Is Die Hard Really A Christmas Movie?

Bill Petro
4 min readDec 24, 2018

Scholars and historians have debated the question “Is Die Hard a Christmas Movie?” for centuries. Or at least during the last three decades since the movie was released. This is why readers have turned to me, your friendly neighborhood historian, to wrestle with this age-old question and help them resolve this dilemma. In this article, I will assemble ancient history, linguistic legerdemain, modern science, and contemporary film criticism to address this question.

The debate has raged amongst the tragically online and is in full bloom on Twitter. The participants typically fall into two camps, the “Duh!” and the “Nuh uh.”

I divide this debate thusly:

Camp Yippee-ki-yeah

  • There is book that came out last year: A Die Hard Christmas: The Illustrated Holiday Classic. I got a copy for Christmas. I was deeply moved.
  • Babylon Bee, the satire site, reports that “New Evidence Suggests Mary and Joseph Watched ‘Die Hard’ On First Christmas Night.” It seems that archeologists have recently discovered a small, wall-mounted television set and a VHS copy of the classic Christmas film near the likely site of Jesus’ birth. The Holy Family had an arduous trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem.
    “What better way to celebrate the holiday spirit on the very first Christmas than watching John McClane take out a bunch of terrorists?”
  • There are five Christmas songs included in Die Hard. That’s more Christmas songs than “It’s A Wonderful Life.” For extra credit Die Hard has Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, plus Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto №3 In G Major.
  • On December 24, 2017, screenwriter Steven E. de Souza stated on Twitter that Die Hard is a Christmas film.

Camp No-ho-ho

  • Die Hard was initially released on July 15, 1988, not the Christmas season, the nay-sayers say. But is that a show stopper? “Miracle on 34th Street” was also released in July and nobody denies that it’s a Christmas movie. And has nobody heard of “Christmas in July”?
  • At his Comedy Central Roast, Bruce Willis declared “Die Hard is not a Christmas movie! It is a … Bruce Willis movie!” But what else do you expect him to say, it was a Roast.

In My Humble Opinion

Let’s allow the facts to speak for themselves. The historical parallels are remarkable:

  • John McClane, the protagonist comes, as we see at the beginning of the movie, from the sky to save those in need. Jesus came from Heaven to save a world in need.
  • John means “gracious gift of God” in Hebrew. What is the time of the year when we most think about the gift of God? Christmas.
  • Invaders from Europe come to the tiny hamlet of Nakatomi Plaza with automatic weapons. Over 2,000 years ago Romans came from Europe to tiny Israel with automatic swords.
  • Nakatomi, according to Wikipedia, was a priestly clan which oversaw certain important national rites, and one of many to claim descent from divine clan ancestors “only a degree less sublime than the imperial ancestors”. Jesus, according to the New Testament is our “our High Priest.” Coincidence? I don’t think so.
  • Holly is the name of John McClane’s wife. She could have been named Molly or Polly, but no, she’s named after the quintessential Christmas plant.
  • McClane says, while in a ventilator shaft “Come out to the coast, we’ll get together, have a few laughs.” The ancient Israel of Jesus’ time is on the coast.
  • Hans Gruber, the villain, quotes “And when Alexander saw the breadth of his domain, he wept, for there were no more worlds to conquer.” It was because Alexander’s generals occupied Israel following the eastward conquest, that the Nativity story in the New Testament is written in Greek. The benefits of a classical education.
  • At one point, John McClane goes up to the highest point on the building and uses a machine gun to get attention. The Wise Men followed a bright star in the sky to find the Baby Jesus.


On this, the 30th anniversary of the movie, 20th Century Fox — realizing that their blockbuster hit had been the subject of intense, heated, polarizing debate — decided to resolve this silly argument, while taking advantage of the popular meme, by releasing a special Die Hard — Christmas Edition 4K DVD this month, December 2018, including a re-cut trailer to present the film as a heartwarming Christmas story. This is trending big on YouTube.

Bill Petro, your friendly neighborhood historian

Originally published at on December 24, 2018.



Bill Petro

Writer, historian, technologist. Former Silicon Valley tech exec. Author of fascinating articles on history, tech, pop culture, & travel.