We all have our favourite films, and unless you’re Scrooge or James Caan in Elf, we equally have a favourite Christmas film. It could be anything. The Holiday. Love, Actually. Scrooged. All valid choices – all set at Christmas, all relating heavily to Christmas, an often involving a lot of Christmas themed character arcs. But we don’t tend to limit ourselves to just these, heavily festive films.
A popular choice for many a non-sentimentalist these days (or you know, just somebody that likes to make themselves seem cool on Twitter) is Die Hard, the cinematic equivalent of three shots of whisky followed by a night of banter/chat with your best friend. Basically the best damn thing in the free world. Yet that night of whisky doesn’t have to be at Christmas. Just because Die Hard is set at Christmas, and it contains some signs of the festive season, it’s primarily an action film with great characters, drama, and dialogue.
Why set it at Christmas? Maybe it’s because, as in most Christmas tales, it’s a story about redemption. There’s a sound cinematic structure to Christmas Eve and Christmas Day that allows writers to get away with setting stories then. Everyone on the planet understands those days’ importance to people, and the implied countdown to Christmas is common. It’s the same sort of redemption and coming-into-good that can be found in many a Shane Black film, such as Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, and Iron Man 3. Or maybe they set Die Hard at Christmas just so they could dress a dead body in a Santa hat. We may never know.
Christmas film traditions don’t necessarily have to be Christmas films. Singin’ In The Rain is on so often in the holidays that there are undoubtedly families that have adopted it as a Christmas tradition – and why on earth shouldn’t they? Just because it isn’t at Christmas, doesn’t mean it can’t capture a festive joy and spirit. Just because Iron Man 3 is full of explosions, metal suits, and regenrative body tissue doesn’t mean it has nothing that speaks to our Christmas stories (although I don’t know what your Christmas meals are like). Now, I just need to find a way to explain my new Christmas film tradition: Magic Mike XXL.