An estranged father travels cross country from New York to California to be with his family on Christmas Eve. Along the way, there are obstacles which prevent his Christmas Eve reunion. Amidst the obstacles, the father realizes the importance of family and swears to change his ways. He promises to be a better father and a better husband and regrets that it took him this long to realize the error of his ways.
If that is not a premise for a Christmas movie, I don’t know what is.
People will argue that Christmas is only a backdrop. That Die Hard could have worked with any holiday or no holiday at all. This is a mistake. If the whole premise of the film was about a heist of a multinational Corporation that just happens to be Christmas Eve, they would be right. However, these detractors are missing the whole point of the movie. The whole point of Die Hard is that John McClane is just trying to see his wife and his kids on Christmas Eve and just so happens that the building he meets his wife in is take over by thieves making themselves look like terrorists. Wrong Place. Wrong Time. The stable of the entire Die Hard series. The movie doesn’t happen if McClane isn’t trying to reunite with his family at Christmas. The same could be said for any number of “true” Christmas movies.
Just watch how cocky and arrogant and dismissive McClane is of Holly at the beginning of the movie. He talks to his cabbie Argyle about his wife like he doesn’t need her. That he’s got a backlog of New York scumbags he’s trying to put away and he can’t just pick up and go that easy. His job is more important to him than his family leaving him. Also:
“So, you thought your old lady wouldn’t make it in LA by herself and she’d come crawling back, why bother to pack, right?”
“You’re very fast, Argyle.”
Contrast that with the scene towards the end. As McClane is pulling glass shards out of his bare feet and is a wounded and bloodied mess. He gets on the walkie with his buddy Powell and confesses to him what a jerk he’s been. That he should have been behind Holly and should have supported her more. He’s just now realizing this as he’s fighting for his life, doesn’t think he will make it, and doesn’t think that he’s going to get that Christmas reunion with his family. That’s a Christmas movie moment if there ever was one! The realization, on Christmas Eve, that we must put aside our differences and be one with our family in love during the holiday season (and beyond). Christmas. Movie. Period.
Not only that, but the subtle and not so subtle Christmas references. From the soundtrack, to the decorations, to McClane writing “now I have a machine gun: Ho Ho Ho” on a terrorist’s sweater, to McClane’s wife being named “Holly”. There are more Christmas references thrown into this movie that any number of “true Christmas movies”. People make the mistake of only taking the movie at face value, that this is just a standard action movie that doesn’t need Christmas to work. Bull. Die Hard is a Christmas movie about a dismissive husband and father who learns the value of family while he’s fighting for his life trying to reunite with them on Christmas. It is a Christmas movie that just happens to have guns and explosions, not the other way around. Get past the guns, explosions, and heist plot. Look at what the movie is basically about and I would hope that you would agree.
Or not :).
Die Hard review forthcoming.