Tis the season for recycled takes on everything Christmas presented as though they are brand new thoughts. Of those, the one that pokes my armpit the hardest is when people insist that Die Hard is a Christmas movie. It’s not.
There are some movies that defy genre and can exist in multiple spaces at once. Die Hard is not one of those movies. This is an attempt to reframe a movie, but toward what end? Does it change Die Hard’s place in the film lexicon? Does it create the illusion of metatextuality through the most shallow of analysis? Regardless of motivation, this deliberate misrepresentation is a dilution of one of the few holiday-related genres.
- If it is a Christmas movie, it’s the only one in which Christmas doesn’t occur. The main argument for Die Hard being a Christmas movie is that it takes place sort of near Christmas. It is set during the Christmas season, but never actually hits Christmas. A main feature of all Christmas movies is, you know, Christmas, usually at the climax or the resolution. The entirety of Die Hard happens pre-Christmas. It’s supposed to be on Christmas Eve, but since when does any office anywhere have their office Christmas party on Christmas Eve? Still no Christmas, though. No actual Christmas, not a Christmas movie.
- Christmas is an element of the movie, part of the setting, giving it a time of year, not an essential part of the plot. In Rocky IV they show Rocky’s son having a fully autonomous robot servant, but I wouldn’t call Rocky IV a sci-fi movie, it simply has a sci-fi element. The Wizard of Oz isn’t a disaster movie. James Bond movies aren’t travel films. I wouldn’t call Speed a romance even though Keanu and Sandra hook up in the end. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade ends each year’s parade with Santa Claus, but that doesn’t make it a Christmas parade.
- The only reason people make this assertion is that it feels like some sort of taboo because Die Hard doesn’t have the usual Christmas movie tropes and those people don’t like the usual slate of Christmas movies. I get it, I like watching Die Hard too, but you don’t need an excuse to watch Die Hard. Just watch Die Hard.
- Back when it was the arbiter of such things and the reason we needed categories for films, Blockbuster settled this argument. They had one VHS copy and needed to decide where to put it, and they chose Action/Adventure. Stop trying to erase all the good that Blockbuster did for our society just because it is dead.
- The sequels have nothing to do with Christmas proving that it’s not a Christmas movie. Most Christmas movies don’t have a sequel, and if they do, they certainly involve Christmas. Tim Allen’s magnum opus, The Santa Clause, has had multiple sequels, and at no point in churning out egregious, unnecessary continuations of the franchise did they decide to focus on Arbor Day or make it a Summer surf movie. Yet Die Hard With a Vengeance? Live Free or Die Hard? Nary a peep about Christmas (though McClane may invoke the name of Jesus from time-to-time).
Those who won’t shut up about Die Hard being a Christmas movie: please just admit you want to make watching Die Hard an annual tradition. It’s okay. It’s a good movie. I would recommend expanding your film palate, but to each their own. All I ask is that you stop trying to recontextualize this action movie as a Christmas movie.
Bonus point: The movie was originally released in July, you know, the usual time studios like to release Christmas movies?