Is Die Hard really a Christmas movie? What made Bruce Willis’ cop thriller a major feature of holiday traditions, not just in the US but all across the world?
Die Hard is a film that’s known for its action thrills and witty one-liners, and over the past three decades has become part of mainstream pop culture. Apart from a healthy 8.2 rating on IMDB, the Bruce Willis starrer has now developed a cult following. No more only a great action thriller, Die Hard has now entered the lore because of entirely different reasons which have no connection with the film whatsoever. Die Hard has now become a part of a list of films that are considered a must watch during Christmas. The towering status that the movie has gathered over the years can also be gauged from the fact that in Estonia, during Christmas, the entire series is shown on national television during consecutive nights.
Graph: Die Hard sees a spike in interest every holiday season (search volume in the last 5 years)
It’s amazing for a film that has no major Christmas reference whatsoever is now considered a classic Christmas watch. When it comes to classic Christmas films that are a must watch during the Christmas season, Bruce Willis’ Die Hard occupies a place of pride alongside It’s a Wonderful Life, Home Alone and Miracle on 34th Street. Though the film has Los Angeles (the last time LA had experienced snow was in 1962) and Christmas eve as its setting, one hardly encounters snow during its viewing and in the name of Christmas tree one is just about able to spot a normal tree in the building where German terrorists take Willis’ wife and others hostage. Despite the minuses, every year it features in the polls of people’s favorite Christmas film.
Why is Die Hard the go-to Christmas watch for many?
There are reasons galore which help Die Hard qualify as a Christmas film. The topmost reason being the soundtrack of the film which is filled with Christmas songs. Ode to Joy, Christmas in Hollis and Winter Wonderland, all find mentions in the soundtrack of Die Hard. The film also has the presence of lots of presents. There are cakes and a Rolex watch, having fleeting appearance as ‘presents’ in the film. Furthermore, the FBI ‘gifts’ access to the Nakatomi vault to Hans Gruber and in the finale, one sees a gun that’s ‘gift-wrapped’. Taking the Christmas reference further is the iconic scene when John sends Tony’s body to Hans Gruber in an elevator. Tony’s body is shown wearing a T-shirt that reads ‘Now I have a machine gun. Ho Ho ho’ coupled with a Santa hat. And it’s only in the finale that one gets to see snowfall.
So, while the naysayers and die-hard fans of the film might have their own reasons in dubbing this action thriller as a classic Christmas film or not, John McTiernan, the director of Die Hard has finally put a full stop to many conjectures related to the true nature of the film that start floating when Christmas is around. In a 12-minute video posted on the YouTube channel of American Film Institute, John McTiernan has laid to rest many queries. The words that John has used in the video are significant and carry a deeper meaning. The references that John uses in the video, range from 18th century painter Jacques-Louis David to Bedford Falls from Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life.
Watch: John McTiernan comprehends why Die Hard became a Christmas movie
What the makers of Die Hard think?
In the video, after a slightly confusing painting reference, McTiernan jumps on to the more relevant It’s a Wonderful Life. He mentions that he drew inspiration from Bedford Falls. He said that the film signifies the onset of capitalism (In the film, Bruce Willis’ character is shown as a typical commoner despite being in the service of the FBI). But the most significant quote comes immediately after the Bedford Falls mention when he says, “We hadn’t intended it to be a Christmas movie, but the joy that came from it is what turned it into a Christmas movie.”
Die Hard writer Steven E de Souza has also mentioned that Die Hard isn’t just another Christmas film. Steven explained his position with the help of several parameter checks. In a video posted on December 22, he begins by defining the meaning of a Christmas movie and then goes on to compare Die Hard with another perennial favorite Christmas movie White Christmas directed by another Hollywood giant Michael Curtiz. He compares both the films on several parameters and finally arrives at a conclusion. His parameters included stuff like whether the film takes place during Christmas or not, if the setting is Christmas, number of Christmas songs in the movie etc.
But despite the theories and conjectures, and recent verdict by the film’s director and writers, the verdict whether Die Hard is a Christmas movie or not was given by the lead man himself. In an interview Bruce Willis had famously stated – “Die Hard is not a Christmas movie. It’s a goddamn Bruce Willis movie!”
We can’t agree more.
Watch: Bruce Willis says Die Hard is not a Christmas movie