"What's your favourite Christmas movie?" My friend asked the other day. It was an innocent enough question and was immediately greeted by a flurry of half-thought-out answers:
"It's A Wonderful Life!"
"No, Home Alone 2!"
Some mistaken soul even mentioned Elf, but the less said about that, the better.
I waited for the furore to die down, sighed and shook my head slowly.
"The best Christmas movie," I began, "without a doubt, is Die Hard." My revelation was met by silence. This might not be the first film everybody thinks of when Christmas is mentioned, but, not only is Die Hard my favourite Christmas film, it is also the best Christmas film ever made.
My friends, however, found this hard to believe, and some of them even had the nerve to suggest Die Hard isn't even a Christmas movie at all. Clearly, this would not do, and so, here are the reasons why Die Hard is, in fact, the best Christmas movie ever made.
Firstly, despite what some may think, Die Hard, by the very nature of being set on Christmas Eve, is a Christmas movie. That's a fact, but that fact alone might not be enough to settle some protestors. I can hear them now, crying,
"No, but it's an action movie!"
Well, yes, it is, but can't it be both? Action might not be what some people are used to in a Christmas film, but the whole point of Die Hard is to challenge the perception of Christmas. Even John McClane finds himself out of his Christmas comfort zone, in sunny LA where snow never visits. Argyle's choice of Christmas music is also strange to John who asks "Haven't you got any Christmas music?" when the limo driver blasts Run DMC's Christmas In Hollis. It might not be what John's used to but as Argyle says, "This is Christmas music!" So, for those accustomed to snowy vistas, warm fires, Wham and Paul McCartney, Die Hard will already have you on the back-foot. This is Christmas, but not as we know it.
Die Hard is no cuddly, warm, PG Christmas movie, full of zany kids and 'what-are-they-like!' family arguments, instead, it offers a much more nuanced and realistic view of the holidays. (Although Die Hard still teaches some moral lessons - the only two terrorists to survive are never seen brandishing a weapon) John has travelled from New York to be with his estranged wife Holly and their children over Christmas, but it's a holiday visit neither John nor Holly are sure about (and that's before the terrorists show up). Midway through the film, things have gone sour and John regrets showing up to the Nakatomi Christmas bash, "Come down to the coast, we'll get together; have a few laughs" he quips. Whilst most festive family reunions don't feature terrorists, they do, like John and Holly, start out with the best intentions. "It'll be nice to see everyone" we think, a few weeks before, but come the 25th it isn't long before we're sneaking off for another sherry between the turkey and pudding, just to help make things bearable.
As Holly Gennero (or McClane) says, Christmas is a time for "family, stockings, chestnuts, Rudolph", all the usual Christmas movie fodder, but rarely is real life so idealistic. Whilst a normal Christmas day doesn't quite go awry to the extent of the Nakatomi Corporation Christmas party, there are always the inevitable disasters, from your dad being pissed by 10 am, and thus unable to cope with making gravy, to your sibling deciding they suddenly only eat free-range, organic, diamond-encrusted turkeys.
Extended families (sort of like terrorists) are the most dangerous part of any Christmas. There's your auntie's new fiancé who you've never met, and now, half pissed at two in the afternoon, you have to be nice to. There's your granddad and his whisky fuelled, *ahem*, 'old fashioned' ideas and then there are your younger cousins who aren't happy with the 'BargainMadness' chocolates you've bought them. On this day when everything's supposed to be fantastic and everyone's supposed to love each other, even the most innocent of remarks can be loaded with unresolved tension ("Nice Suit").
So, we've established that Die Hard is a Christmas movie and also a fantastically searing social commentary, but what of its action credentials, are they Christmassey enough? Well, of course they are. Right before a SWAT team gets taken down, a terrorist recites a classic Christmas rhyme, "It was the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, except for the four assholes coming in the rear in standard two-by two cover formation!" If that doesn't remind you of Christmas Eves by the fire, I don't know what will.
Through all the explosions, blood and conflicts of Christmas Day (and also Die Hard) it's important to stay calm and persevere. Just as when John writes "Now I Have A Machine Gun, Ho, Ho Ho" on the body of a terrorist, it's important to keep a sense of humour about everything and know it will all be over soon, after all, isn't that the very spirit of Christmas?
"Welcome to the party, pal!"
Merry Christmas and Yippie-Kay-Yay!