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Here’s exactly why ‘Die Hard’ *is* a Christmas movie after all

The classic status of Die Hard (1988) isn’t really debatable. It not only launched Bruce Willis into superstardom, and spawned a multi-decade franchise, but it modernized the action genre in ways that are still being felt today. It’s impossible to make an action flick with hostages and/or a heroic cop without borrowing some element of Die Hard. It’s probably one of the most ripped-off films of all time.

Something that is up for debate, however, is Die Hard’s status as a Christmas movie. Should it be thrown on every holiday? Or is its setting and time of year merely a kitschy background for cool shootouts? The answer may seem obvious, depending on what side you come down on, but there’s been legitimate discourse about the film’s Christmas bona fides.

While nobody is going to have the final word on the way a piece of art is perceived (that is, after all, up to the individual viewer), we’re going to make the case for why Die Hard should definitely be considered a Christmas movie!

‘This is Christmas music!’

Anyone who’s seen Die Hard can recall the scene in which John McClane (Bruce Willis) is being driven to his wife’s fateful Christmas party. The limo driver cranks up the radio and McClane requests something a little more seasonal instead of whatever’s being played. The kicker? The driver is already playing Christmas music: Run-DMC’s classic single “Christmas In Hollis”.

Die Hard is littered with holiday tunes, from the Run-DMC needle drop to the incorporation of “Winter Wonderland” in the film’s soundtrack. The cherry on top of all this, though, is the use of  “Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow!” in the final scene, as McClane and his wife (Bonnie Bedelia) ride off in the limo, happily ever after. 

It’s one of the best uses of Christmas music in any film, communicating the warmth and happiness that the couple feel after going through a nightmarish ordeal involving terrorists, machine guns, and in McClane’s case, a pretty unpleasant encounter with broken glass. The man deserves some relaxation.

Classic (Christmas) quotables

It’s not just the music that tips its cap towards the film’s Christmas spirit. There are tons of lines in the script that play off the fact that McClane is having to take down bad guys and save the day while the rest of the world is experiencing Christmas cheer. The most obvious one is when he sends down a dead goon down the elevator with the message: “Now I have a machine gun… ho ho ho,” on his sweater.

The comedic asides from McClane add to the holiday irony, with him laughing off the fact that he was dragged into a life-or-death situation by mistake. “I got invited to the Christmas party by mistake”, he muses at one point, “Who knew?” Then there’s the classic line he says to himself when he’s trapped in an air vent: “Come out to the coast, we’ll get together, have a few laughs.”

It’s a recounting of an exchange he presumably had with his wife, but the dry delivery by Willis helps punctuate just how absurd the situation has become, and how enjoyable it is to watch as an audience member. The film’s villain, Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman), may not be as cheerful as McClane, but he definitely gets in on the Christmas cheer with the snide remark: “It’s Christmas, Theo, it’s the time of miracles, so be of good cheer.”

Christmas decorations galore

The final nail in the coffin when it comes to Die Hard being a Christmas movie are the visuals. There are so many decorations and tip-offs as to the time of year that you could watch the movie on mute and still know that McClane is having to fight for his life during the most wonderful time of the year.

There’s the numerous Christmas trees and lights, the Santa Claus figure that McClane steals a hat from, and of course, the giant teddy bear that the grizzled cop gets for his wife. 

Die Hard is tongue-in-cheek about its holiday spirit, but the filmmakers and writers go out of their way to incorporate it into their pulpy action thriller, and the result is one of the most enjoyable (and essential) Christmas movies of all time.

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