Almost like clockwork as Christmas approaches there’s guaranteed to be a whole bunch of someones who make a list of Christmas movies, which will include John McTiernan’s Die Hard.
Which is nonsense because Die Hard isn’t a Christmas movie.
Sure, the story takes place over the Christmas holiday, but how relevant is that to the narrative?
If you swapped out Christmas for Thanksgiving, Easter or Ramadan how much would it change the actual movie?
Other than the occasional set dressing (replacing Christmas decorations with a holiday-appropriate substitute) literally not at all.
For some reason I have a memory of John McClane (Bruce Willis) wearing a Santa hat at some point (did I mention I haven’t rewatched it in a LONG while?) but that’s a minor detail.
Besides, using that logic, Prometheus would also be a Christmas movie because there’s a scene where Captain Janek (Idris Elba) is decorating a Christmas tree and another where Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) mentions Christmas and ‘opening his presents‘ when the ship lands in the uncanny valley (‘uncanny’ not because of wonky CGI but because ‘God doesn’t build in straight lines,’ which isn’t true by the way).
But Prometheus isn’t a Christmas movie because that tree Janek is decorating is less relevant to the movie itself than a character building moment
The same logic applies to Holloway.
So, if Die Hard–and Prometheus–aren’t Christmas movies, what is?
How about A Christmas Carol, based on the novel by Charles Dickens?
Of course there’re others but I mention it because-besides the holiday being in the actual title, no guesswork, debate or discussion required-the entire story revolves around Christmas. And not in an incidental way where it can be easily swapped out for another holiday, which it should go without saying, is crucial.
It’s that specific and if that were the only reason it would settle this silly discussion once and for all, but it’s not.
Christmas movies tend to revolve around the redemption of a character-a redemption arc, if you will-where they through the power of giving, of Christmas or something along those lines, come to see the error of their ways.
The movie should embody the aforementioned redemption coming at a cost to the redeemer (as in a lesson being learned or the affirmation of a value or belief they had till that time assumed lost).
Take the relevance of the holiday away-and perhaps more importantly, the redemption arc-and your movie isn’t a Christmas movie, no matter when it’s story actually takes place.