The Best Piece of Holiday Writing: Die Hard

Since it is the time of cheer, presents, and reindeer, I decided, in honor of the Christmas spirit, to address one of the best Christmas movies out there: Die Hard. Written by Roderick Thorpe, starring Bruce Willis as John McClane and Alan Rickman as Hans Gruber, Die Hard is a Christmas staple for many families. While there is much debate on whether or not Die Hard is a Christmas movie, there is one thing that all can agree on: it is a wonderfully written, tightly scripted movie that any writer should be proud of.

In this article, I will try to avoid as many spoilers as possible. So, “let’s get together, have a few laughs” and talk about the best Christmas movie of all time. 

Die Hard takes place in Los Angeles, at the Nakatomi Plaza, the office building of the wealthy Nakatomi corporation. The story opens by introducing us to our protagonist, New York cop John McClane, who is heading into town to visit his wife at her office Christmas party in the Nakatomi building. However, it gets attacked by a group of terrorists who are after the money in its vault. After this development, John takes it upon himself to protect the terrorists’ hostages, including his wife. What comes next is a very typical action-movie plot, with many fistfights, gunfights, and witty banter. However, there are two main things that set this movie apart from many other action movies of its kind: the characters and the writing. I’ll address the characters first.

Our first and most important character, of course, is the protagonist, John McClane. John, throughout the story, is shown as being witty, strong, determined, and, at his core, good-hearted. Many of these aspects are shown in how he fights and how he banters with other characters, such as Al, a fellow cop, and Hans Gruber, the leader of the terrorists. The quips John makes all develop his character and demonstrate how he deals with stressful situations, as well as his ability to read people and exploit them. None of his lines are wasted.

The main villain, Hans Gruber, is the epitome of a clever, sophisticated antagonist. Interestingly enough, he is classically trained. This classical training, which encourages logical and analytical thought by teaching a student about history, writing, and respectful discussion, gives Hans an edge over John and other law enforcement. In the beginning of the film, he quotes a great leader in history, Alexander the Great, when he states, “When Alexander saw the breadth of his domain, he wept, for there were no more worlds to conquer.” However, Han’s personal ideals of class and composure also played into his ego, actions and character, since he was always portrayed as being stiff and plan driven.

Lastly, many of the law enforcement and media characters are well-defined as well, though not as in-depth as the main two. The higher-level law-enforcement characters, such as the assistant police chief and the FBI, are shown to be arrogant, ignorant, and headstrong. However, Al, who represents the lower-level cops, has more down-to-earth traits and loves John for his heroics. The reporters have their own selfish traits as well, which align very much with what we see in media today.

While characters are the foundations of a story, they are improved by the plot they are involved in. So, that’s where the second aspect of Die Hard comes in: its writing.

Throughout the movie, all of these characters develop dynamics and relationships that fit with their characters and motives. For example, John and Al have a solid buddy-cop relationship, where they talk about their kids, their lives, and exchange jokes. Each character’s interactions build relationships, push the plot forward, and develop the characters. However, this is all basic writing skills that any professional screenwriter should know. What makes Die Hard exceptional is the flawless application of these skills. No line of dialogue is wasted, no action is pointless.

All of these elements, from the main plot with John hindering terrorists, the relationship with John and Al, and the heavy-handed actions of law-enforcement all mesh together into an in-depth, interesting storyline. This type of air-tight writing creates a streamlined story that is both engaging and entertaining. 

Now, on a different note, here’s the real question: “Is Die Hard a Christmas Movie?” Well, of course. The premise of the movie is that a loving husband, separated from his hard-working businesswoman wife, decides to visit her at her office’s Christmas party, where some bad apples try to ruin the fun. More than that, in the ending of the film, white sheets of paper fall from the LA sky, symbolizing snow. The main couple even drives away to the sounds of Christmas music! If that doesn’t sound like a Christmas movie, what does? 

Overall, this story is a timeless, well-written, perfectly executed example of great storytelling and writing, as well as a legendary Christmas movie. 

So, have a merry Christmas, and thank you for reading!

One response to “The Best Piece of Holiday Writing: Die Hard”

  1. Vincent Wan Avatar
    Vincent Wan

    This is a well wrting to summarized the movie, it makes me wanted to watch teh movie again.


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