Is ‘Die Hard’ a Christmas Movie?

Bruce Willis in Die Hard
20th Century Fox

Each year, film specialists come together to debate one of the most important philosophical questions of our time: Die hard a Christmas movie? The opinions on both sides of this argument are surprisingly passionate.

Of course, everything is in the spirit of the season. Die hard fans don’t necessarily need the holiday excuse to watch what is widely considered to be one of the best action movies of all time. The 1988 thriller about a lone cop gunning down terrorists who grabbed a high-rise building made Bruce Willis a huge movie star. He has also established a long-standing franchise with four sequels, to date.

Still, there is a clear case to be made on both sides. Here is the evidence you need to determine if Die hard is a Christmas movie.

Yes, Die hard Is a christmas movie

Die hard
20th Century Fox

In the first scene of the film, New York Police Detective John McClane (Willis) disembarks from a plane that has just landed in Los Angeles and the flight attendant wishes him a Merry Christmas. He also carries a giant teddy bear with a bow on it – a Christmas present for one of his children.

From there, the film never lets audiences forget it’s Christmas Eve.

Christmas music, including classic compositions for Run-DMC’s “Christmas in Hollis”, plays throughout the film. John heads to Nakatomi Plaza, where his ex-wife, Holly (Bonnie Bedelia), works to attend his company’s Christmas party. This is where he is trapped when terrorists, led by Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman), take control of the building.

As John and the terrorists engage in a long battle of wits and weapons, they often use Christmas-themed exclamations. “Now I have a machine gun. Ho ho ho, ”John wrote on the body of one of Hans’s henchmen. When hacker Theo (Clarence Gilyard, Jr.) wants to warn his fellow criminals about the imminent arrival of the cops, he begins with, “It was the night before Christmas …”

Thematically, Die hard emphasizes John’s need for reconciliation with his family, which is one of the most common Christmas movie messages. Even his wife’s name (Holly) is Christmas themed.

No, Die hard Is not a christmas movie

Bruce Willis in Die Hard
20th Century Fox

The fact that a movie is set at Christmas does not make it a Christmas movie. Over the years, movie studios and television networks (like Hallmark) have perfected the precise ingredients of a Christmas movie. In these films, the holidays are always at the heart of the story. This applies to both Hallmark’s mega-successful and mega-nerdy Christmas romantic films, but also to the flourishing subgenre of Christmas Horror Movies.

Real Christmas movies are about Christmas from start to finish. They would collapse completely without the vacation element.

Could Die hard take place on, say, Independence Day, Halloween or just a random Tuesday? Of course, it could. The holidays have no bearing on the actual story. Hans Gruber and his cohorts aren’t attacking Nakatomi Plaza because it’s Christmas. Even John’s visit is more about reconnecting with his wife and children than any holiday tradition.

Yes, Die hard starts and ends with Merry Christmas wishes and features some symbolic holiday themes in the background. But there is nothing Christmas related to the plot of the film at all.

Die hard is an excellent action flick because of its expertly constructed storyline and the tight, dynamic direction of John McTiernan, which has nothing to do with Christmas.

The last word

Bruce Willis standing in front of an explosion
Anton_Ivanov / Shutterstock

Obviously, many fans consider Die hard a Christmas movie. There is even a huge industry of Die hard– Christmas products related to the illustrated children’s story book, A Die Hard Christmas: The Illustrated Holiday Classic. There is also ugly christmas sweaters and ornaments, as well as other permitted (and unauthorized) merchandise items.

Of course, during its 2018 Comedy Central Roast, Willis made his opinion pretty clear.

Die hard is not a Christmas movie, ”he said. “This is a fucking Bruce Willis movie!”

The debate continues.


You can broadcast Die hard sure HBO Max ($ 14.99 per month). It’s also available for digital purchase ($ 7.99 +) or rental ($ 2.99 +) at Amazon, itunes, google play, and FandangoNow.

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