A Series of Christmas Classics?: Die Hard


Jackson Piercy

John McClane, played by Bruce Willis, having a very Merry Christmas. Photo courtesy of imdb.com.

It’s your dad’s favorite Christmas movie! That is, at least, since he found out that it was when he saw it on his Facebook wall in 2016.

Since this wide-spread realization, “Die Hard,” the Bruce Willis action classic, fills just about as many channels as “A Christmas Story,” a story about a nine-year-old boy’s quest for a Red Ryder BB Gun. Does it deserve the same place in the lore of Christmas movie history? It certainly is a welcome change of pace from the usual warm-y, schlocky Christmas fare.

If you haven’t seen “Die Hard” yet (first of all, what have you been watching instead?), I will run the story down here. John McClane, rough-and-tumble NYPD cop, is going out west to go see his kids and his estranged wife for Christmas. While at his wife’s business, the brand-new Nakatomi Plaza, the whole place is locked down by Hans Gruber (played by Alan Rickman) and his gang of delightful German terrorists. Using his cop skills and oodles of swagger, McClane has got to take the bad guys and save his dame on Christmas Day.

Believe it or not, Bruce Willis was more well-known for his role on the comedy drama “Moonlighting,” along with Cybill Shepherd. Willis was known as a romantic lead more than anything before Die Hard, and since it is good to keep things fresh, took the role that is loosely based on the detective novel “Nothing Lasts Forever.” Ever since, Willis has been squinting through high-brow and straight-to-DVD action fare with both poor temperament and minimal acting (for professional purposes, that was a joke).

Die Hard, despite its newfound infamy as the consummate non-traditional Christmas fare, has stood on its own as one of the greatest action movies ever made. Fresh off his success of “Predator,” John McTiernan captures Bruce Willis at his most charismatic, Alan Rickman at his hammiest and a type of realistic action that audiences haven’t really seen before. This action is most apparent at the set piece that has John McClane running through shattered glass barefoot. In any other action movie at the time, the muscle-bound hero would just shrug it off like a papercut.

In Die Hard, we the audience see the bloody aftermath of John painfully pulling pieces of glass out of his feet. What Die Hard brought to the table was an action hero that most of the people watching could relate to. A guy who could just as easily have a beer with you as he could shoot at people that come from other countries.

On the topic of the Christmas movie status Die Hard has recently attained, is there any validity to the claim? I would say so. It is Christmas in the sense of being a reason for the plot to begin.

John has to be in town for a reason, and it might as well be Christmas. The terrorist attack occurs during a midnight Christmas party in the new Nakatomi Plaza building, a cleverly disguised Fox Plaza in Los Angeles, and the first terrorist John takes out is left with a message for Hans and his stooges to see, “Now I have a machine gun, ho-ho-ho.” Shoot, the movie even ends with a cover of “Let it Snow,” despite it taking place in sunny L.A.

Is it worthy of a place on the pedestal of Christmas movie-dom? Die Hard really has as much of a claim as any other movie. If you are tired of the same old Santa-Claus, feel-good, Rankin-Bass fare of the holiday season, or if you are just into watching Bruce Willis shoot some bad guys, this movie is for you!