Why A Christmas Story’s Star Believes Die Hard Is A Christmas Movie, And The Argument He Makes To Prove It

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Written By Maya Cantina

What connects one of the best action movies, Die Hard, with one of the best Christmas films of all time, A Christmas Story? They obviously both belong within the elite category of the best ’80s movies, but now star Peter Billingsley, who portrayed the belovedly bespectacled Ralphie Parker, has weighed in concerning the ongoing Die Hard debate about whether the Bruce Willis-led classic qualifies as a Christmas movie. The actor believes John McClane’s first adventure unequivocally fits that bill, and he’s ready with an argument to support his claim.

In a recent episode of the A Cinematic Christmas Journey podcast, the 52-year-old former child star joined co-host Steve Byrne in a discussion about Die Hard. The actor-turned-director recalled a moment with the action classic’s cinematographer, Jan de Bont, whose own not-so-positive opinions about the connection sparked Billingsley to reach out. Here’s how he started his explanation:

You know Jan de Bont’s work — he directed Twister and Speed, I had seen some quotes of him that he did not believe that Die Hard was a Christmas movie. He said, ‘I just don’t see it.’ So I said, ‘Would you mind if I try to convince you of why this is a Christmas movie? I know you made it. I know you’ve lived with it for a very long time, since 1988.’ He said, ‘Okay.’

While Die Hard hit theaters in the summer of 1988, the film’s plot unfolds on Christmas Eve, and according to Billingsley, it’s this crucial detail that forms the backbone of his argument for its inclusion in the Christmas movie canon. He continued: 

I think what sold [de Bont] is I said, ‘That relationship between John McClane and his estranged wife, they’re fractured, but by the end, they learn to forgive each other. There’s hope, there’s joy, and they’re going to go and have a great Christmas morning with their kids. Not to mention there’s Christmas songs, and they have the snow falling. In my opinion, it is a Christmas movie.’

It’s not the hottest take in the world, and Billingsley is certainly not the only one out there waving the flag for Die Hard is in the holiday film club. Director John McTiernan aligns with fans and critics who have long argued that the film qualifies as such, having told the American Film Institute in 2020: “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.”

Still, not everyone involved in the film shares this sentiment. The actor who brought the iconic role of John McClane to life, Bruce Willis, tried to settle the debate by making his stance clear during his Comedy Central Roast in 2018, saying “Die Hard is not a Christmas movie! It’s a goddamn Bruce Willis movie.” 

Despite Willis’ strong position, Billingsley says he successfully swayed de Bont, and his explanation pretty much convinced me, too. The Elf alum shared how the cinematographer reacted when confronted with this perspective on the debate, saying:

I went through my criterion, and he said, ‘I’ve never thought about it that way.’ He said, ‘You have now convinced me it is a Christmas movie.’ And I was like, ‘Yes!’ So I was able to change a filmmaker’s mind, which was cool.

The debate on whether Die Hard belongs in the Christmas movie category will undoubtedly persist where audiences are concerned. Still, the Four Christmases actor’s compelling and persuasive argument brings a unique perspective to the ongoing discussion.

Though the holidays are technically over, if you still want to enjoy your favorite festive films, Die Hard is available for purchase or rent wherever you get your entertainment. A Christmas Story is also streaming with a Max subscription.

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