IS DIE HARD REALLY A CHRISTMAS MOVIE?
Scholars and historians have debated for centuries the question
“Is Die Hard a Christmas Movie?”
Or at least during the last three decades since the movie was released. This is why readers have turned to me, your friendly neighborhood historian, to wrestle with this age-old question and help them resolve this dilemma.
In this article, I will assemble ancient history, linguistic legerdemain, modern science, and contemporary film criticism to address this question.
The debate has raged amongst the tragically online and is perennially in full bloom during the Christmas season on Twitter. The participants typically fall into two camps, the “Duh!” and the “Nuh-uh.”
I divide this debate thusly:
Die Hard: Camp Yippee-ki-yay
- There is a book that came out a couple of years ago: A Die Hard Christmas: The Illustrated Holiday Classic. I got a copy for Christmas. I was deeply moved.
- Babylon Bee, the satire site, (motto: “Fake News You Can Trust”) reports that “New Evidence Suggests Mary and Joseph Watched ‘Die Hard’ On First Christmas Night.” It seems that archeologists have discovered a small, wall-mounted television set and a VHS copy of the classic Christmas film near the likely site of Jesus’ birth. The Holy Family had an arduous trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem.
“What better way to celebrate the holiday spirit on the very first Christmas than watching John McClane take out a bunch of terrorists?”
- There are four Christmas songs included in Die Hard, count ’em, four. That’s more Christmas songs than “It’s A Wonderful Life.” For extra credit, Die Hard has Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, plus Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 In G Major. Not even “White Christmas” had classical music.
- On December 24, 2017, screenwriter Steven E. de Souza stated on Twitter that Die Hard is a Christmas film. If you can’t trust the screenwriter, who can you trust?
- In 2016, DISH Network reported that 1.3 million American’s watched “Die Hard” on Christmas Eve, beating “Home Alone,” “Miracle on 34th Street,” and “The Santa Clause.” The numbers don’t lie.
- In a Christmas interview, Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Arden recently asserted that Die Hard is a “really cheesy Christmas film.” And she’s a Prime Minister, of a really nice country that speaks a language very similar to our own.
Die Hard: Camp No-ho-ho
- Die Hard was initially released on July 15, 1988, not exactly the Christmas season, the nay-sayers say. But is that a show stopper? “Miracle on 34th Street” was also released in July, and nobody denies that it’s a Christmas movie. And has anybody heard of “Christmas in July”?
- At his Comedy Central Roast, Bruce Willis declared,
“Die Hard is not a Christmas movie! It is a… Bruce Willis movie!”
But what else do you expect him to say? It was a Roast.
In My Humble Opinion
Let’s allow the facts to speak for themselves. The historical parallels are remarkable:
- John McClane, the protagonist as we see at the beginning of the movie, flies in from the sky to save those in need. Jesus came from Heaven to save a world in need.
- John means “gracious gift of God” in Hebrew.
Question: What is the time of the year when we most think about the gift of God?
- Invaders from Europe come to the tiny hamlet of Nakatomi Plaza with automatic weapons. Over 2,000 years ago, Romans came from Europe to tiny Israel with automatic swords.
- McClane says, while in a ventilator shaft,
“Come out to the coast, we’ll get together, have a few laughs.”
The ancient Israel of Jesus’ time is on the coast.
- This scene from the movie is now a popular Christmas Tree ornament.
- Nakatomi, according to Wikipedia, was a priestly clan that oversaw certain important national rites, and one of many to claim descent from divine clan ancestors “only a degree less sublime than the imperial ancestors.” Jesus, according to the New Testament, is our “High Priest.” Coincidence? I don’t think so.
- Hans Gruber, the villain, quotes,
“And when Alexander saw the breadth of his domain, he wept, for there were no more worlds to conquer.”
It was because Alexander’s generals occupied Israel following the eastward conquest that the Nativity story in the New Testament is written in Greek. “The benefits of a classical education” as Hans Gruber would say.
- Holly is the name of John McClane’s wife. She could have been named Molly or Polly, but no, she’s named after the quintessential Christmas plant.
- At one point, John McClane goes up to the highest point on the Nakatomi building and fires a machine gun into the sky to get attention. The Wise Men followed a bright star in the sky to find the Baby Jesus.
Die Hard: the Summary
On the 30th anniversary of the movie, 20th Century Fox — realizing that their blockbuster hit had been the subject of intense, heated, polarizing debate — decided to resolve this silly argument while taking advantage of the popular meme by releasing a special Die Hard – Christmas Edition 4K DVD in December 2018, including a re-cut trailer to present the film as a heartwarming Christmas story. They humbly call it “The Greatest Christmas Story.” This trended big on YouTube.
“Welcome to the party, pal!”
Bill Petro, your friendly neighborhood historian