Is ‘Die Hard’ really a Christmas movie? Yes – yes it is!
The weather outside may be a little frightful and the fire much more delightful, but we’re getting a bit tired of the traditional Christmas movies at this point. From 25 Days of Christmas to two months of made for TV holiday fare, we’re inundated with the typical rom-coms set around the holiday season. Sooner or later, you just want the madness to stop and have something with a little more grit.
That is when you reach for the greatest Christmas action movie of all time: Die Hard. Some may say that Die Hard is not a “true” Christmas movie. Die Hard is just a movie that happens to take place around Christmas. The debate has raged on the Internet for years, Bruce Willis weighed on the subject, and, well, no one can come to a general consensus.
For what it’s worth, we think that Die Hard is a Christmas movie. It’s just an action Christmas movie, which is a subgenre of Christmas films grossly underutilized. Here’s why Die Hard is the perfect movie to watch this holiday season.
Its structure echoes traditional Christmas fare
In a lot of Christmas movies from Hallmark to bigger budget studio fare, most Christmas stories center around a workaholic that’s lost touch with the “true meaning of Christmas”. John McClane (Willis) definitely ticks that box. He was a workaholic that didn’t realize how important family was until he lost them. At the top of Die Hard, McClane tries to reconcile with his estranged wife, Holly (Bonnie Bedelia).
If this wasn’t an action movie, Die Hard would be a Christmas film in the vein of It’s a Wonderful Life or something. A regular guy not realizing how good he has it until it’s been taken away from him. The internal drama of losing his family forever is externalized by Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) and his band of terrorists. If McClane doesn’t get where he needs to go, then Holly is dead and any chance of reuniting his family in time for the holidays is lost.
Die Hard provides the all-important holiday catharsis
Yes, McClane has to kill a bunch of people in order to reclaim his family. It’s no different than trying to stop the small town cookie store from being taken over by the greedy chain cafe place. Honestly, given how stressed people get during the holidays, it’s more cathartic than anything.
Christmas has increasingly become more and more stressful. You have to get presents, get a tree, deck the halls (and the outside), go to parties, interact with family members that you haven’t seen since last Christmas, and try to get through it all without curling into the fetal position and weeping.
On top of all that stress, since probably October, we’ve been in an endless loop of Lifetime-Hallmark made for TV Christmas movies. They all have their own little subgenres from royalty Christmas to the big city bigshot goes to a small town and finds what truly matters. They’re all saccharine sweet and the acting is questionable and maybe by the tenth movie of that caliber you feel your brain leak out your ears.
It’s fine, but by that point, you just need a Christmas movie with a little more bite to it. Something that will allow you to feel the appreciation of the holiday season, but maybe get out that pent up holiday stress through something more happening on screen.
By that point, John McClane taking out a bunch of terrorists with Christmas music in the background pretty much starts ticking all of the boxes.
Die Hard provides a sort of Christmas counterpoint to A Christmas Prince or something like that. Both are great for the holidays. Both allow for some wish-fulfillment from the audience. Both provide an emotional catharsis for different reasons.
Christmas is stuffed into every frame of Die Hard
The only way that there could be more Christmas in Die Hard is if Bruce Willis was wearing a Santa suit throughout the entire film. Every frame of Die Hard is chock full of Christmas references or ephemera. There are, of course, the decorations scattered throughout the whole building and the office Christmas party.
Other nods to the holiday season, McClane’s wife is freakin’ named Holly. References to Twas the Night Before Christmas and Hans Gruber saying that Christmas “is a time of miracles”. Not too mention that McClane kills a guy, steals a machine gun, puts the body in a Santa hat, and sends the corpse up to Gruber in an elevator with “Now I have a machine gun, ho-ho-ho…” written the body.
On top of that, Die Hard’s soundtrack has a ton of Christmas music from “Christmas in Hollis” by Run DMC to the end credits classic rendition of “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow” by Vaughn Moore. There’s copious use of symphonic Christmas standard “Ode to Joy”.
It’s considered a Christmas film by so many
Publications love to list the all-time whatever. On lists of Christmas classics, Die Hard frequently appears. Publications such as The Hollywood Reporter, Forbes, Digital Spy, Empire, The Guardian, and Entertainment Weekly have all included Die Hard on their list of best Christmas classics.
Rotten Tomatoes calls Die Hard “a holiday classic” when discussing the critical consensus. People who know things about film and entertainment consider Die Hard to be a Christmas film.
Finally, there’s a Christmas book about all of this. Yes. We’re serious.
Die Hard has a Christmas storybook
For the adult film aficionado in your life, consider A Die Hard Christmas: The Illustrated Holiday Classic by Doogie Horner and JJ Harrison. We’re not joking. This is something that exists in the world.
A Die Hard Christmas homages both the film and Christmas standard Twas the Night Before Christmas. It’s gleefully brutal with some lovely artwork and witty storytelling. It comes down to Die Hard has a Christmas storybook. At that point, just embrace the simple facts, Die Hard is a Christmas movie with a storybook and soundtrack to prove it.