Is Die Hard a Christmas film?

Have your say in our poll

Bruce Willis in Die Hard
Bruce Willis in Die Hard... but is it a Christmas film? (20th Century Fox)

Earlier this month, UK pollsters YouGov attempted to settle the perennial debate: Is Die Hard a Christmas movie? Bruce Willis’ 1988 action classic is set at Christmas, features Christmas music, and a Santa hat makes a brief appearance perched atop the head of a dead terrorist, however the poll narrowly decided Die Hard is not a Christmas movie.

39% of the 3590 people surveyed said they didn’t consider it a Christmas film, compared to 38% who think it is. In 2018, Willis boldly declared that it is not a Christmas film, but director John McTiernan and screenwriter Steven E. de Souza both disagreed.

In a bid to settle the debate, here’s both sides of the debate, with our very own poll at the bottom so you can have your say.

Of course Die Hard is a Christmas film, says Hanna Flint

Does it get any more festive than this? (20th Century Fox)
Does it get any more festive than this? (20th Century Fox)

There has been so much discussion, these last few years seemingly more than others, about the status of Die Hard as a Christmas movie. And I’m here to tell you: it absolutely is. It not only fills most of the prerequisites of a festive film, it absolutely smashes them out the park because there is nothing more Christmas-like than a story of redemption. A Christmas Carol, Scrooged, The Santa Clause and It’s A Wonderful Life all centre on men who redeem themselves from sin or error at Christmas and John McClane is doing exactly the same.

The NYPD cop has been a bit of a terrible husband and father to his wife Holly and kids so heads to Los Angeles, where they have relocated, to reconcile with them on Christmas Eve. Sadly, Hans Gruber throws a spanner into the works when he holds Holly’s company hostage during the Nakotomi Corporation Christmas party. That doesn’t deter John though, who fights tooth and nail to rescue his estranged wife and stop Gruber and his faux terrorist group from stealing $640 million from the company and killing everyone left inside the building. And he succeeds, because Christmas movies always need a happy ending as well as the lead protagonist learning a lesson by the closing credits.

In John’s case, he realises that he was wrong to not support his wife and her career ambitions and ends up transferring to the LAPD to be with her and their two children. And let’s not forget, he risked his own life in the most extreme way to save the Nakotomi employees, even though it was definitely not in his jurisdiction. He could have just tried to rescue his wife, but no, he helped to rescue everyone; a selfless act which is one of the main tenets of Christianity purported at Christmas.

Christmas movies always include Christmas songs too; Meet Me In St Louis is considered a Christmas film because of that one song sung by Judy Garland, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, sung during the winter vignette. Die Hard features several Christmas songs including Christmas in Hollis, performed by Run–D.M.C, Winter Wonderland, Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!, Ode to Joy and Jingle Bells’ which is hummed by John.

Festive tunes and redemptive storylines aside, a Christmas movie is about tradition too. Watching Die Hard during the holiday season, for many people, has become as synonymous as leaving out milk and cookies for Santa or opening one present on Christmas Eve. So don’t listen to the naysayers; Die Hard is more than a Christmas movie, it’s a Christmas tradition and should be respected as such.

Yippie-Ki-Yay, Motherf**ker!

No, Die Hard is not Christmas film, says Tom Butler

Ho ho no. (20th Century Fox)
Ho ho no. (20th Century Fox)

Listen, I love Die Hard, I really do, I just don’t consider it to be a Christmas movie, and I’ll tell you for why.

I concur with Hanna’s thoughts on what she thinks makes Die Hard a festive classic. She makes some very valid points – particularly about the film’s oh-so-Christmassy themes of redemption – that I think will resonate with a lot of people. However, when it comes to choosing films to get you in the mood for mince pies and mulled wine, for me, Die Hard just doesn’t cut the cranberry sauce.

It comes down to a few basic questions that you can use to determine whether or not a film deserves classification as a Christmas movie.

1) Does watching the film at any other time of year feel weird?

If the answer is no, then it’s not a Christmas movie. I could happily put on Die Hard at any time of year and enjoy it for what it is: a rollicking action romp with Bruce Willis and Alan Rickman operating at the top of their games. The festive references don’t make me feel uncomfortable, or make me feel guilty about indulging in something Christmassy. For me, getting in the mood for Christmas is exhausting, and should strictly be reserved for December only. Hence, I can watch Die Hard, or Lethal Weapon, or Iron Man 3 at any time of the year guilt-free, despite their festive settings.

Can the same be said for National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation or The Muppet Christmas Carol? Absolutely not, these are for December, and December only. In fact, they pretty much become null and void the day after Boxing Day, which leads me to the second pertinent point. Put them on any other time of the year, all they’ll make you feel weird: fact.

2) If you take Christmas out of the movie, does it still make total sense?

If the answer is yes, then it’s not a Christmas movie. Die Hard fans will, of course, be yelling: “But the ONLY reason John McClane is in the Nakatomi Plaza is because it’s Holly’s work Christmas party!” And I hear you, I really do. Christmas is a fine time for a party and a great opportunity for John to attempt to reconcile with with estranged wife, but guys – parties happen all year round.

Christmas is the setting, not the theme of the movie. Now ask the same about Scrooged, Miracle on 34th Street, or Santa Claus: The Movie. These movies would be total nonsense if they weren’t about Christmas. Christmas is the theme, AND the setting, making them totally valid Christmas movies.

“But what about Home Alone?”, I hear you cry, “Kevin’s parents could have flown away at any time of the year.” That’s a question for another day, but yes, Home Alone is definitely still a Christmas movie.

My final point about whether Die Hard is a Christmas movie basically boils down to this: When there are so many amazing Christmas movies to choose from, why include Die Hard?

To choose Die Hard over dyed-in-the-red-wool Christmas classics like It’s a Wonderful Life, Elf, or The Snowman is like telling someone Santa doesn’t exist.

“Now, you listen to me, if you’re not a part of the solution, you’re a part of the problem.”

Cast your vote and settle the debate below…

This article was originally published in 2018 and has since been updated