Die Hard is the greatest Christmas movie ever made.
I’m in the business of bold statements. I don’t need to back that one up: you all know it’s true. But for the sake of literary exercise, I will defend my position.
This film has everything. Bruce Willis. Alan Rickman. Some of the best solo hero action sequences ever set to film. One liners. FBI guys. Machine guns. Comedy. Romance. Explosions. ... “Vampire Nomad, stop! Just stop. We know Die Hard is a great movie. But you called it the greatest Christmas movie ever made. CHRISTMAS movie. It doesn’t have anything to do with Christmas other than being incidentally set on Christmas Eve and you know it.”
(Oh: spoilers. There are going to be so many spoilers.)
Bruce Willis is flying to LA to reunite with his family for Christmas. It’s set on Christmas Eve at a company Christmas party. Argyle plays ‘Christmas in Hollis’ by Run DMC in the limo. The teddy bear wears a giant red bow. The suspenseful opening sequence where the ‘terrorists’ take over the Nakatomi building is backed by a score that contains elements of ‘Winter Wonderland’. The SWAT team’s movements are narrated by one of the terrorists to the rhythm of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas’. It is heavily lit in shades of frosty blue and festive red with evergreen windows. It contains the written message “Now I have a machine gun. Ho - Ho - Ho” in it. Bruce Willis fights to save his wife and isn’t love the greatest Christmas story of all? But! It even contains a Christmas miracle. The impenetrable and celestially-lit vault opens to the strains of Beethoven’s ‘Ode To Joy’. IT’S A CHRISTMAS MIRACLE! And then Bruce Willis, barefoot and filthy, saves every hostage, gets his wife back, and kills Alan Rickman. IT’S ANOTHER, BETTER CHRISTMAS MIRACLE! Dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun DUN DUN DUN DUN DUNNN DUN-DUNNNNNNNNNNN.
As a side note, a friend once decided that the best Halloween costume ever would be to go as Bruce Willis in Die Hard and then, through the course of the party, change into successively dirtier and more torn wifebeaters until ending up half-naked in a black one at the end of the party. Every time I watch this movie now I’m struck by what a genius costume that would be. People, it’s truth. Bruce Willis is hard on wifebeaters.
The thing about this movie is that as a whole, at a glance, it seems preposterous. I mean honestly. One guy fights back against a group of heavily-armed ‘terrorists’ who have taken an entire office tower hostage. And he does it barefoot. Solo. He steals machine guns and climbs through air vents and swings outside the building on fire hoses and walks through broken glass and the top of the building blows off and he has to also fight off the FBI. It’s insanity! One guy can’t do all that! How can we suspend disbelief and enjoy a movie that so clearly defies the rules of logic and human endurance? But we don’t take the movie as a whole. That’s the beauty of it. While watching it we’re immersed in it and we take it moment by moment, as it happens. Director John McTiernan is so adept at action that he ramps it up in a very believable manner, unspooling the various plot threads with such perfect timing that we are completely suckered. Every choice John McClane makes, within the world of the movie, makes a kind of sense. At the time we accept that, were we too rogue New York cops whose wives were threatened, we would quite likely make the exact same choice. And as the action explodes improbably to engulf not only the entire building but great swaths of the outside city and police and FBI forces as well, we are still on board. We buy it. We don’t want it to end. It’s a crazed adrenaline rush from start to finish and the characters, so often left out of the think tank in action films, are compelling and clearly drawn. Alan Rickman is possibly the greatest villain ever written for an action film. He’s wondrous: suave and grandiose and petty all at the same time. And Bruce Willis is the most reluctantly antagonistic and ballsy hero ever to foil villainous plans. Die Hard is one of the great game-changing action movies of our time. Many have tried to duplicate it but precious few have come close.
Back to Christmas.
“It’s Christmas, Theo, it’s the time of miracles. So be of good cheer and call me when you hit the last lock.”
“You asked for miracles, Theo? I give you the F. B. I.”
Alan Rickman should really just be in everything.
At any other time of year this would have been just an action flick, you know? One of the great villain/hero standoff movies of our age. But it’s set in the midst of holiday anticipation and an underlying sense of the need to survive because it’s Christmas, dammit, pervades the film so successfully that it elevates it to something greater. It flavors events with a vague goodwill and the little festive flairs - the poinsettias, string lights, lit snowmen, ‘ho ho ho’, red and blue hues, gift wrap - are deftly placed and remind us that ultimately John McClane is just trying to get home for Christmas. We all understand that. We just don't all have to wade knee-deep through shards of glass and crazed villains to get there. BUT WE WOULD IF WE WERE JOHN MCCLANE. And that, my friends, is why Die Hard is the greatest Christmas movie ever made. Bruce Willis doesn't just save Holly and most of the hostages and portions of some of the Nakatomi tower, he saves Christmas. He's like all of Scrooge's ghosts combined with a Terminator combined with the Who song. He just saved Christmas. Barefoot. You're welcome.
Merry Christmas. Yippee-ki-yay motherfuckers.
- Corinne Simpson