Why Die Hard is a Christmas movie

By Derek Delson

Yes, you heard me. The 1988 Bruce Willis-led explosion fest deserves to be right next to the vastly different sweet, innocent, and obvious Christmas movies. But first, we need to consider what constitutes a Christmas movie. The holiday of Christmas has become the foundation for thousands of movies, eventually becoming its own strange genre. There’s something so special about not only the Christmas story but also the enormous culture that follows it, whether it be songs, food, toys, or traditions. I consider a Christmas movie one that features the appropriate music and references while also including the essential Christmas themes. 

The first telling sign of a Christmas movie is obviously its setting. In Die Hard, cop John McClane flies to see his estranged wife on Christmas Eve. Check. It’s got Christmas lights, trees, and other decorations at every turn. While the film is set in LA, so we don’t see the glorious fake styrofoam snow, the spirit of Christmas is even felt with the gold-drenched sunset skies. 

Die Hard features three classic Christmas songs: “Winter Wonderland,” “Let It Snow,” and “Christmas in Hollis.” With these songs, Die Hard clearly meets our Christmas music needs. Additionally, the script constantly makes references to the fact that it’s a Christmas movie with lines like, “It’s Christmas, Theo. The time for miracles,” and “I have a machine gun now, Ho Ho Ho.” 

Most importantly, however, the script cannot function without Christmas. Christmas is the only reason both hero John McClane and villain Hans Grueber arrive in the Nakatomi tower at the same time. McClane visits to ameliorate the relationship with his wife while Grueber can only commit his grand-scale robbery with the populations of Nakatomi workers that are present because of a Christmas party. If you look beyond the surface of the film, you’ll realize that it’s full of Christmas themes as well. The messages of family, gratitude, and Christmas miracles are all present and not recognized by McClane until he faces the severe events of Die Hard.

Die Hard is not a traditional Christmas movie. Far from it, if we’re being honest. The film is like Run-DMC’s criminally underrated Christmas song “Christmas in Hollis” that plays a few minutes into the film. “Christmas in Hollis” is not your choir-driven, melodic church piece: it’s a rap masterpiece that is framed around Christmas. Just like how Christmas songs are rarely rap, Christmas movies are rarely action thrillers. If It’s A Wonderful Life or the inaccurately-named White Christmas can be hailed as some of the Christmas greats, so can Die Hard.

Even Die Hard writer Steven E. de Souza agrees with me, tweeting, “Yes, because the studio rejected the Purim draft #DieHardIsAChristmasMovie.” So, ha, it is a Christmas movie. And now I’m wondering what a Purim Die Hard would look like.