Over the years there has been a continued meme of calling Die Hard a Christmas movie. This is mostly done as a jest, but people watching this on or near Christmas is a thing. I have joined in on this trend just because it is funny to put the film in this genre.
There are lighthearted and more serious discussions in social media over this question.
Recently I saw Matthew Archbold’s post on 7 Reasons Die Hard is NOT a Christmas Movie. In this piece he mocks the arguments put forth to class it as a Christmas movie – all in good humor.
What was missing from his post is what is the definition of a Christmas Movie in the first place. Probably because such a definition would be difficult to craft. I think there are multiple genres in what people consider belonging to this.
Now I am no film critic or have an encyclopedia knowledge regarding movies. Not even an amateur film buff. So caveats aside let me wrestle with this.
First off at a top level narrow definition of a Christmas Movie would be actually about the Incarnation of Christ involving his birth. So a movie like The Nativity Story fits that narrow definition. Maybe even the reading of Luke in A Charlie Brown Christmas. Probably not a lot of movies that fit this definition.
Our celebration of the Nativity is all about the joy of our redeemer coming to us. That we are sinners desperately in need of a redeemer. There is no Pelagian pick ourselves up by our bootstraps. Even sins we think we have overcome by sheer willpower were actually powered by grace. Still nothing we could do could merit eternal life participating in Gods own life.
So a movie regarding our knowledge of sin and our need for a savior would thematically participate in what Christmas is truly about. In Incarnation shows God’s great love for us. There are a lot of movies with themes of redemption, but less tying this directly to our redeemer. Plus salvation history is large story arc beyond the Nativity of Christ.
The really large block of so-called Christmas movies usually have two things in common.
- Events occurring around or on Christmas.
- The driving message that “Family is important”.
So in this large block you get everything from the masterpiece It’s a Wonderful Life to all the movies that show up on the Hallmark Channel and other venues. They have an element of disassociation with family, friends, and the world in general. Selfishness or despair. By the end they learn something about themselves that lets them more fully enter family or community. Most involve a more secular redemption while others have shadows of a more religious theme connected to grace and redemption.
Most of my favorite movies that are more fully Christmas movies are movies like It’s a Wonderful Life or some version of A Christmas Carol. It is interesting the thematic connections these two stories share. They both involve a looking back at life and what you have done. For Scrooge this was a negative experience as he lived a life of selfishness. George lived a life of self-giving and a review of his past revealed to him more fully the connection to others to help get passed his despair. George is like “Bob” Cratchit and Potter is like Scrooge. A Scrooge with no redemption. There is a religious dimension to both stories, but more haunted than explicit.
So these specific films and others like them are fully Christmas films despite not having the full connection to the birth of Christ and our need of a savior. Besides nobody argues about whether these examples are Christmas movies.
When we move on the largest part of so-called Christmas films they all have points 1. and 2. I listed. The large majority are rather smarmy and have little real depth, yet still contain the truth that ties to family and community are important. That reaching out of our selves to serve others is primary.
Now I happen to like a lot of these Hallmark style films for what they are. Still I don’t really categorize them as fully Christmas films. For myself I call this genre Christmassy films.
Another large category of so-called Christmas films is Santa Clause related ones. These also almost always involve the “Family/Friends are important” theme. So I see these as a subgenre to Christmassy films.
So when it comes to Die Hard this is not a Christmas movie. It does have connections to the Christmassy genre. If you took out the family aspects it would have been a lesser film. His estrangement from his wife and coming back to bring about a reconciliation provided some of the tension in the film and a catalyst for the action. So Die Hard is roughly 95% an action flick and 5% a Christmassy flick.