It’s Time to Accept It: Die Hard is a Christmas Movie


Twentieth Century Fox

You can’t argue with logic – ‘Die Hard’ is not only a great action movie, but also a Christmas movie.

It’s an interesting contradiction. One of the most critically acclaimed action movies of all time is also one of the most divisive. The movie in question, of course, is Die Hard (1988), in all of its action-packed, hot-headed grandeur. Starring Bruce Willis and inspiring no less than four sequels, the movie that takes place on Christmas Eve has caused endless holiday arguments over whether it can be considered a “Christmas movie” or not. Spoiler alert: It can. Here’s why:



Let’s begin with the most obvious. Die Hard takes place on December 24th: Christmas Eve. It revolves around an office Christmas party. The office is well-decorated, and the holiday spirit exists throughout. Santa hats, Christmas trees and more make it readily apparent when the movie takes place. This alone at least categorizes Die Hard as Christmas-y, but the movie does far more to cement its undeniable place as a holiday favorite.

The fictional Nakatomi Plaza (Fox Plaza in LA), is the main setting in Die Hard and helps set the Christmas scene. (CC BY-SA 3.0)


“Let It Snow,” “Ode to Joy,” Run-DMC’s “Christmas in Hollis” and more – decidedly festive songs – can be heard throughout Die Hard. Even more compellingly, the first and last shot of the Nakatomi Building, where the movie primarily takes place, are shown simultaneously with these holiday soundtracks. Still not convinced? Instead of filling the entirety of the movie with fast-paced, jolty, action-only audio, inspiring, slow clips of “Ode to Joy” are dispersed throughout.


Plot & Characters

Sure, it’s a cornier argument, but let’s be honest: Many, many Christmas movies end with a couple either realizing they are meant for each other, or mending their existing relationship, Die Hard fitting in with the latter. The movie concludes with protagonist John McClane and his wife being driven away in a limousine after John saved her life and prevented the antagonists from completing their heist.

Speaking of John McClane’s wife – Is it not infuriatingly typical for Christmas movies to give their characters names like ‘Joy’ and ‘Carol?’ Die Hard is no exception – The name of the character in question? Holly.


Why NOT a Christmas classic?

One of the best arguments against Die Hard’s status as a Christmas movie is that its plot isn’t dependent on the holiday itself. Change it to an office Halloween party and use “Spooky Scary Skeletons” instead of “Let It Snow,” and the plot remains intact, the action just as endlessly entertaining. Christmas itself does not have a major bearing on the activities of John McClane, it just serves as the easily replaceable reason that he’s there in the first place. The problem with this is the significant amount of movies this argument inadvertently works against. Home Alone could still see Kevin McCallister defending his house from burglars if the family had forgotten to take him on their summer vacation, but no one is debating whether or not that is a Christmas movie.

Another frequently-heard claim is that Die Hard is too violent and action-packed to fit in with the spirit of Christmas. While it’s not ideal to use the same example twice, it definitely fits here: Home Alone! An eight-year-old boy savagely injures two middle-aged men several dozen times, then he does it again in Home Alone 2! Clearly, there’s no standard of maximum acceptable violence for holiday cinematography – unless, again, you are about to argue that the Home Alone franchise doesn’t include any Christmas movies, in which case, your first name might just be Ebenezer.

20th Century Studios

So, Christmas-y or Christmas Movie?

It cannot be questioned that Die Hard includes enough elements of Christmas to, at the absolute minimum, be considered reminiscent of Christmas. But is it actually a “Christmas Movie” in the traditional sense? In the end, it depends on your perspective. If you truly believe that a Christmas movie must be a cheery, moral-teaching, yuletide, warm-hearted, fun-for-the-whole family classic, then no, Die Hard doesn’t deserve a mention in the same breath as the undisputed holiday legends.

However, if you’re just the least bit flexible, you might just see why Die Hard is a Christmas movie. It has the setting, soundtrack, plot, all of the good stuff – and, if you take a moment to think, shares more in common with other holiday favorites than meets the eye. No, Santa Claus doesn’t make an appearance, and no, Die Hard isn’t intended to show young children the true meaning of Christmas – but in the end, it’s viewed more during December than any other month, and interest in the movie spikes dramatically at the end of each year. Society and logic work together to make a compelling argument, and it’s probably time to accept it: Die Hard is a Christmas movie.