Do you have a favorite Christmas movie? We here at Trope & Dagger do! Today Andy and I are debating what makes a Christmas movie, and what the greatest Christmas movie of all is! To read Andy’s side (wrong side), click here: Incorrect Person. Here’s my side (correct side):
It’s a Wonderful Life. Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. White Christmas. Prancer. A Christmas Story. A Christmas Carol. Jingle All the Way. All Christmas classics, right? Somewhere in there might be your favorite Christmas movie! Why wouldn’t it be? They’re all about cheer and goodwill towards man and family togetherness. Lovely sentiments to go with this lovely season!
Or are they? (Dun dun dunnnnnn) Personally, I’m tired of traditional Christmas movies. Just sick of ‘em. We’ve seen them year after year since we were children and they’ve grown stale and boring. Also, I contend that many of them do not truly embody the spirit of the season. I know, I’m such a fucking Grinch. Do you know who really saves Christmas? John McClane. That’s right, I contend that the greatest Christmas movie of all time is none other than Die Hard.
There are also other incredible non-traditional Christmas movies that I would watch over any of those others, including Batman Returns, Gremlins, and Iron Man 3. See, I don’t believe that to be a great Christmas movie, the movie has to be directly about Christmas at all. Take place around Christmas-time, sure, I’ll leave that stipulation. So what makes a great Christmas movie, besides it taking place at Christmas? I’m glad you asked. (I will be focusing on the elements in Die Hard, but will be happy to elaborate on others.) If you haven’t seen Die Hard, the greatest Christmas movie of all time, go watch it because it is amazing. And also because Die Hard spoilers ahoy!
1. Joy. To be a great Christmas movie, there has to be an element of joy. And there is joy in Die Hard, to be certain. Now, when the film begins, John McClane, our hero, is a joyless soul. He’s not pleased with Los Angeles, being the hardened New York cop that he is, is apprehensive about meeting up with his estranged wife, and just generally an unhappy guy. He even complains that there’s no Christmas music, just because the Christmas music playing isn’t what he’s used to (meta!). He also remains this way through most of the movie. He gets beaten, bloodied, has to stand by while people suffer and die, but you know what? He takes it all and comes out the other end a stronger, happier person. He finds his joy in that hellish night by stopping (killing) the bad guys and connecting with other people, which is what Christmas is all about!
2. Anti-Greed. Mr. Potter isn’t greedy. Mr. Potter wasn’t willing to do what it takes to really get what he wants, because if he was, then George Bailey would have been in a shallow grave on the side of the road. No, the true face of greed is Hans Gruber. Hans Gruber is way worse than Mr. Potter. He would have shot Mr. Potter in the face, enjoyed the screams of the bank patrons, and then plundered the vault, killing Bert the cop in the process. Now, I admit that I buy presents at Christmas time. I like to give to my family to show them that I care, and I’m not much of an arts & crafts guy. But excessive wanting of the best gifts and the most extravagant presents gets out of hand. Hans Gruber is that feeling personified, and John McClane shows him what the true meaning of Christmas is all about, and does it in a way that is supremely more badass than banging on his window and wishing him a Merry Christmas. He kills all his men and drops him out of a skyscraper.
3. Inclusiveness. Just a minor note, but it’s important to recognize that not everyone celebrates the holiday in the same way. Not everyone has snow and reindeer and a jolly fat man in a suit. So this movie, by not focusing on any of that, allows anyone anywhere to enjoy it’s message! It even takes place in Los Angeles, where there is no snow, to make sure that everyone feels included! How thoughtful is that?
4. Togetherness. John McClane is one lonely dude. He starts off the movie estranged from his wife and just barely able to hold a conversation with another human being. Many people feel this way during the holidays. Many people think that they should be happier and more cheerful around this time of year, instead of feeling that nothing will ever go their way and they will die alone and sad. We’ve all felt like this at one point or another, and that’s why John McClane is our hero, a hero of the people. He feels us, for reals. By the end of the movie, though, he makes that connection with another person, and I’m not talking about his wife. That’s right, the most meaningful connection that John makes is with Sergeant Al Powell. He and Al make a connection that was unlikely and powerful. Al trusted in John and John trusted Al. Al went to bat for John when he had almost no good reason to trust him, and through helping John, John was able to help Al get his confidence back and return to form. It was a friendship forged in fire, and truly the heart of the film. This is important because it shows that togetherness does not have to mean family. Togetherness can come from the most unlikely of places, you just have to be open to making a connection with another person. Heck, make a connection with an animal or a car or something, just recognize what’s important to you. John learned this, and made a friend for life.
It’s for all these reasons that Die Hard is inarguably the greatest Christmas movie of all time. A Christmas movie doesn’t have to be about snow or presents or santa or even directly about Christmas to be a great Christmas movie. It has to have its priorities in the right place, as Die Hard does. Joy, anti-greed, inclusiveness, and togetherness are the most important elements, and Die Hard has them in spades. And it doesn’t hurt to have some sweet explosions and gunfights thrown in for good measure. Yippee-ki-yay, motherfuckers! Merry Christmas!