Die Hard: Hands Down the Best Christmas Movie of All Time


Matthew Colbert, Contributor

With the passing of Thanksgiving and the coming of December many people’s minds have immediately jumped to Christmas. People are putting up lights, buying and decorating trees and listening to Christmas music. One key aspect to the holiday spirit is the Christmas movies and in this category, no film is better than the 1988 classic, Die Hard.

Many readers might doubt how an 80s action movie, though exceptional, could ever be called a Christmas movie. However, when it comes down to it, Die Hard simply must be considered a Christmas movie as it hits home on all of the hallmarks of one.

When we think of a Christmas movie, we immediately think of a few key criteria. The story must take place around Christmas and must feature Christmas as a constant theme throughout the story. Christmas spirit has to come into play with the main characters and should be a driving force behind the story. This will almost definitely help to drive in the next nescecity: the need to underline classical Christmas themes. Additionally the movie needs a Scrooge ar Grinch-like character that stands in the way of the Christmas themes, spirit, and values. The film must also feature a triumphant and happy ending to get us into the mood for the holiday. To further set the mood, it should also feature a decent amount of christmas music. If we accept the above stated notions of what makes a Christmas movie then Die Hard simply must be considered one.

To begin with, the story takes place on Christmas eve. The protagonist, John McClane, arrives in California from New York and goes to his wife’s’ company’s Christmas party. The party remains the setting for the rest of the film. Furthermore, the main antagonist, German terrorist Hans Gruber, intentionally plans the party around the holiday because he knows the building will be understaffed and easier to take over. This adds to Christmas being the driving force behind the story.

Secondly, the decorations, dialogue and soundtrack all work together to give the movie a Christmas feel and put us, the audience, into the holiday spirit. Christmas music is played repeatedly throughout the film. Everywhere we look we see decorations for the Christmas party. Many of the best lines from the film center mainly around it being Christmas time. These all work in coordination to imprint the Christmas theme in the minds of the viewer. We come out of Die Hard thinking about Christmas.

Additionally, throughout the film, Christmas spirit is the constant redeeming force. The main character’s choices to do the right thing and take on the pack of German terrorists by himself is what allows him to get back to his wife and strengthen their relationship. At the beginning of the film, John and his wife Holly aren’t on the best of terms. She recently got a job on the West coast but John was committed to staying in New York as a cop. It is suddenly implied that their relationship could be heading towards divorce. However, through the power of the Christmas spirit, John is able to redeem himself in the eyes of his wife and strengthen his relationship with her. This without a doubt shows the relevance and importance of the Christmas spirit in Die Hard.

This further adds to the next criteria, the stressing of important and recurring Christmas themes. Some of these traditionally would include valuing family, seeing the bigger picture instead of just thinking about oneself, helping others, and the bonding between close friends and family. Die Hard successfully addresses all of the above stated themes with flying colors. One of the main driving forces of the story is John’s desire to reunite with and protect his wife so that they can both go home to see their children the next morning. To do this, John is forced to abandon his refusal to leave his job as a New York City cop and realize that moving out to the coast with his wife and children is what’s best for everybody. He has to realize that he hasn’t supported his wife in the ways that she has supported him and must realize his love for her is more important than his professional ambitions. Throughout his fight against the terrorists, John constantly risks life in order to protect his wife and her coworkers, further driving in the Christmas value of helping others in an absolutely epic way. And John’s bonding with not only his family but also with an LA cop trying to help him and the innocent people he is attempting to protect, drives in our last theme of the importance of friends and family.

Now a film like this could not be complete without the role of the Grinch or Scrooge-like character being filled. There must be some sort of conflict and someone must oppose the forces of Christmas so that it will be ever more impactful when the Christmas spirit wins out in the end. In Die Hard, this comes as the leader of the German terrorists, Hans Gruber(portrayed flawlessly by the late great Alan Rickman). To this day Hans Gruber still remains on of the greatest antagonists ever put to the screen. He is cunning, methodical, ruthless, and just plain evil. His motivation is purely greed which totally stands in the way of the Christmas spirit, which is supposed to be all about giving, not receiving. This makes him the perfect obstacle for John McClane and the Christmas spirit to inevitably vanquish.

In an attempt to not entirely spoil the films ending, I’ll only say that the ending is cathartic, fulfilling, and offers a perfect conclusion to wrap up the perfect Christmas story with a bow. It restores peace and tradition while also redeeming multiple main characters of their past sins.

It is undeniable that Die Hard is, by all means, a Christmas movie. Almost 30 years after its initial release this movie is still beloved by many audiences everywhere. It remains one of the most quotable, enjoyable and re-watchable movies ever made. Although action and Christmas don’t usually go together, in Die Hard the two go together perfectly and get you into the Christmas spirit with a bang.