Every year, film scholars come together to debate one of the most important philosophical issues of our time: Is it die hard, starring Bruce Willis, a Christmas movie? Opinions on both sides of this argument are surprisingly heated.
Of course, it’s all in the spirit of the season. die hard fans don’t necessarily need the excuse of the holidays to watch what is widely considered one of the best action movies of all time. The 1988 thriller about a lone cop taking down terrorists who have taken over a high-rise building made Bruce Willis a major movie star. He also established a long-running franchise with four sequels to date.
Still, there is a clear case to be made on both sides. Here is the evidence you need to debate whether die hard It’s a Christmas movie.
In the opening scene of the film, New York City Police Detective John McClane (Willis) disembarks from a plane that has just landed in Los Angeles and the flight attendant wishes him a Merry Christmas. She also carries a giant teddy bear with a bow, a Christmas present for one of his children.
From there, the film never lets the audience forget that it’s Christmas Eve.
Christmas music, including classic compositions from “Christmas in Hollis” by Run-DMC, is played throughout the film. John heads to Nakatomi Plaza, where his ex-wife, Holly (Bonnie Bedelia), works to attend his company’s Christmas party. That’s where he gets trapped when terrorists, led by Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman), take over the building.
As John and the terrorists engage in a protracted battle of wits and weaponry, they often employ Christmas-themed exclamations. “Now I have a machine gun. Ho ho ho,” John writes over the body of one of Hans’ henchmen. When hacker Theo (Clarence Gilyard, Jr.) wants to warn his fellow criminals of the imminent arrival of the police, he begins by saying, “It was the night before Christmas…”.
Thematically, die hard focuses on John’s need to reconcile with his family, which is one of the most common messages in Christmas movies. Even his wife’s name (Holly) has a Christmas theme.
Just because a movie is set at Christmas doesn’t make it a Christmas movie. Over the years, movie studios and television networks (such as Hallmark) have zeroed in on the precise ingredients for a Christmas movie. In these films, the holiday is always central to the story. This goes for both Hallmark’s mega-successful and mega-cheesy Christmas romance movies, as well as the thriving subgenre of Christmas horror movies.
Real Christmas movies are about Christmas from start to finish. They would completely fall apart without the festive element.
could die hard Will it take place on, say, Independence Day, Halloween, or just a random Tuesday? Of course it could. The holiday has nothing to do with real history. Hans Gruber and his minions aren’t attacking Nakatomi Plaza because it’s Christmas. Even John’s visit is more about reconnecting with his wife and kids than any specific holiday tradition.
Yes, die hard It begins and ends with Merry Christmas wishes and features some symbolic holiday themes in the background. But there is nothing related to Christmas in the plot of the film.
die hard is a great action movie because of its expertly constructed script and John McTiernan’s precise and dynamic direction, neither of which has anything to do with Christmas.
Clearly, many fans consider die hard a Christmas movie. There is even a large industry of die hard-Christmas related products, including the children’s style illustrated storybook, A Die Hard Christmas: The Illustrated Holiday Classic. There are also ugly sweaters and Christmas decorations, as well as other authorized (and unauthorized) merchandise.
Of course, during his 2018 Comedy Central Roast, Willis made his opinion pretty clear.
“die hard It’s not a Christmas movie,” he declared. “It’s a goddamn Bruce Willis movie!”
The debate continues.
you can stream die hard at Starz. It’s also available for digital purchase ($4.99+) or rental ($3.99+) on Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu, and other streaming services.