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  • Writer's picturehenryfarleyjohnson

Die Hard

If your feeds look like mine, this time of year means the annual rebirth of the "Die Hard Is/Isn't A Christmas Movie" discourse. I don't have especially strong feelings one way or the other (and I'm a bit skeptical that this is an active debate-- has anyone ever actually argued the con?). But I thought it might be cool to let data inform the discussion a bit.

More specifically, I wanted to look at whether Google users search for "Die Hard" more often during the holidays. This seems like a reasonable test: if Die Hard is a Christmas movie, then people must watch it more often-- and therefore search for it more often-- during Christmastime.

I'm not the first person to think of this methodology, but one small advantage of the method we'll use here is that it compares to a larger number of both Christmas movies and action movies than those other analyses do. (Though this post absolutely annihilates mine. Wow, kudos to this person!)

OK first, take a look at searches for Die Hard over the past 5 years:

This pretty clearly shows some seasonality! One eagle-eyed Redditor even noticed the little bump before last Christmas and noted that this coincided with the Die Hard-themed car battery commercial from October 2020.

Great, now let's grab IMDB's 50 most popular action movies and 50 most popular Christmas movies. (Some of these classifications are questionable, as we'll talk about in a bit. But we're making do!)

Finally, let's use the gtrendsR package to find out the ratio of Christmastime searches to rest-of-year searches for these movies. (Christmastime = between Thanksgiving and Christmas in this context!)

The freaks among you are clamoring for a box plot! Even though this one is not particularly informative, here you go:

In a less-than-stunning finding, people search Christmas movies more often at Christmastime. Action movies, not so much.

For the 50 Christmas movies, average search traffic during the holiday season is 11.8 times the non-holiday search traffic. And for the 50 action movies, search traffic during the holiday season is 0.9 times the non-holiday search traffic. So where does Die Hard fit in?

Die Hard's Christmastime traffic is about 4.8 times its non-Christmastime traffic. That would make it the most Christmas-searchy action movie of the bunch. (The runner-up is Spider-Man, whose Christmas ratio is 1.4. But do bear in mind that a popular Spider-Man movie came out around Christmas 2018, followed by a video game around Christmas 2020, followed by another Spider-Man movie around Christmas this year.)

On the other hand, Die Hard would come in 38th place among the 50 Christmas movies we tested. (In case you're curious, last place goes to Rent, which I think is just not at all a Christmas movie, and Holiday Inn, which is Christmasy but also the name of an enormous hotel chain.) Also, for all we know, it's this debate itself that's feeding Die Hard's Christmas searches!

I'll leave it to you to draw your own conclusions, but I'd say Die Hard is a Christmas movie if you want it to be. In my opinion, most Christmas stuff is associative, not technical. So if Die Hard puts you in the Christmas mood, throw it on!


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