Now that it is officially Christmas season, the old question returns: Is "Die Hard" a Christmas movie? According to Bruce Willis, who famously played the protagonist, the film is not, as reported by Ryan Gerhardt with ScreenRant. On the other hand, Stephen de Souza, the co-writer of the script, told the Washington Post that "[i]f 'Die Hard' is not a Christmas movie, then 'White Christmas' is not a Christmas movie."
What do the American people think? A 2018 Morning Consult/Hollywood Reporter survey of 2,200 U.S. adults found a mere 25% consider "Die Hard" a Christmas movie. Does this mean the other 75% are all haters and losers? No, some, I assume, are good people. They are merely misinformed and, therefore, befuddled.
Part of this confusion is rooted in the definition of what a "Christmas movie" is in the first place. When watching "A Christmas Story," it is easy to spot an abundance of presents, Christmas trees and mall Santas. This preponderance of evidence may lead some to classify "A Christmas Story" as a Christmas movie.
Those people are wrong.
"A Christmas Story" is not a Christmas movie, but a movie about Christmas. Although the picture is inundated with images and plots associated with the yuletide season, the plot itself follows a young boy, Ralphie, who longs for a B.B. gun for Christmas. That narrative structure more closely resembles more a coming-of-age story than the true Christmas narrative. For a closer look at what a Christmas movie's story should be, let us journey back to Bethlehem 2019 years ago.
The true Christmas story, not the crass commercialist crap shoveled out by Hallmark annually, follows the story of a young man who perseveres through hardships, disproves doubters and ultimately overcomes his enemy after a dramatic descent. The original, of course, deals with Jesus Christ, and the account of his deeds has been a massive bestseller, with some even deeming it the greatest story ever told.
John McClane, the hero in Die Hard, is a Christ figure par-excellence. As detailed in Thomas Foster's "How to Read Literature Like a Professor," Christ figures have several traits that signal the audience as to the individual's semidivine status. Among others, figures go through an ordeal of suffering with wounds in their feet and have a confrontation with a devilish figure.
Like many Christ figures found in action movies, John McClane's name itself is a clue. Rather than be so obvious as to have the hero's initials literally be "J. C.," the screenwriters subtly alter one aspect of the name. Sometimes it is "J. B." – see James Bond and Jason Bourne. Another trick is to put the "C" at the end of a name, as in John Wick. For "Die Hard," John McClane toes the line of the "J. C." status with an Irish addition to his surname.
McClane undergoes a series of trials throughout the film. Even before the terrorists invade Nakatomi Plaza, Joe Takagi (James Shigeta) jokes to McClane's wife (Bonnie Bedelia) that he has been "sticking [McClane] with spears" – just as the nameless Roman speared Jesus in the side on the cross. Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman), the lead villain, orders his henchman (Alexander Godunov) to shoot out the glass in the windows so McClane must walk over the shards to escape. Our barefoot hero ends up with bloody feet – again, just as Christ on the cross.
Jesus underwent a descent into hell following his crucifixion, and he was encouraged by Satan to leap off the roof of a tall building. In "Die Hard," McClane falls several stories off the roof of a skyscraper after rescuing several innocents.
Although McClane obviously played a major role in the events of "Die Hard," doubters questioned his authority throughout. The Deputy Chief of Police (Paul Gleason) viewed McClane as a possible terrorist, while the FBI agents (Robert Davi and Grand Bush) do not even consider him "part of the equation." Jesus also faced criticism from the established authorities in his day, with the Pharisees debating him and some wondering if his powers came as a result of demon possession, see John 10:20.
Clearly, John McClane is a Christ figure, which establishes "Die Hard" as a Christmas movie. Although there are many other films with Christ figures not considered Christmas movies, the abundance of yuletide imagery in "Die Hard" hints to the audience the true nature of the film. Whether "Die Hard" is a movie about Christmas is up for debate, but it is a Christmas movie.