Everyone has their movie that comforts them during bad days, sickness, loss, and anything else life can throw at us. For my boss, its My Best Friend’s Wedding, for my father in law, its Princess Bride, and for my husband, its Fifth Element. Mine? Well, mine I’ve seen at least half a dozen times this year alone. Not only is it my go-to film, it’s also the greatest Christmas movie ever – Die Hard.
For those of you who are not familiar with this gem, Die Hard was released in 1988 and tells the tale of a recently separated young career woman, Holly Gennaro (Bonnie Bedelia), and a New York City police officer, John McClane (Bruce Willis). Holly moved to Los Angeles for her career while McClane stubbornly stayed behind in New York. McClane agrees to visit the family in Los Angeles for Christmas. McClane joins Holly at her company Christmas party, which is crashed by a group of well organized terrorists, lead by Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman). While all the party guests are corralled into the main space, McClane slips away and begins causing madness and mayhem for the terrorists. McClane begins to take out the terrorists one by one, and involves the local police, including beloved Al Powell (Reginald VelJohnson). Once the police get involved, the media crews quickly follow, bringing us the much hated reporter, Richard Thornburg (William Atherton). Thornburg digs up dirt on McClane and broadcasts his and Holly’s children on air, causing Gruber to take Holly hostage. After McClane takes out most of the terrorists, Gruber’s true plan is uncovered. They aren’t terrorists at all – they are high end thieves looking to steal 640 million in bearer bonds.
Maybe the movie is so great because of Alan Rickman’s quick and biting wit, the fact that Bruce Willis has hair, the 80’s style hair on all the women, or how much you just love to hate William Atherton. But the reason Die Hard is the best Christmas movie is so much more than all these components. A great Christmas movie has 4 components; family issues, sentimentally, nostalgia, and violence. All the best traditional movies fit these criteria; think A Christmas Story, Home for the Holidays, and Home Alone.
The movie starts off with the family in disarray, McClane living in New York and Holly and the two kids (John Jr and Lucy) living in Los Angeles. They are on the brink of divorce, even though its clear that they still love each other.
Their relationship is rocky;
“Only John can drive somebody that crazy”
“Would you tell her that for me Al? Tell her John says he’s sorry”
but the dynamic seems to work for them.
When reporter Richard Thornburg discovers that McClane has family in the Los Angeles area, he endangers the lives of the whole family by showing up at the Holly’s house and interviewing their children on live TV. This triggers Hans to recognize Holly and connect her to McClane. All the while, the terroists are attempting to break into the 80’s super high security vault. Once they are successful, Ode to Joy blasts as they clean out all their take from the vault.
At the end of the movie, McClane rescues Holly, who has been taken hostage by Gruber, and they are reunited. There is nothing like a near death experience to reignite the spark and bring a family together. That and Holly punching Thornburg square in the face. (Side note, good for her!)
So when you are sitting around with your family this holiday season, skip the traditional “Christmas” movies and rent (or watch if you already own) Die Hard.