Christmas 2015 has come and gone–and I hope you and your families had a great one this year. Yet, it’s also a time for great entertainment. No, I’m not talking about the weeks long Hallmark Christmas movie series. I’m also not talking about other Christmas classics, like Home Alone, Miracle on 34th Street, A Christmas Story, It’s A Wonderful Life, or A Christmas Carol (the George C. Scott version). I’m talking about the mother of all holiday season debates: does Die Hard belong in the category of being a Christmas movie?
The film’s setting is set during Christmas; Christmas themes are pervasive throughout the film; and Officer John McClane embodies one of the main principles of the holiday: sacrifice. The man literally gets beaten bloody (the worst being in Vengeance when a tow cable cuts a nasty gash under his arm) to save his wife and a bunch of people he doesn’t really know. Yes, he’s a cop, but he’s off the clock. He’s a member of the New York City Police Department visiting his wife at a Christmas party in Los Angeles. He could have just said screw it and let the LAPD, who are portrayed as irreparably incompetent, handle the matter. Yet, I’ll just let Cranky T-Rex explain why this film is a must-see during the holidays [Yes, spoiler alert ahead, but this film was released in 1988, so if you haven’t seen this movie–it’s all your fault] :
…[T]he entire opening act of Die Hard relies upon the fact that it's Christmas. It doesn't just happen to be Christmas; Christmas actually informs the actions of the characters. McClane was perfectly content to wait and hope that his wife's new job wouldn't work out and she would come crawling back to him, and based on her name change, she was perfectly content to forget about him too. They can't even go ten minutes without fighting once he gets there. (Note that her name is *Holly* by the way. You know, deck the halls...)
At the same time, the villain's plans hinge on the setting Christmas provides. The building is empty because everyone else went home to their families. The people who remain are clustered on one floor at the Christmas party, and thus are easy to corral as hostages. Security is light, and nobody is monitoring the computer codes or the vault. (Also, given the incompetence displayed by the cops, all the actual experienced and useful officers are probably at home with their families too.)
Recognizing the importance of family, overcoming an obsession with material things, and believing in magic and redemption again. Die Hard actually has all three.
Clearly Die Hard quite easily fits the bill in that first one. A husband and wife are trying to reconcile and reunite their family because it's Christmas. Moreover, the experience gives McClane a new appreciation for his wife. He recognizes that he's been an idiot this whole time, that Holly was "the best thing that ever happened to a bum like me." "She's heard me say a 'I love you' a thousand times. She's never heard me say 'I'm sorry'," he laments, "Tell her that John said he's sorry." They might as well have had him find Holly and kiss her under the mistletoe after that line.
What about overcoming some hang up with material wealth? Well, Holly has chosen to pursue her career rather than stay with her husband, to the point she won't use his name because it might endanger said career. Classic Christmas setup right there. Beyond that, one of the first things that happens is that Ellis tells her to show off the expensive watch he gave her to rub it in John's face. That could have been a total throwaway, except that at the end of the movie, that watch is the difference between all of them dying or just Hans. He catches it as he falls you see, and it gives him enough leverage to pull her with him and turn to fire at McClane. Once McClane manages to release the watch from her wrist, thus discarding that symbol of materialism and Holly's pursuit of her career to the exclusion of their marriage, Gruber falls to his death.
How about Christmas magic and redemption? Al Powell can't bring himself to draw his gun anymore because of the tragic mistake he made. In the end, through the magic of having bonded with a voice on the radio, he redeems himself by shooting the last baddie before he can kill John and Holly. Are not Christmas movies rife with tales of someone having made a mistake and given up something precious to them, only to get it back as the Christmas magic brings them together with someone who can change them for the better?
So, there you have it. Die Hard is a Christmas movie, though I’m sure a lot of you disagree. This was evidenced by the absurd Public Policy Polling survey, where 62 percent of Americans revealed that they don’t agree that Die Hard is a Christmas movie. These people are traitors.
I prefer C|net’s poll on the matter:
Well, here’s to the New Year, and many months trying to convince the naysayers that Die Hard is one of the best action (and Christmas) movies of all time.