I’ve decided to finally wade into the whole “is die hard to Christmas movie” thing. I had never seen the entire movie, so friends and family arranged for a viewing party. I can now have an opinion on this topic.￼
Before getting to my hot take, let me state I understand these things can be subjective. Your experiences shape your perception, and a huge number of people consider it a “Christmas movie” based on those experiences. To me, the key is differentiating between a “Christmas movie” and a “Christmas tradition.”
A Christmas movie should be about Christmas. The primary plot or plot-drivers are Christmas-based, whether it’s about the traditional nativity story, Santa, celebrating the holiday(s) or the more difficult to pin down “Spirit of Christmas”.
Leonard Maltin said cannot just be set at Christmas, it has to be about the Spirit of Christmas. Others say they should be movies the whole family can watch together, which clearly this one isn’t, but we’ll leave that aside for this discussion.
Die Hard is a movie set on Christmas Eve, with all the holiday decor and music. There is a big holiday office party (which would never ever ever happen on Christmas Eve but that’s for another essay) but it’s not about Christmas. They could have set it in June and you would only need to change the reason for the office party and why John was traveling to CA. There are all kinds of Christmas visuals and references, such as the name Hans Gruber being painfully close to the name of Silent Night composer Franz Gruber. They are great, but don’t make the move about Christmas. It’s about robbery, violent killings and the need to NEVER TAKE OFF YOUR SHOES!
Now, everything I just said does not negate the fact that the movie is a beloved Christmas tradition for tens of thousands of Americans. And those folks insist it is a Christmas movie. However, just because something is one of your holiday traditions doesn’t make it a Christmas movie. Countless Americans watched The Sound of Music with their families every December, thanks to the network that owned the rights. Plenty of folks still consider it a Christmas movie because of that, but obviously it’s not.
I watch Little Women every Christmas season. Because of that I think of it as a Christmas movie, but really it’s not. While a few scenes are set at Christmas, the primary plot isn’t Christmas-specific.
When we were young, my sister considered Neil Diamond’s 12 Greatest Hits a Christmas record because we would pull it out and listen to it in December. That timing imprinted on her, and one time she referred to it as a Christmas album. Clearly it’s not, but decades later we refer to it as a Christmas album to tease her. (She’ll be pleased I included this anecdote, but it’s important to illustrate my point.) While you can call anything a Christmas [thing] if that’s how you think of it, it doesn’t make it objectively true.
In conclusion, Die Hard is a Christmas tradition, but it isn’t a Christmas Movie. If it’s yours, by all means seek it out and watch it every December. Keep (or make) your holiday traditions as best you can, and watch anything that makes you happy, whenever and wherever you’d like.
Yippee-ki-yay to all, and to all a good night!