Die Hard

Critics Consensus

Its many imitators (and sequels) have never come close to matching the taut thrills of the definitive holiday action classic.

93%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 74

94%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 573,246
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Movie Info

It's Christmas time in L.A., and there's an employee party in progress on the 30th floor of the Nakatomi Corporation building. The revelry comes to a violent end when the partygoers are taken hostage by a group of terrorists headed by Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman), who plan to steal the 600 million dollars locked in Nakatomi's high-tech safe. In truth, Gruber and his henchmen are only pretending to be politically motivated to throw the authorities off track; also in truth, Gruber has no intention of allowing anyone to get out of the building alive. Meanwhile, New York cop John McClane (Bruce Willis) has come to L.A. to visit his estranged wife, Holly (Bonnie Bedelia), who happens to be one of the hostages. Disregarding the orders of the authorities surrounding the building, McClane, who fears nothing (except heights), takes on the villains, armed with one handgun and plenty of chutzpah. Until Die Hard came along, Bruce Willis was merely that wisecracking guy on Moonlighting. After the film's profits started rolling in, Willis found himself one of the highest-paid and most sought-after leading men in Hollywood. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

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Cast

Bruce Willis
as John McClane
Alan Rickman
as Hans Gruber
Reginald VelJohnson
as Sgt. Al Powell
Bonnie Bedelia
as Holly McClane
Hart Bochner
as Harry Ellis
Paul Gleason
as Dwayne Robinson
Joey Plewa
as Alexander
Gerard Bonn
as Kristoff
Gary Roberts
as Heinrich
Robert Davi
as Big Johnson
Grand L. Bush
as Little Johnson
Bill Marcus
as City Engineer
Rick Ducommun
as City Worker
Matt Landers
as Capt. Mitchell
George Christy
as Hasseldorf
Anthony Peck
as Young Cop
David Ursin
as Harvey Johnson
Mary Ellen Trainor
as Gail Wallens
Diana James
as Supervisor
Shelley Pogoda
as Dispatcher
Taylor Fry
as Lucy McClane
Noah Land
as John Jr.
Kip Waldo
as Convenience-Store Clerk
Mark Goldstein
as Station Manager
Tracy Reiner
as Thornburg's Assistant
Bill Margolin
as Producer
David Katz
as Soundman
Robert Lesser
as Businessman
Stella Hall
as Stewardess
Terri Lynn Doss
as Girl at Airport
Jon E. Greene
as Boy at Airport
Michele Laybourn
as Girl in Window
Scot Bennett
as Hostage
Bob A. Jennings
as Cameraman
P. Randall Bowers
as Kissing Man
Kym Malin
as Hostage
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News & Interviews for Die Hard

Critic Reviews for Die Hard

All Critics (74) | Top Critics (16)

  • It's a glorious scene-stealer for Alan Rickman, though it's a credit to Willis's cheeky charisma that his scene is not in fact stolen.

    Nov 29, 2018 | Rating: 5/5 | Full Review…
  • Die Hard is film's equivalent of a terrorist attack on your senses, but Willis' intensity and presence push it into guilty pleasure territory.

    Apr 26, 2018 | Full Review…

    Jay Carr

    Boston Globe
    Top Critic
  • There are good performances from everyone in this long, often funny, very violent but exciting melodrama.

    Jul 28, 2015 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
  • Die Hard is an action picture with a capital A. In fact, you might as well go ahead and capitalize the whole darn word.

    Jul 9, 2013 | Full Review…
  • As a grand flourish of cinematic technique, it is awesome; as a human drama, it is disgusting and silly, a mindless depiction of carnage on an epic scale.

    Jul 9, 2013 | Full Review…
  • McTiernan, who directed last summer's Predator, composes the action cleanly and logically, making good use of Jackson DeGovia's elaborate post-modernist set-the building becomes something of a character in itself.

    Jul 9, 2013 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Die Hard

  • Dec 25, 2016
    Die Hard was directed by John McTierman (Predator) and stars Bruce Willis as John McClane, a New York cop visiting LA to see his wife (Bonnie Bedelia) and kids. Shortly after John arrives at his wife's big corporate Christmas party, the building is taken under control by terrorist Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) and his 12 henchmen who are using a hostage situation as a cover while they rob the company of its riches. Is there anything to say about Die Hard that hasn't already been said? Not only did this movie effectively provide Bruce Willis with consistent employment for the rest of his life, but it also set the standard of action movies to follow. John McClane is an easy character to cheer for thanks to his charisma and sarcasm. If John McClane is the foundation for action protagonists to be build upon, then Rickman's Hans Gruber does the same for antagonists. In my humble opinion, Hans Gruber might only be second to Darth Vader himself for the best movie villain of all-time. His deception, ruthlessness, and composure make for a chilling enemy. Watching his ultimate demise is probably one of the more satisfying moments in action cinema. Another thing I love about Die Hard is how fleshed-out the other characters are. The cop in communication with McClane (played by Reginald VelJohnson) is given some backstory that really helps develop his ever-trusting relationship with John. Holly McClane shows that she is having troubles with her marriage to John through the use of her maiden name when conducting business. Even one of Hans' henchmen is given a personal reason to bring down McClane early on. These simple traits do nothing but aid the impact of every scene. There are even some subtle lines that end up having major impacts on the plot later on. In my most recent viewing, I caught a line from the sleazy executive trying to woo Holly about a watch he gave her. Next time you watch the movie, REMEMBER THAT WATCH. That's just one example of the layers of complexity given to this masterpiece. Folks, obviously I love Die Hard and have nothing negative to say about it. It may very well be not only one of the best action movies of all-time, but one of the best MOVIE movies of all-time. Full of brilliant writing, rich characters, and amazing one-liners, Die Hard is clearly THE BEST CHRISTMAS MOVIE EVER! Final grade: A+ YIPPIE KI-YAY, MOFO! -Ben
    Ben B Super Reviewer
  • Jun 20, 2016
    This is one of the absolute classic action films. One of Willis's best performances. Excellent script written about a New York City cop going to LA for the holidays and terrorists taking over the office building he is at for his estranged wife's holiday party. Many many quotable lines. If a film has many lines and scenes taken from it for parody films, you know it is a well loved classic. If you are a fan of action films and haven't seen this one, then you're not a fan of action films. Action is great and even the "down time" dialogue between Willis and VelJohnson is well written and well acted.
    Patrick W Super Reviewer
  • Feb 21, 2016
    One of the best action movies ever made and the strongest in the franchise. Watching this film is a necessity if you are a fan of action movies!
    Mr N Super Reviewer
  • Jun 29, 2015
    We are rapidly approaching Christmas, and with it comes the usual slew of articles and listicles about the greatest Christmas films. And regardless of what film may top said lists - Whistle Down The Wind would be my personal choice - there is one thing of which you can almost be certain: Die Hard will be somewhere on those lists. In the 29 years since it first graced the silver screen, John McTiernan's tour de force has become regarded not just as one of the definitive 1980s action films, but also the definitive alternative Christmas film. It is tempting to presume, in light of all its inferior sequels featuring an increasingly uninterested Bruce Willis, that the original has become a victim of its own hype. We remember it as being great, not because it is great, but because everything that has tried to imitate it has paled in comparison. It is certainly true, with the benefit of hindsight, that it is not quite the best action film of the 1980s; Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade would take that crown, with Raiders and Mad Max 2 vying for second place. But it remains a really entertaining, well-assembled spectacle, with humour, bravado and efficiency to spare. One of the little-known bits of trivia about Die Hard is that it was quite closely based on a novel. An awful lot of the structure and storyline of Robert Thorp's 1979 thriller Nothing Lasts Forever has survived in the finished film; many of the character names remain the same, the plot still revolves around terrorists attacking a corporation's headquarters at Christmas, and some of the set-pieces are replicated exactly, including the sequence with the C4 in the lift. Thorp had written Nothing Lasts Forever as a follow-up to his 1966 novel The Detective, and had hopes that any film version would star Frank Sinatra, who had played the titular character in 1968. Sinatra, who was 64 when the novel came out, declined the role despite the acclaim which the original film had received. The project was subsequently declined by Sylvester Stallone, Don Johnson, Harrison Ford and Arnold Schwarzenegger (though stories of it being shaped as a sequel to Commando have been denied by co-writer Steven E. de Souza). The script was eventually retooled as a stand-alone and the studio took a big gamble on Bruce Willis, then best known for his work on the TV series Moonlighting. One of the single biggest assets of Die Hard is the simplicity of its execution. While McTiernan's previous work Predator took a long time to figure out what kind of film it was, it's very easy to get into the zone with Die Hard. The good guys and bad guys are clearly defined, the action unspools at an efficient yet methodical pace, and the editing manages to keep things sharp while resisting endless fast cuts or needlessly complex camera angles. It is, as Mark Kermode once described it, "cowboys and indians in The Towering Inferno" - a reference to the fact that Thorp's novel was originally inspired by the John Guillermin film, produced by 'the master of disaster' Irwin Allen. In light of this, the phrase that springs to mind about Die Hard is that it "comes from a simpler time". The argument goes that it was made during the Cold War, when we knew exactly who our enemies were, and at a time before technology and digital surveillance superseded macho, hot-headed mavericks who could take down said enemies single-handed, a la James Bond or Riggs and Murtagh in Lethal Weapon. You couldn't make an old-school action film like Die Hard today, just as you couldn't make an old-school western after Unforgiven. Audiences are increasingly aware of how complex and nebulous the world and people are, and just falling back on lazy stereotypes isn't going to cut it any more. This is an enticing line of reasoning, especially given the popularity of films like Skyfall, The Bourne Ultimatum and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, which focus on infiltration, betrayal and the system turning on itself to justify its existence. But while the argument broadly holds up, there are certain aspects of Die Hard which remain relevant, if not forward-looking. The terrorists who hold up the Nakatomi Plaza are not after political power or ethnic cleansing; they have financial motivations, foreshadowing the electronic terrorism of Goldeneye or the rise of hacking in the internet age. The film also teases the idea of such groups using politics as a means of leverage rather than a goal in itself. Hans Gruber makes demands regarding the freedom fighters (which he only knows about because of Time magazine) to distract the authorities - a tactic that could easily be employed by contemporary terrorists, using awkward relationships between states to buy time for their own ambitions. The clash between John McClane and Gruber is to some extent one of class and culture - the earthy, street-smart, lowbrow cop against the erudite, snobbish and book-smart criminal. One of the most common complaints made about action films, both then and now, is that they come with such poorly-written characters that the audience has nothing to connect them to the pyrotechnics. Characters in such films are often written so closely to an archetype - the hero, the villain, the love interest and so on - that they lack distinctive personality traits, and with it the ability to behave in an empathetic, idiosyncratic manner. Die Hard may be structured as a straightforward fight between good and evil, but the characters feel three-dimensional, with flaws and foibles which keep them memorable and make the film all the more rewarding on repeat viewing. German film critic Philipp Bühler said, very accurately, that McClane works as a character not because of his strengths, but because he is vulnerable. Writing in Movies of the 80s, he said: "He's scared of flying, and he's scared of a world that no longer has a place for men like him... What distinguished him from human tanks like Schwarzenegger and Stallone was his sensitivity and vulnerability, which helped make Die Hard an action movie for people who don't generally like action movies." I said in my review of Red 2 that Willis often betrays in his performances how much he really wants to be in a given film. Here, his performance is disciplined, responsive and very convincing, and besides Twelve Monkeys it remains his finest hour. Alan Rickman's career-making performance as Gruber is a similar indication of the quality of the script. Rickman's villainous turns often get lumped together in such a way that they have become a pastiche of the archetype, but there is a world of difference between Gruber and the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. The Sheriff is nothing more than an over-the-top, pantomime bad guy, whose hilariously drawn-out death throes give Nordberg's calamities in Naked Gun a run for their money. Even when he's bellowing "where are my detonators?!", Gruber is a more complex, guarded and reptilian beast, who teeters between funny and terrifying thanks to a script which gives the character sufficient scope to explore motivations and pressure points in depth. As far as its spectacle is concerned, Die Hard still holds up extremely well thanks to its use of physical effects. The set used for the Nakatomi Plaza was at the time the headquarters of 20th Century Fox, with several scenes being shot on floors which were still under construction. Not only did this give McTiernan the power to wreck things as he saw fit (captured by Paul Verhoeven's cinematographer-of-choice Jan de Bont), it also brings an organic sense of entropy to proceedings which CGI cannot match. The injuries McClane sustains are mirrored by the growing destruction of property, and all the set-pieces connect and flow beautifully. For all its good points, Die Hard does have a couple of flaws which somewhat tarnish its glowing reputation. Roger Ebert, who did not like the film, made a valid point about the role of the police as the action unfolds. The stupidity of Al's boss, and by extension the journalists and the FBI, serve as a distraction from the central conflict and undermine the script's hard work on making the central characters relatable. Al himself is likeable enough, but he's still an unnecessary concession to generic convention, and the resolution of his arc is far too neat. The other flaw with Die Hard is its ending. McClane's fight with Karl has such a fitting climax that to bring him back seemingly from the dead for one last jump-scare moment is cheap and unnecessary. After that, the film winds down into standard, American yuletide schmaltz; having held off for so long, it suddenly remembers that it's Christmas and gives us a jarring, sentimental ending, rather than saying true to the novel and letting McClane die. We forgive the film of these fumbles because of how good it has been up until then, but it's still a shame to finish things off so illogically. Die Hard remains one of the must-see films of the 1980s, being an action film with brains and heart rather than just brawn. Willis is excellent in the role which made him a star, ably supported by Rickman, and it remains as entertaining on the first watch as it does on the 50th. Aside from a few niggling flaws, it is both an easy film to relax into and a must-see for anyone interested in the language of Hollywood cinema. Whatever happens to John McClane in the future, this will always be the gold standard.
    Daniel M Super Reviewer

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