It’s that time of year to sit down to a Christmas movie with the family and have the annual debate over whether die hard counts as one.
This debate has now become, in some movie history circles, as big a question as the meaning of “rosebud” in Citizen Kane or whether Han Solo or Greedo shot first in Star Wars. it’s even important enough to warrant a yougov poll, which concluded that Die Hard is not a Christmas movie.
The plots surrounding the 1988 film’s “Christmas” revolve around three themes: creative, commercial, and cultural.
the creative storyline is based on the intentions of those involved in the making of the film. Since director John McTiernan and writer Steven De Souza have confirmed that Die Hard is a Christmas movie, then the creative case would seem to be very much in favor.
business and cultural arguments
The business case is that Christmas movies are released at Christmas and are generally aimed at family audiences. However, Die Hard was a summer release (July 15, 1988) in the US and very obviously for adults. however, this argument that a summer release cannot be a Christmas movie does not stand up to the most cursory examination.
That perennial seasonal favorite Holiday Inn, in which Bing Crosby sings Irving Berlin’s White Christmas, also came out in the summer (August 4, 1942), and no one disputes that it’s not a Christmas movie. Even the new version, White Christmas, was released in mid-October 1954. Therefore, proximity to Christmas is not necessarily a criterion for a Christmas movie.
nine reasons why it’s a Christmas movie
the most common interpretation of a christmas movie, as described by mark connelly in the introduction to christmas at the movies, is that the christmas theme and motif is central to the movie, as is a wonderful life and the many versions of charles dickens is a Christmas carol.
But there is another category, of movies that happen to be set around Christmas, a group that includes films like the murder mystery, The Thin Man, and the fest of mercenary violence in Africa, The Wild Geese. and it is this category to which die hard belongs.
here are nine christmas motifs i spotted (no doubt there are more):
- the basic narrative situation of die hard is a man who returns to his family for christmas.
- his wife’s name is holly.
- takes place on the eve of Christmas. not thanksgiving or the fourth of july. It could have been set in any week of the year, but it wasn’t.
- Main villain Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) explicitly invokes the Christmas spirit: “It’s Christmas, Theo, it’s a time of miracles. ”
- gruber is a classic baddie capitalist villain: he’s there to steal money. Just like the old potter does in It’s a Wonderful Life.
- The soundtrack features Christmas melodies new and old: he performs DMC’s Christmas at Hollis and Frank Sinatra’s rendition of Let It Snow.
- santa claus makes his appearance (in the form of a dead terrorist).
- the film ends with limousine driver argyle’s character (de’voreaux white) waiting for new year’s eve new.
And point nine, the clincher, perhaps, is that Christmas is a socially invented tradition, and like all invented traditions, it continues to adapt and evolve. Movies don’t need to include religious references or a man in a red suit, Christmas changes every year and as such what constitutes a Christmas movie has expanded greatly.
our tradition at chez chapman is the ultimate christmas eve doubleheader action movie: die hard and her majesty’s secret service james bond movie. We start with Bond spying on Diana Rigg on the beach around 4 p.m. this is just in time for a repeat of the vicar of dibley’s christmas dinner episode (which i always thought would be a lot more fun if dawn french used a heckler & koch mp5).