Why Die Hard is a Christmas movie

The holidays are a time for family, friends and taking time to be grateful for what you have. All of these things are represented in popular Christmas movies such as Elf, The Polar Express, How the Grinch Stole Christmas and so on. But my favorite one by far is the one and only 1988 classic Die Hard. This movie has been highly contested topic throughout the holiday season.

First, let’s go over the requirements for a movie to qualify as a Christmas movie. Obviously, it must take place around Christmas time, this is the most important one for sure. But does Christmas have to play a role in the plot? 

Many people that argue that Die Hard is not a Christmas movie would use these same examples to prove that Christmas is not essential to the plot or overall point of the movie and they’re absolutely right. They’re also wrong.

— Mason Giustino

The answer is no. In The Polar Express, a train  takes children on a journey to the North Pole to meet Santa and the plot centers around the mystery of who the one lucky child on the train will be the recipient of the first gift of Christmas. But in the end, when the boy opens up his present from Santa, the whole point is that believing isn’t always seeing and that faith is the greatest belief, whether it be in God, family, etc. It’s a journey about self-discovery, not one that is directly about Christmas. The time period can change and the plot will still achieve its meaning to the audience.

So what is Die Hard about? The movie follows John McClane (Bruce Willis), a New York cop who has headed to Los Angeles to reunite with his wife, Holly (Bonnie Bedelia), and his two kids for Christmas. It’s quickly confirmed that the couple’s relationship has been on the rocks for a while and that John is hoping to reconnect over the holidays and mend his family. Now, this could already be a movie in itself and would have been an extremely interesting and in-depth look at marriage, the tension that results from a parent getting a new job and having to move across the country leaving one to have to follow suit without any say. Yet, this is only the first five minutes of the plot!

When McClane arrives at Nakatomi Plaza, where Holly’s company is hosting a party on Christmas Eve, he learns she has been going by her maiden name Gennaro, adding to their already damaged relationship. After establishing the setting of the party and that the building is under construction, laughs quickly turn to screams as a group of men swiftly take control of the building and take everyone hostage but not before McClane takes out one of the terrorists while hiding and escapes the stairwell to try and call for help. He soon learns the mastermind behind the takeover is Hans Gruber, a polished, well dressed, cunning German radical and an expert thief. The rest of the film follows McClane and his encounters with Gruber’s gang, even establishing contact with a cop on the outside through a walkie-talkie he acquires from one of the thieves. McClane is an ordinary guy that’s in the wrong place at the wrong time and becomes the hero that fights for those in perils safety rather than himself.

Some of the themes present are family, love, sacrifice and thankfulness which in the end all intertwine when John and Holly drive off into the night to go home to their children, grateful to see them again and to be reunited as a family. With this in mind if you apply this logic to every Christmas movie, none of them would be Christmas movies by this standard. Die Hard is a Christmas movie and is subjectively the best one by all standards of a Christmas movie and non-holiday film.