It's no secret that I love Christmas. I am a cynical, bitter, awful person 11 months out of the year but when Christmas hits I become...well, I don't become less of a cynical, bitter or awful person, but I am a lot more cheerful. It's not because of the weather because I hate cold weather. And it's not because of the presents because I'm an adult now and usually all I ask for is socks. I guess hanging out with my family is alright, but I just did that at Thanksgiving. No, the thing I look forward to most is the movies. God help me, I love Christmas movies. I'll give them all a shot, including the really cheesy ones that Hallmark and Lifetime make. I lean towards the non-conventional funny ones and the ones that were produced in the 90's because that's what I grew up with. I've put enough time into watching Christmas movies to know I hate It's a Wonderful Life and that Scrooged is my favorite of all Christmas movies.
However, there is one movie that I think is required watching for everyone at Christmas. One movie that I think not only encompasses what Christmas is about, but is beloved by people of all ages and backgrounds. That movie is Die Hard.
Just hear me out, okay? I've put a lot of thought into this and have come up with three good reasons and, no, one isn't "Because it kicks ass!" Even though it does.
1. It has a unique setting
95% of the time your Christmas movie is gonna take place in one of two places: New York City or some snowy suburbs (likely Chicago suburbs because that's where you find "true" average Americans). It's easy to see why. Most of the country can relate to suburb life, so that's easily explained there, and New York City not only looks great in the wintertime, but it has a lot of recognizable landmarks that get gussied up for Christmas.
Die Hard says no to all of that and sets itself in a Los Angeles high-rise. Palm trees, absolutely no snow and John McClane seems fine walking around in a tank top during the whole movie (lack of shoes, however, is a different matter). Not only is it set in Los Angeles but the movie won't let you forget that it's set there. There are several references to McClane's discomfort with the laid back West Coast lifestyle and, on the other side of the coin, one member of the LAPD attributes John's brashness to being an NYC cop. It's a nice deviation from the usual Christmas setting, and one that should be repeated more often. I mean obviously people in Southern California celebrate Christmas. Or so I’m told as I've never actually been there. I've gotten a Christmas card attached to my fridge from my friend wearing a Santa hat on the Santa Monica pier and she wouldn't lie to me about something like that.
Are there any Christmas movies set in Texas? Let's make that happen next. Even better--Cajun Christmas. Yeah, I'm down for that.
2. It's about family
That's right. Die Hard is about family. Why did John show up to Los Angeles in the first place? To make amends with his wife, Holly, and see his kids. While putting up with Alan Rickman's shenanigans John does his very best to keep Holly safe, even taking on a fake name to keep Alan Rickman from knowing Holly was his wife.
I like saying Alan Rickman instead of Hans Gruber, deal with it.
Yeah, okay, Die Hard is mostly a story about a New York City cop kicking an exceptional thief's ass, but the family undertones are the backbone of the story. In one of the few emotional scenes of the film John is unsure of his odds of surviving the evening and begs the dad from Family Matters to tell Holly that he now realizes he made a mistake in the way he didn't take her career seriously and that he was sorry for the way he treated her. It's a touching scene and a surprising amount of character development for an action movie.
Let's also not forget Holly decking that jackass reporter at the end of the movie for scaring her kids and forcing them to be interviewed on live TV without parental consent.
That Holly-decking pun was unintentional, I swear.
3. It's a Christmas movie without all that pesky religion involved
To quote the my fictional hero Jackie Harris, "Why are we talking about this, God and Heaven and everything? It's Christmas"! Yeah I don't like Jesus and company in my Christmas movies. Christmas has become something that's more than its religious background. It's more of a feeling now, about family and peppermint mochas and tacky decorations and all that other crap. Bringing religion into it just makes the majority uncomfortable, regardless of what religion they belong to. That's what I like about Die Hard. You know it is Christmas without learning any lessons. I don't like learning lessons. Learning lessons is the worst and has no business ruining my Christmas cheer.
Okay, it's not a perfect argument, but it's what I've got. So this Christmas, how about skipping out on that fourth viewing of A Christmas Story and pop in Die Hard instead? Come on, you have to admit it is loads better than It's a Wonderful Life.