When it was first announced that Bruce Willis – late of Moonlighting and the dismal Blind Date – was pairing up with John McTiernan to do an action flick, who could have predicted that it would propel Willis into A-list stardom and make a fashion statement of white vests?
Die Hard single-handedly revived the twitching corpse that was the disaster movie genre and gave it a healthy injection of humour, stunning action set pieces and a hero that wasn’t afraid to cry and look pretty useless from time to time.
It didn’t hurt that in Alan Rickman’s ultra-suave yet lethal terrorist Hans Gruber, the film had a truly dastardly villain that the audience was happy to hate: Intelligent, witty and cunning, Rickman’s Gruber is arguably the perfect movie villain.
Willis plays John McClane – a New York cop who arrives in LA on Christmas Eve to patch up his marriage to his estranged wife, Holly (Bonnie Bedelia).
While he’s in the bathroom of his wife’s Nakatomi Plaza office freshening up, the entire high-rise building is invaded, seized, and sealed off by a group of European terrorists (don’t you just hate when that happens).
The poor guy then spends the rest of the movie scaling elevator shafts, crawling through heating ducts, and crashing through glass doors to save the hostages.
Anchored with a fire hose around his waist, John McClane jumps from the roof of Nakatomi Plaza just as villainous Hans Gruber detonates a ton of explosives.
Always up for a dare, Bruce Willis performed the leap from a parking structure on the 20th Century Fox backlot into an airbag 25 feet below. The actor can be heard shouting, “Goodamn you!” at SFX supervisor Al DiSarro as he jumps.
All the action clichés are present – foreign baddies (German in this case), an overweight, black, doughnut-eating cop (Reginald VelJohnson) as McClane’s CB sidekick, and an intermittent stream of wisecracks interspersed with hard-boiled violence.
Die Hard 2 (1990) and Die Hard With a Vengeance (1995) worked the genre even harder – topping the special effects up to the truly eye-popping subway train crash in Vengeance, which used real trains and warned stunt people if they didn’t hit their marks, ‘little could be done to help them’!
Die Hard was released internationally under some pretty funky translated titles, including Die Manly (Serbia), Chrystal Jungle (Spain), The Glass Trap (Poland), and Give Your Life Expensive (Hungary).
Holly Gennero McClane
Sergeant Al Powell
Dwayne T Robinson
Clarence Gilyard Jr