top of page
  • Writer's pictureRonny Duncan Studios

Die Hard (1988)

Plot Summary: On Christmas Eve, New York City Police Department (NYPD) Detective John McClane (Bruce Willis) arrives in Los Angeles, hoping to reconcile with his estranged wife, Holly (Bonnie Bedelia) at a party held by her employer, the Nakatomi Corporation. While McClane changes clothes, the tower is seized by German radical Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) and his heavily armed team. Everyone in the tower is taken hostage except for McClane, who slips away. In the ensuing trail of mayhem, bullets, and blood, the ultimate question remains: will McClane save the hostages and stop the thieves?


  • Bruce Willis as John McClane

  • Alan Rickman as Hans Gruber

  • Alexander Godunov as Karl

  • Bonnie Bedelia as Holly Gennero-McClane

  • Reginald VelJohnson as Al Powell

  • Paul Gleason as Dwayne T. Robinson

  • De'voreaux White as Argyle

  • William Atherton as Richard Thornburg

  • Clarence Gilyard as Theo

  • Hart Bochner as Harry Ellis

  • James Shigeta as Joseph Yoshinobu Takagi


  • Defying predictions, Die Hard grossed approximately $140 million ($308 million in modern dollars), becoming the year's tenth-highest-grossing film and the highest-grossing action film of 1988.

  • Die Hard received four Academy Award nominations for Best Film Editing, Visual Effects, Sound Effects, and Sound, and it elevated Willis to leading-man status and made Rickman a celebrity.

  • Die Hard has been critically re-evaluated and is now considered one of the greatest action films, and is also often named one of the best Christmas films. It revitalized the action genre, largely due to its depiction of McClane as a vulnerable and fallible protagonist, in contrast to the muscle-bound and invincible heroes of other films of the period. Retrospective commentators also identified and analyzed its thematic concerns, including vengeance, masculinity, gender roles, and American anxieties over foreign influences.

  • The film produced a host of imitators; the term "Die Hard" became a shorthand for plots featuring overwhelming odds in a restricted environment, such as Under Siege (1992, "Die Hard on a battleship"); Cliffhanger (1993, "Die Hard on a mountain"); Speed (1994, "Die Hard on a bus"); and Air Force One (1997, "Die Hard on a plane")., within the industry that were cliché in pitch rooms for decades. It created a franchise comprising the sequels Die Hard 2 (1990), Die Hard with a Vengeance (1995), Live Free or Die Hard (2007), and A Good Day to Die Hard (2013), plus video games, comics, and other merchandise.

  • In 2017, Die Hard was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.

Did You Know:

  • The fictional Nakatomi Plaza is the headquarters of 20th Century Fox. The company charged itself rent for the use of the then-unfinished building.

  • Jeb Stuart was having difficulty writing the screenplay until he had a near-death experience while driving at night in Los Angeles after a fight with his wife. He was driving behind a truck carrying refrigerators, and one of the fridge boxes fell out of the truck. Luckily for him, the box was empty. He realized that if he had died, he wouldn't have been able to apologize to his wife. This inspired him to give clear motivations to John McClane and Holly's characters: they wanted to reunite with each other after having a fight.

  • Hart Bochner's line "Hans... Bubby!" was ad-libbed. Alan Rickman's quizzical reaction was genuine.

  • In 2007, Bruce Willis donated John McClane's undershirt to the Smithsonian Museum.

  • The scene where McClane falls down a shaft was a mistake by the stuntman, who was supposed to grab the first vent, as it originally was planned. He slipped and continued to fall, but the shot was used anyway; it was edited together with one where McClane grabs the next vent down as he falls.

  • In the making-of featurette, director John McTiernan revealed that a majority of the exterior shots of the building showing explosions were real, full-scale explosions set off in and around the actual building.

  • Ironically, Bruce Willis, sneered at for being an all-American hero by the head German terrorist, is actually more German than most of the villains. Alan Rickman was English, and Alexander Godunov was Russian. Bruce Willis was born on March 19, 1955, in West Germany to an American father and a German mother.

  • Alan Rickman nearly passed up the role of Hans Gruber, which ended up being his first film role. He had only arrived in Hollywood two days earlier and was appalled by the idea of his first role being the villain in an action film. To a degree, Rickman was right to be concerned considering his performance as Hans Gruber was so hailed that the actor had to struggle being typecast as a player of villains for much of his career.

What is this movie is about?/Elevator Pitch: Off-duty cop is forced to stand alone against 12 terrorists in order to save his wife on Christmas Eve.

Best Performance: Alan Rickman (Hans Gruber)/Bruce Willis (McClane)

Best Secondary Performance: De'voreaux White (Argyle)/Reginald VelJohnson (Powell)/John McTiernan (Director)

Most Charismatic Award: Bruce Willis (McClane)/Alan Rickman (Gruber)

Best Scene:

  • Gruber Kills Takagi

  • Ho, Ho, Ho; Now I Have a Machine Gun

  • Powell Checks on Nakatomi Plaza

  • McClane Escapes in the Elevator Shaft

  • Ellis, the White Knight

  • McClane Comes Face to Face with Gruber

  • McClane Battles Karl

  • McClane Jumps Off the Roof

  • McClane Saves Holly

Favorite Scene: McClane Escapes in the Elevator Shaft/McClane Save Holly/McClane Battles Karl

Most Indelible Moment: McClane Save Holly/Gruber Falls to His Death/

In Memorium:

  • Bob Dole, Politician, numerous projects and TV shows mainly playing himself.

Best Lines/Funniest Lines:

John McClane: Yippie-Ki-Yay, Motherfucker!

Ellis: Hans....bubby...I'm your White Knight!

John McClane: Nine million terrorists in the world and I gotta kill one with feet smaller than my sister.

Hans Gruber: You Americans are all alike. Well, this time John Wayne does not walk off into the sunset with Grace Kelly.

John McClane: That's Gary Cooper, asshole.

John McClane: No fucking shit lady, does it sound like I'm ordering a pizza?

John McClane: Who's driving this car? Stevie Wonder?

Hans Gruber: You asked for miracles, I give you... the FBI.

The Stanley Rubric:

Legacy: 9.33

Impact/Significance: 8

Novelty: 8.33

Classic-ness: 8.67

Rewatchability: 8.83

Audience Score: 9.3 (92% Google, 94% RT)

Total: 51.96

Remaining Questions:

  • Why would John choose to announce his presence with the body in the elevator?

  • Why does Holly take John back?

  • What happens to Al Powell?

  • If the sequel didn't happen, would John McClane be prosecuted for the actions he takes during the movie?

16 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page