‘Die Hard’ is not a Christmas movie

By Emma Weidmann | Intern

It’s time for the annual debate: Is “Die Hard” a Christmas movie? Some might say that Bruce Willis crawling through air ducts is the height of festive filmmaking, but the truth is that “Die Hard” is a regular action movie that happens to take place in December — and nothing more.

Imagine that there are no Santa hats in this movie. Imagine that it’s a regular office party, not a Christmas party that is hijacked by 12 German terrorists. And imagine that all of John McClane’s one-liners have nothing to do with Christmas, but maybe Halloween. Does the story change significantly? Would the movie be any less enjoyable? Probably not.

So, what makes a Christmas movie a Christmas movie? In my opinion, the holiday has to be inseparable from the storyline. Take any holiday classic like “Elf” or “A Christmas Story.” Notice how the holiday theme is in the title? That’s because there is no Buddy the Elf without Christmas cheer. The holiday is essential to the plot and emotional tensions of both of those movies.

What if Buddy the Elf came to New York City from the North Pole in the middle of April? In this case, there are elements of Christmas in the movie, but it is devoid of all of the things that make it a classic. Secondly, if Ralphie from “A Christmas Story” asked for a Red Ryder BB gun for his birthday, the movie would lack the nostalgia found in retelling the stories of Christmas as a child. The way his family fell into their roles every year is central to the movie — the stressed mother, the cranky father guarding the turkey and the whiny little brother.

A room full of Hollywood writers would be able to successfully change all of the holiday related lines in “Die Hard” to make them less seasonal without truly altering the core of the movie. The story really has nothing to do with the holiday, but it has everything to do with how cool and edgy John McClane is as he picks off terrorists one by one. In the words of Bruce Willis, “‘Die Hard’ is not a Christmas movie. It’s a … Bruce Willis movie!” Theoretically, he didn’t need the magic of Christmas to be able to do that, proven by the fact that there are four sequels to the original film and none of them attempt to cash in on the holiday spirit.

Without the common themes of traditional Christmas movies like magic, faith, gift giving, well-timed snow and believing in Santa and reindeer, I just can’t consciously call it a true Christmas movie, no matter how many misguided lists it tops.