. ‘Winter Wonderland’, ‘Let It Snow’, ‘Ode to Joy’ and the slightly alarming ‘Christmas in Hollis’. ‘Holly’ is John McClane’s wife so the implication here is that he wants to spend Christmas inside… anyway, this is a song by Run-DMC. One of the greatest Christmas songs ever written. So there.
Die Hard is also packed with Christmas references. Even amongst the gun fights and explosions, the characters continue to reference Christmas. At one point, Hans says, “It’s Christmas, Theo. The time for miracles.” And at another point, John writes, ‘I have a machine gun now, ho, ho, ho.’ The movie never forgets it is Christmas. Just like having sex with that porn star. You’ll never forget that’s 14 inches of agony inside you right about now.
Plus, is there any argument that Hans is The Grinch? He’s the top brass and hardly breaks a sweat. Cool, calm, calculated. A pure villain. Is he Scrooge, as he believes? Nope. He is The Grinch… he steals Christmas! Admittedly, The Grinch didn’t use machine guns but other than that, there’s no real difference between the two.
Then there are the presents. The Three Wise Men brought Jesus some presents on the day of his birth. The same thing happens in Die Hard. John’s LA cop buddy Al buys snack cakes for his pregnant wife, Harry Ellis gives Holly a Rolex watch, and the FBI gives Hans access to the vault after shutting down the power grid. The link is obvious! The watch is the gold, the cake is the myrrh (which is a food), and the vault is frankincense… which was very expensive. Shut up, this is not a stretch.
Although if you thought that was a stretch, John and Holly are basically Joseph and Mary. John is a weary traveller, just like Joseph and Mary. John has travelled a long way to be with his family at Christmas. How is that any different from the nativity? He travels a long way to make amends with his wife… it’s a beautiful Christmas romance! Harry is the donkey, in case you’re wondering…
It’s hard to get away from the fact that John’s wife is named Holly. But this is a festive feel-good romance. It’s all mushy and sweet and kind. Their entire relationship embodies the spirit of Christmas. Holly is Christmas. Which is why Bruce Willis is Santa Claus.
Die Hard is also very watchable, a key ingredient in great Christmas movies. A Christmas Story, Elf, It’s a Wonderful Life, all definitely Christmas films, are inherently rewatchable. Die Hard is just as awesome as the first time you watched it. There are not many films that put you in the Christmas mood more than Die Hard. Plus, it has lots of twinkling lights. Admittedly, most of them are police cars but still…
What makes a Christmas film such? Everyone who says that Die Hard is not says that a Christmas film must FEEL like a Christmas film and that it must be about Christmas. They argue that if a movie is not about Christmas, it can never constitute a Christmas movie. And here’s why those people are talking out of their arse.
Yes, Die Hard is about terrorists and they’re not very festive. Fair enough. But there are many movies that are regarded as one thing even though they’re not about that thing. Take ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’. You can’t find me anyone who would argue that is not one of the most Christmassy films ever made. Every single person on Earth would say that is a Christmas movie. Really? Because there’s no mention of Christmas. It’s a movie about a bank manager who tries to kill himself. It has NOTHING to do with Christmas, just like Die Hard, but unlike It’s a Wonderful Life, Die Hard is riddled with Christmas. References, music, the very setting. What qualifies a Christmas movie? It being about Christmas? Never. Not at all. It may do but if it doesn’t, that doesn’t mean it isn’t a Christmas movie. Home Alone is a Christmas movie after all, a movie about a kid left alone. What qualifies these movies as Christmas movies? One thing and one thing alone: they embody the spirit of Christmas. Simple as that.
The fact that the people who wrote Home Alone and It’s a Wonderful Life said dozens and dozens of times that those movies were not intended to be Christmas movies says a lot about the people who consider them Christmas movies but not Die Hard, a movie written to BE a Christmas movie. That’s insane! What is more Christmassy than seeing a chiselled action hero blow a terrorist cabal to kingdom come? Bruce Willis saves Christmas because the movie is about his marriage and how he uses Christmas to save it. It’s not a movie about terrorists. It’s a movie about love. It’s basically Love, Actually.
The spirit of Christmas, love and friendship abound in Die Hard. It is Christmas! Christmas is about goodwill to all humankind. We have a marriage on the rocks being mended. And we have the friendship between John and Al. When they finally meet, you actually cry. Does Love, Actually make you cry? Not unless you’re a desperately lonely person, no. Normal people don’t cry at that film. But they do when John and Al meet.
Die Hard is all about the triumph of good over evil. That is the epitome of any Christmas movie. Even Al gets his redemption, his second chance at life. AND JOHN’S WIFE IS NAMED ‘HOLLY’! The good guys win, it doesn’t matter how or what evil they overcame. Hope prevailed. Love won. Two estranged lovers rediscovered what made them work. Is there any difference between Die Hard and It’s a Wonderful Life? The core messages are exactly the same. The only difference is… Die Hard was written to be a Christmas movie! It’s a Wonderful Life wasn’t and until the day he died, the man who wrote that film argued it should not be considered a Christmas film. He was wrong. Just like those who deny Die Hard is not a Christmas film are wrong. A Christmas film is never a film about Christmas. It is a film that embodies the spirit of Christmas and Die Hard certainly does. Just like Forrest Gump embodies the spirit of Shrove Tuesday. Probably.
And if you still are not convinced, consider Mark Kermode. Widely regarded as the greatest British film critic who has ever lived and one of the greatest of all time, a national treasure. He considers Die Hard to be a Christmas film. Arguing with him on this is like trying to convince a penguin that it is a duck.
You are not duck. You are penguin.
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Image (click on it to enlarge): 1) Ho, ho, ho... Image Credit: https://www.nbcnews.com/news/all/debate-over-which-films-are-christmas-movies-continues-die-hard-n948126