Is Die Hard a Christmas Movie?

( – That, dear reader, will ultimately be up to you. Rest assured, the film does occur at Christmas time and invokes the setting to juxtapose the high kill count and violent siege of the now-infamous Nakatomi Plaza with the spirit of the goodwill and family gathering associated with the Christmas season.

The viral debate over whether or not “Die Hard” qualifies typically leaves out many other movies that are set during the holidays. Older Millennials grew up watching classic films from the 80s and there are so many great ones set during Christmas. You may not be surprised to learn that the trope was intentional.

“Lethal Weapon” is another action film set at Christmas. The legendary original film combines Mel Gibson playing a mentally struggling Los Angeles detective and his married-with-many-children-about-to-retire-African-American partner, played by Danny Glover (not to be confused with Donald Glover, no relation). They battle a conspiracy of drug smugglers, another classic 80s trope.

Both “Die Hard” and “Lethal Weapon” were produced by Joel Silver, an icon in Hollywood during the time. “Lethal Weapon” was made the year prior and Silver decided that he wanted to have all the movies he worked on set during Christmas. The rationale was that they’d get play every December earning royalties every year.

“Die Hard” was a derivative of Roderick Thorp’s novel, Nothing Lasts Forever. It was also a sequel to an earlier story he wrote in 1966 entitled The Detective, which was made into a film in 1968 with Frank Sinatra playing the lead role. Bruce Willis ended up playing the same character played by Frank Sinatra in prior decades. They did change Thorp’s character’s name, however. John Leland became John McClane in “Die Hard.”

Thus the Christmas setting for “Die Hard” is both due to the influence of Joel Silver and the source material. That said, the success of both films would inspire writers and directors to deploy the setting in many other films in successive years including “The Nice Guys,” “The Long Kiss Goodnight,” “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang,” and “Iron Man 3.” Joel Silver produced two of those, by the way.

Shane Black, who wrote “Lethal Weapon,” also wrote “The Last Boy Scout” which is another action film starring Bruce Willis. While not typically associated with the holiday, an early scene in the film features Willis’ character looking at a drawing of Santa from his daughter.

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