There are bound to be a lot of naysayers when it comes to announcing Lethal Weapon as a Christmas movie, and it’s understandable since many might see it as an action movie that just happened to be set at Christmas. If that’s the case, however, one might be able to state that the line “It’s not Christmas until Hans Gruber falls from Nakatomi Plaza.” is just a clever gimmick and nothing more. The truth is that Lethal Weapon came out a year before Die Hard and actually inspired the highrise adventure in a way, as well as the fact that it took place during the same time of year. This short explanation from Cinemablend points out the obvious for those that are still willing to doubt.
“The Christmas setting is in [Die Hard’s] source novel, Nothing Lasts Forever, by Roderick Thorpe. … One of our producers, Joel Silver, had made Lethal Weapon the previous year, which was also set during the holiday, and he had decided he liked all his movies to take place at Christmas, as they would then very likely be played on television every December and we would all get residual checks. Obviously, he was right!”
A lot of people don’t want to admit that Die Hard or Lethal Weapon are Christmas movies for one reason, they’re violent, bloody, and they’re obviously action movies that deal with very controversial subjects such as drugs and even torture. But if one factors in the idea that there are redemption arcs in both movies then there’s no reason to continue to brush them off since in Die Hard John McClane is doing all he can to reconnect with his wife, even though he kind of botches it before the terrorists come and ruin his chance to try again. But, throughout the movie, it’s seen that Holly is getting some sort of kick out of realizing that the terrorists are finding out, as she has, just how truly annoying her husband can be as he gradually reduces their numbers until only Hans Gruber and one other terrorist are left. The same is kind of true of Martin Riggs and Roger Murtaugh since Murtaugh has to live with the fact that he’s now partnered with someone that’s not only a suicidal loose cannon but has actually planned his exit strategy in such a way that he has a specific bullet to do the job. Okay, so their situations aren’t quite the same, but the main idea is that there is a redemption arc there that both McClane and Riggs are out to fulfill, and each man does this in his own way.
John works through his anger issues, helps Sgt. Powell get over his own trauma, and Riggs saves Roger’s life while dealing with his own trauma and coming to grips with what’s left of his sanity, kind of. By the end of Die Hard Powell saves the lives of John and Holly when the crazed and battered terrorist, Karl, suddenly springs back to life, while in Lethal Weapon, Riggs’ mania is quelled if not completely abolished by Roger’s stoicism as he’s invited into the Murtaugh home for Christmas dinner. Anyone that wants to say there’s no redemptive arc there that fits in nicely with any Christmas story is too busy watching the old Christmas stories that offer up a nice, cheerful way to enjoy the holiday without explosions, without gunfire, and of course without a naked woman falling to her death while Jingle Bell Rock plays in the background. But the argument for Lethal Weapon being a Christmas movie is still a sound one since it does take place during the holiday, it does feature a redemptive arc that’s different but definitely not that much darker than that of Ebeneezer Scrooge or even Frank Cross from Scrooged, which came out the same year as Die Hard, and it definitely has a happy ending that wraps everything up as nicely as it can as we hear a cat and dog fight kick off in the Murtaugh home as Riggs lays down odds on his dog getting the best of the cat. How in the world could anyone think that this isn’t a pleasing holiday movie when all is said and done? Just to cap it off, Murtaugh actually tightens a Christmas light before walking back inside the house, adding another whimsical touch to the movie.
So you can claim that only cute and cuddly or ironic and heartfelt movies are for the Christmas season, but that’s kind of limiting the scope as to what can be worthy of the holidays and would possibly ignore the real redemption that takes place in such movies as Lethal Weapon and Die Hard. Sure, they’re a little rough around the edges and deal with some adult content, but then so do a lot of Christmas movies. The point is that Lethal Weapon was made during the holiday season, it deals with the holiday season, and therefore it IS a Christmas movie.