Is Die Hard A Christmas Movie?

Help us settle one of the most contentious perennial debates of the holiday season.

by | December 5, 2018 | Comments

20th Century Fox Film Corp. courtesy Everett Collection
(Photo by 20th Century Fox Film Corp. courtesy Everett Collection)

In 1988, Bruce Willis was primarily a television star, known for his smoldering chemistry with Cybill Shepherd on the ABC series Moonlighting. Then, John “I just directed Predator” McTiernan came along and turned him into a bona fide action hero with the help of Alan Rickman, Bonnie Bedelia, Reginald VelJohnson, and a Los Angeles skyscraper known as Nakatomi Plaza. Since then, Die Hard has become something of a holiday staple for generations of fans who prefer their Christmas turkey with a bit of carnage on the side. But there has been an equally passionate subset of the population that insists rather adamantly that Die Hard is not, in fact, a Christmas movie, and arguing about the distinction has become just as much a yearly tradition.

With all of that in mind, we present to you both sides of the argument — one from an RT staffer who believes Die Hard should be considered a Christmas movie, and one from an RT staffer who doesn’t — and ask you to help us settle the debate once and for all. So, is Die Hard a Christmas movie?


20th Century Film Corp. courtesy Everett Collection
(Photo by 20th Century Film Corp. courtesy Everett Collection)

Die Hard is a Christmas movie like a stocking is a present: The packaging is different, and some years it hangs nowhere near the tree, but that makes it no less part of the tradition.

The gift of Die Hard is that it gives everyone a kick-ass movie to register your disgust (whether genuine or facetious) at the overbearing supremacy of December 25th. What other holiday comes with as much stress or as many marching orders? They give us songs about white Christmases and snow; this movie sets up among palm trees and a steel skyscraper. They speak of hope and goodwill; Die Hard delivers hard-nosed cynicism and explosions. For most, Christmas is about coming together with family. For everyone else, Christmas is about going somewhere you don’t want to be, stuck in a building with people you can’t escape — essentially the plot of Die Hard. This is a machine gun pressed against the status quo, necessary more than ever now that modern American society has devolved Christmas into a political battleground.

It boils down to this: America need a movie to push back the baggage of the holidays. It could’ve been Lethal Weapon. It could’ve been Tangerine. Hell, it could’ve been Edward Scissorhands. But it wasn’t them. You know why? Because when you’re in need of the right movie at the wrong time, you need yippie-ki-yayin’ John McClane.


20th Century Fox Film Corp.
(Photo by 20th Century Fox Film Corp.)

There are a few things that should qualify a film as a Christmas movie, but the most commonly accepted distinction demands that the holiday play a central role in the plot. Even on this most basic requirement, Die Hard fails — while it certainly takes place on Christmas Eve, the date is entirely incidental to the plot. The holiday party could easily have been replaced by any number of work-related celebrations, and John McClane could have been making the trip from Philly to L.A. for any number of family-related reasons. It didn’t have to be Christmas Eve, because literally none of the significant plot developments in the story would need to be changed if it took place during any other time of the year. If that’s not enough, what about the spirit of the holiday? Christmastime should be a celebration of family and friends, a time for joy and uplift and peace and love. But no, let’s go ahead and watch greedy terrorists (yeah, I know, “Who said we were terrorists?”) blow people’s brains out, and then watch a wise-ass cop wreak righteous, bloody vengeance upon them. Oh yeah, that feels like Christmas. If you need more convincing, consider that Die Hard opened on July 20. That’s right, July — it was more summer blockbuster than holiday film, and its marketing reflected that.

Look, at the end of the day, is Die Hard one of the best action films ever made? Hell yes. But is it a Christmas movie? No, no it is not. And if you don’t believe me, ask Bruce Willis himself, or, you know, the 62% of the population who agree with me.


Tag Cloud

Sundance Now vampires MSNBC space composers IFC science fiction strong female leads television IFC Films Pet Sematary Kids & Family Biopics Anna Paquin Red Carpet Tarantino Walt Disney Pictures singing competition dceu Western Infographic historical drama Thanksgiving comic VH1 Star Trek zombies El Rey Rock TIFF Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Mary poppins Drama Reality X-Men Nat Geo Marvel Superheroe war golden globes docudrama AMC Elton John Heroines Schedule Best and Worst TV Land nature GIFs Interview MCU Sundance Paramount comiccon ABC Family supernatural psychological thriller RT21 psycho spy thriller zero dark thirty dc crime jamie lee curtis OWN Watching Series E! WarnerMedia Adult Swim Cannes SundanceTV PaleyFest Lucasfilm Esquire Teen toy story CBS All Access Character Guide HBO ABC justice league Amazon Prime disaster Comedy Central spider-man dramedy Showtime Freeform TNT Election HBO Max Pirates 2018 Epix based on movie witnail RT History Sneak Peek YouTube Red Lifetime Superheroes President anthology zombie Hulu Video Games cults CW Seed FX Sci-Fi NBC Brie Larson Stephen King cats Paramount Network 2019 Valentine's Day medical drama Disney YouTube Premium Creative Arts Emmys GoT crossover Horror Reality Competition Quiz romance SXSW Warner Bros. Spike Tomatazos biography Trophy Talk elevated horror diversity Toys Mystery dragons Ovation Marathons Lionsgate Acorn TV Fantasy Ghostbusters Captain marvel Action Comic Book NYCC E3 TCA Mary Poppins Returns Rocky Starz Podcast FOX TCA 2017 Musical Trivia LGBT Opinion 007 24 frames Holidays CNN GLAAD American Society of Cinematographers what to watch Year in Review social media USA Network cinemax talk show Photos Nickelodeon hist robots Syfy binge BET History Emmys SDCC harry potter Columbia Pictures Bravo sitcom aliens National Geographic New York Comic Con TBS Vudu 21st Century Fox thriller APB First Look adventure Ellie Kemper Netflix TLC FXX doctor who miniseries A&E Certified Fresh Tumblr police drama Apple travel streaming Emmy Nominations Summer Masterpiece Fox News DC Comics Country Pride Month VICE Pixar ITV game show Shondaland natural history Mary Tyler Moore Mindy Kaling Disney Channel Christmas boxoffice Trailer green book Cartoon Network Women's History Month cops theme song true crime Animation politics casting crime thriller Martial Arts Grammys Writers Guild of America Pop serial killer Dark Horse Comics Crackle MTV teaser sequel adaptation cooking Awards anime TCM richard e. Grant Star Wars 2015 Film Festival Rom-Com Comics on TV 2017 Black Mirror Musicals Universal Music Rocketman Mudbound DC Universe See It Skip It animated Oscars finale Premiere Dates The CW Cosplay PBS Shudder San Diego Comic-Con The Arrangement transformers DC streaming service Amazon TruTV award winner Awards Tour ESPN 20th Century Fox TV LGBTQ Winter TV unscripted DirecTV facebook crime drama discovery 2016 Extras ratings Comedy Logo USA Nominations sports Food Network Countdown Chernobyl Spring TV BBC America technology Britbox Spectrum Originals 45 Super Bowl spinoff WGN CBS period drama DGA The Witch Winners Set visit CMT Fall TV Chilling Adventures of Sabrina political drama festivals Box Office Sony Pictures blaxploitation YA Calendar mockumentary Song of Ice and Fire BBC mutant Polls and Games