Is “Die Hard” a “Christmas movie”?

posted at 5:51 pm on December 19, 2013 by Allahpundit

As the pre-Christmas news lull begins to bite, we take up questions of crucial cultural importance. Should Phil Robertson have been suspended? Is Santa white? Where did Pajama Boy ever get the idea that it’s appropriate for a grown man to wear a onesie? And what about “Die Hard”? Is it or is it not the greatest Christmas movie of all time?

Of course it isn’t. It’s not a Christmas movie in any material sense. Stop being silly.

Yes, Die Hard is set during Christmas (at an office holiday party, no less). Yes, there are some accoutrements of Christmas, Santa Claus outfits and the like, that pop up during the film. Yes, at some point someone says “ho ho ho.” But that doesn’t mean that it fits into the genre of “Christmas Movie.” A Christmas Movie is a movie that is specifically about Christmas: A Miracle on 34th Street, It’s a Wonderful Life, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, etc. These are all Christmas Movies. They are movies that are not only set during Christmas but also are actively about Christmas.

Precisely. Matt Lewis elaborates:

1). The holidays must be an integral part of the storyline. This is sort of like defining pornography — you know it when you see it. But some films use the trappings of Christmas merely as a backdrop or a prop. Die Hard is a terrific film, and it certainly benefits from the music and imagery of the holiday season. But (like Lethal Weapon) this film would have worked without that conceit. John McClane could have just as easily have headed out to Los Angeles for Thanksgiving — or spring break. To be sure, Christmas creates a nice ambiance, but isn’t a vital part of this story.

2). The film should be released at Christmastime. One could probably overlook the first concern if the movie had been sold as a Christmas movie. Just like when we interpret the Constitution, it’s important to look at the original intent. And it’s interesting to note that Die Hard was released on July 14, 1988 — right in the middle of a very hot summer. There was no attempt to label it a holiday film. And it would be revisionist history to suggest otherwise. Compare that to It’s a Wonderful Life (December 25, 1946), or even Love Actually (November 6, 2003.)

Frankly, the movie’s less Christmas-y than it could have been. They could have had McClane dress up as Santa at his wife’s request to pose for pics with kids at the office Christmas party. Then Hans and the gang show up and it’s time for Santa to kick ass. As it is, Christmas is nearly an afterthought: It’s there to make the “marital reconciliation” subplot a touch more poignant in an “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” sort of way, but you could swap in Thanksgiving or New Year’s Eve and lose virtually nothing. The best argument I can make for Christmas being somehow essential to “Die Hard” is that it’s true to the film’s (and especially Willis’s) sense of humor. Of course this is how down-on-his-luck wisecracking Detective John McClane would be spending what’s supposed to be the most serene, warm-and-fuzzy holiday of the year. But even there, the joke is basically that this isn’t a Christmas movie. It’s the opposite of the small-town feelgood schmaltz that makes “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “A Christmas Story” canonical.

If you’re in the “Die Hard is the greatest Christmas movie ever!” camp, odds are you’re there for one of two reasons. One: You just can’t quite fully embrace the schmaltzy Christmas movies. Sure, you appreciate the greatness of “It’s a Wonderful Life” and you watch “A Christmas Story” the obligatory three or four times on TBS on Christmas Day like all good Americans do, but they’re just a touch too saccharine, a bit too … Pajama Boy-ish. You need something with balls, something with Bruce Willis throwing terrorists off of roofs. Ralphie may wear a onesie on Christmas, but you don’t, bro. You’re all man. Two: You love “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “A Christmas Story” and all the other schmaltzfests, but you love, love, love “Die Hard,” above and beyond the way most people who’ve seen it love it. (Because, let’s face it, everyone who’s seen it loves it.) You’re a “Die Hard” superfan, ergo any question that involves DH being named as the greatest __________ movie of all time is going to be answered in the affirmative. The greatest “troubled marriage saved by selfless heroism” movie? Yes. The greatest “1980s Japanese business panic” movie ever? Hell yes. The greatest “catchphrase involving the word ‘motherf***er'” movie? Almost certainly, although that requires a cursory review of Samuel L. Jackson’s oeuvre for a firm conclusion. It’s really a simple mathematic equation: “Die Hard” is super awesome + “Die Hard” mentions Christmas a few times = “Die Hard” is greatest Christmas movie evah. It’s really not, though. C’mon.

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…over…and yes…it is…we should all wear a Santa hat watching it!

KOOLAID2 on December 19, 2013 at 9:23 PM

I hear Christmas in Hollis in the movie, it’s a Christmas movie.

Rich on December 19, 2013 at 9:43 PM

I could point out that It’s a Wonderful Life is NOT a Christmas movie

For one big reason, it is NOT about Christmas!

It is about a man realizing how important his life really is the people who matter to him most but there is nothing specific about the holiday except that the “present” time happens to take place at Christmas time the same thing as Die Hard. In fact, the majority of the film takes place in other times other than Christmas.

What about it has to take place at Christmas? It could play just as well if it was at Easter or Thanksgiving because the core message would remain the same.

And here’s something to think about, it was released in the summer.

NerwenAldarion on December 19, 2013 at 6:33 PM

“It’s a Wonderful Life” only became a “Christmas movie” after the copyright lapsed and fell into the public domain, and a ton of television stations picked it up to air at their choosing. Most of them aired it as filler during December, and somehow, it latched on as a Christmas movie.

After a copyright was reinstated, NBC then became the sole outlet to air the movie.

Myron Falwell on December 19, 2013 at 10:10 PM

By the way, as a native Clevelander, I must stick up for A Christmas Story. The house where Ralphie’s family lived – in the Tremont neighborhood – has been restored and preserved as a museum to the movie.

Ironic in a way, because Jean Shephard was a native of Hammond, Indiana… and much of the source material from “In God We Trust… All Others Pay Cash” took place in both Hammond and Gary. But it was a much-needed morale boost for Cleveland to have the movie filmed there, back in 1982.

Oh, and director Bob Clark was best known for horror films and raunchy comedies like “Porky’s” prior to “A Christmas Story.” It was his first family-oriented feature.

Myron Falwell on December 19, 2013 at 10:20 PM

Oh, come ON. The reason this comes close to being a Christmas flick is due to the one, the most memorable, line in the entire film.

Do you even have to ask what that is?

Paul_in_NJ on December 19, 2013 at 10:55 PM

This, from an atheist. Of course he doesn’t get it. It IS a Christmas movie.

RoadRunner on December 19, 2013 at 10:59 PM

Of course Die Hard is a Christmas movie. The opposite view might lead to Batman Returns not being a Christmas movie, and that would be absurd.

David Blue on December 20, 2013 at 12:45 AM

No kidding? Huh. Looks like we need to rethink using the ‘Yippee-kie-yay’ quote as we hand out presents, from now on.

Seems like one more tradition the Left is having us dispense with. Bastards!

socalcon on December 20, 2013 at 6:57 AM

Some of the reasons to claim Die Hard is not a Chistmas movie, they could actually be applied to It’s a Wonderful Life, too. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan and watch every Christmas Eve, but even though George’s reckoning comes on Christmas Eve, most of the movie takes place as flashback all throughout the year. And the ultimate lesson, that no man is a failure if he has friends, can apply at any time of year. Christmas is just a backdrop in that movie, too. Just sayin’.

HornHiAceDeuce on December 20, 2013 at 7:41 AM

He wouldn’t have been there if he hadn’t been accidentally invited to the Christmas party.

Just think of it as a Christmas Party gone really wrong! :D

ConDem on December 20, 2013 at 8:58 AM

Wonderful Life is not a movie about Christmas. It’s a movie about the impact of one man on the world around him. The only part of it that takes place at Christmas time is the last day when his idiot uncle loses the money. And like Die Hard, it was a summer release when it hit theaters.

And this is coming from a guy who has long considered Wonderful Life his favorite movie of all time, and specifically because I used to watch it 25 times a year at Christmas when all the cable stations were running it at odd times of the season.

Die Hard is a Christmas movie in the same vein that Wonderful Life is a Christmas movie. The only difference is that the latter counts for sentimental reasons, and the former counts because people will list that movie ironically.

The Schaef on December 20, 2013 at 9:57 AM

On another note, that is why I consider Planes, Trains and Automobiles to be the one genuine Thanksgiving movie: it is the only film in my memory that is specifically set at Thanksgiving time.

The Schaef on December 20, 2013 at 9:59 AM

All I know is now I want a machine gun for Christmas.

TexasDan on December 20, 2013 at 10:16 AM

The greatest Christmas movie ever is “The Ref,” with Denis Leary, Kevin Spacey and Judy Davis.

blackgriffin on December 20, 2013 at 11:10 AM

Phil Roberston should have fired them. Santa is not real. Pajama Boy is just another ridiculous deflective myth perpetuated by a sociopathic Stalinist oligarchy. “Die Hard” is an action flick set during the Christmas season really making it a Christmas flick with asterisk. Really a suitable action flick for any season, with a personal preference, say for a guy “home alone” maybe on Black Friday.
I argued on this same side back when “1941” came out, depicting surpisingly comical events during the holiday shopping days following an infamous December 7.
“It’s a Wonderful Life” is in the same category except it so morally “what if” plot lines so closely to “A Chrismas Story” it qualifies the “dickens” out of it as a certifiable Xmas movie, my fav.
And a machine would be a pretty cool Christmas present.

onomo on December 20, 2013 at 11:31 AM

“It’s a Wonderful Life” is in the same category except it so morally “what if” plot lines so closely to “A Chrismas Story” it qualifies the “dickens” out of it as a certifiable Xmas movie, my fav.

A Christmas STORY? Or A Christmas CAROL?

The Schaef on December 20, 2013 at 12:01 PM

A Christmas STORY? Or A Christmas CAROL?

The Schaef on December 20, 2013 at 12:01 PM

“A Christmas Carol”. Sorry about that. I really shouldn’t have been commenting anyhow. The wife really had the floor at the time.

onomo on December 20, 2013 at 3:49 PM