It’s about that time of year. The tinsel is out. The trees are lit. Houses are wrapped with the smell of baked cookies. And every movie fan debates whether Die Hard is a Christmas movie.
At this point, I understand if the argument elicits an eye roll and a sigh of exasperation. And if you feel the need to exit this post because of that, I appreciate you reading this far and have a Merry Christmas. However, I do believe this is an important discussion, because it blends two very important elements of movie culture- Christmas movies and Die Hard.
Christmas movies are a remarkable corner of the film world. Movies immediately glommed onto the mood and spirit of Christmas and created some all-timers right from the jump, Babes in Toyland, Miracle on 34th Street, It’s a Wonderful Life, and White Christmas. Then added a few in the middle, A Christmas Story, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, and Charlie Brown Christmas to name a few, and then some modern all-timers like Elf and Polar Express. Because of this, Christmas movies may be the most competitive and selective genre for movies trying break into regular circulation.
The other half of this conversation is equally as legendary (said with tongue only partially in cheek). Die Hard is an action movie that inspired a genre of subsequent action movies. Die Hard founded many variations including on planes, in the White House, on a bus, and on a boat to name just some of the renditions of what may be the perfect action flick. So whereas Christmas movies became selective and elite, Die Hard is the most inviting of all films, begging to be copied and emulated time and again (and not just by its own franchise).
Therefore, to debate whether Die Hard is a Christmas movie, is to engage in a significant conversation from two fertile fields of film. Two fields that are also opposite of each other, Christmas movies deny entrance, Die Hard brings movies into its fold.
So a person’s stance as to whether or not Die Hard is a Christmas movie often depends on what she/he are a bigger fan of, Christmas movies or Die Hard. Inevitably, fans of Christmas movies will tell you that Die Hard is not among its ranks, continuing their undefeated streak of preening and pruning ‘unfit’ films from their fold. However, if the person answering the question is more a fan of Die Hard, they will almost always say yes, because they are already used to grouping Die Hard with other films.
Therefore, the conversation is not a conversation about two genres of film, but more so a conversation between two types of movie fans, one side wanting to limit the amount of movies associated with their elite list, the other looking to encompass as many other movies as they can in their umbrella of filmography.
Even though this existential battle of ideologies arches widely over the discourse, the evidence remains largely in explanations of archetypes. So the argument goes… Christmas movies are about Christmas, not just movies that take place during Christmas. There should be Santa Clause and Christmas trees and candy canes and Christmas songs, and the storyline should revolve around holiday angst as do all the great Christmas movies since the beginning of Christmas movies.
Die Hard inculsionists though, cast a smaller net… Die Hard happens during Christmas while at a Christmas party, at one point there is a dead guy dressed as Santa Clause with ‘ho ho ho’ written on his sweatshirt, what else do you need?
The chasm between these arguments seems unbridgeable.
So let’s take it a step further and see if we can bypass this particular standstill. What would happen if we admitted Die Hard into the holy subgenre of Christmas movies?
You might think nothing would happen. Die Hard would be considered a Christmas movie, this dumb post wouldn’t exist, and you would save 5-10 minutes at every Christmas party each year, not having to talk to that one dude (i.e. me) about whether or not Die Hard is a Christmas movie.
You may no longer be having conversations about if Die Hard is a Christmas movie, but every Christmas movie fan’s worst nightmare would come true, and they would have to both fend off people wanting to watch Die Hard at Christmas time (more than already), and then they would have to argue as to whether or not Die Hard is one of the greatest Christmas movies of all time.
This, to me, is what Christmas movie fans are trying to head off at the pass. I don’t hear anywhere near the vehemence when Home Alone enters the Christmas movie conversation. There is just a lazy yay or nay for or against its inclusion even though it is about Christmas in the exact same way Die Hard is. This is because if Home Alone enters the genre, no one is going to argue it overtakes any of the elite films in the genre (as good as the movie is). However, Die Hard, if allowed into the hallowed ground of Christmas films, would then become an all-timer in the Christmas genre, because it is an all-timer for all movies.
This whole conversation, then, seems like it needs a compromise, and this is where I now stand. Die Hard is a Christmas movie. Every Christmas season I have a desire to watch it, TV stations play it, the movie takes place on Christmas… But in the particular field of Christmas movies, let’s downgrade its quality as a movie for its lack of Christmas-ness. Therefore, Die Hard is a Christmas movie, but it is a bad Christmas movie, a joke that comes around every Christmas season. It should not be taken seriously as a Christmas movie any more than Sharknado is taken seriously as an action movie. In this case, Die Hard would be a worse Christmas movie than it is an actual movie.
This compromise both satiates the desire of Die Hard fans to have a foothold in the Christmas season (which is always an ironic take anyway), and for Christmas fans to stop having to argue about the validity of Die Hard as a Christmas movie. No need to include it on the lists of best Christmas movies of all time, no need to add it to your Christmas movie watch list with your significant other. Instead, Christmas movie fans can look the other way as, rather than ‘Seasons Greetings,’ their stranger friends and relatives say ‘Yippe-Kay-Yay mother…’
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