Die Hard: Christmas Classic or Cult Action Film? – by India Roberts
Die Hard: Christmas Classic or Cult Action Film?
The festive period is yet again upon us. Lights are blazoning on every street, jingling bells are trickling out of speakers and the age-old debate is get again rife. Is Die Hard a Christmas movie? The opinions are very much split, with almost dangerous passion advocating for either side. Although the movie was released in July of 1988, Christmas fanatics have long claimed the movie as one of their own, and I have to say that I’m inclined to support their decision. Let’s find out why…
It’s not hard to love Die Hard. Its abundance of action sequences along with the intricacies of character development (even for side characters such as Argyle) wins viewers over, no matter their opinion on the Christmas debate. Some fans are of the belief that its release date gives a clear message to the fact that it can’t have been intended as a festive film. Granted, a Christmas film in July sounds just a little bit off the wall, but wrinkly green creatures in Whoville have shown us that Christmas films don’t exactly need to be traditional. Yes, Die Hard’s primary genre is action. However, where many people are (in my opinion) wrong, is that a film doesn’t have to be bottlenecked into being just one genre. Surely action with inflections of Santa hats and holiday cheer still justifies the ‘Christmas Classic’ label Die Hard deserves?
Here are some reasons why Die Hard qualifies as being on my list of festive favourites. Firstly, the previously mentioned character of Argyle has Christmas connotations. ‘Argyle’ is a checked pattern frequently used on Christmas jumpers – especially the ones they were wearing in the 80s. As if this wasn’t enough to convince you, there’s more. John McClane’s (protagonist) wife is named Holly. Can you think of a more festive female name? I do understand if the small detail of a few characters’ names isn’t enough to grant this 1988 Bruce Willis movie a spot in your Christmas Film Hall of Fame, but the blatant festivities don’t stop there.
A whopping four Christmas songs are used throughout the film. If ‘Winter Wonderland’ playing in the background whilst terrorists storm a 40-storey building in LA doesn’t scream Christmas to you, then I don’t know what will. The Christmas songs used in the score are not only there to heighten the holiday spirit, but they intensify and contradict the threat of the villains. There’s no bigger oxymoron than the enemy firing a steady stream of rattling bullets to a calming Christmas tune. This music playing in the background was an incredibly smart choice – it creates a quirky environment which contrasts the villains and reminds the viewers of the LA-based Christmas Eve setting.
Another reason Christmas-enthusiasts have adopted Die Hard into their arms is because the whole film is set on Christmas Eve. This is different to films such as The Holiday, where most of the film is only within the month of December and the only glimpse of hardcore Christmas we get is a montage of dancing and merriment around a tree at the end. The entire premise of Die Hard is that John McClane is coming home for Christmas – he’s even armed with a teddy bear the size of one of his children. Plus, the underlying event of a Christmas party can’t be ignored.
The last reason to sway the argument over to the Die-Hard-is-a-Christmas-movie-please-don’t-contradict-me side, is the dewy-eyed theme of family coming together over the holiday season. Ultimately, John McClane’s only goal was to visit his estranged family over the Christmas period. We can’t really blame him for getting involved with Hans Gruber’s (the scrooge that he is) plans. When all is said and done and McClane’s family is healed through his heroic efforts, Die Hard is blessed with a happy ending, and we all know that a deal-breaking trope of Christmas films is that they must have happy endings. I can’t think of anything more festive than watching Bruce Willis get steadily filthier, lose more and more clothing and pull shards of glass out of fragile, shredded skin. Can you?
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