No matter where you fall in the debate, the statement from Twentieth Century Fox is unlikely to settle it.
The studio said this week that the Bruce Willis action flick “Die Hard,” which it distributed 30 years ago, is not just any Christmas story, but also “the greatest Christmas story ever told."
The studio made the claim in a new trailer it released for the film this week, with the holiday season in full swing.
The debate over whether “Die Hard” is a Christmas story has raged for years. What was perhaps once a tongue-in-cheek pushback to the G-rated fare the holiday season has typically been known for, has helped give the movie an indelible association with the holidays.
The film now plays in theaters around the country over the holidays. There is a corresponding illustrated book, “A Die Hard Christmas.” Bruce Willis has weighed in: “Die Hard is not a Christmas movie. It’s a g--d--- Bruce Willis movie,” he said in July. And news media articles now chronicle the debate every December.
Google trends show that searches for “Die Hard” and “Christmas” spike every December.
The film was not released around Christmas; it came out in July. But it takes place during Christmas.
Hero John McClane begins the movie on a trip to California, to visit his children during the holiday and win back the affection of his wife. But the film’s villain, Hans Gruber, uses a holiday party as a setting to take hostages.
Steven E. de Souza, the film’s screenwriter, is firmly in the “ ‘Die Hard’ is a Christmas movie” camp. He told The Washington Post’s Alex Horton, who has seen “Die Hard” four times and believes it is “the most iconic action flick of the 1980s,” that the film’s producer, Joel Silver, had predicted the movie would get played at Christmastime for years.
De Souza also made a chart in an attempt to argue that “White Christmas” is not a Christmas movie if “Die Hard” isn’t.
The entirety of “Die Hard” takes place during the holiday, de Souza noted, not just the final reel, like “White Christmas.” It has three Christmas songs — “Let It Snow,” “Winter Wonderland” and “Christmas in Hollis” — to two in “White Christmas.”
Academics and historians have weighed in.
“Christmas is a liminal ritualized period of carnivalesque inversion during which underdogs and the powerless are briefly elevated above hierarchical structures,” historian Greg Jenner wrote on Twitter. “John McClane is a classic Christmas underdog triumphing over selfish venality.”
The debate is sure to continue online.