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The Greatest Christmas Movie Ever

by Mike Anton

The worst part about Christmas are the Christmas movies. What an insufferable sub-genre of “tasteless crap” they are. Some are too saccharine, littered with little kids learning lessons or using some stupid magic that makes them realize that the REAL gift is blah blah blah. Others are just incredibly stupid and use the CUH-RAAAAAZINESSSSS of the holiday season as fodder for shots to the dick and dinner-making mishaps. There are even some movies about Hanukkah, which totally misses the mark. No one makes movies about what Christmas is truly about. Jesus, born in a manger to a deserving and loving family, would eventually become the man who would one day sacrifice himself for the good of others. His message is that love can conquer any obstacle. And that is why Die Hard is the best Christmas movie ever made.

Go ahead. Laugh  Scoff. I know, in your head right now you’re listing all the great Christmas movies. “Rudolph!” “Frosty the Snowman!” “A Charlie Brown Christmas!” It’s A Wonderful Life! A Christmas Story! Love Actually! But what do you learn from those films? What yule-tide messages do they give? Cause all I learn is: you shouldn’t ostracize others who are different, befriend people who will abandon you the MINUTE the temperature rises about 45 degrees F, to appreciate trees of all sizes, that killing yourself is bad, shooting BB guns is nearly as dangerous as licking a metal pole in the cold, and I’ve never seen Love Actually but I think you should record stuff for your kids if you die or something. Regardless, none of these “Christmas classics” contains ONE iota of actual Christ-specific learning. None! You put these movies in any other sort of context and you’re really not missing a thing. Except Frosty. He doesn’t work nine months out of the year.

Take the Miracle at 1 Nakatomi Plaza, which runs from Christmas Eve to Christmas morning in Los Angeles. It’s the story of one blue-collar New York cop, ordinary guy John McClane (Bruce Willis…obviously), is thrust into a corporate party in the heart of LA with his estranged wife Holly (Bonnie Bedelia). When she and her co-workers are threatened by Hans Gruber (the incredible Alan Rickman) and his German thugs, McClane is the only man equipped with the smarts and the divine power to go save the day. He is The Chosen One, by circumstance and bad timing, but John McClane isn’t one to be pissed off at fate. He takes action. Lots of action. A ton of serious, ass-kicking, totally awesome action.

Die Hard is nothing less than a passion play. Yeah, “yippee-ki-yay motherfucker” isn’t exactly “come, holy faithful” but go with me here. McClane gets his ass kicked as much as Mel Gibson thinks Jesus did. He gets beat up on multiple occasions, crawls through a heating vent, tries to jump and inadvertently falls through an elevator shaft, barely getting his hands on another heating vent to escape, has an explosion rattle up another elevator shaft directly in his face, is forced to walk across a good amount of glass in bare feet, turns water into wine, gets shot through his shoulder in the middle of a brutal fight with Karl (former ballerina Alexander Godunov, not to be confused with Funny People actor Torsten Voges), gets shot at by an assault rifle via the FBI, and has to jump off a building and through a plate-glass window to survive a massive explosion on the roof with only a fire hose as support. And after he survives THAT, the helicopter explodes right through the floor he lands on. That, my friends, is prit-tay tough. Shit, he even has Ellis to fill the Judas part, although he eschews the 30 pieces of silver for a can of Coke.

The comparison only grows from there. The Los Angeles police, like the rest of the ill-informed heathens that populate our lands, do not heed John McClane’s advice when it comes to invading the building. They don’t even think that the guy “up there” is real! When you don’t heed the word of McClane, you get smote. And oh do those SWAT guys ever get smote. These boys get too caught up with their their souped-up tank and forget about the lives of the people on the front line. One should not be too devoted to material possessions, fictional LAPD.

Their sins are the same as the bank robbers, who only care about the material objects that they lust over: money, bronze statues, Degas paintings, candy bars. And when you’re that sort of immoral, you must fall to the righteous sword scepter gun of McClane. What, you say that Jesus wouldn’t get his hands dirty a bit?  Let us not forget that one time he got suuuper pissed and flipped over that table or whatever. He could have hit someone with debris or hit someone with a table leg and leave them with a deep bruise. Jesus was a carpenter; he knew full well the dangers inherent to throwing wood around.

The climactic scene brings it all together. Sgt. Al Powell is a true believer. Without ever seeing McClane, he has a hunch to believe him. That he wouldn’t lie. That he is who he says he is. It takes a lot of faith to do something like that, similar to the leap of faith McClane makes from the exploding roof as he puts his life in the fates (“oh God please don’t let me die!”) and a fire hose. In the end, when John is about to be shot at by the shockingly un-killable Karl, it is Al that steps up and saves the day. It’s Al who takes the initiative from John to take action, like many a disciple before him.

What, this a bit too deep for you? Fine, all of you people who have CLEARLY forgotten to put the “Christ” back in Christmas, let’s just get superficial. No Christmas film has as much festive red lights. It makes Rudolph’s nose look like a pocket flashlight in front of a Radiohead concert. They use a variety of different holiday songs, including “Winter Wonderland” and “Christmas in Hollis,” in the story itself. And how does he finally save the day? Using holiday-style tape for wrapping up presents. “Seasons Greetings” indeed. Or “that’s a gift that keeps on giving.” Or “I bet he was happy to open up that package.” I’ll stop. The power of McClane just does something to me.

Still, you might be skeptical. “But Mike,” you cry, “what is the message this horribly brutal action film has to send to the kids?” The message isn’t to go around and start killing people. That would be ridiculous, and this film is clearly anything but ridiculous. But, if your loved ones and innocent people are being held hostage in a still-being-built giant office complex by European bank robbers that are posing as terrorists? Think back to this post and think, “What Would John McClane Do?”

Then call the cops, and hide somewhere. It’s a movie. You should just try and be nice to people and, in this instance, try not to get shot.

Unless you’re an NYPD cop yourself….

Mike Anton is the Editor-In-Chief at The Inclusive. Mike writes movie reviews and interview pieces for The Film Stage as well as screenplays, sketches, and the like. He lives in New York City and though he's an avid beard and flannel enthusiast, he does not consider himself a hipster. Contact him at mike.anton[at]theinclusive.net or @mpants