The Die Hard Debate

Is it a Christmas movie or an action film?

Brady Crow, Staff Writer

In our era of controversy, political divide, and social struggle, one debate looms largest of all.  It has broken apart families and caused rifts between friends. It resurfaces every holiday season, creeping into family dinners. 

Is Die Hard a Christmas movie? 

In 1988, Die Hard hit theaters to almost instant audience adornment.  The movie starred Bruce Willis as NYPD officer John McClane, who travels to California to see his estranged wife and children at a company Christmas Eve party. 

All is going well until terrorists take over the building and McClane is forced to protect the ones he loves.  With the help of police sergeant Powell, McClane’s own police training, and more than a little resourcefulness, McClaine ultimately takes control of the terrorists and saves Christmas for the hostages. 

Die Hard became a classic 80’s action film and has maintained popularity throughout the decades, partially because of the raging controversy over its status as a holiday movie. 

No one has been able to conclusively state whether Die Hard is a Christmas movie… until now.  Given the template for what defines  a Christmas movie, Die Hard does in fact qualify as a holiday classic, despite what the naysayers may proclaim.

The most obvious indication of a Christmas movie is its setting.  Obviously, any Christmas movie would take place around Christmas time.  In addition, the setting should also play a major role in the plot of the movie.  Die Hard takes place on Christmas Eve, and much of the story takes place at a Christmas party. 

A whopping 62% of adults can’t seem to understand that Die Hard is a Christmas movie, despite abundant evidence.

Moreover, Christmas movies are always set to the melodies of holiday music.  From pop hits to classic carols, every iconic Christmas movie is set to the soundtrack of jolly jingles.  Die Hard is no different.  The fast-paced action of Die Hard ironically plays to the sound of Christmas music, including classic songs such as “Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow,” “Ode to Joy,” and “Christmas in Hollis.”  The soundtrack gives Die Hard an undeniable holiday ambience.

In addition, some Die Hard fans have drawn on other pieces of evidence to support its status as a holiday film.  For example, McClane’s wife is named Holly, an obvious hint at the Christmas theme. Observant analysts have even made correlations between Die Hard and the classic Christmas flick It’s a Wonderful Life, including the suggestions that John McClane and George Bailey come to similar understandings of mortality and what their lives may have become should they not exist in the lives of loved ones. 

Yet many holiday film fans claim Die Hard is too violent and dark to be a Christmas movie, but many different Christmas movies fit into different genres. Most classic Hallmark films are romantic dramas, while other favorite Christmas movies, like Elf or Home Alone, are comedies.  Christmas is simply a theme, along with a setting and plot points, not necessarily a genre all in its own.  This allows Die Hard to be a gritty action film and a Christmas film at the same time. 

A whopping 62% of adults can’t seem to understand that Die Hard is a Christmas movie, despite abundant evidence. So, when the annual debate resurfaces at Christmas dinner this year, be armed in the knowledge that Die Hard is objectively a film that fits the holiday season like a pair of warm mittens.