Die Hard is an Academy Award nominated 1988 American action film. It was written by Jeb Stuart and Steven E. de Souza, stars Bruce Willis, Bonnie Bedelia, Alan Rickman, Paul Gleason, Reginald VelJohnson and William Atherton, and was directed by John McTiernan. A critical and commercial success, Die Hard propelled Willis' film career and established Rickman as a popular portrayer of villains in American film. The film also started the Die Hard series.
John McClane, a detective with the New York City Police Department, arrives in Los Angeles to attempt a Christmas reunion with his estranged wife Holly, who is attending a party thrown by her employer, Takagi, at the high-rise Nakatomi Plaza. While McClane refreshes himself from the flight, he and Holly have an argument over the use of her maiden name, Gennero, but Holly is soon called away. As the party continues, a group of terrorists led by Hans Gruber seize the building and hold the partygoers as hostages, demanding the release of other terrorists from around the world for the hostages' safe release. McClane, able to disappear unnoticed into the building's maintenance areas, learns that Gruber is actually after $640 million in bearer bonds stored in the building's vault using the hostage situation as a cover; McClane is unable to stop Gruber from shooting Takagi at point blank range when he refuses to hand over the safe's combination.
McClane's attempts to alert the local police by pulling the fire alarm are noticed, and he becomes a hunted target by some of Gruber's men. McClane is able to kill them, securing one of their radios and a quantity of C4 explosives and detonators from the dead terrorists. Though Gruber and his men can hear him over the radio, McClane anonymously contacts the Los Angeles Police Department, who send Officier Al Powell to check the building. Though Powell finds nothing amiss, McClane is able to get his attention by dropping one of the corpses on Powell's patrol vehicle. Powell recognizes by McClane's language that he is a cop though McClane keeps his anonymity, and learns enough about the situation to report to headquarters; Powell's report causes the situation to quickly escalate, and the SWAT team soon arrives to try to storm the building. McClane attempts to get Powell to stop the SWAT team, knowing they are walking into a trap, but Powell cannot convince his superiors to stop it; the team is quickly slaughtered by the terrorists with guns and rocket launchers from above. To stop the carnage, McClane drops the C4 down the elevator shaft to destroy the floor the terrorists are firing from. As Gruber's men attempt to find and subdue McClane, Gruber demands that McClane return the detonators or else he would shoot one of the hostages, just as Holly's coworker Ellis comes to talk to him and reveals McClanes identity to Gruber to ensure his safety. McClane refuses, and Gruber follows on his promise by killing Ellis, much to the horror of the police force. McClane continues to keep moving through the building to try to learn Gruber's plans, unknowingly meeting him face-to-face; Gruber gains McClane's trust by passing himself off as one of the building employees, but when Gruber's men return to meet him, McClane is forced to flee, dropping the detonators as he leaves.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation arrives and takes control of the situation, demanding that they shut off the building power while they attempt to raid the building from the top floors. Gruber planned for the FBI's predictability; disconnecting the power would open the final electromagnetic lock on the vault, while he has used the detonators to rig the helipad on the building's roof knowing the FBI will attempt a sneak gunship attack on the building. The terrorists, after learning that Gruber's initial demands have been met, force the hostages to the roof to be transferred to the FBI helicopter, but McClane is able to get everyone inside safely before the helipad explodes, the helicopter caught in the explosion. Though the rest of the hostages are able to escape, McClane learns that Gruber has discovered from a investigative newscast from reporter Richard Thornburg, that Holly is McClane's wife, and is personally holding her hostage to prevent McClane from interfering in his getaway. McClane, down to his last two bullets, is able to lull Gruber into a trap, dispatching the last terrorist and mortally wounding Gruber. Gruber, releasing his grip on Holly, falls back through a window, but manages to hang on to Holly's wristwatch, his weight dragging her out the window as well; McClane is able to unstrap the watch and lets Gruber fall to his death. Meanwhile, Gruber's associate at the vault, after collecting the bonds, is detained by McClane's limo driver, Argyle.
McClane and Holly leave the building together, and meet Officer Powell; Powell, who had not fired a gun since he accidentally shot a child years ago, manages to shoot one of the terrorists that is still alive before he could harm McClane and Holly from behind. When Thornburg attempts to interview the two as they are leaving the scene, Holly punches him in the face. McClane and Holly take off in Argyle's limo as the building is secured by the police.
|Bruce Willis||Detective John McClane|
|Alan Rickman||Hans Gruber|
|Bonnie Bedelia||Holly Gennero McClane|
|Reginald VelJohnson||Sgt. Al Powell|
|Paul Gleason||Deputy Police Chief Dwayne T. Robinson|
|William Atherton||Richard Thornburg|
|Hart Bochner||Harry Ellis|
|James Shigeta||Joe Takagi|
|Clarence Gilyard Jr.||Theo|
|Wilhelm von Homburg||James|
|Robert Davi||Special Agent Johnson|
|Grand L. Bush||Agent Johnson|
|David Patrick Kelly||S.W.A.T. Team Member|
In the German dub, the names and backgrounds of the German-born terrorists were changed into English forms (mostly into their British equivalents, though two were turned Italian): Hans became Jack, Karl became Charlie, Heinrich turned into Henry (in the scene where John is writing down the names of the terrorists, he says "I'm gonna call you Hans and Karl, just like the two evil giants in the fairy tale" while referring to them as Jack and Charlie later). The new background depicts them as some internationally organized terrorists having gone freelance and for profit rather than ideals . This was because German terrorism (especially by the Rote Armee Fraktion) was still considered a sensitive issue by the German government in the 1980s.
According to commentary from the movie's DVD release, Alan Rickman's surprise when Gruber is dropped from the building is genuine: the director chose to release Rickman a full second before he expected it in order to get genuine surprise, a move which angered Rickman. The text commentary track also reveals that the shooting script did not originally feature the meeting between McClane and Gruber pretending to be a hostage; it was only written in when it was discovered that Rickman could do an American accent.
Die Hard's title has been changed for different market releases to an extent rarely seen. It was renamed Big Building Fight in Thailand. In Spain, it was renamed La Jungla de Cristal (The Glass Jungle). In Latin America it was renamed Duro de Matar (Hard to Kill), since "Die Hard", does not translate well. In Russia the film was named Крепкий Орешек (A Hard Nut to Crack) (word-for-word — Hard Nutlet). In Poland it was named Szklana Pułapka (The Glass Trap). In Portugal it was named Assalto ao Arranha-Céus (Assault to the Skyscraper). In Greece it was named Πολύ σκληρός για να πεθάνει (Too tough to die). In Norway it was named Operasjon Skyskraper, which translates into "Operation Skyscraper". It was later changed to its original name. In France and in Italy, it was named The Crystal Trap (respectively Piège de Cristal in French, Trappola di Cristallo in Italian). In Yugoslavia, instead, the film was named Umri Muški (Die like a Man). In Romania, it was renamed Greu de ucis (Hard To Kill, like the Latin American title). In Finland, the film was named Vain kuolleen ruumiini yli (Only over my dead body). In Germany, the title was Stirb langsam (Die Slowly). The Hungarian title was Drágán add az életed (Give your life expensive). In Estonia, the title was translated to Visa Hing (Sturdy Soul). In Israel, the title was translated to מת לחיות (Dying to Live). In Czech Republic, the title was translated to Smrtonosná Past (Lethal Trap). In Taiwan it became "終極警探" (Ultimate Detective) and "虎胆龙威"(Tiger's bravery and Dragon's might) in Hong Kong and mainland China.
The final 4 minutes were tracked with music from two other Twentieth Century Fox features - these were 'temp tracks' which the studio ultimately decided to leave in the picture. The poignant music heard when McClane and Powell see each other for the first time is from John Scott's score for Man On Fire (1987). When Karl appears with his rifle, a cut from the 1986 sci-fi action movie Aliens composed by James Horner is heard. This music can be found on the Aliens soundtrack as the first few minutes of the cue "Resolution and Hyperspace" - much of it was not used in the final cut of Aliens, and was replaced instead with an edited version of the track "Bishop's Countdown".
In February of 2002, A Limited Edition Score for Die Hard, composed by Michael Kamen, was released.
It was highly acclaimed by critics and spawned three popular sequels: Die Hard 2 (1990), Die Hard with a Vengeance (1995) and Live Free or Die Hard (2007), all featuring Willis as McClane. Die Hard was listed at #39 on the AFI's 100 Years... 100 Thrills list of the most thrilling American movies of all time in 2001. In 2003, Hans Gruber was listed at #46 on the AFI's 100 Years... 100 Heroes and Villains special. However, Roger Ebert gave it a less than flattering review, giving it a mere 2 stars and critiscizing the stupidity of the characters and the satirical view the film takes on authority figures.
Die Hard had a budget of $28 million. Released in 1,276 theaters, it grossed $7.1 million in its opening weekend. The film earned $83 million domestically and $138.7 million worldwide. The movie was nominated for Best Sound Effects Editing, Best Film Editing, Best Sound and Best Visual Effects. John McClane's infamous line "Yippee ki aye ay, motherfucker" was voted as #96 of "The 100 Greatest Movie Lines" by Premiere magazine in 2007. In the June 22 2007 issue of Entertainment Weekly, it was named the best action movie of all time.