In 1988 the movie Die Hard starring Bruce Willis and the late great Alan Rickman was released. Surprisingly, considering the later hoopla, it was NOT released over the Christmas holiday but rather on July 15. Being fans of action flicks, we saw the movie in the theater and loved it. So much so that we purchased the VHS when it came out and frequently popped it in. However, it was not until somewhere in the mid-1990s that it became our traditional family Christmas Eve movie.
How that happened is a humorous tale now part of the Lathan legend. One Christmas Eve in a year we can no longer recall, aside from the fact that our now 27-year-old son was quite young so we covered his eyes several times, my husband and I were sitting with the children by the tree. As they played with the one small gift allowed to open, we discussed what movie to watch until the kiddies had to get to bed before Santa came. This was prior to Elf (2003) or Netflix or cable with gazillion channels, so the options were slim. We flipped through cable TV and there was Die Hard. It was about a third of the way through and to be honest our immediate verbalization was, “Why is Die Hard airing on Christmas Eve?” Feeling a tad ridiculous, we ended up watching it, fully realizing for the first time just how strongly the Christmas theme plays into the plot.
Fast forward to the following Christmas Eve, the kids had opened their one present and we were again flipping stations searching for It’s a Wonderful Life, A Charlie Brown Christmas, or something appropriately Christmassy. Someone (we no longer remember who) hesitantly tossed out, “What about Die Hard?” Well, we laughed a bit, but not nearly as strong as one might suspect. Long story short, we watched Die Hard on that second Christmas Eve, and for easily 20 years now we have unashamedly watched it every Christmas Eve since.
At least a decade ago, when still defending our traditional viewing choice to amazed people, I noticed that Die Hard was included on just about every Top Christmas Movie list out there. Don’t believe me? Google it! In 2016 Empire Magazine ranked it as #ONE (HERE) out of 30, and in 2011 Forbes also ranked it as #ONE (HERE) out of ten. Ranker listed it as #17 out of all Christmas movies and as #ONE in the “Christmas Action” movie category (HERE)
In fact, Googling is exactly what I did in 2017. My husband and I were talking about our Christmas Eve plans with our daughter and son, so of course we mentioned our traditional watching of Die Hard. By then we owned it on DVD, the special edition even, and no longer chuckled over our viewing tradition. Over time I had seen numerous references to Die Hard gaining popularity as a holiday movie, including making the official “lists” for the season, and had even met a few people who watched it like we did. I did a spontaneous Google search to verify it still made the lists, but was surprised to discovered that in 2017 the “debate” over Die Hard as an official Christmas movie has risen to a fever across the web. Seriously, the internet was burning up as if the fate of the world or Christmas itself hinged on the label of “Christmas movie” for Die Hard!
Why, after thirty years since its release, was it the center of a massive debate?
I believe we can, in part, thank Doogie Horner who on October 24, 2017 published A Die Hard Christmas: The Illustrated Holiday Classic. No, I am not making this up! Below is the blurb from Amazon, where as of December 2019, the book has 331 reviews with a 4.8-star average. Not bad at all! And yes, I purchased copies for my husband and son as gifts in 2017!
A delightful Christmas storybook for adults based on the action-packed Die Hard movie
All John McClane wants for Christmas is to reunite with his estranged family. But when his wife’s office holiday party turns into a deadly hostage situation, he has to save her life before he can get home in time for Christmas!
The unconventional fan-favorite movie Die Hard is now an illustrated storybook—complete with machine guns, European terrorists, and a cop who’s forced to rely on all his cunning and skills (and the help of a fellow officer) to save the day. Based on the classic “Night Before Christmas” poem and filled with whimsical illustrations, this cleverly reimagined homage is destined to become a holiday classic.
*Contains adult material including violence and strong language. Reader discretion is advised. Ho-ho-ho.
I haven’t looked into the topic this year, but did see a few random posts on Twitter. There are still those folks who get super agitated about Die Hard as a Christmas movie, which cracks me up, to be honest. I have long ago accepted the truth and despite the handful of naysayers, it is satisfying to see the pendulum has clearly swung in favor of Die Hard being a Christmas movie right up there with Elf and Miracle on 34th Street (which, incidentally, was released in JUNE of 1947).
Below are just a small sampling of the articles written on the topic, my favorite being the first.
Or, just watch the excellently and logically argued video below from ScreenPrism. WARNING: Clips from Die Hard do contain blood and violence, natch!
If interested, click the photo for the direct link to this particular T-shirt. Or, for the website where there are several pages of Die Hard shirt options: Tee Public