Why Die Hard is the Best Christmas Movie

Polk Staff December, 18 2018

Why Die Hard is the Best Christmas Movie

To some, a Christmas or holiday-themed movie is synonymous with family-friendliness. Or at least, focuses on conventional ideas of love and human kindness (like Love Actually). But in recent years, a somewhat improbable contender emerged for the holiday-movie title belt: John McTiernan's action classic Die Hard.

There may be considerable resistance to this idea among certain guests if you initially voice it at your next holiday party. Even its creators disagree on the subject (producer Joel Silver and screenwriter Steven de Souza consider it a Christmas movie, while star Bruce Willis doesn't, per The Washington Post). But we're convinced that not only is the film ideal for working out your Polk Audio home theater system year-round, it's also thematically relevant, emblematic of positive ideals important to the winter holiday season.

It's all about family

The main motivation for Detective John McClane in Die Hard isn't any abstract altruism or over-the-top patriotism (like many '80s action films) but rather the need to protect his estranged wife Holly from arch-criminal Hans Gruber and his trigger-happy gang, who've taken over Holly's office building during her company's Christmas Eve party. He's certainly repulsed by the criminals' murder of unarmed hostages and wants to stop Gruber's scheme, but Holly is his priority. Reuniting with family despite all obstacles — albeit less deadly ones — is a primary theme of many holiday movies, and it's undoubtedly in play here.

The folly of greed and strength of good

Gruber (the role that made the late Alan Rickman iconic long before Professor Snape) relies on the ruse of a politically motivated terrorist hijacking to steal more than $600 million in bearer bonds. In Die Hard, this greed epitomizes his cleverness but also precipitates his undoing, and in this way the movie criticizes the tacky commercialization of Christmas and the holidays as subtly and effectively as A Charlie Brown Christmas. Also, the avaricious banker, businessman or financier is a staple holiday-film antagonist in everything from It's a Wonderful Life to Scrooged, and Gruber fills the role well. 

McClane and the one-against-a-dozen odds he faces, meanwhile, are analogous to those George Bailey must contend with in It's a Wonderful Life. The off-duty NYPD detective doesn't have the advantage of heavy firepower or outside support (aside from intermittent communication with LAPD Sergeant Al Powell, played wonderfully by Reginald VelJohnson). Nor is he the muscle-bound bruiser common to '80s action movies featuring Schwarzenegger or Sly Stallone. Instead, he must rely on his intelligence and determination to devise traps for the gunmen all over the building.

A festive soundtrack and other holiday signposts

Vaughn Monroe's soulful rendition of "Let it Snow" famously plays over Die Hard's credits. The soundtrack also features "Christmas in Hollis" by Run-DMC and various interpolations of "Winter Wonderland" show up in the orchestral score throughout the film largely composed by Michael Kamen. Also, in McClane's final confrontation with Gruber, he uses Christmas-decorated tape to hide a pistol behind his back.

Die Hard is considered the greatest action film of all time by some. Whatever your stance, this film certainly deserves the immersive sound produced by the best Polk home theater equipment such as the Signature Elite. But it will also work as alternative holiday programming for those worn out by the carols and cheesy specials, but still moved by the true spirit of the holidays: love of family and one's fellow man. 



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