Putting the Die Hard Debate to Rest


Ellie Snodgrass, writer

Christmas with your family means wrapping gifts, baking cookies, and, of course, watching those warm and fuzzy holiday films. When somebody thinks of a Christmas film, what comes to mind? Perhaps The Polar Express? Home Alone? It is doubtful that the first movie that would come to mind is Die Hard. Yet someone, probably an edgy dad or that cousin you see once a year, will suggest this as a holiday movie. The question of whether the iconic 1988 action flick Die Hard is a Christmas movie inevitably comes up around this time every year for many families. Though the movie does take place during Christmas, and holiday tunes are played throughout, Die Hard has about as much in common with Christmas as John McClane and a bunch of German terrorists. This heated debate must be put to rest. Die Hard is not a Christmas movie. 

In brief, Die Hard is about an NYPD police detective, John McLane (played by Bruce Willis), who becomes involved in a terrorist takeover when his wife and her coworkers are held hostage in a Los Angeles skyscraper during their office Christmas party. McClane kills the bad guys, save the innocent Americans, instills America’s fear of foreigners, you get the idea. Christmas is not integral to the plot in the least. 

In the defense of those who still think this film is a Christmas movie, it does take place on Christmas Eve. Yes, there is an office Christmas party. Sure, one of John’s unfortunate victims is sent back to Hans Gruber wearing a Santa hat. But is the overall theme of the movie about holidays or the holidays? Absolutely not. It takes more than just a time of year to define what a Christmas movie should be. According to a Reddit article, “Christmas movie is one in which the plot and characters are directly affected by the fact that it’s Christmas, NOT a movie that takes place At Christmas but everything that happens can take place at any time of year with no change”. The idea that the film takes place around Christmas is not crucial to the events that ensue. Your coworkers could be held hostage by angry Germans during any time of the year. If someone were asked to explain what happens in Die Hard, it is highly improbable that Christmas would be a big part of their explanation. 

In addition to the plot lacking in Christmas cheer, the movie has no real lesson learned, as it does in most Christmas films. The Grinch learns how to love, the Santa skeptical kid learns to believe, and Rudolph learns to embrace his differences. Die Hard definitely does not teach anyone a life lesson. What is taught is toxic masculinity, the sexualization of the female characters, and racial stereotypes. Not exactly the type of thing Santa Claus wants you to celebrate. John McClane might be your average 80’s action film hero, but not an iconic holiday character. Even the man himself, Bruce Willis, stated at a 2018 Comedy Central event that Die Hard is not a Christmas movie. What more evidence is needed to prove this point? 

Of course, folks will continue watching Die Hard. You can drink your hot cocoa and snuggle up next to your Christmas tree and watch angry men firing machine guns in an office building. Regardless, it should be kept in mind that this movie can be watched any time of year. It is not, in any way, shape, or form, a Christmas movie.