[caption id=”attachment_2035” align=”aligncenter” width=”630”] (Photo provided by Flickr- Alex Eylar)[/caption]
There are few things that are inherently American in this world.
Being that our country was founded in it’s appreciation for immigrants (crazy thought right?), our identity is distinctly diverse. This manifests itself through countless Olive Gardens, Chipotles, Taco Bells and Panda Express’. We even got ethnocentrism from our mother country, The United Kingdom. But America has been known to pump out some decent products every now and then, like cheeseburgers, chili dogs and John Stamos.
With this heavy on my mind, I went looking for a Christmas movie to watch with a specific American flair to it. To my surprise, I found a movie that some are calling the greatest Christmas movie of all-time: the gun-blazing classic, Die Hard.
The combination of one of the best action movies ever made and a loving Christmas story of a man trying to (stay alive) get home to his wife on Christmas — how American is that?
Die Hard has immortalized itself in our pop-culture. It’s the sort of franchise that was picked up during the flurry of sequels and remakes that we now call the late-2000s — which is sort-of a stamp of approval for the original, right? The villains were foreign and the hero smoked: this is the late 80s.
On the surface, yes, Die Hard is an action movie that changed the game, and that will always be its greatest legacy, I’m starting to find the Christmas sprinkled below the surface of the theatrical poster. There are a few specific things that make this a Christmas movie and I’ll jump right into those.
Christmas can go two ways in the film bizz: it’s either a good thing that goes wrong or a bad time that gets better. The McClane marriage falls into the former category. It’s interesting that this has become one of the most consistent Christmas movie tropes of all-time. It’s almost like John and Holly’s relationship is used to build the tension before the bad guys come to town. It’s kind of become obvious to me that America loves love but I think another American construction makes this trope possible.
Please, you can let me know if I’m wrong but Americans don’t like taking the easy way out. Divorce rates have been high but Christmas isn’t the time to worry about that. It’s the Christmas spirit that brings John back to his family. The action side to Die Hard is what sits in the middle of John and Holly but you know what? Saving the life of your estranged wife and all of her exhaustingly ’80s coworkers definitely has to count for something.
Die Hard’s script is something else, and Christmas references are littered throughout. Not to mention the infamous line… I won’t even say it.
Run-DMC’s song “Christmas in Hollis” was worked into the script in the first 15 minutes. This movie fully acknowledges the fact that it’s a Christmas movie and that’s pretty ballsy. The setting of the holiday party gives us enough legitimacy for this whole plot to come together. A building would be empty on Christmas Eve and if you were into international crime, I’m betting that would be a good day for it. John literally writes “Ho Ho Ho” in blood and our main villain Hans cites a Christmas miracle.
There’s a great combination of pure action and the monotony of a real Christmas Eve. Along with all this the score of the movie is completely committed to the holiday spirit. I’ve got to say watching those guys break into that vault to classical Christmas music might go down as one of my favorite holiday scenes of all time.
Lastly I just keep coming back to this thought. Die Hard was released in July of 1988 and it was set on a Christmas Eve. I’m sure when it was released the Christmas aspect of the movie only allowed for some suspension of disbelief. The next year though, I’m sure some families got together and decided to spend a Christmas with the McClane’s. This movie definitely fits in the category of “give ‘em what they want.” Not all Americans can appreciate a slow moving and typically classical holiday movie. Die Hard offers more to the average holiday viewer. If they thirst for some sort of action and suspense this is truly the most appropriate holiday film I’ve ever watched.
I’m a little more used to snow and Christmas carols when I watch a movie but Die Hard will forever rank high in my Christmas Movie List.
Alain Pierre-Lys (@captainreality) is a staff writer for The High Screen and student at SUNY Oswego in the beautiful tundra that is central New York.