There have always been a lot of ‘ketchup on hot dogs’ and ‘pineapple on pizza’ type arguments on social media over whether or not “Die Hard” is a Christmas movie. It clearly is, and by any measure. Hear me out.
All the old arguments in agreement with the idea that “Die Hard” is a Christmas movie tend to lean on things such as the only reason for McClane being in L.A. was because he wanted to visit his family at Christmas. And if you’ve ever been apart from people you love for a while (and especially if their boss offers to pay your way for a visit), you know that you would take the leave and head out west to spend that special time with your estranged wife and kids. And of course the reason for the Nakatomi Plaza attack happening that night was because somehow an entire office building in Los Angeles had been emptied of all people apart from a couple of gomers at the front desk and Joseph Takagi, CEO of Nakatomi Corp running a Christmas party for his entire staff on the 30th floor of the building. So far, so good.
McClane arrives in L.A. and is picked up by Argyle, the limo driver Takagi hired to drive him to Nakatomi Plaza. Argyle starts asking him questions about his situation. This sad tale of love lost (or on hiatus) sets up the classic Christmas tale of redemption and the power of love. Why, if it weren’t for all the murder-death-kills and explosions and whatnot, this one might have *been* a Hallmark Christmas movie. Thank goodness for firepower and bad guys.
On the way, Argyle insists that Christmas music can be ‘80s rap, which was an odd phenomenon even then. ‘80s rap, I mean. Not Christmas music. Why would he be jamming Christmas rhymes in July, after all? Obviously a Christmas soundtrack.
Now, let’s address the elephant in the room (next to the Christmas tree): Are there any other movies that could only have happened at Christmastime? The Miracle on 34th Street could have happened in July. Santa would have been uncomfortable in the suit and beard, but that’s a minor modification. Just set it on a Florida beach and have him wear a Speedo. How about It’s a Wonderful Life? Could that not have happened in Baton Rouge (or Tallahatchie - h/t Bobbie Gentry) in August? Movies about Christmas aren’t really about Christmas in the main; it’s just a sentimental time of year for many / most of us, and they use that as a hook. Which is fair enough. They are about salvation and redemption and romance. Hallmark dialed this in long ago. I’ve never seen a Hallmark Christmas movie, but I’m pretty sure I know how they go. Otherwise I might watch them to find out.
The thing about “Die Hard” that makes it a Christmas movie beyond debate is that redemption theme. Alright, it isn’t exactly a George Bailey or Ebeneezer Scrooge salvation tale, but Holly changed her last name back to McClane, so we know it had a happy ending after that last limo ride. And Christmas movies always have happy endings.
Holly and John were a Hallmark Christmas movie plot line. The kids missed their daddy, and mom and dad couldn’t work it out. And then a Christmas miracle happened and they got back together. All it took was putting a little seasonal ketchup on the fire hose of a hot dog. And a bunch of dead bad guys. How could that not be a joyous thing?
Sergeant Al Powell got his salvation in the form of a return to being a real cop. Early in his career, he had panicked and killed a teenager, so he found a way to stay off the streets and eat Twinkies. A desk job. I’ll admit his version of salvation here is a bit grim, but the guy he shot was an murderous asshole, so it counts.
But the overarching, most important thing about a Christmas movie is tradition. When a person thinks of “A Christmas Story” or “Home Alone” or “White Christmas,” they know what season they are thinking about and dwelling on. Can the same not be said of “Die Hard?” If you watch the movie, do you ever watch it outside of December?
Here’s an actual quote from Hans Gruber: “It’s Christmas, Theo. It’s the time of miracles! So be of good cheer and call me when you hit the last lock.” See? Seasonal.
First, one of my favorite things about this movie is that Alan Rickman had no idea that he was going to get that Christmas surprise as his character exited stage south. He looked awfully startled falling out that window because he was (startled, not actually falling out that 30th floor window).
One other thing I noted (I think for the first time) last night: Every time McClane has a firearm in his hand, he has his finger inside the trigger guard. At one point he has to switch hands with a pistol. He takes the finger off the trigger and clearly makes sure to insert the other one during the switch. It could be argued that the building was lousy with bad guys, but he’s a cop. Just saying. Hey, at least he got the girl (again).
P.S. Ketchup does not belong on hot dogs (or anything else) and pineapple does belong on pizza as long as there are chilis too.
Merry Christmas to y’all, and to y’all a good night.
Ho ho ho.
Just a gaggle of people from all over who have similar interests and loud opinions mixed with a dose of humor. We met on Twitter.