Directed by John McTiernan
Inducted to the National Film Registry in 2017
I first watched it on December 25th, 2018
What It’s About:
On Christmas Eve, a cop from New York (played by Bruce Willis) flies to L.A. to try to reconnect with his estranged wife at her office Christmas party, located at the still-partially-under-construction skyscraper, the Nakatomi Plaza. However, terrorists arrive to occupy the building and take the partygoers hostage. Bruce Willis’ character manages to escape the initial takeover, and now must single-handedly stop the terrorists and save the hostages (including his wife), all while being seriously out-manned and out-gunned.
My experience with the film:
I first saw this film two years ago, on Christmas Day. For various reasons, I was unable to afford a trip home for the Christmas holiday, so I decided to use Christmas Day to do a back-to-back-to-back Christmas movie marathon, and knock off three different Christmas movies that I had never seen before from my to-watch list. Those three films were: A Christmas Story, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, and Die Hard. Of the three, Die Hard was easily my favorite (I was not a fan of A Christmas Story, something I’m sure I’ll discuss whenever I eventually write its NFR entry, and I only mildly enjoyed Christmas Vacation.)
Die Hard’s inclusion in my marathon may be controversial to some, as it is still hotly debated by many whether or not it is a Christmas movie. Personally, I’m somewhat “agnostic” on the issue. I like to boil it down to what I call the “It’s a Wonderful Life rule”: other than the fact that it happens to be set at Christmastime, It’s a Wonderful Life doesn’t have much to do with Christmas. I feel that you could remove the Christmas setting, and the film would be relatively unchanged. If you consider It’s a Wonderful Life to be a Christmas film, then so are other “controversial” Christmas films like Die Hard, Gremlins, and Iron Man 3. If you argue that only movies that are explicitly about Christmas should be Christmas films, that’s fine too, as long as you’re willing to admit that It’s a Wonderful Life doesn’t fit that criteria.
That said, that’s a mostly facetious analysis on my part. Really, I don’t think there is any “objective” definition as to what a Christmas movie is. A Christmas movie, in my opinion, is any movie that puts you in a Christmas mood and/or that you associate with Christmas, which means that the definition is entirely up to the person watching the film. If Die Hard puts you in the Christmas spirit, great, it’s a Christmas movie. If it doesn’t, and you just enjoy it for its genre-redefining action, great, it’s just an action movie that happens to be set at Christmas. Likewise, if there are other movies that aren’t explicitly “Christmassy” that still put you in a Christmas mood (I know several people who say that they associate the Harry Potter films, especially the earlier ones, with Christmas), you can consider those Christmas movies too. I don’t see the need for drawing lines in the sand and definitively deciding whether something is a Christmas film or not. Whether you prefer to watch Die Hard in December, or March, or August, doesn’t particularly matter. Enjoy watching it whenever it feels right.
Die Hard (1988) is available to stream on the services listed here: https://www.justwatch.com/us/movie/die-hard-1988
To learn more about the history and significance of this film, I recommend the following resources:
- Surprisingly, there are more special features available with the digital copy on Movies Anywhere than there are on the Blu-ray edition pictured above, though the Blu-ray does have three different commentaries, as well as some production photos, and trailers/TV spots. Movies Anywhere has a couple additional features, including a look at the legacy of the film, and an original marketing featurette.
- The official National Film Registry essay about Die Hard: https://www.loc.gov/static/programs/national-film-preservation-board/documents/DieHard.pdf
- The original 1988 review from The Chicago Tribune: https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-xpm-1988-07-15-8801150176-story.html
- The original (somewhat negative) 1988 review from Roger Ebert: https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/die-hard-1988
- An in-depth discussion of the film: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Su5jtuU0Tvo
- One justification for Die Hard’s status as a Christmas movie: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UekHfQnFHe8
- A humorous look at the film, the Die Hard “Honest Trailer”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4kXMaToMQTE
- A retrospective review, 30 years after Die Hard’s release: https://www.theguardian.com/film/2018/jul/12/die-hard-30th-anniversary-quintessential-action-movie
- The Wikipedia page for Die Hard: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Die_Hard
- If you don’t have time to go through all of these resources, here are 30 interesting facts about the making of the film all summed up in one place: https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/60578/30-hard-facts-about-die-hard
For the complete list of films in the National Film Registry, including information on how you can view each film, and links to every entry that I have written, please see my NFR Directory.