Is Die Hard A Christmas Film? We Settle The Yearly Debate Once And For All

Is Die Hard A Christmas Film? We Settle The Yearly Debate Once And For All
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This article was first published in December 2020.

Guns, violence, gore: hardly the usual elements of a classic Christmas film.

The debate around whether or not Die Hard (and Die Hard 2) constitutes a proper holiday movie is almost as contentious as the inevitable annual love/hate debate over sprouts or Christmas pudding.

Yes, the action takes place on Christmas Eve, but does that really make them festive films?

To find out more, we spoke to some (ahem) die-hard Die Hard fans to find out what they love so much about the film that even Rotten Tomatoes has labelled “the definitive holiday action classic”, and more importantly, whether or not they *whisper it* think it’s a Christmas film or not…

With scenes of violence, Die Hard isn’t the classic Christmas film

“His ex-wife is called Holly! I mean c’mon!”

Kaleem Aftab, 46, film critic based in London.

Is it a Christmas movie? Yes

“Die Hard starts with that most Christmas of all elements: The office party,” says Kaleem. “It’s all about love. Kind of.

“Just like It’s a Wonderful Life, it has a man who doesn’t know how good he has it, until he’s faced with his own mortality. There is a family estrangement. But a family estrangement with a dose of realism as it acknowledges that Christmas is a time of divorce.

“Also, his ex-wife is called Holly! I mean c’mon! And like all the best movies, it happens on Christmas Eve. It also acknowledges Christmas presents with the immortal line, ‘Now I have a machine gun, ho ho ho!’

“And what a brilliant Scrooge, Alan Rickman giving his best villainous panto turn.

“Now is that enough to make it a Christmas film? The nature of the question is that somehow Xmas films have to be saccharine dramas reinforcing humanity, but that seems way to constrictive and also who decided that? Its Christmas setting may be a construct to have a party, snow and difficulty moving around but that is as much part of Christmas as realising that there should be good will to all men. And in our capitalist, secular times, maybe even more so.

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“The debate about Die Hard and whether it is a Christmas movie is a reflection on the date around Christmas in society: namely is it a spiritual occasion or a marketing ploy?

“It’s probably somewhere in-between, which is still uglier than the version that Christmas is about good will to all men and the triumph of good. Die Hard, Gremlins and films of such ilk actually are more truthful about Christmas being just another occasion on our calendars that is just as likely to be the backdrop to terrible events as any other season.”

Bruce Willis takes the lead in the beloved action film

“It’s always fun to watch people start frothing at the mouth when I claim it’s a Christmas movie”

James, 33, Die Hard fan based in London.

Is it a Christmas movie? Yes.

“It’s set on Christmas Eve. There is Christmas music. The storyline follows a man and a woman (called Holly) who start off estranged and, after a difficult journey, get back together. It’s the ultimate feelgood movie of the year!

“And who can forget the dead man in the lift with the Santa hat? Or the line, ‘Now I have a machine gun. Ho ho ho’.

“The debate centres around whether or not blood, machine guns and death can be counted as a Christmas film, as this is not particularly family friendly (surely what a Christmas film needs to be). I would point to another classic Christmas movie to support my argument that Die Hard is indeed a Christmas movie.

“Love Actually has a major plot point about infidelity (not very family friendly). Two porn stars meet on set (likewise). A man essentially ruins Keira Knightley’s wedding video and then creepily comes to her door to confess his love for her (family friendly? Nope!) Yet Love Actually is set at Christmas, has a whole lot of love in it and has Christmas music. I don’t see the difference.

“A Christmas film to me has to have a decent narrative arc, some fun character development, some comedy, and not too much cheese. Basically I want a good film, not a good Christmas film! Die Hard is really an action film, with elements of comedy. But it is always fun to watch people start frothing at the mouth when I claim it’s a Christmas movie.”

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Die Hard was released in 1988

“Killing someone and then writing ‘Ho ho ho, now I have a machine gun,’ is just not in the Christmas spirit”

Jenni, 33, Die Hard fan based in Fareham.

Is it a Christmas movie? No.

“Is Die Hard a Christmas film? No – a Christmas film is warm and up-lifting.

“It may have some sort of tragedy or big issue but it ultimately comes back to Christmas and the meaning behind it all. Gushing I know, but that’s the reason why we watch Christmas films: to get into the holiday spirit.

“People feel so strongly about it. It’s like marmite where your opinion is polarised: everyone loves a good argument at Christmas!

“I love the classics: Miracle on 34th Street, Elf, A Christmas Carol. I think a Christmas movie needs Christmas songs, to be set at Christmas, to be about family, to be uplifting and have a moral conclusion.

“I’d call Die Hard a really good action film. My husband is totally on the side of it being a Christmas film and it’s part of his Christmas ritual every year, just like our ritual argument about it. It’s set at Christmas and there are some Christmas songs but it’s about terrorism rather than the spirit of Christmas.

“We watched Black Christmas the other day, a slasher film set at Christmas time, and my husband agreed that although it was set at Christmas it wasn’t a Christmas film. It didn’t have the link back to the moral and upbeat message behind a Christmas film.

“In Die Hard there’s no moral message, other than the bad guys lose, but that’s the same for all action films. Don’t get me wrong, I do love the film, even with all of its mistakes (white shirt now, black shirt), but killing someone and then writing ‘ho ho ho now I have a machine gun,’ is just not in the Christmas spirit.”

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The argument about whether Die Hard is a Christmas film come around every year

“What are the key messages that Christians take from Christmas? Hope and salvation. A true Christmas film should represent those very themes”

Anthony, 32, Die Hard fan based in Bedfordshire.

Is it a Christmas movie? Yes.

“Is Die Hard a Christmas film? Well, it’s set at Christmas. It has a Christmas tree. There is a Christmas party. But that doesn’t certify something to be a Christmas film. But perhaps Die Hard is more connected to Christmas than almost any other film to be touted as such.

“What are the key messages that Christians take from Christmas? Hope and salvation. As such, a true Christmas film should represent those very themes. Despite the protestations of its leading star, no film draws on these messages more so than Die Hard.

“John McClane became the Nakatomi Plaza staffs’ only hope for salvation from evil terrorists. Does our protagonist use bad language? Yes. Blaspheme? Indeed.

“But he is pure. His actions and reactions are honest and driven by his beliefs, not how people want him to behave.

“He hopes that by saving the day there will be salvation for his marriage. And we hope too. We hope for him. We invest in his hope. We believe that he will overcome. That he will be the salvation of the people in that tower. That it will in turn be the salvation for his marriage.

“All of this and more is why Die Hard is a Christmas film and maybe even the greatest Christmas film of all time.”

But what do you think? Vote below…


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