Bruce Willis in an air vent as John McClane in Die HardTwentieth Century Fox

People are claiming Die Hard is a Christmas film and it’s tearing the internet apart

What's the criteria for a festive movie then?

Tomasz Frymorgen
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Some films just scream Christmas.

Home Alone, The Muppet Christmas Carol, Elf, It’s a Wonderful Life, Love Actually.

But it seems that for many, that list should also include a sweaty off-duty cop walking barefoot through broken glass to stop a bunch of German terrorists.

Yep, a fierce debate is raging over whether or not Die Hard is actually a Christmas film.

Bruce Willis might not have the snowy London scenes with Hugh Grant and friends, nor the feel-good message of Miracle on 34th Street.

And the sweat and tears of the film are more reminiscent of the experience of festive shopping than the joy of Christmas itself.

But the 1988 film is set during the holiday period – in fact, on Christmas Eve itself. There’s salvaged romance, cheesy lines and at one point John McClane (Willis) even goes down a chimney (well, an air vent. But still).

In any case, the topic is taking up precious characters in the Twittersphere debating chamber. The Houses of Twitterment if you will.

Opening the case against Die Hard being a Christmas film is TV critic Toby Earle.

Deftly countering this argument is public historian Greg Jenner.

Both sides have provided contextual evidence to back up their claims.

And powerful appeals to reason.

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The whole discussion has got us thinking about other festive films that aren’t actually very Christmassy.

Batman Returns (1992)

Batman1Warner Bros

The naysayers will argue that this is a superhero action film that happens to be set around the festive period.

But with exploding Christmas trees, references to deadly mistletoe and a giant present that turns out to be a Trojan horse attack by The Circus Gang, it’s hard not to associate the Tim Burton classic with Christmas time.

Lethal Weapon (1987)

Lethal1Warner Bros

While Die Hard bears the brunt of the Christmassy/not-Christmassy debate, Lethal Weapon did the whole festive action film thing a year earlier, in 1987.

Coincidence? Well actually, Mel Gibson recently shed some light on the recurring theme, saying it was a popular filmmaking gimmick in the 1980s to set films during Christmas with “lots of snow, funny little songs and music to kill by.”

The film has its doubters, but it does do the whole jingle-to-kill trick rather well, opening with the classic Jingle Bell Rock. 

The Life of Brian (1979)

Brian1HandMade Films

This one goes right to the Nativity story at the very heart of Christmas. The cult Monty Python film follows the story of Brian, a child born on the same day as Jesus, whose life is a series of misfortunes based on him being mistaken for the actual son of God.

The film contains no snow, Christmas trees or Bill Nighy appearances. But sprinkled as it is with the magical fairy dust of the Pythons, it nonetheless has a loyal Christmas following. 

Rocky IV (1985)

Rocky1Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.

Finally, we have Rocky Balboa’s epic battle against Soviet fighter Ivan Drago in the Rocky franchise’s most successful instalment.

As well as featuring barely-concealed political messages (the 1985 film was released at a high point of Cold War tensions) it features an epic Christmas Eve battle, a classic Rocky training compilation in a shack on the Russian tundra, and finishes with Rocky wishing his son a Merry Christmas as he watches the bout on TV. 

That’s about as festive as a non-Richard Curtis movie can get. 

Which film do you find the most Christmassy? 


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