I have been hosting a regular poker game for the past 15 years. Many of the players in that game have been coming for most of those years. During quarantine, we had to stop the live games, but we have picked up the game in an online forum starting in April. We also run a Google Hangout while we play where we largely poke fun at the people who choose not to chat. (Shout out, David Thompson!) Two weeks ago, a bomb was dropped in our chat when someone asked if Die Hard (1988, dir. John McTiernan) is a Christmas movie. I immediately answered that it was not while my friend Alex Knapp simultaneously answered that it was. The next thing I knew, the game was over, and we had spent the entire time talking about this. But in this forum, Alex cannot argue in real time, so I decided to bring the argument to this space for December.
You no doubt need no recap of the plot of Die Hard, so I’ll keep it brief. John McClane (Bruce Willis), a New York City cop, comes out to Los Angeles to attend a Christmas party with his estranged wife, Holly (Bonnie Bedelia). As luck would have it, that is also the night a bunch of bank robbers, led by Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman in a role that would cement him as a legendary film villain) seize the Nakatomi Plaza in an attempt to steal $640 million dollars in untraceable bearer bonds. (Since we are a financial firm, I feel obligated to mentioned that the value of those adjusted for inflation would be closer to $1.5 billion today.) Action ensues and the good guys win.
But is it a Christmas movie? Here is Alex’s argument for anything being a Christmas movie (which by the way, he came up with AFTER the discussion began in a blatant attempt to shoehorn Die Hard into qualifying. A dirty lawyer trick even though he hasn’t been a practicing lawyer for some time):
- The action of the film must take place during Christmas (later defined as “between Thanksgiving and December 30th so as not to interfere with New Year’s Eve”)
- The climax of that action/conflict must happen on either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day
- The resolution of the action/conflict must be necessarily related to Christmas
It is this third point where I take issue on Die Hard. Clearly the first two are true for Die Hard and are, in my opinion, reasonable qualifiers for a Christmas movie. Think about any movie you would argue is absolutely a Christmas movie. It almost definitely satisfies those first two and probably that third one, too.
When Alex presented his totally cherry-picked rules, I accepted them all and maintain that the resolution of Die Hard is not NECESSARILY related to Christmas, which is the disqualifying factor. If the robbery had taken place on March 17th, the film would be largely the same except replace the Christmas references with shamrocks and leprechauns. Alex’s rebuttal to this was that Home Alone could have just as easily occurred with everyone traveling for Independence Day as for Christmas. This argument is, of course, ridiculous as part of the reason the Wet Bandits are robbing houses at that time is everyone is out of town and they knew it by the automatic timers on their Christmas lights. Plus Kevin’s family could not get back quickly FROM FRANCE (where Independence Day is not exactly a big deal, because of, you know, it not even being a holiday there) due to everything being booked – things that would NOT have occurred in July.
Of course, by the time the discussion had wound down, Alex admitted that he does not personally believe Die Hard to be a Christmas movie (he just likes to argue things – damn lawyer), and I admitted that I do not really feel strongly about it either. My personal belief is literally any film can be a Christmas movie if it ties your memories to Christmas. If your family gets together around the holidays and watches Star Wars, then Star Wars is a Christmas movie for you. That is the most important thing about this whole discussion for me. (Well…that AND the fact that I won the poker tournament on this night.)
So celebrate the holidays however you like. If it involves watching a movie, pick anyone that makes you happy. That is what the holidays should be about. Hopefully my retelling of this faux heated debate helped in that regard.
FUN FACT – Due to contractual obligations from the 1968 film The Detective (which was the first film adaptation of the source novel Nothing Lasts Forever by Roderick Thorp), the role of John McClane was first offered to Frank Sinatra, who was 73 at the time of filming. Imagine a 73-year old Frank Sinatra saying yippee-kay-yay…
Just Watch says that Die Hard is streaming on all the various HBO options (standard, Max, and Now) as well as DirecTV. It is also available for rent/purchase on virtually every other platform except Disney Plus.