24 Dec ‘TIS THE SEASON TO DIE HARD
Tackling the biggest holiday movie hot take that Die Hard is, in fact, a Christmas Movie
Once Christmas time approaches each year, one of the most infamous hot takes is unwrapped again. That is, whether Die Hard is a Christmas movie. The action movie starring Bruce Willis as NYPD John Mclean may not appear like the classic Christmas movie at first glance, given its little reference to Santa Claus or Christmas spirit that takes center stage in holiday favourites like Miracle on 34th Street and Elf. Instead, the movie plot follows his battle with a group of German criminals trying to rob his wife’s company on Christmas Eve. Nonetheless, its ability to encompass the true meaning of Christmas around family and togetherness seemingly parallels the plot of the most beloved Christmas movie, Home Alone. In such ways, Die Hard is arguably more of a Christmas movie than Love Actually and The Holiday based on their even more limited references to Christmas. In 2016, a study showed that more Americans watched Die Hard on Christmas Eve than any other holiday film (Gazette). Interestingly the movie was not intended to amass the cult attention it gained during the holiday season, having been released in June, and yet it is disrespectful to discredit the success it amasses each year or even oppose its director’s view that it is a Christmas movie. So, what qualities make up a Christmas movie and how are these embodied as presently in Home Alone as they are in Die Hard? Grab a blanket, some hot cocoa and let the debate begin.
The plot of Die Hard centers on a NYPD cop flying home to spend Christmas with his wife and kids in California. In many ways, this is where the first conflict of the film begins and that which resolves into the most universally presented Christmas film trope around the reconciliation of family and togetherness over the holidays known to the classics such as Christmas with the Kranks, Elf, and Home Alone. Further, the film spans over the night of Christmas Eve at an office holiday party, making its placement on Christmas directly paralleled to the classic considerations of a Christmas movie being absorbed into the holiday season it depicts. And even greater, the film concludes with a happy ending, finishing with John and his wife reunited as let it snow plays out the Christmas miracle of a snowfall in LA, only reported to have occurred in the city last in 1964!
Throughout the film, holiday iconography takes over, presented with poinsettias, Santa statues and the odd Christmas hat, such as the one John places on one of the killed henchmen, along with the infamous message “now I have a machine gun ho-ho-ho.” Overflowing with holiday cheer, right?! Ignoring the sarcasm, the continuation of holiday themes throughout reminds the viewer that Christmas is central to the plot and not just an afterthought. In such, it is evident that Die Hard pushes the bounds of the classic idea of a Christmas film, taking into account the values that scatter the other films and yet filling a largely untouched genre that combines Christmas and Action, holiday cheer and gore.
When comparing Die Hard and Home Alone, it is striking how similar their plots are; A protagonist outsmarting criminals to protect his family on Christmas, and a reminder that being together over the holidays overtakes any petty anger that may be had between you and the ones you love. Never mind the soundtrack of Christmas classics flowing through the scenes of both films. Yet, there is still debate over the classifications of Die Hard within this genre. Although Home Alone is much easier to consider a family film, Die Hard tackles the harder feat of formulating a well-made Christmas movie directly to an older audience. Although some may consider the inability to join people together streams away from allowing Die Hard to be considered, its presence of family in the film provides that element without the need for communal screening. In essence, there are many movies similar to Die Hard in its adult-directed script such as Love Actually and The Holiday that arguably have even less reference to Christmas. And especially in Love Actually’s case, the problematic relationships and overall lack of wholesome family love arguably subjects its classification as a Christmas movie to be more of a hot take than Die Hard be.
The importance of Die Hard to my family holiday traditions, factors into my opinions on its classification given the presence of nostalgia in making a Christmas movie worthy of such a title. In comparison, having not grown up with Nightmare before Christmas makes it lack the essence of a Christmas movie and rather encompasses a solely Halloween film, though I know many would go as far as to write a separate article to debate me on that. In general, Die Hard proves that the Christmas movie genre is much wider than it is credited as, better defined by its underlying meaning of family than the less important Christmas related images it presents. And yet even more, the significance of nostalgia in generating one’s holiday viewing preferences highlights how easily subjective Christmas movies are. For most of us, that is why movies like Home Alone remain so dear in our hearts. Filled with the wonders of childhood we could relate to when we first watched the film and have been able to reminisce on every year after. So, I leave you with this final proposition, that the movies you choose to fill your homes with this holiday season that bring you the joy, laughter and love of Christmas are therefore worthy of inclusion into the classifications of a Christmas film. Yippee Ki Yay!