Five Reasons Why Die Hard and Gremlins Will Never Be Christmas Movies
I thought it was a joke.
Nearly 10 years ago on a public forum of about ten guys talking mostly sports, the subject of Christmas movies came up. And someone mentioned Die Hard. “Ha!” I thought. “What a jokester!”
Boy was that an underreaction. He was serious! For days, maybe weeks, and for dozens, maybe hundreds, of posts we argued about whether this film was in fact a “Christmas movie”. During which time I think I had this facial expression:
Or maybe this one:
Or maybe this one:
In the intervening years, I’ve seen people try to pass off Gremlins the same way. I can almost even begin to consider to Gremlins, but I’m not there yet, and I probably never will be. I will never, ever agree to Die Hard. Here are Five Reasons why:
1. Technicalities do not equal reality.
“It happened during Christmas!” “There were Christmas trees in one scene!” “There was snow on the ground!”
If someone from Maine comes down South and wants “an SEC game day experience” during football season and I take them to a 2014 Vanderbilt game vs. Middle Tennessee State, I have done what they asked. But did I really? If it’s December 4th in Chicago and it’s 12 degrees with inches of snow on the ground, am I going to say, “It’s not Winter!” because of some lame solstice reasoning? Does anyone really consider Miami a part of “The South”? NO!
Same for this. Reality trumps everything.
2. Horror, Violence, Extreme Language, etc. are all contrary to both religious and secular imagery of “Christmas.”
[McCaine drops a C-4 that causes an explosion and death.]
[Stripe boils in a fountain after Gizmo kills him with sunlight.]
“All is caaaaalm. Aaaalll is bright…”
[HIPPY KI YI YAY $%*#@$!!!]
“Sleeeeep in Heavenly pea-eace…”
See? It just doesn’t fit. It assaults my sensibilities to include R-rated culture as a part of Christmas. I get that Christmas is a rough time for some people, but I would imagine that we have entertainment in part to get away from that.
3. Christmas has a spirit and it is easily recognizable.
US Supreme Court justice Potter Stewart said years ago that he could not define pornography but knew it when he saw it. I think the same is true for a lot of topics, including what is and isn’t a Christmas movie. Christmas, both secular and religious, has a certain “goodness” to it that these movies lack. As a friend of mine stated once, “If you have to think about it, it probably isn’t a Christmas movie.”
It’s A Wonderful Life, Elf, A Christmas Story, etc. don’t have this problem and never will.
4. Beyond the idea of “spirit”, Christmas movies have Christmas themes that drive the plot.
“Ernest Saves Christmas.” “The Grinch Steals Christmas.” “Regular Joe has to become Santa Clause during Christmas.” Somehow “Hans Gruber takes hostages, shoots people and tries to steal $640 million dollars” and “Mutant green monsters terrorize a small town with a tractor plow” don’t have the same effect.
5. Accepting Die Hard and Gremlins opens up Pandora’s Box.
Rambo: First Blood happens around Christmas and the town is all decorated. Christmas movie! Iron Man 3 occurs near Christmas. Christmas movie! The Godfather has Christmas in it. Christmas movie! Are we really going to say that any movie with ANYTHING related to Christmas is a Christmas movie? We may as well consider Seth McFarlane’s Ted because it has a teddy bear and teddy bears are often children’s gifts and we give gifts at Christmas. CHRISTMAS MOVIE!!!!!!
I think Bruce Willis is an All-American action-adventure legend and I probably would shake in my boots if I ever met him. I will love Alan Rickman til I die for his immaculate portrayal of Severus Snape. Gremlins was the first movie I saw in the theater, and I own original 1984 Gremlins books with records included because I love that movie so much. These are movies I appreciate and respect.
But they are NOT Christmas movies. And they never will be. No matter how much people argue it on forums and other social media.
Disagree? Comment below!
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56 thoughts on “Five Reasons Why Die Hard and Gremlins Will Never Be Christmas Movies ”
Agree. They aren’t Christmas movies. Not even close.
The Home Alone issue has been adequately answered above.
As wrong as you are about Tom Brady, you are right about this.
And yet I will have just as many people who disagree with me with just as much vitriol!
Why we watch it: I realize there is nothing spiritual about the story of a man with marital problems, who after getting left by his wife for a big time company job, has to defend her and her colleagues from thieves. That’s okay. Sometimes you can watch a film simply to have fun. If you have older boys, this film is particularly fun to watch. “Holiday” office parties are portrayed stereotypically in the film but just because the adult themes of sex and violence are included doesn’t disqualify it as a decidedly secular Christmas themed movie.
Super spiritual reason we watch: Not everything you watch has to have some righteous message. Die Hard is not without merits in that regard. The main character learns how important family is and he comes to realize that he has behaved rather selfishly towards them. Great lessons for any family member. And in sequels he learns the lesson over and over again just like young Kevin.
Oh don’t forget the terrorism, kidnapping, bombs, murder, and F-words and no Christmas theme to drive the plot whatsoever. Christmas movie!
The plot is driven by a “Holiday” office party gone bad. I guess you are arguing that a corporate Christmas party is not a good enough theme but the movie covers the stereotypes well.
The plot is driven by terror and hostage taking and is marked by violence and strong language. What you are talking about can refer to Rambo and Iron Man 3. See the article above.
Witty Chris. Just a few points:
1. You do realize that I (Phill) wrote the Christmas movie article and Gowdy wrote this one, right?
2. Do you really believe that the “message” of the film is that John McClane learns the importance of family and comes to realize how selfishly he has behaved? I admit I’ve only seen Die Hard a few times, but that message never got through to me. Home Alone is not entirely Christmas themed, but Kevin growing up and learning to be less selfish and more kind is pretty much the main thematic focus of the film. I can see some superficial comparisons, but I think they are mostly espoused by people that desperately want to believe Die Hard qualifies as a Christmas movie.
2. Absolutely. The whole point of the movie is the love of John McClane for his wife. Complete with sappy reunion at the end that falls apart by the sequel (just like Home Alone)! We don’t necessarily like how Hollywood tells these love stories but that is indeed the point.
What if we were talking about a movie where a school Christmas party was pranked by Christmas-hating bullies. The hero of said movie is the boyfriend of one of the girls at the school who has come all this way to try to make things work even though they live far away from each other. What if the movie revolved around the shenanigans between the hero and the bullies as he tries to make the party fun once more. And what if in the end the hero and his love interest are reunited and get to celebrate Christmas together while the head bully earns his just reward. I don’t know about you, but to me that sounds like a pretty decent Christmas movie. Now all you have to do is just replace a few elements that have nothing to do with the time of the year and you have Die Hard.
With Gremlins you can do the same thing. Replace the killer monsters with Christmas-hating bullies and bam!
Just blame it all on the bullies!
I think Die Hard is more of a Christmas film than Gremlins, fwiw.
The poll is all messed up. I don’t know enough about Gremlins too decide among the choices.
I didn’t want the poll to have too many options. And since this article dealt with both films, both had to be represented in the poll. I gave enough options where everyone should be able to find one that works for them.
So Die Hard is frequently shown cleaned up and moved from an “R” to a “PG” rating. The part of Gowdy’s argument that is relying on this point becomes odd when conceivably you could watch the cleaned up version and come away feeling closer to the “imagery” of Christmas. The problem is secular “Christmas imagery” definitely includes the “holiday party” which stereotypically includes drunkenness and sex.
Does the PG version take out the terrorism and the hostages and bombs and the violence? Does it add to the plot to make it centered around Christmas?
The plot is already firmly centered around Christmas. Every aspect of the plot is tied to the Company Christmas party. But yes, the PG version takes out much of the violence and certainly the language that you deemed as contrary to the imagery of Christmas.
It’s a side note but it’s always interesting, and somewhat troubling, how many movies are very watchable in “mixed company” cleaned up for basic cable but are cringe worthy when you get the DVD or otherwise. I immediately think of movies such as Die Hard, Top Gun, My Cousin Vinny…
“If this is their idea of Christmas, I gotta be here for New Year’s.” (final line of the movie)
Although I picked neither are Christmas movies, I can’t really judge Gremlins since I’ve never seen it. I have seen Die Hard, several times. I don’t think a true Christmas movie is necessarily defined by having a happy hippy dippy feel good jive to it. But it should exude a Christmas spirit throughout. I just don’t think Die Hard has that. That being said, I think that if an individual or family considers it a Christmas movie and likes to watch it at Christmastime for that very reason, then it is a Christmas movie to them.
Have you all ever attended a corporate Christmas party? I’m honestly wondering if this is a foreign concept to many voters.
Are you referring to the fact that Die Hard features a Christmas Party? I don’t see how having such a Christmas party in it automatically makes the whole thing a Christmas movie. E.T. has a trick or treating scene. I don’t remember anyone ever saying its a Halloween movie.
Ben: It’s not just having a Christmas Party scene. If the setting of ET was a Halloween Party or trick or treating and the story was built around that fact then yes it would indeed be a Halloween movie. (Sort of like “It’s the Great Pumpkin…”) Die Hard doesn’t just have a Christmas Party in it. It is the whole point of the story. It’s why John is coming to visit his estranged wife.
As I said elsewhere: Die Hard isn’t just happening at Christmas. The entire setting is a company Christmas party. And all the adult stuff that supposedly happens at those kind of parties is included.
Have you ever compared terrorism to what we celebrate and enjoy at Christmas? I’m honestly wondering if this is a foreign concept to many voters.
Have you ever compared terrorism to what we celebrate and enjoy at Christmas? I’m honestly wondering if this is a foreign concept to many voters.
The defeat of terrorism absolutely! Just like celebrating and enjoying the defeat of two robbers that were trying to murder a child at Christmas time.
That is a very politically correct answer, Ben; except for the fact that you mentioned a specific religious holiday multiple times.
Oops. I’m the worst politician ever.
Home Alone isn’t a Christmas movie because a young kid learned how to be more unselfish. That could have happened if his family was taking a Summer Vacation and he got left behind. It’s a Christmas movie because that plot is built around a Christmas setting and all the plot lines feed into the Christmas element. The same is true for Die Hard.
A big part of the Christmas story is the horror of King Herod trying to find and kill Jesus. Die Hard has a crazy guy trying to find another guy whose first name starts with a J so he can kill him. He fails, just like Herod. If that ain’t the Spirit of Christmas what is. I’d say more, but I agree with everything Chris W. has said.
And his last name starts with M for Messiah. Boom! Christmas spirit. I like where your boat’s rowing, son.
I think his boat is rowing to heresy.
“A big part of the the celebration of the birth of Christ is something that happened years later that had nothing to do with his birth”. The R-rated aspect is killing you guys.
The Christmas party was not crucial to the plot of DH at all. Snape didn’t say, “Oh yeah, it’s Christmas time, the time we celebrate with killing and terror and stealing” and McCaine didn’t respond with “You know what really says ‘Christmas’? Killing and blowing stuff up”. No the setting was inconsequential. In other movies it’s a centerpiece and part of the “goodness”.
Nothing anyone has said has done any undermining to my points above. Heresy side. LOL.
John McClane sends a festive message to the terrorists which reads “Ho Ho Ho! Now I have a machine gun.” I think this indicates that he at least was in the Christmas spirit.
You and Joey make good points about the dialogue.
They are on my Alternative Christmas movie list. Along with Lethal Weapon, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Bad Santa, The Ice Harvest, and Eyes Wide Shut. I enjoy watching these with a smattering of traditional Christmas movies. I’m ok with putting them on the Christmas movie list.
I like the idea of “Alternative Christmas” movies. But I know to guys arguing here they will be on the master list forever. I like giving them a hard time. I cannot believe how many people (Mostly men) out there have Die Hard as Christmas movie. It seems Mike and Mike talk about it every year with Golic on my side and Greeny with my opponents here. The poll they did on Twitter came out 54% FOR Die Hard is a Christmas movie. It makes me wonder how I missed this until the Postlewaites, some of their family and Chris W above brought it up to me in 2008 or whenever it was.
Bad Santa was the first movie that made me think of an “Alternative” list. Although I thought of “Movie about Christmas” as an alternative to “Christmas Movies”. Bad Santa would be different though than Die Hard even in that regard. To me at least.
My favorite moment in Gremlins is when she tells the awkward story of her dad dressing up as santa, getting stuck in the chimney and dying. Classic
That is awesome. When they parodied it in Gremlins 2, that was one of the few redeeming parts of that sequel. The original Gremlins will always be at the top of my Guilty Pleasure list.
A couple of thoughts on my response:
-I’m just addressing Die Hard, I haven’t seen Gremlins enough to give an informed opinion on it. But Gremlins probably a Christmas movie. A really messed up Christmas movie.
-I would have replied earlier but I don’t get on the computer a lot on the weekends and Gowdy wisely made this a Friday news dump, understanding fully the backlash his article would incite 🙂
This would be my counter to each of Gowdy’s 5 arguments:
1. Vanderbilt isn’t “technically” an SEC game day experience, it is an actual SEC game day experience. It’s probably not the best experience, but that’s not the argument. By every measure necessary it is an SEC experience and has been so as long as there has been an SEC. While the guidelines for what qualifies as a Christmas movie are arbitrary and unwritten, many, or the majority it seems, believe that Die Hard fits whatever those guidelines may be, even if it’s minimal.
2. Many of the most beloved Christmas movies contain less than wholesome themes. Kidnapping is that heart of Clark Griswold resolving his issues with Mr. Shirley. Why do Buddy the Elf’s parents have different last names? Could it be because fornication? And no one over the age of 6 has any doubt what Ralphie actually said when helping his dad change a tire, or for that matter, has any trouble imagining what colorful metaphors he was spewing forth while pulverizing Farkus. And Home Alone? Don’t get me started on Home Alone. Torture (Harry seemed fully committed to biting off Kevin’s fingers before Old Man Marley intervened), Murder (***South Bend Shovel Slayer), Mob Activity (Angels With Filthy Souls), and Pornography (“No clothes on anybody, sickening.”) Home Alone should probably be the first R-rated Children’s Christmas comedy. Which basically proves what I’ve believed all along: Die Hard is simply a grown up version of Home Alone.
3. Christmas themes (both religious and secular) are evident throughout Die Hard. Reconciliation, peace on earth (or at least at Nakatomi Plaza) friendship, good over evil, being reunited with family on Christmas Eve. Not to mention the multiple Christmas songs and Christmas references throughout the film.
4. The Die Hard story could have easily been told at a different time of year (and was in subsequent movies) but Christmas was chosen for this entry and the holiday was emphasized throughout, from the opening lines of the original trailer until the final quote in the film. Other Christmas staples could have chosen different themes as well. That smutfest Home Alone could have easily been set in June with all the affluent suburbanites away on summer vacation and the McCallister clan heading to a family member’s wedding. A Christmas Story could be A Birthday Story no problem. Make Ralphie’s birthday the same week as Christmas and you don’t even have to change the plot or set. They didn’t HAVE to be Christmas movies.
5. Not every movie on that list would qualify. But if some of those movies do in fact meet the lofty standards set forth by Die Hard to qualify as an honest to goodness Christmas movie then I encourage you to join me in extending a welcoming hand to them and saying, “Welcome to the party, pal!”
***I’m of the opinion that Old Man Marley may actually be the South Bend Shovel Slayer, despite his statements to the contrary. I would gladly share my thoughts on that if anyone would like to hear them.
I may offer a counter argument to some of these, but I MUST KNOW YOUR DEFENSE of Old Man Marley being the Sound Bend Shovel Slayer. Because that made me LOL. Not because I think you are crazy wrong, but because that is something that should be explored and no matter how you explore it, it’s going to be funny.
We don’t do Friday news dumps at REO. Not the way we roll.
I want to add as well to Joey’s last post that it is good to me: detailed, well argued, funny. Classic Joey that I have known since 1998! 🙂 I’ll try to do some justice in response.
There is no justice you could think up that would be equal in any way to what I just read: as to why OMM is the SBSS. Very well-though out argument, Joey. You’ve convinced me.
Well I hope this isn’t a letdown but I’ll share with you my concerns. My issues with Old Man Marley (OMM) begin with his rescue of Kevin. This is one of the biggest flaws in the movie. He saves an 8 year old from a traumatic experience and what does he do next? Take him to the police station or hospital? Offer to let him stay in the Marley home until Kevin’s parents return? No! He lets an 8 year old return to his own home, alone, in a neighborhood that clearly has a crime problem. I can overlook the like altering injuries Harry and Marv should have endured and many other unlikely scenarios in the film, but dumping Kevin off like that is clearly evidence of a man who, at best, has disconnected from reality or, at worst, thinks nothing of violent crime because he has seen his fair share, if you know what I mean.
Now, that’s not enough to make him a murderer, let alone the South Bend Shovel Slayer (SBSS), it just show he’s not this sweet old man he wants us to believe he is. So what makes him a monster? Let’s looks at some of his “qualities.” 1) We know he has anger problems because he admits arguing with his son to the point that it ended their relationship. 2) Quiet and keeps to himself. LIKE EVERY OTHER MASS MURDERER WHO HAS EVER LIVED NEXT TO ORDINARY DECENT CITIZENS. 3) Detached socially and likes intimidating weaker people. Who slams their bloody hand on a counter and glares down at an 8 year old? These last two are the most convincing – 4) Clearly knows how to inflict bodily harm with a snow shovel. This skillset would seem to be at the heart of being the SBSS. 5) He knows what people are saying about him. How? Have folks in the neighborhood asked him if he is a mass murderer? Doubtful. Why would they think it’s him and who would be dumb enough to ask. It’s best to assume he has actually gone on trial, but as we know, there was a lack of evidence.
That’s still not enough to convict, so we have to turn our attention to the person who introduces us to that tragic chapter in the history of a famed Indiana college town: Buzz McCallister. Don’t laugh. Yes, Buzz is mean and isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer, but he’s also honest, well informed, and analytical. And I for one believe him to be trustworthy and reliable. Firstly, notice his truthfulness. We have no reason to doubt his statement that the family did in fact eat all of the cheese pizza. Now, I don’t know if he was really about to puke after eating that last slice, but I’m not privy to whatever stomach issues he may have been dealing with as a teenager, especially after consuming various Christmas goodies and the night before an international flight. So I choose to take him at his word. You want someone who retains and processes information well, look no further than Buzz. Tarantulas can live well over 2 weeks without food and France does have nude beaches. And while his 3 point outline for why he didn’t fear for Kevin’s safety was clearly flawed on several levels, it did demonstrate the ability to process information and come to a well thought out conclusion.
With that in mind, look at the info he shares about the SBSS. First of all we know he isn’t making it up on the spot to scare Kevin and their cousin because OMM acknowledges his reputation. Buzz knows the date (1958), the crime (murdering his family and half the block), and why he wasn’t convicted (lack of evidence). This is young man who is clearly well read and familiar with the histories of Northern Illinois and Indiana. He also shares that salt would mummify the bodies, which is true. I see no reason to doubt Buzz’s conclusion, especially in light of OMM’s poor rebuttal. Sound detective work if you ask me.
So it’s Buzz McCallister’s thorough investigation against the word of a retiree whose faults go on for days. Seriously Marley, no statement you want to make in your defense other than “none of it’s true”? You’re sitting in a church, nothing you feel the need to confess? If you really want to put Kevin’s mind at ease why not give your opinion on who was behind those murders. That’s all I’m saying.
This is absolutely the best post on any of the Die Hard/Gremlins discussion on any social media. So good. Especially the part about Buzz. I’ve got tears from laughing.
Agreed. Except it has nothing to do with Die Hard or Gremlins.
But it relates just enough! If the pro-DH people can prove death in Home Alone, one of my argument pillars is shattered! Because I truly believe Home Alone is a Christmas movie.
I think Joey’s post above on the actual Die Hard argument is a good one. I’ll give a couple of responses but I do respect his view and presentation:
I brought up Vandy (and specifically 2014 because they’ve been decent or good several times recently, but not that year) because they don’t have a big stadium and their atmosphere isn’t anything like Florida or Bama or LSU or Georgia or even SC, or probably 11 of the 14 SEC teams. I think a person would say “This isn’t what I thought I was getting” if they wanted an SEC experience. A person could pass off Die Hard the same way: “I want a Christmas movie!” “This is one!” “Oh.” When they really wanted something more overtly Christmas and not quite as action/adventure/death-ish.
I would say the average person would feel disappointed but Die Hard did win on M&M 54%. So I will say I could be wrong.
I concede that Vacation and even Home Alone have less than wholesome themes, it just seems to me they are focused on Christmas and family and other Christmas-y type ideas, whereas Die Hard is foundationally a movie that has non-Christmas themes at its heart with some Christmas stuff peripherally thrown in. If I don’t accept Die hard, Home Alone does become more tenuous though, I concede and you make good (and funny) points to that end. At some point it becomes that very subjective Christmas spirit thing, which if I am completely serious, would never try to force my view on someone else (you and I know how much I love arguing though, especially with the guys that have responded here).
Variety is the spice of life. I will always appreciate breaking up bubbles of traditional thought. But this is a fun topic and I’ve had a lot of fun talking about it. REO exists to encourage but also to converse and have some good wholesome fun on the internet.
Since we seem to keep coming back to this tired trope of questioning Home Alone’s Christmas movie bona fides…
Home Alone is a Christmas movie. Kevin’s “redemption” happens in a church while “O Holy Night” is being sung. To be even more specific, the conversation with Old Man Marley is a time of confession and repentance for the both of them. Multiple references are made to the Christmas season and to the importance and power of the church (which is as much as one can hope for in a secular Christmas film…they can’t talk about Jesus specifically.) The turning point for Kevin happens on Christmas Eve, in a church, after confessing his sins to another, and repenting of said sins with a conviction to change.
What else do people want from a Christmas film? Leave Home Alone alone. It’s a Christmas movie. Period.
Die Hard, on the other hand, has none of that.
Good points. I have no true doubts for Home Alone in this category. I’ve been arguing so much I’m trying to find some middle ground. The scene in the church does give it something that DH and Gremlins do not have.
I don’t think anyone on here has questioned Home Alone’s Christmas chops. Even Chris W. won’t argue againt that, which in and of itself is probably a Christmas miracle.
LOL! I can see *some* similarities that would affect my argument, which is not Phill’s necessarily. The plot being drive by thievery for one. But I still maintain that Home Alone is bursting Christmas from every pore and DH isn’t.
Mike and Mike are still talking about this. They had Steve Schirripa on this morning and asked him and he said, “No.” But I bet you get 10 guys like that on there to answer that question and you get a 5-5 split. Maybe 6-4.
I am flabbergasted that no one–NO ONE!–has yet referred to the classic and so memorable Reindeer Games, another Christmas action flick.
I’m happy with how the poll turned out.
Another example of how contemporary culture is ruining our culture…
“Maybe eight to 10 years ago, when people were asked about their favorite Christmas movies, they said “Die Hard” [was their favorite] as a joke, now I think it’s a very standard answer,” Holmes said. A quote from the PBS article below.
It is irritating that most people seem to think that whatever the majority of society believes at the moment is the most logical thing in the world.
Excellent point, Dave. I wonder if the rise of social media has helped. It would be harder for me to take this position seriously in conversation.