Forget Die Hard; this 1980s action film is the most underrated Christmas movie ever

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Warning: This article discusses suicide.

The run to canonize Die Hard arsenic a Christmas movie has been successful afloat plaything for twelvemonth now, pinch adherents advocating for nan movie’s vacation bona fides pinch almost belief zealotry. But while immoderate person made compelling arguments – moreover nan movie’s distributor, 20th Century Fox, called it the “greatest Christmas communicative ever told” – it’s not difficult to spot why others, including prima Bruce Willis, see it a shaky claim.

Yes, it’s group during Christmastime. And yes, there’s nan glorious sequence successful which Beethoven’s Ode to Joy plays arsenic nan villains thief themselves to $640 cardinal successful early vacation loot. (The director, John McTiernan wanted to usage Ode to Joy because he had liked it successful that heartwarming vacation classical A Clockwork Orange.) But while Christmastime is an effective setting, there’s conscionable not a ton of grounds that nan movie is Christmas-themed. Die Hard 2 (which I’ve ever preferred to nan original anyway) is group during nan holidays successful Washington, D.C., and boasts thing acold much Christmassy than nan LA-set original: snow.

Which isn’t to opportunity that Christmas movies can’t beryllium group successful LA. There’s an statement that Lethal Weapon, released nan summertime earlier Die Hard (Joel Silver produced some movies), much intentionally embodies classical vacation themes. Here are immoderate reasons why it belongs successful nan canon of Christmas classics arsenic overmuch — aliases much than — Die Hard.

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Just a lonely Christmas

A man intends his weapon successful Lethal Weapon.Warner Bros.

Lethal Weapon signals its thematic intentions from nan start. As Bobby Helms croons his 1957 classical Jingle Bell Rock over nan opening credits, nan camera cruises past nan LA skyline, past descends towards a Christmas light-festooned flat tower. Inside a penthouse model (with its thrown-open sash), what should appear, but a half-naked young woman, Amanda Hunsaker (Jackie Swanson), drugged retired of her mind.

Also: snow! Not nan precipitative benignant that falls from nan sky, but nan powdery narcotic benignant that was truthful celebrated successful ’80s movies (whether aliases not it was arsenic celebrated successful existent life, who knows, but nan movies judge made it look for illustration it was). Our Christmas angel takes a snort, past dives from nan balcony. She is ethereal successful flight, her achromatic satin clothes flowing unfastened for illustration gossamer wings arsenic she floats down done nan silent night, past nan beautiful lights, and smashes into a car below.

Amanda Hunsaker (Jackie Swanson) tears unfastened nan shutters and throws up nan sash. Image utilized pinch support by copyright holder

The spot plays arsenic achromatic drama — head Richard Donner and writer Shane Black utilizing nan jaunty tune to flick nosy astatine nan measurement Christmas successful La La Land is antithetical to accepted middle-American values. But nan segment besides introduces nan movie’s much superior theme. We later find retired that nan young female — for illustration galore earlier and aft her — had travel to Los Angeles from nan Midwest seeking a much glamorous existence, only to acquisition a lonely decease a 1000 miles from her parents and hometown. Like A Christmas Carol and It’s a Wonderful Life, Lethal Weapon is astir what befalls those (no pun intended) who trim themselves disconnected from family and community.

Surviving nan silly season

Happiness astatine nan Murtaugh location successful lethal Weapon. Warner Bros

Loneliness successful nan movie is chiefly embodied successful nan characteristic of Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson), nan morose LA detective pinch a shadowy inheritance successful Vietnam-era achromatic ops. Happiness is exemplified by Sergeant Murtaugh (Danny Glover), who has it all: nan suburban home, nan doting wife, nan adoring kids. He worries astir getting old, but different he’s achieved nan American dream (reflecting this, nan NAACP gave Lethal Weapon Image Awards for its affirmative depiction of an African American family).

Riggs, meanwhile, shacks up successful a dump of a trailer connected a forlorn El Segundo formation and drinks brew for breakfast. Sure, he’s sewage a dog, but for illustration Ebenezer Scrooge, he is simply a desperately lonely man. Riggs visits a Christmas character lot, and moreover inquires astir nan trees, but he’s only location to apprehension immoderate supplier dealers and to beryllium done his suicidal antics really small he values his ain existence.

Lethal Weapon (1/10) Movie CLIP - Crazy Cop (1987) HD

It turns retired that Riggs is surgery up complete nan decease of his wife. Drinking heavy successful beforehand of a Bugs Bunny Christmas typical (Warner Bros cross-promotion astatine its finest), staring down nan achromatic tube of his celebrated 9mm Beretta, he almost takes himself out. Later, erstwhile he’s called to talk down a imaginable building jumper, he is capable to empathize pinch nan man astir really hopeless nan “silly season” makes people. But Riggs is conscionable doing his job, telling nan feline what he wants to hear. At this constituent successful nan movie, he isn’t judge if he wants to live. He moreover tells Murtaugh that he has to deliberation of a logic not to termination himself each time erstwhile he wakes up.

Like nan floating angel from nan opening scene, Riggs besides takes formation arsenic he saves nan jumper. But dissimilar Amanda Hunsaker, he’ll get a 2nd chance to clasp renewal. Riggs’ jump echoes not only nan movie’s opening, but besides nan span scenes from It’s a Wonderful Life. In that Christmas classic, George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart), believing he’s worthy much dormant than alive, goes to a span to termination himself. He ends up redeeming his guardian angel instead, who past shows him why nan world would beryllium worse without him.

Happy Xmas (War is over)

The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) Public domain

One of nan consequences of George’s beingness being erased is that he isn’t astir to prevention his younger relative from drowning. His brother, successful turn, ne'er saves a unit carrier during WWII, aliases comes location a Navy hero. The movie was released successful 1946, a twelvemonth aft nan warfare ended, erstwhile America was figuring retired really to reintegrate traumatized soldiers into a quickly changing society. That taxable of warfare and homecoming is important to It’s a Wonderful Life. 

It’s a important taxable successful Lethal Weapon arsenic well, though neither movie gets discussed overmuch successful these terms. So galore ’80s movies referenced nan Vietnam War that this facet went much aliases little unnoticed erstwhile Lethal Weapon came out. But looking astatine nan movie almost 40 years later, it’s striking really large a domiciled Vietnam plays. Both Riggs and Murtaugh are veterans, and nan supplier dealers they are up against are elite ex-special forces vets who person brought nan warfare location pinch them — they moreover usage “mercury switches” to rustle up a location successful a suburban neighborhood.

Murtaugh was besides Vietnam buddies pinch Amanda Hunsaker’s father, Michael (Tom Atkins), who implores Murtaugh to return down his daughter’s killers arsenic repayment for redeeming his life successful nan war. They respect a image of their younger selves successful their uniforms, which looks for illustration a changeable consecutive retired of The Best Years of Our Lives (also from 1946) astir returning soldiers struggling to find their spot and intent successful a changed society.

Vietnam warfare buddies Roger Murtaugh and Michael Hunsaker Warner Bros

Like The Best Years of Our Lives, Lethal Weapon is astir nan costs of war, and really difficult it is for soldiers to travel home. Without underlining it excessively heavy (and getting successful nan measurement of nan thrilling action), nan movie illustrates lives shattered by nan Vietnam War. The villains, especially, person forsaken nan way of happiness that results from bid connected Earth and bully will toward men. Riggs, for his part, is still connected that path.

I’ll beryllium nome for Christmas

Riggs (Mel Gibson) and Joshua (Gary Busey) put connected a Christmas pageant to dice for successful lethal Weapon. Warner Bros

The grinch successful our yuletide communicative is nan villain, Mr. Joshua (a sneering Gary Busey), who takes heavy and abiding pleasance successful ruining people’s bully times. The movie’s climax takes spot astatine nan Murtaugh residence astatine night, and it’s a veritable Christmas extravaganza, pinch lights and trees and not one, but 2 televisions playing A Christmas Carol.

When Scrooge awakens and asks what time it is, Joshua screams “It’s nan time of Christmas!” successful a curmudgeonly rage and mows down nan TV pinch his battle rifle. Fortunately, our heroes person arrived moments earlier to evacuate each nan Whos from Whoville and group a trap for Mr. Grinch, leaving a statement connected nan character informing him they sewage nan jump connected him.

Warner Bros

What follows is simply a showdown successful Murtaugh’s beforehand gait successful which Riggs, nan renewed Scrooge, reborn from his travel to nan tone world (he almost dies half a twelve times complete nan preceding 2 days), marshals his abundant resources (the LAPD) to formed retired nan Grinch erstwhile and for all.

From there, it’s conscionable nan denouement. Riggs, having chosen life and made bid pinch his wife’s death, crosses nan period of organization and family, entering nan Murtaugh location to nan velvety tones of Elvis crooning I’ll beryllium Home for Christmas. Bing Crosby primitively recorded nan opus successful 1943 for homesick U.S. troops who longed to observe nan yuletide pinch their families.

It signifies that Riggs has yet near nan warfare behind. He’s been location physically, but now he is location emotionally arsenic well. The only point missing is nan camera tilting up to a twinkling Christmas Star. Though successful fairness, nan prima whitethorn beryllium there, conscionable hidden down nan LA smog (ho, ho, ho).

You tin rent Lethal Weapon and different movies successful this article from aggregate streaming platforms.

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