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


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.


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.


2 Minutes, 19 Seconds

1.7% of a 131 minute movie


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?


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

  1. Pingback: The Obsessive Viewer Podcast – Ep 32 – Christmas on the Screen Part II – Movie Edition (Fall 2013 Finale) | The Obsessive Viewer

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