The Great Debates: IS “Die Hard” A Christmas Movie?

die_hardI’m 100% positive it began as a joke.

Some wise guy somewhere, tired of the same old “God Bless Us, Every One!” Christmas cheer bs, sarcastically answered “Die Hard” when asked what his favorite Christmas movie was.

It caught on. “Yeah! Die Hard is a Christmas Movie, c’mon… it’s got that scene where he puts the Santa hat on the dead guy and writes ‘Ho-Ho-Ho’ on him, what more do you need?”. Since then it has become the biggest controversy in Christmas Movie history.

IS “Die Hard” a Christmas Movie?

That’s why I’m here, my friends. I do the hard research, the investigation, I scientifically break down this burning questions in ways no other bloggers would bother with dream of!

Click through to cast YOUR vote and to see my scientific analysis of the subject. It’s a post that is bound to rival my “Commando” Kill Count as evidence of my blogging insanity!

My argument has always been simple. Though “Die Hard” is set at Christmas, it is not about Christmas.

To illustrate this point, picture a future where a repressive totalitarian regime rules the world. Though they allow movies, they’re exciding all references to religion and religious holidays. Using digital editing, “Die Hard” could still be saved… almost 100% in tact. Very little would have to be cut or changed, and the storyline of the movie could be kept almost exactly as is. While more traditional “Christmas Movies”, such as, say, “A Christmas Story” would be decimated and of no further value (and thus, destroyed)… “Die Hard” would live on.

Ellis even explains at one point that the Christmas party is actually a “Double celebration”, that the firm just closed a huge deal. By setting the Nakatomi party at another time, for another reason, all that would need to be removed are mentions of Christmas, any Christmas decorations, and whatever Christmas music makes the soundtrack.

Just exactly would that entail? How much Christmas content DOES “Die Hard” contain?

The Dialogue:

These are the exchanges of dialogue regarding Christmas. These scenes would either need to be dubbed or excised entirely.

shot0009Getting off the plane, McClane takes a large stuffed bear out of the overhead compartment. It has a red ribbon. The Captain welcomes the passengers to Los Angeles and says “Have a very merry Christmas”. Sleigh bells are part of the opening score as McClane carries the bear. 1:47-2:22. Total runtime 35 seconds.

Holly turns down Ellis’ proposal for Dinner by telling him it’s Christmas Eve. “Families, stockings, chestnuts, Rudolph and Frosty. Any of these things ring a bell?” She then tells her assistant to stop working and join the party because she’s making her feel like Ebenezer Scrooge. She calls her daughter and tells her no snooping around the house, looking for presents. When asked if John will be spending the night, she answers “We’ll see what Santa and Mommy can do” 3:19-4:24 Total runtime 1 minute, 5 seconds.

shot0119Argyle plays Run DMC’s “Christmas in Hollis” in the limo. McClane complains “Don’t you got any Christmas Music?” Argyle replies, “This IS Christmas music”.  7:44-7:52, Total runtime 8 seconds.

McClane tells Takagi “You throw quite a party, I didn’t realize they celebrated Christmas in Japan” Takagi answers “We’re flexible. Pearl Harbor didn’t work out, so we got you with Tape Decks” 13:05-13:11 Total runtime 6 seconds.

Holly tells John, “You’ll have to forgive Ellis, he gets very depressed this time of year. He thought he was God’s greatest gift, you know?” 14:18-14:25 Total runtime 7 seconds.

Merry_Christmas_Now_I_Have_A_Machine_Gun_Ho-Ho-HoThe holy grail of the “Die Hard is a Christmas Movie” camp. MClane sees a Santa decoration and gets inspired as he’s about to send the corpse of a terrorist down to the party in the elevator. He puts the Santa hat on the corpse and writes “Now I have a machine gun Ho-Ho-Ho” on the corpse’s sweater in blood. 39:00-39:10, 40:25-41:34 Total runtime 1 minute, 19 seconds.

Theo paraphrases “The Night Before Christmas” as the SWAT team approaches the building. 1:11:45-1:11:56 Total runtime 12 seconds

Die_Hard_Hans_GruberWhen Theo tells Gruber the last lock will take a miracle, Gruber happily replies, “It’s Christmas, Theo… It’s the time of miracles, so be of good cheer” 1:27:55-1:27:59 Total runtime 4 seconds

When discussing cutting the power, Deputy Police Chief Robertson tells one of the agent Johnsons, “Johnson, that’s crazy, it’s Christmas Eve, man”. 1:42:27-1:42:30 Total runtime 3 seconds

People occasionally wish each other “Merry Christmas” in the film…

Joe Takagi wishes his troops a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Mark 3:07 1 second

shot0077McClane gets kissed by a drunken reveler. “Hey-ey, Merry Christmas” 11:47-11:49 Total runtime 3 seconds

Al wishes the fake security guard Merry Christmas as he leaves Nakatomi, thinking its a false alarm. The guard responds with “Merry Christmas to you” 56:28-56:30 Total runtime 3 seconds

TOTAL AMOUNT OF CHRISTMAS RELATED DIALOGUE:

3 Minutes, 45 Seconds

2.8% of a 131 minute movie.

These sets/scenes would need digital altering:

The following is the tally of the amount of time that Christmas related paraphernalia appears onscreen during “Die Hard”. The dialogue during these scenes is not about Christmas, thus the scene could remain as is, with some digital erasing/replacing. However, advocates of the it IS a “Christmas Movie” side would surely point to these elements as support.

shot0067Christmas music is not playing at The Nakatomi party, but there is a Christmas tree. Large groups of poinsettia are also on display. The tree can be seen when Takagi addresses his troops from the top of the stairs: 2:41-2:59 Total runtime 14 seconds.

It’s seen again when McLane initially gets off the elevator 10:57-11:00, 11:19-11:23, 11:43-11:48 Total runtime 12 seconds

shot0112It’s also in the scene when Gruber searches the hostages for Takagi 25:47-25:52, again when Gruber walks downstairs, returning to the hostage floor after shooting Takagi 34:37-34:41, and later when he demands the detonators after shooting Ellis 1:25:01, 1:25:03-1:25:12 Total runtime, 19 seconds

It finally falls after the roof explodes. 1:58:19-1:58:22 Total runtime 3 seconds

The Poinsettia pop up at 11:58-12:04, 24:13, 26:35-26:38, 39:50-39:53, 42:55-42:58, 43:07-43:12, 1:38:25-1:38:28, 1:50:30-1:50:34, 1:55:53-1:55:55, 1:57:31-1:57:34, 1:57:40, 1:57:44-1:57:49, 1:58:03, 1:58:09 Total runtime 41 seconds

My personal position on the “Red Ribbon Bear” controversy is that it could be a Valentines gift or a birthday gift just as easily, but I’ll respect the opposing view and note that McClane is shown walking through the airport to the limo, carrying it. 5:15-6:08 Total runtime 53 seconds.

shot0114It also appears when MClane calls Argyle in the limo, or when Argyle is shown afterwards. 21:50-21:53, 22:28-22:31, 22:38-22:42, 32:33-32:42, 1:07:15-1:07:29, 1:11:24 Total runtime 35 seconds.

A flashing white mini tree can be seen in the unoccupied office McClane sees on the 33rd floor 26:43-26:45. Total run-time 2 seconds

There’s a Santa and some holiday candles on display in Holly’s office as Takagi and McClane find Ellis doing coke at her desk. The Santa in his sleigh is also briefly seen again as Holly enters. 12:29-12:39, 13:20-13:23, 13:30-13:36, 14:01-14:03 Total run-time 31 seconds

shot0101Since this is also the office Gruber chooses, flashes of these decorations occasionally reappear 44:06-44:08, 1:16:52-1:16:54, 1:19:43-1:19:45, 1:19:47-1:19:53, 1:20:00-1:20:15, 1:20:19-1:20:26, 1:20:30-1:20:33, 1:21:01-1:21:09, 1:27:06-1:27:25, 1:39:21-1:39:23 Total runtime 56 seconds.

Holly’s assistant wears a red Christmas corsage 16:16-16:33, 1:38:28-1:38:58, 1:54:33-1:54:40, 1:54:43-1:54:46Total run-time 54 seconds.

A flash of a Christmas tree is seen in the Nakatomi lobby as Karl shoots the guard in the lobby. It appears again periodically throughout the film. The Nakatomi rotary drive also has trees with white Christmas lights 17:50, 17:56-17:59, 19:58-20:01, 20:14, 20:18-20:21, 52:42-52:45, 52:50, 52:57, 53:11, 53:17-53:26, 53:39-53:46, 53:52-54:02, 54:27-54:33, 54:46-54:50, 56:24-56:28, 56:49-56:59, 57:14-57:16, 57:22-57:24, 1:12:13-1:12:17, 1:12:51, 2:03:53-2:03:58, 2:04:06-2:04:13, 2:04:18-2:04:20, 2:04:41-2:04:47, 2:05:16-2:05:19, 2:05:29, 2:06:42-2:06:49, 2:06:53-2:07:00 Total runtime 1 minute, 54 seconds

shot0085The cops who answer McClane’s radio call have a mini Christmas tree 44:11-44:23, 44:44-44:56, 45:02, 45:14-45:18 Total run-time 29 seconds.

As Police cars first approach Nakatomi, Snowflake decorations can be seen on street lights 58:16-58:36 Glimpsed again as the building is stormed 1:11:32, 1:11:37-1:11:39, 1:14:41-1:14:43, 1:14:45-1:14:48, 1:14:59-1:15:04 1:17:00-1:17:02Total run-time 34 seconds.

The KFLW station has decorations 1:00:53, 1:01:02-1:01:05 Total run-time 4 seconds

shot0103A light-up Frosty the snowman, a light-up Santa, and a mini Christmas tree are in the server room where the glass gets shot out, and McClane infamously bloodies his feet. 1:13:47-1:13:50, 1:15:23-1:1:15:25, 1:16:14, 1:35:54, 1:35:58, 1:36:09, 1:36:16, 1:36:19-1:36:22, 1:36:29-1:36:31, 1:36:54, 1:37:03-1:37:05, 1:37:18, 1:37:32-1:37:34, 1:37:37-1:37:41 Total runtime 25 seconds

When Thornburg demands to put the McClane children on tv, threatening their housekeeper with calling INS, there’s a wreath on the door and Christmas lights can be seen from across the street behind him. 1:47:45-1:48:10 Total runtime 25 seconds

shot0117 It’s Christmas wrapping tape that McClane uses to tape the gun to his back. 1:59:11-1:59:13, 2:01:49-2:01:51, 2:02:02-2:02:04 Total runtime 6 seconds.

TOTAL TIME CHRISTMAS DECORATIONS ARE ONSCREEN:

6 Minutes, 17 Seconds

7.1% of a 131 minutes movie.

The following are the musical references to Christmas that would need to be removed:

Note: Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” is not a Christmas song, in spite of its use here. Its Wikipedia page does not even contain the word Christmas. Thus, it would not need censoring. Also, sleigh bells periodically appear in the orchestral score, but they’re a musical instrument and could be left in. In spite of their Christmas connotation, the judges decided not to count them. Their omission or inclusion wouldn’t account for a significant variation, either way.

Run DMC’s “Christmas in Hollis” continues to play after McClane and Argyle quip about it 7:52-8:23 Total runtime 31 seconds.

shot0075McClane whistles Jingle Bells as he walks to the elevator 10:10-10:35 Total runtime 25 seconds

A militant snippet of “Winter Wonderland” works its way into the score 20:28-20:38 Total runtime 10 seconds.

shot0086Al is humming “Let it Snow” as it plays in the background while he buys Twinkies 45:19-46:09 He also sings it leaving Nakatomi before McClane shoots up his cop car 56:37-56:43, 56:59-57:05 Total runtime 1 minute, 2 seconds

A bar of “Let It Snow” plays as a comic beat as Thornburg upsets anchorman Harvey Johnson on air 1:01:24-1:01:26 Total runtime 2 seconds

The film closes with “Let it Snow”, 2:07:05-2:08:14 Total runtime 1 minute, 9 seconds.

TOTAL TIME CHRISTMAS MUSIC PLAYS IN THE MOVIE:

2 Minutes, 19 Seconds

1.7% of a 131 minute movie

GRAND TOTAL RUNTIME OF ALL CHRISTMAS ELEMENTS IN DIE HARD:

15 Minutes, 21 Seconds

11.7% of a 131 minute runtime

There you have it folks. The compiled data of all the Christmas content in “Die Hard”. What did we prove here, aside from the fact that I’m certifiably insane? Scattered throughout the film, references to Christmas – whether visual or audible – are present during just under 12% of “Die Hard”, and the majority of that is due to decorations and props.

Is that enough? Does that make it a Christmas Movie? Now that you’ve had a chance to see the evidence, YOU decide! IS “Die Hard” a Christmas Movie?

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161 thoughts on “The Great Debates: IS “Die Hard” A Christmas Movie?

  1. Wow, that has been some research…but no, I don’t think it is a Christmas movie. It’s just an action movie. Is Argo a comedy because there are some funny moments in it?

  2. Even though its in the title I think Christmas is mentioned less in White Christmas than Die Hard. Same with It’s a Wonderful Life. You could make these same claims for Halloween or Zippy Clinkstaff and the Arbor Day Adventure. Just saying movies can have multiple genre attached to them. If the film reminds them of the holiday. What does it matter? (I know this was all for fun)

  3. First off, this is a great post. You have dedication my friend.

    That said, you’re still wrong :P Die Hard IS a Christmas film, and here are my careful arguments.

    1. Runtime versus impression. You mention how only about 15 minutes of the film contain Christmas elements, but the Christmas tone is felt throughout. It’s kinda like how Hannibal Lecter is only in 16 minutes of The Silence of the Lambs, yet his presence dominates the film.

    2. The argument that without Christmas the film would be the same. What about It’s A Wonderful Life? Commonly considered the greatest Christmas film of all time, the film actually has very little to do with Christmas. The story of a man realizing his fortune of company as oppose to material goods is not directly tied to Christmas and that element doesn’t even come into play until the last 20 minutes. So if It’s A Wonderful Life can be seen as a Christmas film, why not Die Hard?

    3. People say an action film can’t also be a Christmas movie since the genres don’t mix. Well, what about all the horror-Christmas films like Black Christmas, Jack Frost (non-Michael Keaton version), and even Gremlins? They count but Die Hard doesn’t? That’s prejudice!

    4. I watch Die Hard every Christmas Eve and it puts me in a festive mood. It’s my Christmas tradition.

    5. F*** you, it’s Die Hard :P

  4. Nope. No chance I count this thing as a Christmas movie. My thought is, that if I can watch it guilt free at other times of the year besides December, than it’s not a Christmas movie. I think I saw this for the first time in May of some year… so not a Christmas film.
    That was a ton of notes you made when watching geez! I bow down to your film-blogging dedication.

  5. Its a Christmas movie, Fogs. Plain & simple.

    True, its not your traditional trim the tree, drink eggnog, and go caroling adventure, but Christmas isnt a background character in the original film.

    After further review, Planes, Trains, & Automobiles is NOT a Thanksgiving movie, seeing as you could insert any family holiday in that and it would still work.

    But Die Hard’s use of the gift wrapping tape, the santa hat, etc… come on Fogs!

  6. Absolutely it is a Christmas movie. First of all, the category “Christmas movie” is a sub genre, not a genre itself. This means that any film of any genre can fall into this sub genre whether it be a drama such as “It’s a Wonderful Life” or “The Bells of St. Mary’s”, comedies such as “Elf” or “A Christmas Story”, action movies such as “Die Hard” or “Lethal Weapon”, and even horror movies such as “Black Christmas” or “Gremlins”. “Die Hard” takes place on Christmas Eve during a Christmas party, the setting is themed entirely around Christmas which includes some Christmas music and even features John McClane cracking some Christmas jokes. Just because it is also an action movie doesn’t change the fact that it is a Christmas movie. That would be like saying that “Elf” isn’t a Christmas movie because it so happens to be a comedy. There are many genres of movies and all of them can fall into the sub genre that we call Christmas movies. Just because some people may not happen to like these genres of Christmas movies doesn’t change the fact of that is what they are.

  7. I love the It’s A Wonderful Life point. I hadn’t really given much thought to just how little Christmas is in that movie. Not only is Die Hard a Christmas movie, but it could be argued that due to it’s presence through the entirety of the film’s setting, it is more so than It’s A Wonderful Life.

    • I think “Wonderful Life” is more about the spirit of Christmas, though. It’s message and of course it’s legendary ending, address the Holiday far more than anything Die Hard did…

      That would be worthy of a break down too, I suppose… If someone else was inclined. Lol. I’m not though :D

  8. Wow. Your obsessiveness in running the “evidence” down on this is an inspiration to geeks everywhere. I’m serious, I am VERY impressed.

    I do believe Die Hard is a Christmas movie, for the reasons Tank mentions above, but as a dedicated Warrior On Christmas, I wholly endorse your edits to excise the Christmas from it! Everybody wins. :)

    • :D Thanks bro, I have to confess, I cracked up when I thought of it… And happily embarked upon it… But then by halfway through, I had to draw upon my reserve of Geek strength to finish it. I underestimated it just a little LOL.

      Meanwhile, I don’t actually want to eliminate the Christmas content from it, I just thought that was a good way to make the point. ;)

  9. I shall have to go watch Die Hard before I vote, but since I trust you and your posts Fogs, I would say that it is a Christmas movie. There’s no other excuse for that amount of whistling and ornaments, and besides, it’s Bruce Willis. I always feel Christmasey around him!

      • Haven’t seen that either. Did I ever mention that I was “born on the better side of the 90s?” By better, I mean after them! And don’t beat me up for not knowing these classics – I still have time to see them, I’m just enjoying being spoiled by the nice cool special effects of this decade :)

        So yes, even in Pulp Fiction, which is (I guess) grim and deathly. Bruce Willis always makes me feel Christmasey, because he has the loveliest bald head ever. There you go.

  10. In my whole life I had never even heard this referred to as a Christmas movie until this year – on blogs. I’m old – I saw this in the theater – and never correlated the two. My vote = nope.

  11. I’ve seen this film 3 or 4 times. None of those times were at Christmas. Like theipc, I was never aware of this Die Hard = Christmas movie phenomenon until I started blogging.
    I think I’ll have to rewatch it and come back with my vote. Both sides make convincing arguments.

  12. As much as I enjoy this “action” movie because that’s what it is, I CANNOT see this as “Christmas” movie. Yes, there are holiday elements that merely make it cleverly Christmas related. This time of year is definitely NOT about guns (unless the’re gifts -jk), drugs, terror, or money. It’s about sharing, giving, family, and close friends celebrating religious events (or at least peaceful respite for some) together that give our lives higher meaning day to day. So I voted NO even though as a general film, I really like this original Die Hard; thank goodness a new one is on the way. For a fun Christmas film check out The Santa Clause on ABC Family this Friday and/or its sequel on Saturday. Good tidings to one and all. Nice post Fogs (and indirectly thanks to Brik Haus for getting the conversation going).

    • Yup. I agree. Nothing to do with Christmas or the spirit of Christmas or holidays, etc, etc. :D

      I DONT know though that I would agree to “Thank goodness a new one is on the way” ;) I have SEVERE reservations. Just sayin’ buddy. Severe. :o

  13. Die Hard is set during Christmas, but since it isn’t about Christmas, I would say it isn’t a Christmas movie (which is what I voted). You can say that similarly with Trading Places, which also takes place during Christmas but isn’t about Christmas. Nice post.

  14. Nope. Absolutely not. It has a few references, but there’s a difference between “set at Christmas” and “Christmas movie”. Like I was saying at Tyson’s the other day — Back to the Future is set in 1955, but that doesn’t make it a movie about the Eisenhower administration.

    Here’s a test for everybody who wants to say “it has Christmas elements, therefore it’s a Christmas movie”. Turn it around.

    Go out to a crowd of people and mention movies to them and when it’s appropriate to watch them. White Christmas? They’ll say Christmas. It’s a Wonderful Life? They’ll say Christmas. Miracle on 34th Street? They’ll say Christmas.

    Die Hard? Unless you’ve primed them with Christmas, they will not say Christmas. They’ll say it’s appropriate any time.

    Christmas movies aren’t appropriate any time but Christmas. Die Hard is appropriate any time. Therefore Die Hard is not a Christmas movie. Q.E.D.

    • Agree but if you watch it soley at Christmas and make it a tradition like many people I know do, it crosses over into that rare film that swings both ways. This is obviously a you said I said debate. It’s like the courtroom scenes in Miracle on 34th St. debating about the exsistence of Santa Claus. But I guess that movies is just a courtroom drama. And Black Christmas is just a horror film. Remember John McClane wouldn’t be visiting if it wasn’t for Christmas. LOL this so dumb and brillaint at the same time.

      • That’s choosing to watch it at Christmas, though. You could make the same tradition with Dumbo and it wouldn’t make it a Christmas movie.

        And who says John McClane wouldn’t be visiting if wasn’t for Christmas? That’s the timing but it’s not like he didn’t want to reconcile with his wife anyway.

  15. This could be considered a Christmas movie and seeing as we have other bloggers that review horror movies for Christmas. However, it isn’t for me. If it was, my boyfriend would only be quoting it during Christmas and NOT year round…as much as we both love this movie to bits, its never part of our Christmas marathon..haha!

    And yes, you are “certifiably insane”, but hey, its always good to be a bit crazy :)

  16. I lean to the side of, not a Christmas movie. Many well placed comments above and a dedicated post to detail. But I feel the reference to Christmas is there only to enhance the emotion of the film. This action movie is set on the worst possible day and our sympathy for the people and the distain of the bad guys is heightened because of that setting. Christmas is used as a prop and not as a theme.

    Not a Christmas movie.

  17. WOW! Methinks the FMR crowd is taking this a wee too seriously. You must have worn out the old Blu-Ray player, stop and time it, stop and time it. Frankly don’t know what’s more insane, a nano second by nano second parsing analysis of “Die Hard” or reading about it. You do know this can be used at a commitment hearing? Anyways, I voted…..NO!

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