Some things are just holiday tradition: putting up a tree, hopefully getting some time off, celebrating with loved ones of your choosing, arguing whether or not Die Hard is a Christmas movie… You know, tradition. This year, that debate might be louder than ever, because Die Hard is back in theaters for a special 35th anniversary showing. If you never got to see it on the big screen, or if you want to revisit the fun of seeing John McClane fight Hans Gruber in Nakatomi Plaza, now’s your chance.

Just as Die Hard will forever be an action classic, it’s equally certain that the debate about whether or not it is a “real” Christmas movie will always rage. It’s easy to see why. Heck, even the trailer opens with someone telling everyone Merry Christmas, with the voice-over pointing out that it’s Christmas Eve.

But for some people, while Die Hard is as much of a Christmas movie tradition as National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation or A Christmas Story or The Grinch, for others, it just doesn’t feel like a Christmas movie. Each side has some fair points.

Die Hard Is A Christmas Movie

Let’s look at some of the arguments used to classify Die Hard as a Christmas movie.

  • Star Rejinald VelJohnson and co-writer Steven E. de Souza say it’s a Christmas movie.
  • The events unfold on Christmas Eve.
  • It involves a man who is just trying to get home to his wife for the holiday.
  • Hans Gruber is a kind of ultra-capitalist villain seen in Christmas movies, like Scrooge or Mr. Potter in It’s a Wonderful Life.
  • Christmas wishes are expressed at the party & there are some decorations.
  • The soundtrack includes Christmas songs.

Die Hard Isn’t A Christmas Movie

And on the other side, we have the points for why it’s not a Christmas movie.

  • Bruce Willis and director John McTiernan say it’s not a Christmas movie.
  • Aside from the Christmas tree at the party and a Santa hat on a dead terrorist, there are none of the usual Christmas symbols: a jolly Santa, elves, presents, reindeer, and, most importantly, snow.
  • The holiday isn’t actually essential to the movie’s plot.
  • There are no warm and fuzzy feelings of nostalgia that infuse most Christmas movies.
  • It’s way too violent to be a Christmas movie.

While there are plenty of people firmly in the “is” and “is not” camps, there are others like Die Hard cinematographer Jan de Bont. Speaking to Yahoo Entertainment in 2020, he leans more on the side of it not being a Christmas movie, but his explanation was less decisive than it might have been: “I’m not sure if the spirit of Christmas is fully embraced by that movie, to be honest. To really call that a Christmas movie — it’s a little far-fetched.”

Is Die Hard A Christmas Movie?

The bottom line is, Die Hard, like any movie, is whatever you want it to be. If it’s become an annual holiday watch in your house, great! It’s one more fun memory to share with the family. And if you prefer to watch other more traditional holiday classics, that’s also okay. Die Hard is there for you year-round. The truth is, Die Hard is an action classic no matter how you categorize it or what keyword you tag it with. It’s certainly one well worth seeing in theaters again.

Get tickets to the Die Hard 35th anniversary showing.

  • Editorial