Now I have a machine Gun. Ho! Ho! Ho!

One of the relentless Christmas debates that happens every year at this time is whether Die Hard (La Jungla Cristal) is a Christmas Film. It is like the American/British version of Nesquick or Cola Cao and can ruin family relationships forever. As the season gets underway we consider the case for and against.

The Case For Happy Die Hard Christmas:

Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat, Die Hard is a Christmas film, that is an obvious fact!

There are many schools of thought on what defines a ‘Christmas film’, and whichever criteria you use, you will deny some Christmas films that other Christmas fans find required viewing.

But whichever series of qualifications you use to classify a film as a Christmas event, Die Hard does very well in most considerations. Warning SPOILERS AHEAD

1. The film must primarily be set during the Christmas season.

Die Hard is entirely set during the Christmas Season, Christmas Eve in fact…believe it or not more of the film is set at Christmas time than either Miracle on 34th Street or Love Actually.

reconciliation, faith, redemption, family etc.

The entire premise of Die Hard is underpinned by reconciliation, family and putting aside old grudges. If not, John McClane would never have been at Nakatomi Plaza in the first place and everyone would have died!

Even the sub plot is about redemption. Officer Powell saves John’s life after his previous accidental shooting and is redeemed in the process.

3. The audience associates the film with Christmas.

Its so common that there is a «it’s not Christmas until I see Hans Gruber fall out of the Nakotomi Building» meme that circulates every Christmas season…even this yearly discussion is proof that it is a Christmas movie. Although, Die Hard does not feature heavily on the Spanish TV rotation of Christmas films, but we can surely start a campaign to change that, after all in 2016, 1.3 million Americans watched “Die Hard” on Christmas Eve. That beat traditional Christmas favourites including “Home Alone,” “Miracle on 34th Street,” and “The Santa Clause».

4. It must feature Christmas references heavily.

  • «Now I have a machine gun, Ho-Ho-Ho»
  • The Santa Hat on a dead terrorist
  • The seasons greetings wrapping paper that secures the gun to his back
  • The Rolex Christmas present that nearly kills Holly
  • The fact that she’s called Holly
  • The Christmas party that serves as the setting for the whole film
  • Al Powell is on his way home to spend Christmas with his family.
  • Theo wishes his group «Merry Christmas» during a climatic scene while ‘Ode to Joy’ plays over the scene.
  • It Snows at the end (Alright, it is snowing bearer bonds not actual snow, but L.A isn’t known for snow so a degree of license is allowed).
  • The film actually closes to «Let It Snow»…one of the most Christmasy of Christmas songs that ever Christmassed a Christmas time!

5. Meaningful use of Christmas in the narrative.

Would Die Hard make sense if it were set at any other time but Christmas Eve? John McClane only flew in to L.A. to see his wife, because it was Christmas.

The antagonists needed the building to be mostly empty except the executives to still be there for the vault codes. 

A Christmas party is one of the only possible ways that set of circumstances could happen!

If you set that film at any other time, it would have to be a vastly different and it would produce a vastly different experience for the audience.

6. A feel good ending!

This is a Christmas film condition that is up for debate because quite a few recognised Christmas Films have sombre endings. But Die Hard, unquestionably, does have a feel good ending, with additional Christmas imagery and Christmas Music.

7. A Christmas soundtrack

The “Die Hard” soundtrack is heaving with Christmas songs. “Winter Wonderland,” “Let it Snow!,” “Christmas in Hollis,” and “Ode to Joy” all make an appearance in the film.

8. The film’s director and screenwriter both agree it is a Christmas film!

The case against Die Ho Ho Hard!

1. Yougov ran a poll in 2017 to find the final definitive answer on this issue and found that 50
% of British adults considered it not to be a Christmas movie whie 31% said otherwise. The poll was run again in 2021 and found that 47% of people said it was not a Christmas film, but a dramatic rise to 44% of people responding insisted it is!

2. Bruce Willis waded into the debate in 2018, adamantly sticking to his guns to say «Die Hard is not a Christmas movie. It’s a god damn Bruce Willis movie.” The cinematographer from the picture also stated “that to call that a Christmas movie – it’s a little far fetched…I’m not sure if the spirit of Christmas is fully embraced by that movie to be honest”

3. Setting does not equal story! Nothing would change if the story was set at any other public holiday. Thanksgiving or Halloween or even New Year, with a tweak to the script, trappings and music it would make no difference to the core of the film.

4. Ghostbusters II is set at Christmas but does not get put on viewing rotation at the festive season. Perhaps it is fair to admit Die Hard is a much loved, great film which we want to return to and indulge in the excuse. We do not race to see feeble films set at Christmas. Here is looking at you Iron Man 3.

5. Die Hard was not released at Christmas time but actually in the standard summer blockbuster spot in July.

6. Themes of love, hope, generosity, reconciliation, faith, redemption, family etc. are not exclusive to Christmas. It could be argued that redemption is a much stronger theme around Easter time and the other themes are recurring ideas in films and stories that are timeless.

Yippeee Ki Yay or Nay then?

This debate in the Anglosphere is not going to be settled any time soon, so why not get involved in the fun. What do you consider a Christmas film? Do you have criteria or do you use tradition? Comment and let us know.

In the meantime, if you are unfamiliar with the idea of settling down with your loved ones and seeking a new tradition to put into motion then you could do far worse than making Die Hard a part of your Christmas viewing rotation. But be warned…once you open the door to this new and wonderful enjoyment, you will lie awake at night as you begin to consider whether Lethal Weapon is technically a Christmas Film as well. Then when you start to wonder if Batman Returns joins the fold, or even, heaven for fend, Rocky IV.

After all, what was it that John McClane yelled at Officer Al Powell….”Welcome to the party, pal!”