The Clever Reason Die Hard Was Set at Christmas: Tricking Studio Executives Explained


The perennial question of whether “Die Hard” qualifies as a Christmas movie seems to persist endlessly. Regardless of this ongoing debate, it’s unanimously agreed upon that “Die Hard” stands as one of the finest action films ever made. However, the revelation from director John McTiernan sheds light on the film’s setting on Christmas Eve, clarifying that it wasn’t originally intended as a Christmas movie.

During an appearance on the Empire Podcast, McTiernan explained that while the film was deliberately set during Christmas, it wasn’t specifically crafted as a Christmas movie. He revealed that the decision to place the story during the holiday season was, in fact, a strategic move aimed at diverting the attention of studio executives. The intent was to portray the film as an action movie set during a Christmas party gone awry, camouflaging its deeper political undertones.

According to McTiernan, the incorporation of Christmas in the film was a way to mask its more politically charged themes from the studio. He hinted that certain elements, possibly the depiction of the FBI as inept or the lone hero facing overwhelming odds, might have been points of contention for the studio.


Regarding the ongoing debate about whether “Die Hard” should be considered a Christmas movie, McTiernan emphasized that the audience holds the power to define its categorization. He expressed a willingness to defer to the audience’s interpretation, acknowledging that if viewers choose to perceive it as a Christmas movie, then so be it.

In essence, while the film’s initial conception didn’t envision it as a Christmas movie, the decision to set it during the holiday season was a clever tactic to navigate potential studio objections. Ultimately, McTiernan respects the audience’s perspective in labeling “Die Hard” and believes that the audience’s perception defines the movie’s categorization, whether it’s associated with Christmas or not.