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‘Die Hard’ star clears up heated Christmas movie debate: ‘Don’t forget it’

"Die Hard" recently celebrated its 35th anniversary. The 1988 action film starring Bruce Willis has sparked a longtime debate over whether or not it is a Christmas movie.

"Die Hard" debuted in theaters 35 years ago, sparking a debate that has divided fans for decades.

The question over whether the classic 1988 action film is a Christmas movie has become the subject of heated discussion every holiday season.

Directed by John McTiernan, "Die Hard" stars Bruce Willis as an NYPD officer, John McClane, who unexpectedly finds himself fighting to save his estranged wife, Holly Gennaro McClane (Bonnie Bedelia) and her co-workers after they are taken hostage by a band of terrorists led by Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) during an office Christmas party at the Los Angeles skyscraper Nakatomi Plaza on Christmas Eve.

Arguments in favor of "Die Hard" being classified as a Christmas movie include the movie's Christmas setting, the number of Christmas songs featured on the soundtrack and its central message of the importance of family and friendship.

One of the film's stars, De'voreaux White, who played McClane's lovable limousine driver, Argyle, recently spoke with to put the debate to rest once and for all. White explains, while the movie wasn't originally pitched as a Christmas movie, he thinks it still is saying, "I'm gonna break it down to you. For the record, it's Christmas cult classic. Don't forget it!"

"No, it wasn't [sold as a Christmas movie]," he explained. "It was just about these terrorists at Christmas time that take over this building, and a cop comes over here on the premise to get back together with his wife and meet her at the Christmas party."

Argyle was originally set to appear in both sequels, "Die Hard 2" and "Die Hard with a Vengeance," however scheduling conflicts got in the way. White went on to star in his own sitcom, "Head of Class", after the popularity of the first movie.

Celebrities like Zooey Deschanel, Laurence Fishburne and Kristin Wiig have also given their thoughts over the years. 

Viewers who dispute that "Die Hard" is a Christmas movie have cited the film's R-rating, the violence and bloodshed depicted on-screen and the fact that the holiday isn't pivotal to the plot.

Deschanel, who starred in the more traditional Christmas movie "Elf," believes it is. She told Entertainment Weekly, "It brings up different feelings than those [other] Christmas movies, but sometimes we need that." 

Laurence Fishburne declared, "'Die Hard' is a Christmas movie!" to SciFi Wire in 2021 while promoting the 1980s spoof "MacGruber." In 1988, Fishburne was in the TV movie "Christmas at Pee-wee's Playhouse." 

"MacGruber" co-stars Will Forte and Kristin Wiig, who was in the animated film "A Boy Called Christmas" in 2021, weren't as sure. 

Wiig at first seemed to feel that it was when asked, joking "If it has a tree in it…" but later appeared to change her opinion while in discussion with Forte. 

"There's not a lot of action Christmas movies," she laughed. "I mean, I wouldn't sit around with your kids, maybe, your young children and watch this by the tree."

Forte diplomatically said, "I'm kind of OK with whatever side anybody falls on that. I can see it going either way. I think ‘Die Hard’ is an anytime movie, so Christmas is just as good a time as any other time to watch it." 

Former President Obama sided on it not being a Christmas movie when he was asked by Jimmy Fallon on the "Tonight Show" in 2020. 

"No," he answered, "'It's a Wonderful Life' is a Christmas movie. ‘Charlie Brown Christmas’ is a Christmas movie. ‘Die Hard’ is an action flick that happens to involve, tangentially, Christmas." 

After its release, the movie became a massive box office hit and spawned four sequels. The franchise's second movie, "Die Hard 2," was also set during Christmastime though the subsequent films didn't take place during the holiday season.


In 2021, The Atlantic conducted an investigation into the origin of the debate. The outlet claimed that the discussion began with a viral 2007 Slate post titled "Now I Have a Machine Gun. Ho Ho Ho," which referred to one of the movie's most memorable quotes. In the post, author Michael Agger laid out the argument for "Die Hard" being a Christmas movie.

The Guardian later published a blog with the title "My Favourite Christmas Film? How About Die Hard." According to the Atlantic, the two blog posts were the first instances of the subject appearing online and kicked off the internet debate that rages on to this day.

According to Google Trends, the number of searches for "is ‘Die Hard’ a Christmas movie" was fairly low up until 2016. From 2016 on, traffic for the phrase has surged every year in November and December.

In December 2016, "Die Hard" landed at the No. 1 spot on British media outlet Empire's "The 30 Best Christmas Movies," which caused a significant jump in Twitter searches for "Die Hard Christmas movie," per The Atlantic. The online media company Observer later published an op-ed that vociferously rejected the ranking titled "'Die Hard' is not the best Christmas movie."


Over the years, McTiernan, stars Willis, Bedelia and Reginald VelJohnson, and writers Jeb Stuart and Steven E. de Souza have weighed in on the topic.

In 2018, Willis, who reprised his role as John McClane in all five installments of the "Die Hard" franchise, seemingly ended the debate during his final monologue at "The Comedy Central Roast of Bruce Willis."

"’Die Hard’ is not a Christmas movie!" he declared at the end of the show. "It's a god--- Bruce Willis movie!"

The actor was later asked by the Hollywood Reporter how he thought fans would react to his statement.

"We'll see," he said.

In 2020, VelJohnson, who played LAPD police officer and McClane's ally Sgt. Al Powell in the first two "Die Hard" movies, and Bedelia told Entertainment Weekly that they never saw "Die Hard" as a Christmas movie while they were shooting the film.

"The main theme was not Christmas, it was getting McClane out of a bad situation," VelJohnson said.

"In the script, it was not, and while we were shooting, it was not," Bedelia recalled.


However, both performers acknowledged that their perceptions of the movie had changed over time and shared the opinion that whether "Die Hard" is a Christmas movie or not is ultimately up to the fans.

"You never know what the public is going to respond to," VelJohnson told the outlet. "Whatever in the movie makes the audience respond to it, I'm all for it. Although I didn't consider it a Christmas movie before, now you couldn't tell me it isn't. I'm 100% certain that it is."

"It's quite wonderful that this is still being debated 30 years on," Bedelia said. "But the people have spoken, and it's their movie now."

However, VelJohnson appeared less certain about labeling the film a Christmas movie in an interview with Entertainment Weekly that was published last week.

"Everybody seems to think that it's a Christmas movie," VelJohnson said. "I guess they have the right to say so. ... Bruce would say no, he doesn't think it's a Christmas movie, I'm sure."

He continued, "Personally, I don't think it is, but if people see that, then let them see it. Whatever made the film a hit, I'm happy for it."

During an appearance on the Empire podcast last year, McTiernan echoed VelJohnson and Bedelia's sentiments on the debate.


"It’s not for us to say, it’s people," the filmmaker said. "It’s for the audience to say. If the audience decides they want to make it a Christmas movie, it’s a Christmas movie. It turns out that way."

He continued, "It wasn’t intended as a Christmas movie, or the fact that it was deliberately built around Christmas but not intended to be a Christmas movie."

"But the fact that it was a Christmas movie had a lot to do with, you know, because it’s actually, from a distance, politically very strident, and the only reason that survived was that the people in the studio who would have stopped that were deceived because they thought it was just an action movie about a Christmas party that goes wrong."

However, in a video shared by the American Film Institute in 2020, McTiernan seemingly confirmed that "Die Hard" had become a holiday film. He explained that this was due to the joy that was experienced on the set by the cast and crew as they made the film.

"We hadn't intended it to be a Christmas movie, but the joy that came from it is what turned it into a Christmas movie," he said.


In the video, the "Predator" director also referred to "Die Hard" as a "terrorist movie."

"It was really about the stern face of authority stepping in to put things right again," he said.

Written by de Souza and Stuart, the screenplay for "Die Hard" was based on Roderick Thorp's 1979 novel "Nothing Lasts Forever." Unlike the movie, the book is not set at Christmastime, which has served as another argument for those who don't believe that "Die Hard" qualifies as a holiday film.

In 2017, de Souza was asked on Twitter for his thoughts on whether "Die Hard" is a Christmas movie.

"Yes, because the studio rejected the Purim draft. #DieHardIsAChristmasMovie," he joked, referring to the Jewish holiday Purim.


Stuart agreed with his co-writers's assessment in a 2022 interview with UPI.

"'Die Hard' is definitely a Christmas movie," Stuart said with a laugh.


He continued, "I'm out in L.A. now, and I can remember writing it years and years ago at Christmas and, coming from the East Coast, I felt a little bit of, 'What am I doing in Los Angeles for Christmas?' And there is a lot of that wrapped up in that script."

Despite what the film's writers claimed, polling has shown that people still have very different thoughts on whether "Die Hard" should be considered among the pantheon of holiday classics.

A poll in 2018 conducted by Morning Consult/Hollywood Reporter found that while only 25% of American adults consider "Die Hard" to be a Christmas movie, the results are different across sex and age variables.


Only 20% of women surveyed thought "Die Hard" was a Christmas movie, compared to 32% of men. 

When the results were broken down by age, those over age 65 were least likely to view "Die Hard" as a Christmas movie. Only 13% of that group thought so. 

Comparatively, 37% of those ages 30 to 44 who were surveyed said that they believe "Die Hard" is a Christmas movie. 

Those ages 45 to 54 were also more likely to see "Die Hard" as a Christmas movie. The poll found that 31% of respondents agreed that it was a Christmas movie.

In 2021, Fox News asked holiday shoppers in Rockefeller Center for their thoughts on the debate.

Overwhelmingly, those who had seen the movie firmly supported the idea that the famed flick was a holiday movie.

Earlier this week, Willis' wife, Emma, celebrated the "Die Hard" 35th anniversary with a touching post on social media, writing in part, "Today marks Die Hard’s 35th anniversary when it hit the screens and the rest is history."

"What Bruce has been able to accomplish in his career will never be lost on us. We are so proud of him."

In February, Willis' family announced he was diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia. He had a previous diagnosis of aphasia last year and stepped away from acting at that time.

Fox News Digital's Christine Rousselle and Teny Sahakian contributed to this report.

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