Nothing says Christmas like Bruce Willis crawling around in ventilation ducts hunting terrorists. Die Hard is a yippie-ki-yay Yuletide fable with all the classic elements of a Christmas movie. Inexplicably, a majority of Americans don’t see it this way.
In 2015, Raleigh, NC, based polling outfit PPP found that just 13% of Americans thought Die Hard was a Christmas movie, while 62% thought it was not. I presume the remaining 25% hung up in disgust at the absurd suggestion that Die Hard is anything other than a holiday classic. It is high time to put this matter to rest. Of course Die Hard is a Christmas movie. Don’t be ridiculous.
Die Hard takes place on Christmas Eve at a Christmas party, and features a plot that is timeless Christmas movie fare: the story or an intrepid hero who overcomes adversity to save Christmas and reconnect with what is truly important.
In Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, Rudolph must save his girlfriend, Clarice. In Die Hard, Bruce Willis’ John McClane must save his wife. Rudolph battles the abominable snow monster, McClane battles abominable terrorists. Rudolph gets hit in the head by a stalactite, John McClane walks barefoot across broken glass. See? Same.
A grinch character is also a common theme in Christmas movies. Who could be more Grinch-like than Alan Rickman’s Hans Gruber, the terrorist villain of Die Hard? In The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, The Grinch wants to steal Christmas cheer; in Die Hard, Gruber wants to steal Christmas cheer too — in the form of several hundred million dollars. In both movies, the bad guy character is forever changed. The Grinch’s heart grew ten sizes that day; in Die Hard, Gruber fell out of a window…well, close enough.
Like many Christmas movies, Die Hard is, at its core, a tale about a protagonist who forgets what is really important, only to find it again in the end. In the beginning of the film, McClane’s petty resentments about his wife’s career ambitions have estranged him from the people he cares for most, his wife and daughter.
As Drew Taylor writes for Moviefone, “during the course of the movie, McClane is transformed. When he emerges, bloodied and burnt, at the end of the movie, his wife can barely recognize him. And how does she address him? ‘Jesus Christ,’ the kid whose birth we’re ostensibly celebrating on Christmas Day.”
I rest my case.
In classic Christmas movie style, John McClane fights through adversity to find the true meaning of Christmas: family, selflessness, and love. In the end, McClane and his wife are reconciled and he’s determined to be the great dad we always knew he could be. In the final scene, we see McClane and wife kissing, framed by shreds of paper falling gently around them like snowflakes. The strains of “Let It Snow” fade in, and Christmas is saved.