Why ‘Die Hard’ is a Christmas Classic

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When does it really feel like Christmas to you? When you pop open that first advent calendar door? That moment you hear Michael Bublé for the first time all year? Or when Hans Gruber falls from Nakatomi Plaza? The latter tends to be a popular choice given the rise in Die Hard Christmas memorabilia.

Christmas is a time for friends and family to come together, a season of joy, but no Christmas film divides opinions quite like the 1988 Bruce Willis masterpiece Die Hard.

John McClane (played by Willis) is a New York City police officer who has flown across the country to Los Angeles on Christmas Eve to visit his wife Holly Gennaro (portrayed by Bonnie Bedelia) with whom he is separated.

McClane arrives at his wife’s workplace, Nakatomi Plaza, for a Christmas party, but shortly after his arrival a group of German terrorists appear attempting to steal millions of dollars from the Nakatomi Corporation. McClane’s police instincts kick in as he tracks down the European terrorists in a bid to stop leader Hans Gruber (played by the late, great Alan Rickman) and save his wife and the group of hostages.

Explosions, terrorism, death, machine guns, blood soaked tank tops, what’s not Christmassy about this 80s epic?

There may not be a delusional man roaming around New York City pretending to be an elf, or a young lad left to his own devices in a mansion during the holiday season, but Die Hard incorporates all the key elements of a traditional Christmas movie. With a twist of course.

Die Hard is a film built on one man’s love for his estranged partner. As Bruce Willis navigates his way through the LA skyscraper to hunt down armed Germans he does so for his loved one. While McClane and Gennaro are officially separated and living over two and a half thousand miles away this doesn’t stop John McClane quite literally putting his life on the line for the woman he married. Christmas is a time to show your loved ones how important they are to you, and frankly what better way to do so than to throw a German terrorist of a multi-storey building? In the right context of course. McClane and Gennaro’s relationship embodies one of Christmas’ true meanings.

“Bah humbug!” and “Merry Christmas ya filthy animals!” are two rather famous Christmas movie quotes, from A Christmas Carol and Home Alone 2 respectively. Iconic, of course, but neither truly grab your attention like “Now I have a machine gun, Ho Ho Ho”. In the spirit of the holiday season John McClane executes one of the German intruders before placing a Santa hat on his head and writing the comical quote on the deceased’s jumper for ring leader Gruber to find. Death and assassination isn’t one of the traditional subjects of the holiday season, but the Christmassy take on McClane’s lethal actions fit seamlessly into the festive film.

Throughout the movie there are general signs of Christmas all around. From the beautifully decorated tree beside which the hostages are later held. To McClane’s gift for his wife, a plush bear, sitting in the limousine with Argyle as mayhem ensues in the skyscraper. Yet the best reminder that you’re enticed in a Christmas tale comes when LAPD cop Al Powell (Reginald VelJohnson) gleefully sings along to “Let It Snow” after inspecting a disturbance call at Nakatomi Plaza. As Powell reaches the end of the chorus a body falls from the office building onto his patrol car. As he attempts to reverse from the scene in his vehicle McClane screams from above, “Welcome to the party pal!”. A reminder to Powell, and us the viewers, that although a hostage situation has overshadowed their Christmas Eve get together, this was, originally, a Christmas party.

Contrary to many naysayers Die Hard is watched by millions on Christmas Eve according to Dish.com. Replace candy canes with machine guns, falling off sleighs for plummeting from Nakatomi Plaza and killing an innocent turkey to a guilty German, Die Hard slots into the same category as other favourites such as It’s A Wonderful Life and Love Actually.

Yippee Ki-Yay and a happy new year!

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