Is Die Hard A Christmas Film?

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Every Christmas is the same. Stores roll out gift ideas, decorations and cards months early. Television stations are flooded with their “Top 100” themed programmes. We get endless repeats on TV of Christmas specials. It’s just as bad with other forms of entertainment. We get the culmination of “reality” talent shows with the nation on tenterhooks wanting to know who the winner of Strictly Come Dancing will be. Instead of using pay by phone online casinos they’ll be betting on whether or not the X-Factor winner will be the number one Christmas single…

And then there is an age-old debate that has been running for the last 30 years. Is Die Hard a Christmas Film?

So Is Die Hard A Christmas Film?

The arguments for Die Hard by its supporters are simple. It’s not a “traditional” Christmas movie by any stretch of the imagination but it does have a lot of common elements found in them. Obviously it’s set at Christmas time, specifically Christmas Eve. Secondly, the story starts off with an office Christmas party. And even though the main drive of the film is an action-adventure movie, throughout the film the protagonist has just two objectives in mind. To stop the terrorists and to get back to his estranged wife for Christmas. In essence, for a family reunion. Family being a common theme in many Christmas films.

The internet has been awash this year with people asking this question. It has been fueled even more when the film’s writer Steven de Souza stated on Twitter that it was. Contrasting that, the movie’s star, Bruce Willis felt that it wasn’t a Christmas film.  But who is right? And what makes a good Christmas film?

Isn’t Die Hard Too Violent?

It has been argued that Die Hard is too violent to be a Christmas film. That they should be targeted at a family audience. One that gets brought out for viewing every year is Home Alone but the same argument can be used there. While the modern classic certainly ticks most of the boxes that Die Hard does to classify itself as being a Christmas film, it is also violent. The only difference is that the violence is represented in a form similar to the Looney Tunes cartoons.

The reality is that looking at both films side by side, both are just as violent and gruesome as each other. The burglars in Home Alone should have died several times over in the film but instead get away with cuts and bruises. It was a creative decision in the same way Warner Bros did with Looney Tunes to keep the film funny. Other Christmas films that aimed for humour avoided the slapstick life-threatening danger but I don’t think any others could have pulled it off.

Essential Ingredients For A Good Christmas Film

There is no single element that makes a perfect Christmas film. While we have a number of things that need to be present in all of them, a lot are optional or can change depending on the film and don’t affect them. When asking is Die Hard a Christmas film or not, we can see that only some of these apply. But equally, the same can be said when looking at some of the all time greats – A Christmas Carol (with Patrick Stewart) or It’s A Wonderful Life.

It's A Wonderful Life

So what are the important things we need in a good Christmas movie? Let’s take a look at what should be present(!) in them…

What We Need

When watching a Christmas movie, we can almost look at a checklist for essentials that need to be there.

  • Seasonal – needs to be set on or around Christmas Day
  • Overcoming Adversity – a common theme running through most films sees the protagonist dealing with a personal challenge of some sort or another
  • Family – either family-centric, a reunion or a fledgling relationship
  • Feel Good Factor – no matter what, everything always works out right in the end
  • Music – an obvious one, but what’s a Christmas film without Christmas songs?
  • Fun – it is Christmas, after all

The Verdict

Looking at everything overall and the list above, not many of the all time “classics” tick all of the boxes. A Christmas Carol and It’s A Wonderful Life could hardly be considered to be fun but theye’re both undeniably Christmas movies. But when we ask is Die Hard a Christmas movie and take the list into consideration it looks quite promising. It’s set at the right time. John McClane is a lone cop against a group of terrorists so he’s certainly facing adversity. Family? Well the whole aim of his trip was to visit his wife and children so that’s another yes.

As for the feel good factor? Throughout the movie we’re cheering him on and certainly with his victory at the end it’s a win there. And despite the film’s orchestral score it is intermixed with Christmas music and songs, including those played at the party. Fun? Not in the sense that we’d get from a comedy movie like The Santa Claus but five out of six is pretty good going. So I’d say a resounding YES. Die Hard IS a Christmas movie. So sit down in front of the television on Christmas Day after your lunch, get out the DVD and enjoy one of the best Christmas films ever made!

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