HomeMoviesDie Hard Turns 30: Why It'll Always Be a Christmas Movie

Die Hard Turns 30: Why It’ll Always Be a Christmas Movie

Die hard 30th Anniversary
Screencap/Photo Credit: 20th Century FOX

Today is the 30th Anniversary of the action movie classic, Die Hard. Though John McClane himself (a.k.a. Bruce Willis) recently claimed that the John McTiernan-directed film isn’t a Christmas movie, our staff writer disagrees.

When you think of Christmas, what comes to mind? Snow? Presents? Family around the fire? How about Bruce Willis fighting off Eastern European terrorists with nothing more than a machine gun and classic Cowboy Film bravado? If that last one sounds a little strange to you, have no fear. In the next few paragraphs, I will explain my argument for why the quintessential 80’s film Die Hard is, in fact, a Christmas film.

“But Lucas,” you say, “Die Hard has nothing to do with Christmas at all.” Well, you’d be wrong. Not only is Die Hard a movie that takes place during Christmas, but Christmas is integral to the plot. Allow me to refresh your memory: John McClane, a gruff New York cops flies to LA to see his wife and children for the Christmas holiday. The film features a family coming back together for the holiday.


Once our hero lands in LA, he goes to Nakatomi Plaza to see his wife, only to be rudely interrupted by Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) and his merry band of thugs. Over the course of the film, McClane slowly and methodically wipes out the terrorists, drops Rickman out of a window, and saves his wife just in time to go home. What would have happened had McClane not been there? Most likely, everyone would have been killed, and Christmas for the McClane family would have been ruined. So, without the Christmas holiday, John McClane would have never been in LA to save his wife and rediscover the meaning of family.

“Ok fine, but just because a movie takes place during Christmas doesn’t mean it’s a Christmas movie!” Ho ho ho how wrong you would be. Take the widely accepted Christmas movie, It’s a Wonderful Life. What about that movie has anything to do with Christmas, besides the fact that it takes place around the holiday? Sure, It’s a Wonderful Life has a heartwarming family element. But what could be more heartwarming that a person literally fighting to be with the person they love? George Bailey learns a lesson about the meaning of Christmas, and the meaning of love and family.

Do we not see John McClane learn that same lesson? He learns how precious time with your family is, and not to waste it over petty arguments, because you could lose the ones you care about the most at any time. George realizes he is loved by his family and the townspeople, regardless of mistakes he’s made in the past. Our friend John learns the same lesson. He doesn’t need to be perfect, he just needs to be present in the lives of those he cares about, and occasionally save them from terrorists (and farther down the line, from Justin Long).

But all that aside, what really cements this film as a Christmas movie is the public reaction to it. There are enough people who agree with the Christmas legacy of the film to be able to say that Die Hard is a Christmas classic. Why does the opinion of the audience matter? Think of the cult classic The Room. That movie was intended as a serious and dramatic film, but its reception by the fan base has cemented its legacy as a comedy. Regardless of the intent of the writers and directors, it is the audience that ultimately decides what to associate the movie with. Once a movie is released into the public sphere, it becomes, in a sense, our movie. For that reason, and for the others, Die Hard will forever be a Christmas film.


Most Recent

Stay Connected