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I’m Sorry, But No: Die Hard is NOT a Christmas Movie

“Merry Christmas, ya filthy animal!” “Ohhhhh, fuuuuudge. Except I didn’t say fudge.” “Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings.”

These are some classic quotes from some classic Christmas movies. Among these is not “Yippee Ki Yay, Motherfucker!”

Obviously, this is all subjective. My immediate and ruthless dismissal of a subjective opinion is done for the sake of levity. However, I do want to break down why I don’t think Die Hard is a Christmas movie, and what exactly constitutes a “Christmas movie”.

For me, a Christmas movie has the holiday rooted in its DNA. Christmas is a foundational element of that movie, and the film cannot function without it. Other examples would be how music is at the core of La La Land, or how the titular holiday is crucial to the movie Halloween.

An easy test to do is this: if you replace the Christmas holiday in a movie with a different holiday, does the story fundamentally change? If you swap out the holiday and the setting of A Christmas Story, it’s no longer the same movie. Too much of the film subsequently changes; thus the Christmas holiday is fundamental to the movie’s DNA.

If you take away the music in La La Land, what do you have left? If you replace the holiday in Halloween with Easter, it’s suddenly a completely different movie. Though, on a side note, Michael Myer’s multiple fake deaths would make a little bit more sense with that change.

Let’s now look at Die Hard. The movie is set during Christmas. Characters make multiple references to the holiday. Does this mean it’s a Christmas movie?

To me, there is a distinction between movies set during Christmas, and films that we would culturally deem “Christmas movies.” The difference being the aforementioned test. True Christmas movies cannot function without the Christmas holiday; movies set during Christmas can have their setting changed with only a few rewrites required.

So if Die Hard were to be set during a different time of year, what changes? The Christmas party everyone is gathered at can easily be a different party. The lines referencing Christmas can easily be rewritten. At the end of the day, even if it’s set on June 15th, it’s still a movie about a New York cop picking off terrorists in a building. Changing the Christmas setting doesn’t fundamentally change the movie.

I mean, there isn’t even snow on the ground in the film! If the characters hadn’t said the word “Christmas” in the first place, you wouldn’t even know when the movie is supposed to be set.

Now, I am sure there are plenty of people who enjoy watching Die Hard around Christmas time. That’s great! There’s nothing wrong with that, and I don’t want to take anything away from that tradition. However, within the context of the debate of whether or not Die Hard is a Christmas movie, I firmly believe that it is not.

I don’t think you can reasonably make the argument that Christmas is integral to the structural DNA of Die Hard. It’s too easy to change the film’s setting. To make the case that Die Hard is in fact a Christmas movie, the bar of what is a Christmas movie would have to be lowered to any movie that is set around Christmas time.

If that’s the line we’re going to draw, then Batman Returns is also a Christmas movie. As is Iron Man 3. So is Rocky IV. Don’t forget about Eyes Wide Shut. Suddenly any movie where snow falls is a Christmas movie, and now you have a lot more movies to watch before the 25th.

I’ve been known to watch Die Hard around Christmas time, and it’s a fun tradition to have. For those who get sick of the Hallmark-esque holiday movies about family and love, it’s fun to celebrate the season with an action-packed shoot-em-up. However, while we’re enjoying the gritty awesomeness that is Die Hard, let’s not kid ourselves by thinking it’s an *actual* Christmas movie. It’s just a great film set during Christmas that is fun to watch amidst the holiday season, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that!

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Nathanael Molnár

I’ve been writing about movies since 2014. I studied film at Fitchburg State University, and I’ve written and directed some short films. @nathanaelmolnar