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Digesting the lowest rung of pop culture so you don't have to!
Die Hard is a Christmas movie. What started out as an ironic statement has turned into an obnoxious internet meme. But what makes Die Hard, an action movie classic, a Christmas movie? It takes place during Christmas time, but it has little-to-nothing to do with Christmas (the time of year is incidental). This is one of those films that play that balancing act of whether or not it is a holiday movie. I think it is close enough to be included, but I would not go out of my way to watch it as a part of a Christmas movie marathon.
As I mentioned above, Die Hard is a classic. What makes it that? The answer is simple: Bruce Willis. I cannot see any other actor portray John McClane the way Willis does in this movie. He is completely manic and you can tell he has a wire or two missing. However, he never goes over-the-top where everything becomes a farce. Things are grounded, and we really see his humanity in several parts of the movie. We have seen many McClane clones come since 1988, but none can really compare. Even when Willis reprised the role in the later installments of this franchise, he seemed “off” as if he forgot how to play the role. This was lightning in a bottle.
Almost as awesome as Willis is Alan Rickman as the villain Hans Gruber. He is so calm and collected, even when his plans begin to go awry. He is the type of bad guy who simply does not give to shits about anything. Honestly, I really thing the Rickman redefined what an action movie villain is and should be. I also think he established the cliché of movie terrorists being nothing more than Eurotrash in business suits, but that is a post for another time.
Die Hard also established a precedent of giving us some really dark humor. Humor has always accompanied action movies in the 80s (think of any Arnold Schwarzenegger flick), but it was usually limited to some witty one-liner to relieve the tension. Here, McClane continually taunts villains, and while it is funny, it ultimately has consequences (such as not being taken seriously when he needs to save his wife’s cokehead friend).
Die Hard was a very unique film for its time. It revolutionized action films and how characters in these sorts of movies are done. Is it a bona fide Christmas movie where people learn the true meaning of the holiday or some such? No, not at all. However, it is about him trying to get to his wife, and subsequently, his family. In the end, is that not what Christmas is all about?
And running around barefoot?