ANDREW HART - Yes, of course it's a Christmas movie - in fact it can ONLY be a Christmas movie
Home Alone, A Christmas Carol, It’s a Wonderful Life… Arguably three of the best Christmas films ever made. You can’t deny as a nation, we all love a good Christmas film. And rightly so, nothing beats turning on the Christmas lights, wrapping up in a warm blanket and settling down with a Baileys and mince pie to watch your favourite festive flick. However, as soon as somebody adds Die Hard to the aforementioned list of Christmas films people lose their minds.
Before I put my case forward, let’s discuss what constitutes a Christmas film. Is it purely down to the time of year it is set? If so, Die Hard certainly qualifies, as do the top 3! Is it down to the inclusion of Christmas Trees, Decoration and Turkey? If so, again all films qualify. Is it catchy phrases and scenes such as McCauley Culkin’s face slap. Scrooges ‘Bah, Humbug’, or Bruce Willis’ ‘Yippy Ki Yay…’ (you get the idea).
Or is it perhaps down to the warm fuzzy feeling you get and the depiction of a perfect Christmas? If so…Well, none of the films qualify. Home Alone features Kevin McAllister as some kind of preschool version of the Saw franchise where a child torments two burglars and smashes them in the face with bricks and paint cans. A Christmas Carol is a literal ghost story where an old miser is faced with the existential horror of realising that once he is dead nobody will care and a puppeteered spider will sell his possessions (Though this may just be the muppet version). It’s a Wonderful Life features massive scenes of George Baileys life filled with gut-wrenching trauma and begins with him contemplating suicide. Why is that any different from John McClaine procuring semi-automatic weaponry and saving a tower full of hostages from a radical German terror group? It isn’t the outcome the same? The ending is a happy one.
Therefore, I put it to you that what truly should constitute a Christmas film is one that MUST take place at Christmas, and if you were to change the time of year then the story wouldn’t work. For example, Home Alone is about a family leaving their child at home, sure it happens to be at Christmas but the film still works if it’s set in June… A Christmas Carol, if the ghosts appeared on Scrooge’s birthday the story still works. The old man re-assesses his life and becomes good! It’s a Wonderful Life is predominantly not even set at Christmas! Die Hard, however, the entire take-over of the Nakatomi Tower is due to the timing! Christmas Eve. The building is closed, except for the staff party where those who could open the safe will be, the $640 million in untraceable bearer bonds will be there on that night only. It is the longest period of closure for the business, over the festive period. Hans Gruber has planned the perfect Christmas Heist! Well, it would’ve been perfect if it hadn’t been for a barefooted, vest wearing John McClane dropping him out of a window.
To sum up, I am of course not saying that Home Alone, Christmas Carol and It’s a Wonderful Life aren’t Christmas films, we can all agree they are. But I implore you this Christmas to look inward, contemplate what really makes a Christmas movie. Location? Setting? Inclusion of carols? A happy ending? However, you look at it, all four of the movies have all these.
If we are being honest with ourselves (and at Christmas, you have to be.) It’s hard not to say ‘Welcome to the party pal!’ and agree that Die Hard is in fact a Christmas movie.
LOIS MCCARTHY - there is nothing Christmassy about Die Hard
Here is a scenario, I would like everyone to consider.
It is a cold December night. You have just finished a long day of Christmas shopping; the tree is brightly lit and the whole family have settled down for the evening in their pyjamas with a mug of hot chocolate...
BOOM, BOOM, BANG, BANG.
Gunfire, explosions, Bruce Willis charging across your television screen with a machine gun. The kids are screaming at the dead bodies, you have to mute the film several times because of all the bad language.
Does that fit the idyllic festive picture I painted for you earlier?
Nothing about Die Hard screams ‘Christmas’. To me, Christmas is so loved by many because it reunites families and gives us the opportunity to spend time with people that we do not see much over the course of the year.
A Christmas film should inspire that same feeling of warmth and nostalgia.
It should also immediately put you in the Christmas spirit.
I find films such as Elf or Miracle on 34th Street inherently festive. These are the type of films that the whole family can watch together. They are timeless – films from all different eras which are watched and collectively enjoyed by all, from It’s a Wonderful Life to Arthur Christmas.
In addition to this, I believe that there is a very strict time gap in which you can watch these types of films without getting seriously judged by other people. You would not watch Buddy the elf run rampant through the streets of New York in the middle of summer, much as you would not listen to ‘Last Christmas’ on Easter Sunday.
Meanwhile, you could easily watch Die Hard anytime of the year – something that the directors, producers and studios clearly agreed with because Die Hard was released in July 1988 in the USA and February, 1989 in the UK months after Christmas for the British, when people had finally got back into the swing of reality.
Compare this to the release dates of your universally accepted Christmas films:
Home Alone – December 7
The Santa Clause – December 8
Nativity – November 27
Elf – November 14
The list could go on and on, but they all have one thing in common... they were all released during the build up to Christmas, to ultimately achieve what I have previously said: a feeling of festive, warmth and excitement.
They aimed to be accessible to the whole family and above all – to bring everyone together because after all, that is what Christmas is all about.
Unless you come from a family of adults who enjoy death, adrenaline and destruction during the holidays then who can you watch Die Hard with?
For me, calling it a Christmas film is simply an excuse that boyfriends and husbands use so that they can watch an action film instead of a cheesy, Christmas film.
None of this is convincing enough? I would like to finish my argument with a quote by Bruce Willis – the man who lived and breathed Die Hard for the last thirty-four years and played the famed action hero over five films.
“Die Hard is not a Christmas movie, it’s a goddamn Bruce Willis movie.”