There’s nothing better than the end-of-year holiday season, is there? All that food, family, and gathering around the Christmas tree to debate what classic movie to watch. There is a furious debate around whether Die Hard is classic holiday material. Clearly, it’s an uplifting tale of family, selflessness, and redemption. But it made its theater debut in July, not November or December, so is it really not a Christmas movie?
You likely already know that Die Hard was such a spectacular success that it created an entire “Lone hero thwarting terrorists in a confined space” genre of movies. Examples include Speed (Die Hard on a bus!), Under Siege (Die Hard on a train!), and Passenger 57 (Die Hard on a plane!). There is, in fact, one movie that’s never included in this group, but it is a beat-for-beat remake. It came out just a couple of years later and grossed more than all of them: Home Alone.
There are many similarities between these classics. Each of these movies is about a normal person who has been separated from his family. These protagonists are trapped in a limited space with the bad guys. They can’t count on help from their allies until it’s almost too late. It’s Christmastime. These main characters are the only ones who can do anything about their situations. The protagonist in both movies must rely on street smarts and the ability to create weapons out of harmless household essentials, taking the bad guys one by one.
That’s where the parallels end, right? In one movie, you have a villain like Hans Gruber and a team of highly trained professionals. In the other, you have a couple of idiots calling themselves “the Wet Bandits.” Well, there are some other things to consider. Both leaders of the criminals get exasperated and try to deceive the protagonist by pretending to be a good guy. Of course, the protagonist is more clever and sees through his nonsense. Oh, and late in both movies, the villains suffer a great fall.
Even as our heroes are practically superhuman–intelligent, resilient, and ever so lucky–they do not deliver the final blow. This is dealt by another character who was a stranger at the beginning and is now an unlikely friend – Sgt. Al Powell for John McClane and Old Man Marley for Kevin.
In the end, each main character finds himself once more in the happy embrace of his family. And then it all happens again. In a sequel. Two years later. And it’s all pretty much the same except that it’s on the East Coast and then, at the airport, the hero is separated from his family. At least they get to run around outside this time.
You can even find similarities in the timings of the movies. About 30 minutes into each movie, the protagonist finds himself near the villain for the first time. This is when John McClane sees a hostage shot in the head by Hans Gruber and when the robbers try breaking into Kevin’s basement.
When you are 42 minutes in, the bad guys speculate about the hero. After seeing “NOW, I HAVE A MACHINE GUN HO! HO! HO!” written on his henchman’s sweatshirt, Hans Gruber tries to guess who left the message. Meanwhile, the Wet Bandits almost ram Kevin with the Dodge RAM van and try to figure out where he lives. After an hour goes by, the hero reaches out for help for the first time – one to the police and one to Santa Claus.
In the next 15 minutes of each movie, the battle escalates. McClane sends a bomb down the elevator shaft, while Kevin shoots Daniel Stern in the face with a BB gun and causes other gruesome injuries.
And let’s not forget the moments of reflection. McClane, nearly in tears, asks Al to figure out a way to communicate his 14,000-word apology for being such a jerk when she had to move to LA for the new job. And Kevin has his first encounter with Old Man Marley, who is actually a gentle old man and not the monster the neighborhood has long believed that he was. Kevin realizes and confesses that he hasn’t been a good boy this year.
You may be thinking that these similarities are intentional and that Home Alone is just a Die Hard rip-off. However, a French filmmaker claimed Hollywood used his 1989 thriller Pere Noel to create Home Alone. Similarly, a Canadian filmmaker claimed his 1977 movie Kings And Desperate Men was the film Die Hard ripped off.
Maybe Home Alone was originally meant to be a prequel, even though there’s no evidence to support this claim. It’s about a kid with a habit of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. One would think that after pissing off so many criminals, Kevin probably had to change his name and go into witness protection. So maybe it still works out.
And yes, Die Hard is a Christmas movie. Every one of the movie’s 387 minutes takes place on December 24.