Is Die Hard a Christmas film?
For years, I’ve observed this debate with an overwhelming dose of ‘Who cares?’ Truth be told, I’d not watched the movie since college. In fact, it wouldn’t even sniff my list of favorite films. However, for reasons I can’t explain, I recently found myself wondering about Die Hard’s murky status as a Christmas movie.
In stores, I see Die Hard in holiday movie displays, alongside Miracle on 34th Street, It’s a Wonderful Life, and A Christmas Carol. However, I also see several outspoken Christian leaders on social media poo-pooing the notion. On a whim, I decided to revisit John McClane and Hans Gruber at Nakatomi Plaza with an open mind … and what I discovered rocked my world.
Die Hard should never be called a Christmas movie … because it is, in fact, THE Christmas movie.
First off, let’s begin with some basic assumptions about Christmas:
All over the world, Christians celebrate Christmas as the day of Jesus’s birth. The very foundation of Christianity proclaims that Jesus came to set the captives free from evil (Luke 4:18); to fulfill the Law (Matthew 5:17); and to offer himself as the groom who risks everything to rescue the bride (a biblical metaphor for restoring mankind’s relationship to God after Satan severed that connection).
If you’re a diehard Die Hard fan, you already see where we’re heading, because it should be obvious.
In the film, John McClane, a New York City cop, lands in LA to spend Christmas with his estranged wife and child. When he arrives, his wife is celebrating with her coworkers at the Nakatomi Tower Christmas party. At first John doesn’t realize how bad things have become until he discovers that Holly (certainly no Christmas reach there) has dumped John’s last name and reclaimed her maiden name (ahem, bride … groom … busted marriage). Unfortunately, John doesn’t have long to mourn the relationship. Before he can even change his shirt, a terrorist group barges in with machine guns blazing and takes over Nakatomi Tower.
All of a sudden, John McClane finds himself spending Christmas Eve as a renegade lawman battling violent, evil invaders who have taken Holly and her co-workers hostage … in a tower that reaches high into the night sky.
Now might be a good time to remind you that “heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force” (Matt 11: 12, NASB) … and John’s a cop (who’s sworn to uphold and fulfil the spirit of the law).
As viewers, we’re quickly strapped in for a wild rollercoaster ride of explosions, mayhem, and the best and worst of shoot-em-up one liners. With all of the carnage and destruction of Die Hard, it’s quite easy to miss the entire point of this movie and its Christmas message.
Spoiler alert: The bad guys are defeated, the captives are set free, and the bride is restored to her groom.
In the Bible, Revelation 12 reveals an ongoing war being waged between good and evil. The author of Revelation, John, tells us how Satan and his army rebelled against Heaven, was initially defeated, but then took up a new stronghold—Earth. As C.S. Lewis, the great theologian and author, writes, “Enemy-occupied territory—that’s what this world is.”
As I revisited Die Hard, I couldn’t help but hear the echoes of C.S. Lewis:
“Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage.”
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
Indeed, “a great campaign of sabotage” is exactly what John McClane undertakes throughout the movie as he tries to thwart the terrorists’ plans. John McClane—a dirty, bloodied, beat-up, barefooted ragamuffin by the end of the film—somehow becomes our Christmas hero by offering his own life so that others might be saved.
That’s Christmas, friends.
But if that’s still not enough for you nay-sayers, I’ll offer you just a bit more as I drag you to the manger in this sack full of presents.
Before he can win back his bride, John must first save her from the terrorists’ leader, Hans Gruber. Gruber is something more than your typical, deliciously evil character. He’s a ruthless, heartless, cold-blooded devil.
By the way, the name Gruber is Jewish/German; it refers to one who dwells in the pit (how Hell is characterized throughout the Bible).
Yes, Hans Gruber is Satan, the devil, the dragon, and his entire plan revolves around destroying Nakatomi Tower.
Oh, did I mention that “Nakatomi” comes from an ancient Japanese title for those who serve as conduits between mankind and the heavenly deities? Gruber is dead-set on destroying Nakatomi Tower … just as Satan swore to wage war against mankind (Revelation 12) and destroy our connection to God … until Jesus showed up, that is.
Christmas film-making coincidence?
Bruce Willis, who plays John McClane, once said that Die Hard is not a Christmas movie, and as stated, I would have to agree. Die Hard is certainly not ‘A’ Christmas movie. Perhaps the filmmakers didn’t even know what story they were telling … but oh my, the reflections of the true Christmas story are just too hard to ignore.
Die Hard is THE ultimate metaphorical retelling of Jesus’s birth, the tale of an unsuspected hero who shows up to defeat evil and rescue the prisoners, while on a mission to restore the bride to the groom.
That IS the Christmas story, and that’s why Christians continue to celebrate two thousand years later … and may those celebrations live long and die hard.
Yippee-ki-yay, my friends!
(Die Hard is rated R for intense violence and language, brief drug use and nudity … so, no, it’s nowhere near kid friendly.)