McTiernan linked up with the American Film Institute to share a 12-minute video in which he lays out the case for categorizing the franchise-launching hit as a holiday classic.
"Die Hard was a terrorist movie … It was really about the stern face of authority stepping in to put things right again," McTiernan said while explaining how he and producer Joel Silver ultimately snuck in a narrative that he likened to the famous Pottersville sequence from the 1946 drama It's a Wonderful Life. That classic sequence, McTiernan added, was "the clearest demonstration and criticism of runaway unregulated war capitalism."
In taking the job, McTiernan wanted to make Willis' character John McClane a working class hero.
"Other people started to catch on that this was a movie where the hero was a real human being and the people of authority, all of the important folks, were all portrayed as kind of foolish," he said.
As more and more people behind the scenes started to catch on to McTiernan’s aim, the holiday distinction started to brew.
"We hadn't intended it to be a Christmas movie but the joy that came from it is what turned it into a Christmas movie," McTiernan said. The director, who also helmed the 1995 entry Die Hard With a Vengeance, then connected this message to the problems of today.
"These last four years have been scary as hell … There are genuinely evil people out there," he said.
Peep McTiernan's insight in full below via AFI: