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. Oh.
    My.
    GAWRD.

    I’m impressed with your precision accounting, but I believe your methodology may be flawed. Such an important issue obviously needs to take into consideration a comparative analysis of how these numbers collate to every “accepted” Christmas classics across time, as well as exploring the contemporaneous contours of the secularized late eighties gestalt. I look forward to reading your conclusions once these more thorough investigations have been completed. ;-)

    • HA!! LOL. I should have known this would have spoken to your inner stats nerd. LOL. Dont worry bro, I’ll NEVER be able to encroach on your territory! :D

      Obviously I need to find ways to expand this, though, you’re right. Maybe a sequel. Is Die Hard 2 A Christmas Movie? LOL

    • I have always been in the Die Hard is a Christmas movie camp. It is awesome to see the numbers and the breakdown though. Definitely takes a lot of dedication. Good Job. I’m actually working on an article of my must watch holiday movies and I can bet you can guess at least one that shows up. haha

  2. So much fun, not just the post but all the comments. For the record, I voted no. “Christmas movies” revolve around Christmas. Die Hard just sprinkles it in throughout. Even though I did include it in my Christmas themed Lamb Chop-Up this week.

  3. *slow clap*

    I don’t think I have anything to add here that hasn’t already been covered. The term “Christmas Movie” is too subjective.

    For my definition, it is, and has always been, a Christmas Movie. That’s when I watch it, that’s when I want to watch it. Back to back with “Die Hard 2″. It’s been that way since before “With a Vengeance” came out.

    • Heh. Yeah… I’m not %$#&in’ around, you know? LOL

      Well, actually, I guess when you spend this much analyzing the Chritsmas content in Die Hard, I technically am… but… you know what I mean. LOL :D

  4. I love this post. I love so much about it: the breakdown, the argument, the precision, the intent, and the fact that, despite all of it, the voting results are nearly 2 to 1 against you, Fogs! ;)

    While I think it ludicrous that so many films try to “attach” themselves to the holiday genre (i.e. the bottom tagline on the poster for FASTER http://impawards.com/2010/faster_ver2.html)…(or this one for LITTLE FOCKERS http://impawards.com/2010/little_fockers_ver2.html)

    both of those movies had NOTHING to do with the holidays.

    BUT, Die Hard remains alive in the genre of classic Christmas movies! Long live Die Hard! :D

    • LOL. Look at T, all happy about Die Hard winning and whatnot. Great, great, thanks… thanks…
      :D Anyways, yeah. I had a bunch of fun doing this. When the idea hit me I cracked up and thought “Oh Yeah, that’ll be awesome”…. then about 3/4 of the way through I was like, “My God, what have I done”?

      It all came out for the best though… by my standards, this post is an enormous success, so… MERRY CHRISTMAS! GOD BLESS US EVERYONE! :D

  5. Absolutely it’s a Christmas movie, it’s just that it subsequently (instantly?) became so much more, i.e. a timeless action classic and cinematic game-changer. However, I’d argue that, if it hadn’t been so good at everything it did, we would remember it as “that Christmas action movie in the skyscraper” without question.

    • Noooo… I wouldnt make an absolute out of it. It was an action movie first and foremost, with a summer release and everything. At best Christmas is secondary in its nature. Plus, a good 1/3 of voters still think its not…

      I can see that becoming its pop culture shorthand if it had failed though. You have a point there,

  6. 1) You are crazy.
    2) Yes it is. Hate to flush all that reasearch down the toilet but a group of friends and I get together every Christmas to watch it. It’s our tradition.
    3) Your reasearch is probably far more scientific…but we still have a tradition.
    4) You’re crazy. :-)

    • See that? Statistics show that in 50% of your comment, I am, indeed, crazy. LOL

      Technically I could start a tradition of watching “Major League” at Christmas and that wouldnt make it a Christams Movie though… but I suppose the fact that you and your friends were inspired to do so carries some sort of indication that there’s Christmas content at least… :D

  7. Awesome stuff, Fogs, and well-researched.

    That said, the “it’s a Christmas movie” crowd is wrong. Die Hard isn’t about Christmas. It uses Christmas as a backdrop and as a setting. I mean, I could watch Oldboy every Christmas out of tradition but that wouldn’t make it a “Christmas movie”, just a movie I watch on Christmas out of tradition. (Like the Lord of the Rings films. I associate them with the season but I wouldn’t by any means call them Christmas movies.)

    Compare Die Hard to, say, It’s a Wonderful Life or Miracle on 34th Street. Those films are directly about the season, whereas Christmas only plays a cursory role mentioned in passing in Die Hard.

    • Tellin’ you. Thats what I’ve been saying for years…. I think people were so hungry for counter-programing during the Holiday that they started championing this as fully belonging to the sub genre. But nope.

      June release. Gets played all year long…. Just happens to contain a bunch of Christmas decorations. The fact that less than 3% of the film actually SPEAKS to Christmas is pretty telling. :(

      Of course, we now know that we’re swimming against the tide of public opinion. LOL

      And thanks man. Nice of you to say, this one worked out really well at the end of the day! :D

  8. I REALLY get pretty pissed off when I come across someone who doesn’t see Die Hard as a Christmas movie. This time of year, I’m always asked, “What’s your favorite Christmas movie?”
    “Die Hard,” I always reply.
    “Since when is that a Christmas movie?”
    “Uhh, since the day it hit theaters in 1988.”
    I know it came out in July, but you know, not all horror movies come out on Halloween.
    My youth group director thought I was JOKING when I said Die Hard was a Christmas movie, and my favorite.
    “How is that a Christmas movie?”
    “It’s set around Christmas.”
    The same reason Gremlins, The War of the Roses, and (golly!) National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation are also some of my favorite Christmas movies. Does it have to be happy to be a Christmas movie? No. Real life isn’t always happy, even around Christmas.
    Also, isn’t his wife’s name Holly? And what about all the Christmas music? And the Christmas trees? And the Christmas party at the beginning of the film, which takes place in the very building where Hans Gruber attacks? And what about “Yippee-ki-yay”–could that be the new “ho ho ho”? John McClane covered in blood throughout the whole film, so he does bear quite a bit of resemblance to “Father Christmas.”

    • I give much of your “what about the” section credit in the breakdown…. the music, the trees, the party, its all accounted for. I’ll also give you credit for pointing out his wife’s name is Holly (can’t believe that hasnt come up yet!), but I’ll have to say that him walking around covered in blood makes him a quasi-Santa is a stretch. LOL. Denied. I’d also counter that the reason “Not all horror movies get released at Halloween” is because Horror movies arent expressly tied to that holiday, though. Not all horror movies are even trying to be anything about Halloween…

      As you can see, apparently, most people agree with you. So, now you can point to this poll whenever you have to make you point. :D

      There’s a decent portion of folks who still dont see it though.

      • He’s Santa, bringing yippee-ki-yay motherfuckin’ justice to all the good boys and girls who deserve to live, and stockings full of bullets into the lives of Hans Gruber and his gang! haha Come on, it’s like Miracle on 34th Street for Bruce Willis’s fans.

    • Unfortunately, no. I had this conversation with Dan a bit ago. It does not matter that it is set around the holiday, and that there is a Christmas party and snowing outside. It’s not a Christmas movie. Just saying.

      • Yeah, I’d back that up if she said no. Gremlins I recall, is sort of the same argument as here… set at but not about… although I think I remember it has more Christmas stuff actually than Die Hard. Been a long time since Ive seen it.

        War of the Roses though (and I love both films mind you, this and Gremlins) is that even SET at Christmas? Drawing a blank… unless… what, the Holiday dinner? Is the “I’m gonna go piss on the fish scene” at Christmas?

  9. I have to say “No”. I am in the camp that there are movies about Christmas (I.e. Santa, elves, getting home to celebrate Chistmas) and there are movies set during Christmas. I put Die Hard in the second group. Still, I consider it a great movie to watch at Christmas instead of the other standard fare.

    Just about to watch Gremlins with the family. We could start a trend to get Gremlins and Die Hard considered Christmas movies.

    • I think Id have to admit after this poll that people already DO think of Die Hard as Christmas movie, apparently. I mean, I’m with you… I don’t think it’s about Christmas, myself, so I wouldn’t consider it a Christmas movie, myself.

      The results seem to show most people do though… :(

      Anyways, thanks for chiming in Aaron!

  10. Ha! Ha! And I say again, HA!

    Your research is deep, yet … sorry to say, you are wrong!

    In my eyes, a film doesn’t have to revolve around Christmas in order for it to be a Christmas film. So Die Hard is definitely a Christmas film. It’s got some definite Christmas themes in there. Also, it’d be wrong if I didn’t watch it at Christmas time.

    Heck, if I said Die Hard wasn’t a Christmas film, then by this logic, Gremlins wouldn’t be either. And that can’t be had.

  11. The big question is whether the movie would work just as well if you took Christmas out of the equation–and in this case, it would. The holiday is just a setting, as much as Los Angeles is, but the exact same plot could happen at any time. The party could just as easily been someone’s retirement. “Die Hard” is as much a Christmas movie as “Gremlins” is.

    • Yup. LOL Right with you on this one Jamie. That’s exactly what I was saying.

      Whereas, say, altering the end of it’s a Wonderful Life would be a risky proposition…

      It appears that we’re outnumbered though. So, I guess now we know we hold the minority position. LOL Thanks for chiming in though!

  12. Was Carlton Banks on the “Fresh Prince of Bell Air” black?
    While he may not have lived up to the typical and socially
    acceptable norms of what he should embody according to his cousin
    Will, he absolutely was still black. In much the same way, Die Hard
    isn’t a typical or classical Christmas film, but that doesn’t
    change the fact that it is a Christmas movie. It takes place at
    Christmas, It has elements of Christmas that further enhance its
    effectiveness and appeal and it should be celebrated for it’s
    ability to bring a new twist to the norm… just like
    Carlton.

    • Heh. Well… Probably not the analogy I’d have chosen, but I think I get that, lol. Chalk Derick up for yes.

      I believe the fact it’s NOT the norm is why it’s so tightly embraced by the yes camp.

      Thanks for sounding off on this one!

  13. NO, It is NOT a Christmas movie, in my opinion, because the main focus is not a Christmas story, but is a violent action movie that just happens to take place at Christmas time. The whole idea of celebrating the holiday (like caring about others and sharing positive time with others) is missing.

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