Debate: “Die Hard” Is A Christmas Movie

Ed. Note: Who doesn’t fight with loved ones at some point during the holidays? Fault Lines alumni Mario Machado and Chris Seaton seem to love arguing with each other, so they put a debate topic on Twitter, and with over sixty percent of the vote, SJ readers chose “Resolved: Die Hard is a Christmas Movie” as the SJ Holiday Debate topic. Chris will argue the affirmative, Mario the negative. Below is Chris’ argument.

Ah, Christmas. A time when we hang the stockings by the chimney, put decorations on the tree, and watch Hans Gruber fall to his death from Nakatomi Tower to celebrate the season.

Hey, some people go for “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” or “It’s A Wonderful Life.” There’s no denying, however, that Bruce Willis’ action classic “Die Hard” is a Christmas movie.

Some among you, or maybe your closest friends, will shriek over this proclamation. “Die Hard isn’t a Christmas movie,” they’ll say. “It’s an action movie with a Christmas setting.” Those who say such things are, of course, decent people who are wrong.

You could always point those who don’t believe in the Christmas magic of John McClane to this list of Rotten Tomatoes’ 65 best Christmas movies (Die Hard is #11). But this is a debate, so you’re getting more than just a citation to some stupid movie critic website to back this assertion.

What makes a Christmas movie? Is it the Christmas setting? Do we have to have explicit holiday themes? Must Santa factor into the equation? What about time with families, Christmas decorations, or holiday themed music?

In order to make sense of this, we have to define terms. So for the purpose of this debate, “Christmas Movies” will be any movie that takes place at Christmas. Otherwise we’ve got to exclude “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang,” “The Ref,” and “Gremlins,” all of which consistently make lists of “Best Christmas Movies” yearly.

With that out of the way, let’s look at the ways Die Hard celebrates Christmas.

It takes place at a Christmas party. An office Christmas party, no less. Run DMC’s “Christmas in Hollis” is part of the soundtrack accompanying the film. John McClane is in LA to visit his estranged wife. All of these are relatable Christmas themes anyone can understand.

Holiday parties were a regular office staple pre-pandemic. Unless you’re a grinch, “Christmas in Hollis” is in rotation on your holiday playlist. And we’ve all had the experience of awkward family interactions where we put aside our differences because it’s Christmas, and that’s what you do during this time of year.

Sure, there’s the terrorists who invade Nakatomi Plaza in order to secretly rob local banks of a shit ton of money, but let’s remember the sage words of comedian Tom Lehrer: Christmas is, first and foremost, about money.

No one ever asked Hans about his Christmas bills. Maybe he was knocking over banks because he needed to pay off holiday debts. Those are real world problems, especially if you’ve got kids or large extended families.

But how did John McClane respond to the threat of Hans Gruber and his minions? With Christmas cheer. How else can you explain, “Now I Have A Machine Gun, Ho Ho Ho” written in lipstick on the shirt of a dead terrorist? Or the many cases where McClane wishes evildoers well with a “Merry Christmas, motherfucker” right beside his “Yippee-Ki-Yays?”

That’s the best way to fight the holiday doldrums so many experience this time of year, if you really think about it. The best way to remain merry and bright is to keep celebrating the holidays with as much joy as possible, spreading the Christmas spirit to all with whom you interact.

Even if they’re villainous, un-American scoundrels hell-bent on robbing you and taking all of your shit. Be like John McClane. Wish your foes a merry Christmas as you send them to their makers!

So join me and those of us who celebrate the holidays with a literal bang by watching Die Hard this year at Christmas, the way it was intended. Be confident in your movie choice while your family members pine for “White Christmas” or “Miracle on 34th Street.”

And if a Scrooge-minded person in your life tries to convince you celebrating Christmas with a viewing of Die Hard isn’t festive, feel free to make like John McClane if you’re so inclined, and wish them the best this season with a hearty “Merry Christmas, motherfucker!”

14 thoughts on “Debate: “Die Hard” Is A Christmas Movie

  1. Guitardave

    My deepest holiday desire has come true. It appears that I’ve eclipsed the Grinch. “Christmas in Hollis” is not only NOT on my play list, but I’ve never even heard of it…and after reading this, I hope I never will.
    Thanks for the ‘heads-up’, and have a wonderful solstice.

    1. Howl

      I’m with ya, GD. I never heard “Christmas in Hollis” either. But I had to check it out.
      Rhythm and horns (likely synthesized), OK. That’s about it.
      As for putting it on my playlist, I’d rather have my chestnuts roasting on an open fire.

      1. CLS

        You and Dave remind me of Curt Henning and the West Texas Rednecks singing “Rap is Crap.”

        I would link it but I don’t have cultural ambassador status at this Hotel so I’ll leave it up to you two to find that gem.

  2. Michael Miller

    Entertaining Friday reads from both Chris and Mario!

    Might there be some unexamined thematic connections to Christmas as well? Chris mentioned Hans’ possible holiday debts, but perhaps the extravagance of Hans’ plan and the excess of the almost-won booty is a commentary on the holiday’s overriding consumerism?

    As that seems more like PK’s territory, perhaps there are thematic elements that connect with the incarnational aspects of the underlying celebration? While McClane is imperfect, he did come down from far away to Nakatomi Plaza out of love for his bride. He faced expected opposition from the bad guys, of course, but other than Al Powell, couldn’t one say of local (and federal!) law enforcement, that “his own received him not?”

    If we consider the whole of the incarnation as part of the Die Hard Christmas playground, is Harry Ellis an adequately Judas figure? Certainly not, and yet the moderated element of betrayal, combined with Ellis’ misunderstanding of the motives, resolve, and capabilities of both parties strikes a similarly poignant and tragic note?

    There is probably more unturned soil here, but I’ll show myself out with thanks to our Host for engaging this entertainment on a day and in a week when I, for one, needed it.

    1. CLS

      Glad we could give you some entertainment. That was kind of the point of the exercise.

      And boy howdy did you turn over more soil than I ever imagined!

    2. PK

      You name-dropped me? That’s the best Christmas present I could have gotten. Do you want to join my book club? That I could possibly have territory will surely not go to my head or anything.

      Otherwise, this is an excellent exposition of the very important topic and further research and analysis is necessary.

  3. JMK

    Do we count Lethal Weapon as a Christmas movie as well? CLS obviously believes so and addresses the point, but how about the peanut gallery? (or should that be Peanuts gallery given the season?)

  4. Jill P McMahon

    Agree. DH is a Christmas movie. That said, honorable mention should go to Reindeer Games, especially the pow wow scene in the casino. Happy Holidays, all.

      1. Jill P McMahon

        I don’t care about Affleck, I like Dennis Farina shooting a machine pistol when he’s being robbed by a bunch of Santas.

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