Why Die Hard is the greatest Christmas film of all time
Chris Bryant | On 23, Dec 2016
“It’s Christmas, Theo. It is a time for miracles.”
In 1988, one man decided to make an important trip. He braved a cross-country flight, all the hassle and stress of travelling on Christmas Eve, just to visit his children and estranged wife. Unsure he would even arrive on time, he travelled with a huge teddy bear to visit family against all odds – including exiled German terrorists.
Die Hard ticks every major box for a Christmas film. It contains multiple Christmas carols, even closing to Let It Snow; it is a story about overcoming ridiculous, smirking, exploding odds to be with loved ones; it involves an awkward office Christmas party; there are Santa hats and a sign that reads “Ho, Ho Ho”; a foreign visitor jokes about Christmas miracles.
The list goes on.
Die Hard is undeniably set with a backdrop of Christmas cheer, and carries all of the family values you could want from a good old-fashioned festive flick. Coincidentally, it also contains one of (if not the) greatest action films ever conceived. The brilliant heist, the explicit catchphrases, the anti-aircraft weapons, the blood stained vest, the no-nonsense tough guy ending up with a new comic-relief best friend, are all trademarks of top-drawer action films, but Christmas is at the heart of it.
Beginning and ending with emotive family moments, although punctuated with a genre-defining game of cat-and-mouse, Die Hard simply presents these family values in a way that requires more decorated corpses in elevators and fewer candy canes and puppies. Die Hard is a significantly stronger Christmas film because it avoids these clichés.
With a section of its Wikipedia page dedicated to everyone who calls it not only a Christmas film, but the greatest Christmas film ever, it’s clear that Die Hard’s underdog spirit really does touch hearts at this time of year. Even behind-the-scenes, Die Hard tells an underdog story. Third to be offered the part, after Sinatra and Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis seemed an odd fit for John McTiernan’s action feature, having done nothing of the sort before. Just over two hours of shootouts and one-liners later, Willis is an action legend – the vest itself hangs in the National Museum of American History – and both the protagonist and antagonist are ritually lauded as the respective best good and bad guys of all time.
Die Hard’s humour, crazy odds, and family-driven hero ensure for many that it is a classic Christmas film. Hitting many of the familiar milestones in its own devil-may-care fashion, it may not be the stereotype of a festive film – or have the BBFC certificate to match – but Die Hard embodies a unique seasonal spirit that continues to shine almost 30 years on. Now that’s what we call a Christmas miracle.
Die Hard is available on Disney+ UK, as part of a £7.99 monthly subscription or a £79.99 yearly subscription.