The debate has been raging on the internet for years now, is the original Die Hard a Christmas movie? Many people feel strongly one way or the other (of course), but let’s solve this issue once and for all. There are certain movies, A Christmas Story, Christmas Vacation, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Miracle on 34th Street, It’s a Wonderful Life and Home Alone, that almost no one would argue are considered Christmas movies. But let’s examine this further.
There seem to be two types of Christmas movies. There are those that are about Christmas, like Christmas Vacation and A Christmas Story, and then there are those that just include Christmas, like Home Alone and It’s a Wonderful Life.
There is little debate to be made about the former category. The movies that are literally about Christmas are never disputed as Christmas movies. No one is going to argue that Miracle on 34th Street is not a Christmas movie, that would be insane.
But what about the other category. It’s a Wonderful Life is probably the most famous Christmas movie of all time. It used to be shown dozens of times every December before NBC snatched up the exclusive rights. Poll people over the age of 50 about the best Christmas movie of all-time and more than 50% are going to say It’s A Wonderful Life. But why? Sure the climatic moment takes place on Christmas Eve, but this is a two hour plus movie that is 3/4th flashbacks. The ultimate lesson/result is that George Bailey is a great man who did good things for a lot of people and those people want to bail him out of a jam. If he was such a great man, would it have mattered that it was Christmas Eve? If this was a random Tuesday in March wouldn’t the people want to help him out just the same? This whole movie works whether it’s Christmas or not.
Home Alone works the same kind of way. Yes the family is vacationing because it’s Christmas. Yes the robbers are robbing his house because they assume most people are gone for the holidays, but the reality is that this could have happened the first week of January and the whole movie still works.
Now let’s examine Die Hard. The movie opens with John McClaine going to see his wife in California for Christmas. He goes to her work because they are having a Christmas party. That is the reason they are all still working, and the rest of the building is empty. Yes some of it was under construction, but not all of it. It is an afterwork party. If it wasn’t the holidays wouldn’t there be a lot more people in the building? Wouldn’t there be more than one person in the whole rest of the building? And if McClaine was visiting on a random day in July, would he have visited her office? Maybe. But without John McClaine being there this movie doesn’t work. The bad guys rob the place and get away. Maybe it’s a stretch to say Christmas makes this movie possible, but it’s at least part of what makes this story work.
Home Alone, at least for my generation, is pretty watchable any time of year, and people could argue that is what makes it not a Christmas movie. But if you showed It’s a Wonderful Life in July to someone who had never seen or heard of it before it’s unlikely they would say “Why are we watching this now, it’s a Christmas movie?”
So the bottom line is that Die Hard is as much of a Christmas movie as It’s a Wonderful Life or Home Alone. The fact that it is a violent action movie doesn’t exclude it. It’s a Wonderful Life has supernatural characteristics but no one would argue it should be excluded because it could be considered sci-fi. So the next time someone says Die Hard isn’t a Christmas movie, simply respond “Now I have a machine gun. Ho. Ho. Ho. ”