Is Die Hard a Christmas movie? Unwrapping the festive debate

6 December 2023, 15:56 | Updated: 7 December 2023, 13:02

Is Die Hard a Christmas movie?
Is Die Hard a Christmas movie? Picture: Alamy/Smooth

By Tom Eames

Die Hard, the action-packed thriller released in 1988, has sparked an annual debate that transcends its explosive scenes and gripping storyline.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

Is Die Hard a Christmas movie, or is it merely an action film with a festive backdrop?

The question has become a seasonal tradition, prompting discussions among film enthusiasts, critics, and even the cast and director themselves.

Directed by John McTiernan and starring Bruce Willis as the iconic NYPD detective John McClane, Die Hard follows the character as he battles terrorists who have taken hostages in a Los Angeles skyscraper during a Christmas party.

The juxtaposition of holiday decorations and seasonal cheer against the backdrop of intense action has fueled the ongoing debate.

Die Hard's status as a Christmas movie has been a source of amusement and disagreement, with fans on both sides of the argument presenting compelling cases.

DIE HARD 1988 20th Century Fox film with Bruce Willis
DIE HARD 1988 20th Century Fox film with Bruce Willis. Picture: Alamy

'Die-hard' proponents of its Christmas classification point to the film's setting during the holiday season, the inclusion of Christmas elements throughout the narrative, and even the soundtrack featuring classic holiday tunes. Who doesn't love Vaughn Monroe's version of 'Let It Snow' during the end credits?

Conversely, those who argue against Die Hard's Christmas credentials often emphasize its intense action, violence, and the absence of traditional holiday themes. They contend that a true Christmas movie should focus on themes of love, family, and the spirit of giving, which are not prominently featured in Die Hard.

Adding fuel to the debate are the comments made by the cast and director over the years. Bruce Willis, who portrayed John McClane, has been known to playfully address the controversy.

Die Hard is Not a Christmas Movie (MF)

In various interviews, he has acknowledged the debate, neither confirming nor denying Die Hard's Christmas movie status. Willis has often taken a lighthearted approach, recognizing the unexpected connection between the film and the holiday season.

During his Comedy Central roast – where the likes of ex-wife Demi Moore poked fun at his acting and even his bald head – the actor proclaimed: “Die Hard is not a Christmas movie. It’s a god damn Bruce Willis movie!”.

John McTiernan, the director of Die Hard, has also shared his thoughts on the matter. In interviews, McTiernan has acknowledged the holiday setting but has maintained that Die Hard was not intended to be a Christmas movie.

He has emphasized that the film's primary genre is action, with the holiday backdrop serving as a unique and memorable setting.

He told Empire: "The fact that it was deliberately built around Christmas, but not intended to be a Christmas movie."But the fact that it was a Christmas movie had a lot to do with, you know, cause it’s actually, from a distance, politically very strident.

"It’s not for us to say [whether it's a Christmas film], it’s people. It’s for the audience to say. If the audience decides they want to make it a Christmas movie, it’s a Christmas movie. It turns out that way."

Ultimately, the debate surrounding Die Hard's classification as a Christmas movie adds an extra layer of enjoyment to the holiday season for fans. Whether one views it as a festive tradition or an action-packed diversion during the holidays, Die Hard has undeniably left an unforgettable mark on popular culture.

This new ‘Die Hard’ trailer finally settles the long-running Christmas movie debate

According to a YouGov poll, conducted in 2021, 47% of people who had seen Die Hard say it is NOT a Christmas movie, while 44% of people insisted it was.

Men and women disagreed with half of men (50%) who had seen Die Hard think it's a Christmas movie compared to just over a third of women (37%), who had watched it.

In 2023, singer Alfie Boe teamed up with Disney+ with a new take on Beethoven’s 'Ode to Joy,' featured in the original soundtrack, and starring the Kingdom Choir. This new version delves into why the film consistently sparks debate year after year.

Disney+ presents 'Ode to Die Hard'

Alfie said: “For me, Die Hard is one of those movies I can watch over and over again; it’s timeless and definitely a Christmas classic. Everyone has their own view, I am sure, but for me, it has all the ingredients that make up a festive film, from the setting to the soundtrack.

"We thought this would be a fun way to get people into the Christmas spirit and acknowledge one of the most enduring Christmas debates once and for all. Is Die Hard a Christmas movie? This song says it all. Everybody had a lot of fun making the track and I think that comes across, so I hope it brings a smile to anyone watching too!”

As the debate continues to unfold each year, it becomes clear that Die Hard's status as a Christmas movie is as enduring as the film itself.

So, when the holiday season arrives, and discussions about festive films arise, expect Die Hard to be at the centre of the debate, reminding us all that Christmas cheer can come in unexpected forms, explosions and all.