The debate is over. Die Hard is a Christmas movie. It has a Christmas setting, individuals discuss the holidays, there's a yuletide song or two, and everyone seems to agree that in 2018, Die Hard has replaced the perennial favorites A Christmas Story and Elf. But does every action thriller set in the month of December qualify as a Christmas movie? Or should some criteria be set?
Chances are, you watched Die Hard on Christmas Eve. Chugging egg nog, cheering John McClane. The kids are asleep, but you're still in the mood for some major explosions mixed in with the overstuffed stockings and all those presents under the tree. While Bruce Willis has dominated the holiday movie conversation, Sylvester Stallone, Chuck Norris and Mel Gibson have all also made holiday action classics, that are perfect for watching next to a toasty fire. Get real close, you can feel the heat of the explosions on your face. And it's lovely.
But should Cobra, Invasion U.S.A. and Lethal Weapon all be added to the perennial list of Christmas classics that get brought out each year and celebrated? I think so, but that's just my opinion. While Die Hard wins the Christmas Movie Test, these others don't hit all the marks. Hell, most people have forgotten that Cobra and Invasion U.S.A. even take place on or around Christmas.
Lethal Weapon writer Shane Black, who directed this year's The Predator, is known for setting his movies during Christmas. And Lethal Weapon has long been accepted as a true Christmas movie. It has the holiday song, the Christmas setting, and individuals discuss the holiday. So you can definitely add it to the list. You can also add Shane Black's Marvel sequel Iron Man 3, which also hits all the notes, as does Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Some fans were disappointed that The Predator took place during Halloween instead of Christmas, as some Die Hard fans were hoping to add the alien hunters to their year end to do watch list.
While Cobra is set around Christmas time, it's not necessarily a Christmas movie. It doesn't hit all the notes required. The action thriller follows Los Angeles policeman Lt. Marion "Cobra" Cobretti (Sylvester Stallone), who finds himself at the center of a spate of murders carried out by a secret society called New Order: killers who select "weak" members of society for extermination. As the murder rate rises, Cobra takes model Ingrid (Brigitte Nielsen) into protective custody after she witnesses New Order's leader in action. As Cobra falls for Ingrid, they find shelter in a small town, but must soon fight for survival. Arriving in 1986, it predates Die Hard by two years. While it's not necessarily a Christmas movie, we won't begrudge you if you want to watch it late one foggy Christmas eve. It brings a lot of bang for its buck. And the holidays are certainly lingering around it's upper ribcage like the lights decorating your neighbors house.
Invasion U.S.A. arrived even earlier than Cobra or Die Hard, hitting theaters in 1985, when Chuck Norris was the hottest thing around. The movie follows retired CIA agent Matt Hunter (Chuck Norris), who is forced back into the business when a villain from his past re-emerges. Soviet Mikhail Rostov (Richard Lynch), a terrorist whom Matt once caught, wants to exact revenge. After failing to find Matt at his Everglades home, Rostov and his army of Communist guerrillas begin carrying out terrorist acts all over southern Florida. Millions of innocent lives are at risk, and it's up to Matt, the National Guard and the FBI to save them. This all goes down around Christmas time. And it hits some of the true Christmas movie marks. The original trailer released in 1984 even positions the action thriller as a Christmas movie. It's certainly a precursor to Die Hard, but it leans a little too heavy on the Cobra side. It does make for a better double feature with Die Hard if you've already beaten down your copy of Lethal Weapon.
Die Hard 2 also shouldn't be forgotten in this equation. How could the same thing happen to the same guy twice? And on Christmas Eve? It's improbable. But Die Hard 2 is as much a Christmas movie as Die Hard. Everything after it, though? We haven't seen John McClane revisit the holidays again. But perhaps all this Christmas movie talk has inspired 20th Century Fox to set the long-gestating Die Hard 6 at Christmas time. Though, that may not work, as the film is a prequel. You can check out the trailers for Invasion U.S.A. and Cobra which both have Christmas elements on display. You can debate it all day long, but that still doesn't make it any less fun to watch these movies on Christmas.