Settling the debate, why ‘Die Hard’ is undoubtedly a Christmas movie
“The entertainment is in the presentation.” – John McTiernan
One of the greatest action films to have ever been made, Die Hard has developed its own myth in popular culture. It has given rise to a film franchise, video game series and has shaped how popular action films are conceptualised. Starring Bruce Willis as the iconic detective John McClane, Die Hard established Willis as one of Hollywood’s most prominent leading men.
For years now, fans have debated whether Die Hard can be considered a Christmas film or not. At this point, the argument arriving every twelve months has established itself as a festive traditon alone. People who count it among the best Christmas films of all time usually point to the fact that the events in the film take place on a Christmas Eve but there are multiple elements which actually contribute towards making Die Hard an alternative Christmas film.
Although a 2017 poll of around 5000 UK citisens saw only 31% viewers voting for Die Hard as a Christmas film, the film’s Christmas legend has only grown over the years. Featuring Christmas classics like “Christmas in Hollis” and “Winter Wonderland,” Die Hard presents an interesting Christmas allegory which conducts some philosophical as well as direct interpretations of the story of Christmas.
Over the years, Die Hard’s co-writer Steven E. de Souza has maintained that he thinks of his work as a part of the Christmas genre. He has also mentioned how the film’s producer, Joel Silver, had predicted that Die Hard would become staple Christmas viewing. The film’s focus on family bonds and impending childbirth (signifying the hope for new life) strengthen the case for it being a Christmas film. However, Willis does not agree with this categorisation. In 2018, he claimed:
“Die Hard is not a Christmas movie! It’s a god damn Bruce Willis movie!”
Terrorists taking over Nakatomi Plaza on Christmas Eve can be seen as an assault on traditional systems of belief, replacing the spirituality of Christmas with an economy of fear and violence. This alone makes the primary antagonist Hans Gruber (played by Alan Rickman) one of the most iconic Christmas villains of all time, threatening to destroy the values of Christmas just like the Grinch. In order to save Christmas, McLane kicks their ass and defends tradition.
In a recent with the American Film Institute, director John McTiernan expressed his opinions about the Christmas debate. “Die Hard was a terrorist movie, and it was about these horrible leftist terrorists who come in to … the Valhalla of capitalism,” McTiernan said. “And it was really about the stern face of authority stepping in to put things right again.
“We hadn’t intended it to be a Christmas movie, but the joy that came from it is what turned it in to a Christmas movie,” he added. “My hope at Christmas this year is that you will all remember that authoritarians are low-status, angry men who have gone to rich people and said, ‘If you give us power, we will make sure nobody takes your stuff.'”
More than 32 years after its initial release, it is undoubtedly unfair to separate its legacy as a Christmas film from the ethos of Die Hard. Even though it is not a conventional part of the genre by any means, Die Hard presents the values of Christmas in its own entertaining ways.