‘Die Hard’ a Christmas Movie?

Bombs and bullets, but so much more in 1980s classic

One of the stranger disagreements in pop culture occurs every year around Christmas, when film aficionados — and families clicking through their options on Netflix — debate whether the 1980s classic “Die Hard” is a true Christmas movie or just a memorable action film.

Set on Christmas Eve, the movie follows NYPD Detective John McClane (Bruce Willis) on a trek to Los Angeles to win back the affections of his estranged wife by attending her company party downtown. But a cohort of domestic terrorists have different plans for our protagonist. The skyscraper playing host to the Christmas Eve party is taken over by heavily armed gunmen attempting to steal hundreds of millions of dollars in bonds under the guise of protesting corporate greed.

What follows is a spectacular plot involving more than a dozen “bad guys” against the indomitable McClane. Guess what happens?

Willis’ character is an Everyman who stands up against both evil (the terrorists) and authority (at one point, challenging the LAPD, which at first thought the call for help was a hoax). McClane’s persistence, motivated by his love for family, made the movie an action classic. It still holds great influence today, as evidenced by the sixth installment in the series currently in development.

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But does it really represent the Christmas spirit? The film certainly gives a tongue-in-cheek nod to the holidays, but with all the violence it brings, is it truly aligned with the values we hold dear?

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Veteran “Die Hard” actor Robert Davi threw his weight into the debate a couple of years ago, calling the film “secularist.” He went on to remind audiences: “It’s taken the real meaning of Christmas out — taking Christ out of it.”

But Christmas is the holiday of giving and of family. It is an opportunity to go out of your way to lend a hand to a neighbor or friend. It’s the holiday where every corner presents an opportunity to do the right thing. And “Die Hard” is the story of a man who has the opportunity to walk away. He doesn’t.

That the movie features extraordinary violence is par for the course in Hollywood. Drama, like sex, sells in Tinsel Town.

He risks his own life to stand up for his neighbors and his family and friends. He confronts forces of evil in the name of defending all that is good and innocent. That the movie features extraordinary violence, including machine guns and explosives, is par for the course in Hollywood.

At the end of the day, though, the film is about reconciling with your loved ones. What better time of year for reconciliation? It’s no accident that the movie is set on Christmas Eve.

The message is encapsulated in the final scene with McClane and his wife holding each other and heading off together to see their children. Family is his No. 1 motivation throughout the movie. This is a man who goes to great lengths to save his loved ones — walking on glass, jumping from buildings and confronting a team of dangerous enemies — all in the name of family.

It’s the Christmas spirit in a nutshell. Hollywood just has a funny way of showing it.

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