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220px-Die hard

The poster for the film's theatrical release.

Die Hard is a 1988 American action film directed by John McTiernan and written by Steve de Souza and Jeb Stuart, based on the 1979 novel Nothing Lasts Forever by Roderick Thorp, the sequel to Thorp's 1966 novel The Detective, which itself had been adapted into a 1968 film of the same name starring Frank Sinatra.

Fox was contractually obligated to offer Sinatra the lead role in Die Hard, but he turned it down and the film was instead pitched as a sequel to the 1985 action film Commando starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. When Schwarzenegger also turned it down, the film was pitched to, and rejected by, a host of the era's action stars before Willis was chosen. The studio did not have faith in Willis' action star appeal, as at the time he was known for his comedic role on television.

Made on a $28 million budget, Die Hard went on to gross over $140 million theatrically worldwide, and was praised by critics. The film turned Willis into an action star, and became a frequent comparison for other action films featuring a lone hero fighting overwhelming odds. The film's success spawned a franchise, including four sequels, video games, and a comic book.

Synopsis

John McClane, the New York City Police Department detective, arrives in Los Angeles to attempt a Christmas reunion and reconciliation with his estranged wife Holly, who is attending a party thrown by her employer, the Nakatomi Corporation, at its still-unfinished American branch office headquarters, the high-rise Nakatomi Plaza. McClane is met at the airport by Argyle, a limo driver charged with taking John to Holly's office. As he enters the lobby, he finds that the building's staff directory is an automated computer program listing Holly under her maiden name, Gennaro. When he gets off the elevator on the 30th floor, he sees a lavish holiday party is underway. John is met by Holly's boss, Joseph Takagi, a genial Japanese businessman. After McClane refreshes himself from the flight in Holly's corporate bathroom, they have an argument over the use of her maiden name but Holly is called away.

As the party continues, a large moving van from "Pacific Courier" makes its way to the building. Two men, Karl and Theo, arrive in a car at the front entrance to the building. At the security desk they divert the security guards' attention away from the trucks. Karl guns down the guards while Theo commandeers the closed circuit security field and locks down all the elevators except for the service car. Terrorists led by the slick & well-mannered German anarchist Hans Gruber emerge from the trucks and hold the partygoers as hostages in exchange for terrorist operatives in prison. In the confusion, McClane is able to disappear unnoticed into the building's maintenance areas but forgets to take his shoes along, leaving him barefoot. Takagi is taken from the party and learns that Gruber is actually using the hostage situation as a cover to steal $640 million in bearer bonds stored in the building's vault. McClane is unable to stop Gruber from executing Takagi when he refuses to hand over the vault's combination.

McClane attempts to alert the local police by setting off a fire alarm -- his attempt fails and he is promptly discovered by Karl's brother, Tony. McClane kills Tony, taking his gun and radio, which he uses to contact the LAPD from the roof of the building. Karl demands vengeance for his dead brother. McClane makes it to the roof and tries to call the LAPD on Tony's walkie-talkie. While McClane argues with the LAPD over his distress call -- they believe it to be a prank due to the earlier fire alarm attempt -- Karl and two of Hans' men, Franco and Fritz, attack, forcing McClane to retreat into the tower's ventilation system. When he emerges, he tries to get the attention of Sgt Al Powell, sent by the dispatcher McClane had contacted before. When Marco and Heinrich find him in the conference room, McClane kills them both. Initially finding nothing amiss, Powell is ready to drive off but McClane, in one last desperate move before his last hope for outside help leaves, gets his attention by throwing Marco's corpse out of the window and onto Powell's patrol vehicle. Another detachment of Gruber's men opens fire on Powell's car as he reverses out of the front circle and crashes, calling for backup in his panicky state.

While searching Heinrich's pockets and bag, McClane finds the henchman was carrying a significant quantity of C4 explosive and detonators. McClane taunts Gruber using Heinrich's walkie-talkie and tells him he killed a few of his men, giving Hans their names. Karl reports to Hans that McClane wasn't bluffing and that their adversary took Heinrich's bag, which presumably held all the detonators.

With Powell now fully convinced that the emergency call was real, the situation rapidly escalates as the LAPD comes in force and surrounds the Nakatomi Building with a large SWAT force. However, Gruber is not too concerned: although the police responded somewhat sooner than he planned thanks to McClane's interference, the police are a necessary and unwitting part of Gruber's plan in the first place. As part of that plan, Gruber contacts the police with a list of difficult demands such as the release of various real terrorists he has no connection with and has only read about in the news to stall them. After he finishes with his bogus demands, Gruber gives Karl the order to hunt down McClane.

Meanwhile, the SWAT team, led by Deputy Chief Dwayne Robinson, arrives to storm the building. However, Theo notices their movements on the security feed and alerts Gruber. Talking furiously to Powell, McClane attempts Robinson to stop the SWAT team from walking into a trap, but Powell cannot convince his superiors. The SWAT team is repelled, the SWAT armoured vehicle is disabled by a rocket launcher, and the police are out-gunned by the firepower of the terrorists and their strategic spots in the building. To stop two of Gruber's men from continuing to fire upon the disabled SWAT armored car, McClane drops C4 down the elevator shaft and blows out the entire floor where the terrorists are planted, giving the cops a chance to retreat. By this time the news media are on the scene, led by sleazy reporter Richard Thornberg, and the FBI, led by Special Agent Johnson and his partner, Special Agent Little Johnson arrive to commandeer the situation.

As the remainder of Gruber's men attempt to find McClane and the detonators, one of the hostages, Harry Ellis, believing he can negotiate with Hans, betrays McClane's identity. Gruber uses the radio to contact McClane, and demands that McClane return the detonators or else he would shoot one of the hostages. McClane refuses, and Gruber kills Ellis, to the horror of the police force who heard everything on radio. McClane continues to keep moving through the building to learn more about Gruber's plans. McClane and Gruber accidentally meet but Gruber gains McClane's trust by passing himself off as an escaped hostage. McClane hands Gruber his pistol and tells him to stay close while they look for a way out of the building. Gruber then contacts his henchmen while pointing the pistol at McClane. When he pulls the trigger, it clicks on an empty chamber. McClane scoffs at Gruber's attempt to kill him just as Gruber's men arrive, opening fire immediately and pinning McClane down in a room full of computer terminals. Gruber suddenly gets an idea to shoot out all the glass in the room, making it treacherous for McClane to find a way out while he's barefoot. McClane flees anyway, dropping the bag containing the detonators. Gruber happily retrieves the bag however Karl is still furious that McClane got away.

A few minutes later, while hiding in a nearby men's room, McClane talks to Powell while removing a large piece of glass embedded in his foot. He wraps his foot in his tank top and tells Powell to contact Holly after the ordeal is over and let her know he loves her. Powell tells McClane to hang in and that his fellow officers even have a betting pool going on him. McClane sets out for the roof, curious as to why Gruber was snooping around there.

The FBI play their final card by shutting off the building's power while they plan a helicopter raid onto the roof. However, Gruber had planned for the FBI's predictability - disconnecting the power has shut down the final electromagnetic lock on the vault and given him access to the bonds. McClane, inspecting the top level, finds out Gruber has used the recovered detonators to rig the helipad on the building's roof with explosives. Gruber plans to demand helicopters to carry himself, his men and the hostages to a waiting plane at an airport. After the FBI informs Gruber that his demands have been met, Gruber's men force the hostages to the roof to be killed by the explosions, so they could escape in the confusion. McClane, after fighting off Karl and failing to warn the police of the Gruber's doublecross, is able to get the hostages back inside safely, but the FBI helicopter shoots at him, believing he's one of the terrorists. The helipad explodes, the helicopter is destroyed and both Johnsons are killed. McClane escapes again but jumping from the roof with a fire hose tied around his waist. He shoots out a window a few stories down and swings himself inside to safety.

Gruber has discovered from Thornberg's investigative newscast that Holly Gennaro is McClane's wife. He holds 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, killing the last remaining terrorist, Eddie, and wounding Gruber, who falls backwards and out of the building through a window. Gruber manages to hang onto 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, Theo is knocked unconscious by McClane's limo driver, Argyle, while preparing their getaway vehicle, an ambulance, in the parking garage. McClane and Holly leave the building together, and meet Powell for the first time. Karl, posing as an injured survivor, bursts out behind McClane and Holly with his assault rifle, but Powell, who had previously confessed to McClane that he had not fired a gun since he accidentally shot a child years ago, draws and shoots him before he can harm McClane and Holly. Thornberg attempts to interview them 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.

Music

TitlePerformed by
"Singin' in the Rain" from Singin' in the Rain
"Winter Wonderland"
"Christmas in Hollis"Run-D.M.C.
"Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!"
Uncredited
"Ode to Joy"
from Beethoven's "Symphony No.9"
"Jingle Bells"Bruce Willis (whistling)
Bach's "Brandenburg Concerto No. 3"
"We've Got Each Other" from Man on FireJohn Scott
"Resolution & Hyperspace" from AliensJames Horner (composer)

Cast

Actor/actressCharacter(s)
Bruce WillisJohn McClane
Bonnie BedeliaHolly McClane
Reginald VelJohnsonAl Powell
Paul GleasonDwayne Robinson
William AthertonRichard Thornburg
Hart BochnerHarry Ellis
James ShigetaJoseph Takagi
Alan RickmanHans Gruber
Alexander GodunovKarl
Bruno DoyonFranco
De'voreaux WhiteArgyle
Andreas WisniewskiTony
Clarence Gilyard Jr.Theo
Joey PlewaAlexander
Lorenzo CaccialanzaMarco
Gerard BonnKristoff
Dennis HaydenEddie
Al LeongUli
Gary RobertsHeinrich
Hans BuhringerFritz
Wilhelm von HomburgJames
Robert DaviBig Johnson
Grand BushLittle Johnson
Bill MarcusCity Engineer
Rick DucommunWalt (City Worker)
Matt LandersCapt. Mitchell
Carmine ZozzoraRivers
Dustyn TaylorGinny
George ChristyDr. Hasseldorf
Anthony PeckYoung Cop
Cheryl BakerWoman
Richard ParkerMan
David UrsinHarvey Johnson
Mary TrainorGail Wallens
Diana JamesPolice Supervisor
Shelley PogodaDispatcher
Selma Archerd
Scot Bennett
Rebecca Broussard
Kate Finlayson
Shanna Higgins
Kym Malin
Gary Pinkston (uncredited)
Hostages
Taylor FryLucy McClane
Noah LandJohn McClane Jr.
Betty CarvalhoPaulina
Kip WaldoConvenience Store Clerk
Mark GoldsteinStation Manager
Tracy ReinerThornburg's Assistant
Rick Cicetti
Fred Lerner
Guards
Bill MargolinProducer
Bob Jennings
Bruce Schultz
Rick Bross (uncredited)
Cameramen
David KatzSoundman
Robert LesserBusinessman
Stella HallStewardess
Terri DossGirl at Airport
Jon E. GreeneBoy at Airport
P. Randall BowersKissing Man
Michele LaybournGirl in Window
Uncredited
Bob HarksPriest in Terminal
Conrad HurttSwat
T.J. Jones
Eric Kay
Firemen
Marshall LucasPolice Officer
Stan RodarteGas Station Customer
Mark WinnPolice Detective

Notes

Deleted/Extended Scenes

The Ultimate Edition DVD releases contains the following:

  • Extended power shutdown sequence.
  • Extended opening flight scene.
  • Brief dialogue in the first Hans/McClane confrontation.
  • Extended scene where Robinson/Powell brief the FBI on the tower situation.
  • Brief dialogue when Hans interrogates Takagi.
  • Brief dialogue after Theo says "You didn't bring me along for my charming personality".
  • Extended/alternate dialogue in McClane/Powell conversation after McClane uses the plastic explosives.
  • Brief scene of FBI agents getting stuck in thorn bushes as they make their way towards the building.
  • At the end, McClane says "You got a warranty for [Holly's watch, a gift from Ellis]?" to which Holly laughs.
  • Argyle's dialogue as Powell's police cruiser flies by in the background.
  • Brief Ellis dialogue reacting to the terrorist intrusion.
  • City engineer briefly coughs before pulling out the power cord.
  • Brief dialogue in Hans/Karl argument about "neutralizing" McClane.
  • Additional Holly dialogue after seeing Karl's reaction to McClane's escape.

The FX Channel adds a scene prior to the electricity-controlled opening of the vault. In it, the city engineer pulls the plug locally, but even though the power goes off, the electromagnetic seal still holds. After realizing the building has alternate power sources, Hans orders Theo to "annoy them", which leads Theo to type in commands to turn the power back on. The lights come back on, where Special Agent Johnson (Robert Davi) tells the city engineer to shut the whole grid down. A quick black-and-white frame flashes before it rejoins the original footage.

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