4 Reasons ‘Die Hard’ Is Basically ‘A Christmas Carol’
'Tis the season to sit down with family and watch your favorite Christmas movies. Whether it's Elf, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Home Alone, or something else, we all have those classics that we almost know by heart.
But every year, there's always a discussion over one film and whether or not it's a Christmas movie: Die Hard.
Starring Bruce Willis, Die Hard is the classic tale of a cop trying to save his family - but literally and figuratively. He's looking to reconcile with his estranged wife, and he ends up having to save her when terrorists take over the office building where she works.
The movie takes place on Christmas Eve, which is one of the reasons some will argue that it's a Christmas movie. However, that's a pretty weak argument for whether or not something is a Christmas movie.
But, Die Hard actually is a Christmas movie. Not only that, it's basically a re-telling of A Christmas Carol, the Charles Dickens classic about a miserly old man who values work over family and friends and it takes a life-altering event one night to get him to change his ways.
If that's not John McClane, I don't know what is.
There are four big reasons why Die Hard is actually A Christmas Carol.
1. John McClane Is Ebeneezer Scrooge
In A Christmas Carol, Ebeneezer Scrooge is a miserable old man who is focused on work and money, shunning his family. He has given up pretty much all social connections in order to focus entirely on work, as he believes that is a person's highest calling.
When we first meet Bruce Willis' John McClane, he is clearly in a similar position. He is separated from his wife, Holly Gennaro, but he is traveling to see her in a last-ditch attempt to reconcile. McClane seems pretty angry throughout the opening of the film as he has apparently realized how much his family life has fallen apart, but he still seems unwilling to leave his work behind to join his family.
2. There Are Three "Ghosts"
In an attempt to convince Scrooge to change his ways, three ghosts visit him to show him why family and friends are the secret to a meaningful Christmas and a happy life. They are the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come, and each takes Scrooge to different place and points in time to explain to him why he is so lost.
While there are no ghosts in Die Hard, there are three key people that lead McClane to making a life-altering change by the end of the film.
McClane's Ghost of Christmas Past is Sgt. Al Powell, a cop that he is able to key in touch with and talk to. Al is a street cop who represents cops who know how to balance the job and their family life, and who haven't become too bitter by their time working the streets. Al becomes a friend to McClane as they communicate, and as they get to know each other, McClane begins to remember what that part of his life was like.
The Ghost of Christmas Present in Die Hard, meanwhile, is television journalist Richard Thornburg. He represents McClane as he is in the present - a job-focused man who is willing to ignore basic human compassion and caring to get the job done. It's all ambition. While he and McClane don't interact directly, it is Thornburg's actions - discovering Holly's relationship to John, which in turn gets her taken captive - that reveal in the end the dangers of being so focused on the job.
The person in the film who represents the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, however, is present throughout the entire film and has a key interest in McClane: Hans Gruber. Portrayed by Alan Rickman, he very literally represents death, as well as the greed (see reason no. 3 below) that leads one down that path. Throughout the film, McClane has to come to terms with the fact that his decisions have put Holly in the position he finds himself in, and he has to ultimately face that at the end of the movie.
3. It Tackles the Evils of Greed
And while Gruber played the part of a terrorist, the real motivating factor for his operation wasn't ideology - it was money. It is revealed later in the movie that Gruber is seeking to rob Nakatomi Tower and use the money to advance his cause. While greed was a motivating factor for Scrooge in A Christmas Carol, his feelings about money change by the end of the story.
With McClane, however, greed was not one of his character flaws, but it becomes the force he ends up fighting against, just like Scrooge. The only difference between the two is that for Scrooge, it was an internal battle. For McClane, it was an external battle.
4. McClane Re-Discovers Family and Friendship
The redemption of both Scrooge and McClane comes at the end of the film, and it's quite the trip that takes them there.
After the threat of Gruber is eliminated, McClane reconciles with his wife. The trauma of the night, and the fact that McClane quite literally fought for his family, is enough for them to come together and remember the love they had for each other.
Because of that, McClane learns that while he is still good at his job, it's extremely important to take care of your loved ones, and to learn to reconnect with them. We see Scrooge do the same thing at the end of A Christmas Carol. It's a truly heartwarming moment, and one worthy of the label of Best Christmas Movie.