In the past few days, Twitter has been furiously debating whether Die Hard, the Christmas Eve-set thriller starring Bruce Willis, can be legitimately considered a Christmas film. The discussion seems largely precipitated by the fact that Die Hard recently appeared on Netflix under the category ‘Festive Favourites’, and the main gripe seems to be that Die Hard is just an action film that happens to be set at Christmas. And this has provoked an angry response from the elves.
American stand-up comedian Dane Cook is pretty firm on the matter
As is YouTuber AlphaOmegaSin, who cites this key bit of festive evidence
And let’s remember, the phrase ‘Yippee ki-yay motherfucker’ is up there with ‘Merry Christmas’ and ‘Happy holidays’
But there’s still a good deal of resistance out there, not least because Die Hard was originally released in July.
And yet, if you actually consider it, then by the same logic a lot of other ‘Christmas films’ couldn’t really be classed as Christmas films. Nor could Christmas TV specials actually be called Christmas specials. Home Alone? Set at Christmas, sure, but take away the Christmas setting and it’s actually just about a kid with neglectful parents and sociopathic tendencies. Love Actually? The action happens throughout December, fine, but without the festive slant it’s just a fantasy film about a load of men getting what they want despite being privileged assholes with entitlement issues. The Grinch? Yeah, it’s about saving Christmas, but… ok, yeah, The Grinch is indisputably a Christmas film.
What actually elevates a plain old film to ‘Christmas classic’ status? Well, a couple of years ago the BFI tried to answer this exact question. Margaret Deriaz, director of film distribution at the British Film Institute noted the popularity of films like The Wizard of Oz or Meet Me In St. Louis around the festive season – films that aren’t about Christmas at all. “I fall to wondering if a Christmas setting is absolutely essential,” she wrote, adding, “spiritual and emotional sustenance of the most satisfying kind” was what made a film properly Christmassy. But she doesn’t mention Die Hard at all, so we’re stuck at a confounding junction wondering whether spiritual and emotional sustenance of the most satisfying kind is something Die Hard provides. For some people, it probably is.
If we’re to look to Movie Pilot instead, there’s a more definitive solution. What makes Die Hard a Christmas film is that “the entire conflict is about McClane saving his marriage in time for Christmas morning”. Family is totally a festive thing, and doing something in time for Christmas morning just screams Yuletide. We’re happy to conclude that yes, Die Hard is a Christmas film – but let us know what you think.