July 15, 2018, marked the 30-year anniversary of the release of the movie Die Hard. The action film, which stars Bruce Willis, is about an off-duty NYPD officer named John McClane, and his mission to save his wife, as well as several others, who are taken hostage by a group of German terrorists on Christmas Eve.
The 1988 film was based on Roderick Thorp’s novel, Nothing Lasts Forever, and helped launch Willis’ career as an action star (at the time, he was better-known as a comedic TV actor). Die Hard would surpass expectations at the box office, grossing about $140 million worldwide, and eventually leading to an entire Die Hard franchise.
The movie has since been named one of the best action and best Christmas-themed films ever made by some publications. However, despite this honor, there is debate about whether or not the film can actually be considered a Christmas movie.
Is Die Hard a Christmas Movie?
So, is Die Hard a Christmas movie? Well, there are certainly good arguments for and against. Let’s start with some of the basics.
For one, the movie is set on Christmas Eve, which seems to support the argument that this film should be considered a holiday classic. On the other had, it was released on July 15th, right in the middle of summer, perhaps suggesting the opposite.
How many Christmas movies can you think of that were released as summer blockbusters? And at the same time, how can a film take viewers to a Christmas Eve party, and not have a hint of holiday magic in it?
While people debate the issue, we’ve put together our arguments for why Die Hard is a Christmas movie.
Why Die Hard Is a Christmas Movie
Many people are of the belief that since Die Hard is a violent action movie, it simply cannot be considered a feel-good, warm and cheery, Christmas film. This is a fair argument, but if one examines some of the themes of the film a little deeper, a valid case can be made for Die Hard being a Christmas movie.
As one Twitter user said: “[Die Hard] is about love, devotion, sacrifice, generosity, and resisting evil– how could it not be a Christmas movie?”
There is no question that many of these themes tend to appear in other holiday movies. However, not everyone is sold on this argument, and some critics continue to assert that despite these themes, a Christmas movie is no place for guns and violence.
But look at it this way: Die Hard is simply a story about a Dad trying to make it home for the holidays on Christmas Eve. Haven’t we seen that trope in holiday films before? It’s just that instead of a blizzard or corporate job keeping McClane from his family, it happens to be greedy German terrorist Hans Gruber (played by the late Alan Rickman). Hmm… A greedy villian? Sounds like a real Scrooge (or Grinch).
It is also hard to ignore all the Christmas symbolism that can be found in the film. Let’s see, McClane’s wife in the film is named Holly. A pregnant woman features prominently in the movie’s storyline, clearly a parallel to the Mother Mary, a prominent Christmas figure. And Christmas music is played throughout the film.
Detractors would argue that the setting of Die Hard is irrelevant to the film as a whole. These people believe that the movie could have been set on any other day of the year, and the entire plot would still hold true.
If that was the case, however, much of the dialog would have to be adjusted, as the script is full of ironic Christmas references, like these classics:
Theo: [as the SWAT Team closes in] “All right, listen up guys. ‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, except… the four [explicatives] coming in the rear in standard two-by-two cover formation.”
Hans Gruber: “It’s Christmas, Theo. It’s the time of miracles. So be of good cheer… and call me when you hit the last lock.”
Hans Gruber: [Reading what McClane wrote on the dead terrorist’s shirt] “Now I have a machine gun. Ho ho ho.”
A Settled Debate
After years of heated discussion among fans, CNN reporter Jake Tapper decided to take to Twitter and ask one of the Die Hard writers, Steven E. de Souza, his take on the issue.
Tapper tweeted de Souza on December 23, 2017, asking: “I’m sure you’ve weighed in on it before, but I’ve never heard you or Jeb Stuart offer your take on whether Die Hard is a Christmas movie.”
De Souza tweeted back the next day stating, “Yes, because the studio rejected the Purim draft #DieHardIsAChristmasMovie.” It’s hard to argue with the movie’s writer, even if his response was a bit tongue-in-cheek.
Today, many continue to debate whether or not Die Hard is a Christmas movie. Ironically, many of these debates seem to pop up around Christmas time, as that is when the film often starts re-airing on television, much like It’s a Wonderful Life or A Christmas Story.
What do you think? Tell us why you think Die Hard is a Christmas movie in the comments below. Or you can tell us why you think we got it all wrong. And make sure to check out these other Movie articles from the Sporcle Blog!
Mark Heald is an Associate Product Manager and Sporcle Admin. He enjoys spending time with his family, traveling, and bemoaning the fact the Sonics left Seattle.