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The Ultimate Festive Question: Is ‘Die Hard’ a Christmas Movie?

Answered once and for all.

John McClane in an airvent in Die Hard 1988

It’s become a meme at this point to call Die Hard ‘the best Christmas movie.’ However, every year people have this discussion. Well, we are here to settle the argument once and for all: Is Die Hard a Christmas movie?

Before we decide if Die Hard is a Christmas movie, we must first decide what a Christmas movie is. Some potential determinators include release date, marketing, setting, and genre. Basically, when was the movie originally released, was it marketed as a Christmas movie, was it set at Christmas time, and is it a genre that highlights the general themes people associate with Christmas?

Despite being set on Christmas Eve, Die Hard was released in July 1988. The trailer does lean into the Christmas feeling for the first 20 seconds, before going full 80s action movie and focusing on the explosions and gunfire.

However, some theaters have made it a tradition to return Die Hard to theaters during the holidays. The film has also clearly influenced other Christmas media to come since, with the entire climax of Hawkeye basically being ‘the MCU does Die Hard.’

Add in the fact that it has an illustrated book in the vein of “The Night Before Christmas” and essentially kickstarted the genre of “An Ass-Kicking Christmas” and it does seem like the Christmas association started out as almost a bit of a joke that has somehow grown to be an accepted fact or ascended meme.

Another question that is surely the crux of the matter: is Christmas essential to the plot, characters, and themes?

Plot-wise, the whole reason John was visiting his estranged wife was due to it being Christmas. Plus, Grueber’s plan depended on all the hostages being in one place due to the party, so the festive period seems essential to the plot. The themes of the movie are all about family and the lengths we will go to in order to protect the ones we love. 

The original book (yes the first movie was based on a book) also heightened this theme by having the female character the protagonist was rescuing be his daughter (though that doesn’t go as well as it did for John and Holly McClane). Another change of note, the villains in the book were basically attempting a Robin Hood-esque heist to return the illegal arms dealing company’s profits to the people, turning this into almost a more violent version of A Christmas Carol.

As for characters, well, John’s wife is named Holly, for Christ’s sake! But in all seriousness, the characters do occasionally make jokes, with Grueber repeatedly referencing a “Christmas miracle” to his hacker, Theo. Theo also quotes the Night Before Christmas and Argyle plays Christmas in Hollis, going against McClane’s claim that it isn’t Christmas music.

The ending, while having a lot of 80s action to it, also features a big reunion under a giant Christmas tree and a romantic kiss as Let it Snow plays them into the credits.

All in all, I’d say while it may not have started out as a Christmas movie, Die Hard’s effect on Christmas-action movies and the fact that many have come to see it as the best Christmas movie have unequivocally deemed Die Hard a Christmas movie.

What do you think? Is Die Hard a Christmas movie? What’s your favorite unconventional Christmas movie? Comment below!

(featured image: 20th Century Fox)

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Kimberly Terasaki is a Creative Writing graduate, fanfiction author, and intersectional feminist. She liked Ahsoka Tano before it was cool, will fight you about Rey being a “Mary Sue,” and is a Kamala Khan stan. She appreciates all constructive criticism and genuine discussion.