If ‘Die Hard’ Isn’t a Christmas Movie, Neither Is ‘Home Alone’

in Movies & TV

John McClane (Bruce Willis) in the vents in 'Die Hard' (1988)

Credit: 20th Century Studios

It’s time to settle the debate once and for all: Die Hard is a Christmas movie. Because if it’s not, then neither is Home Alone.

It always bothers me when I hear the words, “Die Hard isn’t a Christmas movie.” You might not like the film, or maybe you do but you think R-rated flicks aren’t festive — which I get — but there are plenty of movies made for mature audiences that take place at “the most wonderful time of the year.” Why is Die Hard (1988) the exception to that rule?

Without going too far down that chimney, there are horror films like Black Christmas (1974) and Krampus (2015), and more recently, Violent Night (2022), the R-rated actioner that even acts as a love letter to Die Hard 2 (1990), which is also 100% a Christmas movie.

'Violent Night' movie poster
Credit: Universal Studios

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I’m not suggesting Die Hard is the type of flick that will lift your spirits like The Holiday (2006), but it can hardly be described as bleak as, say, Krampus. Or as absolutely depressing as the Christmas rom-com Love Actually (2003).

Is Die Hard a Christmas movie?

So, is Die Hard a Christmas movie? Well, first, it’s worth asking the question: what makes a Christmas movie in the first place? Has the idea of such a thing become more subjective now that other genres have, perhaps for many, muddied these once pristine and innocent waters?

That said, if stories that contain adult themes are best saved for films outside this genre, then perhaps Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, the timeless tale that addresses themes of poverty and hardship, should be omitted from it altogether (and decrease the surplus population of Christmas movies!). Bah, Humbug!

Bruce Willis as John McClane in 'Die Hard'
Credit: Disney Plus

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There is, of course, more than a marginal difference between Ebenezer Scrooge’s timeless tale and John McClane’s gun-toting, gung-ho-ing, ho-ho-ho-ing, and yippee-ki-yay-ing outing against Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) and his band of nasty thieves who are so merry-less they’d give Dicken’s frugal miser a run for every single penny of his money.

I get it. Christmas is a time for peace and joy and all things magic. A lot of people don’t want to watch professional thieves break onto someone else’s property over the Holidays while an unsuspecting male protagonist becomes a one-man army by taking on the crooks using nothing more than his wit and cunning. But Home Alone (1990) is a great movie.

Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) in 'Die Hard' (1988)
Credit: 20th Century Studios

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Okay, so drawing parallels between Die Hard and Home Alone is nothing new, but it’s crucial in attempting to settle this debate — although it will likely go on forever regardless. Still, if reading this brings you around to my way of thinking, then maybe Christmas will find you curled up with a cup of hot-hot-hot-hot chocolate next to a crackling fire while you watch Bruce Willis walk around with shards of glass stuck in his bare feet as he blows a bunch of baddies to bits (once he has a machine gun).

First, let it be said that Die Hard and Home Alone are hardly “the same movie.” But they are highly comparable in that they each revolve around a male hero who, over the Holiday period, is forced into a situation involving dangerous criminals. And as such, each film is festooned with references to the joyous pastime, songs of the season, and relevant themes.

Macaulay Culkin as Kevin McCallister in 'Home Alone'
Credit: 20th Century Studios

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For example, Hans Gruber and his band of not-so-merry men, and the Wet Bandits, Harry (Joe Pesci) and Marv (Daniel Stern), are the personification of greed, a common theme seen throughout many Christmas tales, from Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol to Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch. In Die Hard, Hans and his men are there to essentially “steal Christmas,” and the same can be said about Home Alone‘s two bumbling booby-trap magnets.

Over the years, I’ve heard friends and family tell me that “Die Hard isn’t about Christmas, but Home Alone is,” which usually finds me gritting my teeth as I gear up for a lengthy response (this article has been rehearsed for many years). But I’m not convinced Home Alone is necessarily “about” Christmas, either. It’s set at Christmas, it knows it’s set at Christmas, and, as we’ve just mentioned, there are plenty of relevant themes throughout, but the Holidays feel just as integral to the plot in Chris Columbus’ comedy film as they do in John McTiernan’s explosive actioner.

An angry Harry (Joe Pesci) in Kevin's house in 'Home Alone'
Credit: 20th Century Studios

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But I’m starting to wonder that when people say “Die Hard isn’t a Christmas movie,” perhaps what they really mean is that it isn’t their kind of Christmas movie, or that it isn’t a Christmas-sy movie. While this is also subjective, it’s probably true that Die Hard isn’t really the kind of film many people tend to put on when trying to get into the festive spirit, and I’m one of them. Home Alone, on the other hand, is, because it’s heart-warming and uplifting. Die Hard is neither of those things. But then neither is Love Actually.

Sure, there are many heart-warming moments throughout Richard Curtis’ nauseating rom-com, which has more stars than a clear winter’s night, but it’s also incredibly cynical and shallow and depressing. Yet it is, without question, a Christmas classic. Why do so many people romanticize the idea of a creepy guy — your partner’s best friend, no less — showing up on your doorstep to confess their undying love in the form of gigantic cue cards? Is watching Bruce Willis jump down elevator shafts to try and save his wife not enough?

John McClane (Bruce Willis) looking over the edge in 'Die Hard' (1988)
Credit: 20th Century Studios

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In closing, it’s also worth pointing out that director John McTiernan views Die Hard as a Christmas movie. In an interview with the American Film Institute in 2021, he talked about how the 1988 classic “became” a Christmas movie, and even draws some interesting parallels with the beloved Christmas classic It’s a Wonderful Life (1947), citing the evils of capitalism and mass power, a theme that plays heavily throughout both films.

Check out the video below:

Bruce Willis, however, has said that he doesn’t think Die Hard is a Christmas movie — but that’s just his opinion (although it is very much said in jest). After all, he didn’t write or direct the movie.

Die Hard is based on Nothing Lasts Forever (1966) by Roderick Thorp, which is widely considered a Christmas novel.

The Die Hard movies and the Home Alone movies are now streaming on Disney+. In fact, Die Hard can be found in the streaming service’s Christmas collection. It’s also being promoted as a Christmas movie in the latest Disney+ EU ad.

Check it out below:

And four years ago, 20th Century Fox shared the below trailer titled “Die Hard — The Greatest Christmas Story Ever Told”:

Do you think Die Hard is a Christmas movie? Has this article changed your mind? Or do you now think Home Alone is no longer a Christmas movie?! Let Inside the Magic know in the comments down below!

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