There are only two movies from my childhood that, to this day, I can still recite line by line, and they are the greatest Christmas movies ever made. I’m talking of course about Die Hard and A Christmas Story. My relationship with both is intimate, and deeply personal. You may want to get the tissues handy…
When I turned 11, I signed up for my first ever email address. The name I chose, of course, was McClane11@aol.com. It was in honor of both Bruce Willis’s Die Hard character, and me not having much of a social life. As a matter of fact, I still use ol’ Mclane11 today, if I need something for junk email, or I want to impress a particularly sophisticated lady. I still own my original Die Hard VHS tape as well, housed in a plastic box the size of a Buick, and with a sticker that reads “Be Kind, Please Rewind,” because that used to be a thing once. Heady stuff.
On the other hand, the relationship with my first girlfriend was built largely on a foundation of A Christmas Story. We delighted in trips to the artsy fartsy video store in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where we’d annoy the snooty clerks by renting A Christmas Story every week, then go to CVS and buy Sno-Caps. We’d run home and watch the movie, laughing hysterically, and every time little Ralphie appeared in his bunny costume, I thought about kissing her. There’s something about a child dressed up as a pink rabbit that I found romantic. I should probably get that checked out.
Needless to say, I adore these films, and the last thing I want to do is pit them against each other. But the time has come: it’s the holiday season, and once and for all, the world must know. What is the greatest Christmas movie ever made: Die Hard or A Christmas Story?
Before we get started, I’d like to get something out of the way. I don’t want to hear any bullshit about It’s a Wonderful Life. It’s long, darker than film noir, and more depressing than finding out your only dessert option is fruit cake. It’s nice when George Bailey runs through the streets yelling “Merry Christmas,” and everyone loves a reason to bust out their Jimmy Stewart impression for a few minutes, but that’s the most the movie has going for it. As far as I’m concerned, it should be called It May Be a Wonderful Life, But It’s Certainly Not While You’re Watching This Movie, Because All You’re Going to Do is Cry and Probably Fall Asleep.
That said, let’s break this mother down.
Best Demonstration of the Christmas Spirit: You may be wondering if Die Hard truly counts as a Christmas movie. Well, it’s set on Christmas Eve, plays “Let It Snow” under its credits, and at one point Bruce Willis writes “Ho Ho Ho” on a dead terrorist’s sweatshirt in his own blood, so yeah, I’m pretty sure it counts as a Christmas movie. Plus, Argyle, the world’s greatest limo driver, plays “Christmas in Hollis” by RUN-D.M.C. as he’s driving John to the Nakatomi Plaza. So festivity is in the air. I’m afraid, however, that this category belongs to A Christmas Story. I mean, the movie gets shown for 24 hours straight every Christmas for a reason. They check all the boxes: visiting Santa, hounding your parents for gifts, unwrapping everything at the crack of dawn, even trying to sneak some turkey before Christmas dinner is served. Honestly, it’s a hardcore orgy of Christmas Spirit, and if the movie gets re-released, I encourage them to use that line on the poster.
Winner: A Christmas Story
Best Villain (Alan Rickman vs. Santa Claus): I’ve always found the department store Santa in A Christmas Story to be vaguely terrifying. I mean, check this out.
The scary laugh, the drunkards nose, the boot to the head — is this a kid’s movie or a scene from Apocalypse Now? There are things you can get from sitting on that Santa’s lap, but most of ‘em require medication to get rid of. He’s a solid villain to be sure, but Die Hard’s Alan Rickman is untouchable. Hanz Gruber is the sophisticated foreign psychopath from whence all other sophisticated foreign psychopaths have come. You can’t watch an action villain from the last 20 years that doesn’t have at least some of Rickman lurking somewhere below the surface. He was funny, smart, and terrifying. His line delivery alone on “You ask for miracles, I give you the F-B-I” is enough to win this one hands-down.
Winner: Die Hard
Best Catchphrase (You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out vs. Yippie Kai Yay Muthafucker): This is a tough one. “Yippie Kai Yay” was the leader coming out of the gates, but after three sequels and a fourth on the way, the catchphrase is a little played out. It’s at the point now where you half-expect a precocious polar bear to say it in a Coke commercial. “Yippie Kai Yay, Mother Cola.” Crack, sip, smile. Also, puke.
“You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out,” however, has retained its integrity. The constant refrain poor Ralphie hears every time he asks for a BB gun for Christmas is a little fresher, a little less tainted by capitalism. Plus, it doesn’t feature a curse word, which seems a little more Birth-of-The-Baby-Jesus to me. I mean, you never hear anyone say “Make sure to put out the cookies for Santa, Muthafucker!” Or “Bitch, I told you to hang those stockings with care. Now hang ‘em with care, before I beat your ass!”
Winner: A Christmas Story
Best Supporting Character (Officer Al Powell vs. Dad): I watched Family Matters for two seasons, strictly out of respect for the show’s Dad, Reginald VelJohnson, and his brilliance as the twinkie-loving cop in Die Hard. I endured Urkle for Officer Powell, and that’s saying something. But the same time, the Dad in A Christmas Story is equally great. When he calmly and triumphantly decides that the family is going out for Chinese food after the neighbor’s dogs have ruined their turkey, I tear up every time. That, too, I should probably have checked out.
I hate to do this, but….
Tie: Die Hard and A Christmas Story
Best Christmas Gift (Red Rider BB Gun vs. Killing All the Germans): When little Ralphie finds one last christmas gift hiding behind the credenza, and rips it open to see that his Dad has bought him the coveted Red Rider gun after, the look on his face sums up all that is Christmas. However, defeating the Germans is a time-honored American tradition. I mean, we fought a couple of wars over that shit. And Bruce Willis doesn’t just kill the bad guys, he gets to drop one of them off a building. Combine that with winning his wife back, and you’ve got a pretty nice gift for under the tree. So, I gotta say…
Winner: Die Hard
Which means that, when we tally up all the results, we have…wait. Crap. We have a tie. Both Die Hard and A Christmas Story are the best Christmas movies ever made. In the end, I suppose that’s fitting. I guess this year we’ll just have to watch ‘em both. Yippie Kai Yay, little Ralphie. Yippie Kai Yay.