“Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, except for the four assholes coming in the rear in standard two by two cover formation”. For me the holiday season always truly began when John McClane abseiled down the side of Nakatomi Plaza whilst avoiding heavy machine gun fire. While it may not be mulled wine and egg nog Die Hard is unequivocally a seasonal delight. The story of a man trying to reconnect with his wife and restore his fractured home life in time for the holidays, a task he succeeds in by killing a group of European terrorists/thieves.
Featuring Bruce Willis, who at the time was known as a comedy actor from the series Moonlighting, and a debut performance from Alan Rickman, Die Hard was an unexpected smash hit which launched a franchise that turned Willis into a A-list action star. The decision to set the film at Christmas was an idea producer Joel Silver borrowed from his previous action hit Lethal Weapon. Lethal Weapon’s screenwriter Shane Black, who has gone on to set the majority of his films at Christmas, likes to set his movies around the holiday period to emphasize feelings of loneliness within his characters. Riggs in Lethal Weapon mourns the loss of his wife and is eventually welcomed into Murtaugh’s family with a seat at their Christmas dinner. In Die Hard John McClane is attempting to fix his broken marriage and the holiday setting is perfectly suited to amplifying that desire.
In a year where we have lost so many notable people it would be remiss of me not to highlight the phenomenal performance of Alan Rickman in this film. Willis is great, his everyman sensibility makes McClane far more identifiable than other 80’s action heroes played by Stallone and Schwarzenegger, but Rickman steals every scene with an almost effortless display of sneering venality. This will be my first Christmas watching Die Hard since Rickman’s passing and it will be a bittersweet reminder of his remarkable talents.
There are multitudes of great holiday classics to choose from, this list demonstrates that, and it is my hope that you will have your own festive favourites to enjoy this Christmas. But, if you’re struggling to decide, the safe bet for me is always Die Hard. If fake terrorists suddenly interrupted my office Christmas party then there’s only one man I want to see coming down the chimney, and here’s a hint, it isn’t Santa.