A landmark action movie franchise that started with the greatest Christmas movie ever made in 1988 when the world was introduced to badass John McClane. He is usually called "the right man in the wrong place at the wrong time." Bruce Willis stars as New York cop John McClane, who usually has to employ his skills in a situation that has since been called Die Hard on an X — he is usually trapped inside a location and has to climb around in air ducts and counter the bad guys' plot. The setup is slightly different in each film (mostly depending on the location), but he always finds himself in the way of terrorists hatching some sort of plot (which ends up serving as an elaborate robbery).The first film arguably started the trend of modern action movies that had intelligent, well-acted villains with intricate, meticulously-planned schemes, instead of the usual paper-thin plot layered with extra helpings of dakka to keep you from caring. It also helped to codify the modern action hero (after Indiana Jones) where they are prone to sweat, bleed, snark and make things up as they go along while you feel they truly are in deadly danger that could overwhelm them at any time.The series is composed of five movies:
A sixth film (tentatively entitled Die Hardest) is currently in pre-production, and is slated to be the Grand Finale of the series at Bruce Willis's request. The movie will apparently take place in a single tower in Tokyo (appropriate enough, considering that the series is Big In Japan) and will have a plot tied to the original film, taking place on the thirtieth anniversary of McClaine's successful handling of the Nakatomi hostage crisis. While the movie is supposed to feature McClaine as its sole protagonist, supporting characters from previous installments are being written into the script.It has spawned a number video games, some of which are directly based on the movies. Also a recent mini-series of comics that showcase John's early days in the force.If you came here expecting the trope Die Hard on an X from a link, go there instead and please change the link to it, and tell the troper who inserted that link that he/she is a silly goose.
Adult Fear: In the first three films in the franchise, this is the drive behind most of our hero's actions. The first film sees our hero getting caught in the middle of a terrorist take-over of a high-rise building, with no way out, holding dozens of hostages with his wife among them and the police offers arriving to save the day being no help at all. The second is much of the same, except with entire plane-loads of people coming in for the holidays. The third film has a major subplot about a terrorist bomb in an elementary school.
In the fourth movie, the antagonist uses Hollywood Hacking to erase McClane's pension, mortgage, etc., destroying his financial stability with a few keystrokes.
Band of Brothers: McClane and his various sidekicks in each film (especially Al Powell), and weirdly enough, the Grubers:
Zeus: Didn't I hear you say you didn't even like your brother? Simon: There's a difference, you know, between not liking one's brother and not caring when some dumb Irish flatfoot drops him out of a window.
And for that matter, Tony and Karl in the first film.
Bowdlerise: Played straight with TV edits of the films (see: Mr. Falcon, which is Esperanza's code name). A peculiar example in With a Vengeance, McClane's sign "I hate niggers" is turned into "I hate everybody", the actual and less problematic text used during the filming on location in Harlem. Surprisingly, AMC kept the original sign.
Interestingly, although the German synchro had to change the catchphrase's "motherfucker" ("fuck" would be much more rude in German) to a "Schweinebacke" (approximately "pig tush"), it became memetically stuck as fast as the original.
Determinator: Every movie seems to involve McClane going through truly unholy quantities of punishment - including being shot, having his feet carved up by broken glass, getting severely thrashed in hand-to-hand combat, and falling over and over again - and still keeps going.
Die Hard: Based on the novel Nothing Lasts Forever, which was the sequel to The Detective, whose adaptation starred Frank Sinatra. When Ol' Blue Eyes passed on the chance to reprise his role in a direct sequel, the flim was retooled as Commando 2, but Arnie passed and Die Hard became a stand-alone movie.
Die Hard 2: Based on the novel 58 Minutes.
Die Hard With a Vengeance: An original script called Simon Says, about a man and a woman solving a big mystery in New York. Later retooled as Lethal Weapon 4 with the man changed to Riggs and the woman changed to Murtaugh. Then retooled into Vengeance, with Riggs changed to McClane and Murtaugh changed to a new sidekick, Zeus, played by Samuel L. Jackson.
Live Free or Die Hard: Based on a magazine article, turned into an original script called "WW 3.com", shelved after the events of September 11th, eventually retooled to star John McClane. It was almost a different film called "Die Hard: Tears of the Sun", but after that version of the film fell through Bruce Willis took the catchy title with him to a different movie.
The fifth film is about the closest there's been to a Die Hard film actually beginning life as a Die Hard film. But even so, the screenplay was a rejected one for the 4th film.
Even the video games are not immune to this. The SegaBeat 'em UpDie Hard Arcade was originally Dynamite Deka in Japan, whose main character (Bruno Delinger) just happened to resembled Bruce Willis. Sega simply tacked on the Die Hard license for the international release and claimed that Bruno was actually John McClane himself, and remade the villain into Hans Gruber.
Also, the arcade game has nothing to do with any of the films, nothing to do with the archetype, and nothing about the main character that uniquely suggests John McClane; it's just a generic plot about rescuing the President's daughter with a cop named John McClane who kind of acts like the film character. The Japanese release was stand-alone.
Exactly What It Says on the Tin: The movies are about a guy who just.... won't.... die no matter what manner of immense danger, unholy pain and injuries happen to him. The villains just... can't kill this guy no matter what they try.
Flanderization: John McClane himself. In the first three installments, he's a regular cop with a lot of bad things going on in his life, from divorces to hangovers, and his motivations are usually very personal. By the fourth film, he's an Implacable Man trying to save everyone because he has to be the guy to do it (although it does get personal later on).
Four-Temperament Ensemble: The villains: Hans and Simon Gruber (choleric), Col. Stuart (melancholic), and Thomas Gabriel (phlegmatic).
Hollywood Healing: Averted; McClane keeps on limping throughout the movies from all the damage.
Honor Before Reason: No matter how brutally damaged and horrifying under-equipped McClane may be, he just never gives up and lets the bad guys get away, ever.
Hostage Situation: It wouldn't be Die Hard if each film didn't involve one at some point.
Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: For highly trained and well-supplied insurgents, very few of the henchmen in the films even get close with their shots. In the first movie this makes a little sense as most of them are using automatic weapons, it's hard to hit anything with those things.
In the second film, played straight with in the Skywalk shootout. The SWAT officers and Stuart's men both have automatic weapons (M16A1 assault rifles and H&K MP5K submachine guns, respectively) - all five SWAT officers are killed, but only manage to kill a single mercenary (Shockley). In part 2 of the shootout, McClane bursts in as one mercenary puts a pistol to Barnes's head, he's firing at them with a semi-automatic pistol and manages to take out the remaining three mercenaries. He even trades fire with a mercenary firing down through wooden scaffolding (justified as he can't see where McClane might be). Noticeably, all three were not killed while firing at McClane: the first is being shot after catching a ventilation grate, the second falls off the scaffolding and is crushed, and McClane empties a magazine at the remaining one as he runs towards John.
Subverted in the church shootout: Major Grant's men fail to pick off any of Stuart's men despite both sides firing automatic weapons. Neither side has any casualties. McClane manages to pick off two mercenaries to start the snowmobile chase. However, it's revealed that Grant and his men were working with Stuart all along and the shootout was staged for everyone else's benefit.
Jerkass: Police Chief Dwayne Robinson in the first film, Airport Police Captain Lorenzo in the second film and Dick Thornburg in both films. Zeus in the third film Zeus starts out as a bit of a jerkass but slowly lightens up.
Laughably Evil: Both Gruber brothers occasionally slip into this, Simon more so.
In the first movie, once Karl shoots the lobby guard, another henchman takes the guard's jacket to impersonate him.
In the second movie, Barnes and the SWAT team are ambushed by four of Stuart's men, disguised as painters and airport maintenance employees. A deleted scene shows where they got the disguises: two painters are seen unloading their van when two of the Skywalk team's men, O'Reilly and Sheldon, walk up. O'Reilly pulls out a pistol and shoots both painters, then they throw the bodies in back and lock the doors.
Plot Armor: While the films always show John coming out pretty roughed off, he still tends to pull off highly improbable survivals, especially when confronted with an army of Mooks with automatic weapons. Then again, if they all attended the Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy...
Sequel Escalation: The series goes from a single office building to an airport, to all over New York City, to a scheme affecting all of America. And the fifth movie goes international, sending him to Russia.
Sequel Reset: No matter what adventures McClane may go on, by the start of the next film he'll be back to being a Jerk Ass with a miserable home life. Seriously, this is a man who has now single-handedly thwarted four major terrorist attacks on the country (well, only one was actually terrorism, the other three were robberies disguised as terrorist acts), but still McClane should seriously be invited to train Delta Force in urban combat and anti-terrorist tactics.
The second film was the only one in the series to suggest McClane has achieved any level of fame from his actions, with various people scoffing at his media appearances. In real life, the passengers on United 93 are lauded as heroes, and they didn't survive their counterattack on their hijackers. If McClane was a real person, his face would have been added to the U.S. flag by now...
"You know what you get for being a hero? Nothin'. You get shot at. You get a little pat on the back, blah, blah, blah, attaboy. You get divorced. Your wife can't remember your last name. Your kids don't want to talk to you. You get to eat a lot of meals by yourself. Trust me, kid, nobody wants to be that guy."
It actually sort of makes sense. He was fairly well known in the second, mostly because of the reporter forcing Holly's maid to give an interview or be deported. The reporter who he worked with in the second clearly had ethics, so she probably downplayed his involvement. The third movie: You are a reporter. Are you going to focus on the little kids who were saved by cops or some bank robber? And by the fourth, it had probably been 10-12 years. And one can easily argue that his involvement in the fourth would be downplayed for national security reasons, leaving him as somewhat known to law enforcement, but largely anonymous by the fifth.
Sibling Yin-Yang / Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: McClane's daughter Lucy is (or was) a teenage rebel while his son John Jr./Jack is a very responsible, by-the-book CIA agent. Just about the one thing they'd agree on (if they were in the same film) is that their dad sucks.
Spanner in the Works: Pretty much the theme of the series. John never seeks out the antagonist or wants to get involved in whatever is going on. Though more often then not a family member of his (his wife in the first two movies, his daughter in the fourth and son in the fifth) will get caught in the crossfire forcing him to get in involved and expanding from there. The third is the only movie to subvert it as its a revenge plot engineered by the big bad but even then that winds up backfiring.
Television Geography: Regarding the DC-Baltimore area in the second and fourth movies. They've got Washington Dulles International Airport being represented by the Alpena, Michigan airport in the second film and LAX in #4, and downtown Baltimore for Washington DC (as evidenced by skyscrapers that are much taller than D.C. building codes allow).
Terrorists Without a Cause: Not really. They're bank robbers, or they're ones seeking revenge for being fired, or assisting a corrupt dictator in escaping.
The Villain Makes the Plot: The film series was widely applauded by fans and critics for elevating the action movie genre by incorporating genuinely intelligent and resourceful villains. Bruce Willis' quote on the matter is spot on: "Any story where you have good guys versus bad guys can only be as smart as the intelligence of your baddest guy."
We Do the Impossible: Rather, just John. It's actually a source of scorn for some people in-universe, who think he's jumpy and cocky after the events of the first film - it's part of the problem why Carmine Lorenzo won't believe him in Die Hard 2.
"For all the -vital -technology -that -this -nation -holds -dear, -all communications transportation the Internet connectivity electrical power critical utilities, their fate -now -rests -in -our hands."
Badass Boast: A nonchalant one when John flings a villain from his car.
Bloodless Carnage: Subverted. Despite concerns over the PG-13 rating, this is still a pretty brutal film. Averted in the unrated version, in which squibs are used.
Call Back: McClane shoots a henchman through the foot with the bad guy's holstered gun; Lucy pulls this on The Dragon during the climax.
Car Cushion: Nobody can fall from any height without damaging a poor sod's car.
Car Fu: McClane destroys a chopper with a car and a ramp, barbecues a Dark Action Girl with an elevator shaft and a SUV, and destroys a fighter plane with a big truck and an interstate highway (though that later one is almost entirely involuntary).
Car Skiing: McClane pulls one off on the crumbling freeway with the assistance of a misguided pilot and missiles.
Chekhov's Gun: when Farrell and McClane visit Warlock, he notices that he has a ham radio and its frequency. When he gets in a truck with a radio, he calls Warlock to his radio and asks him to put him in contact with Bowman.
Co-Dragons: Gabriel's mistress Mai and the French acrobatic henchman Rand.
Combat Parkour: The film features an enemy agent girl whose super-agile backflips and kicks almost manage to defeat John McClane.
Maggie Q's character akes a great amount of punishment in the course of the film, particularly at the gas plant, and yet doesn't show anything worse than a few cuts as a result. Eventually, McClane has to throw her down an elevator shaft and then drop a truck on her in order to deal with her permanently.
Rand keeps surviving attempts at killing him, such as being hit by a car, slammed into a wire fence and clipped against the side of a garbage container. After this, he survives McClane's bit of Car Fu by jumping out of the helicopter, and not getting a single injury.
Defiant Captive: Although she doesn't beat up her captors, when John's daughter Lucy has a gun to her head and is told to plead into the radio to make her father surrender, she instead demonstrates nerves of steel by choosing to give him some much-needed intel: "Now there are only five of them."
When the Big Bad threatens to kill Lucy, McClane (correctly) tells him he won't, because he's afraid of McClane and will need a bargaining chip.
Matt Farrell repeatedly insists that the Big Bad will kill him whether or not he uses his hacking skills to help him, so he steadfastly refuses. He finally (potentially) gives in when the Big Bad threatens to kill Lucy, though.
Not all of it is unrealistic though, as someone actually did blow up a pipeline via computer way back in 1982. And most (not all) of the hacks are done on systems that the villain himself helped code.
Hostage Situation: McClane utterly denies the Big Bad's attempt to use his daughter, Lucy, against him. By his reasoning, if the Big Bad has reached the point where he feels threatening McClane's family to be necessary, then he surely won't act on it because then McClane would have that much more motivation to kill him. Even Lucy refuses to act the part.
Just Plane Wrong: The F-35 scene. The real plane is equipped with a single cannon. Also counts as Rare Vehicles since the F-35 wasn't in production, let alone operational service, in 2007.
However, a Harrier with minimal weapons loadout does have two cannons, and could have done the fancy flying the F-35 did. Except hovering in a Harrier is the most difficult thing to do in any aircraft ever, and because of low engine thrust requires that all air-to-ground munitions and most of the fuel be spent first.
John McClane: You know what you get for being a hero? Nothin'. You get shot at. You get a little pat on the back, blah, blah, blah, attaboy. You get divorced. Your wife can't remember your last name. Your kids don't want to talk to you. You get to eat a lot of meals by yourself. Trust me, kid, nobody wants to be that guy.
Matt Farrell: Then why you doing this?
John McClane: Because there's nobody else to do it right now, that's why. Believe me, if there were somebody else to do it, I'd let them do it, but there's not. So we're doing it.
Matt Farrell: Ah. That's what makes you that guy.
Like Father, Like Son: Lucy is defiant, headstrong, snarky and very able to put a useful fight against her captors.
Farrell: Wow, I know that tone. It's just weird hearing it come from someone with... hair.
Live-Action Escort Mission: The first half of the film involves McClane trying to bring hacker Matt Farrell into the FBI while protecting Matt from the terrorists trying to kill him. Since they're headed to the Feds, at first Matt isn't exactly cooperative.
Logo Joke: After the 20th Century Fox opening logo plays, it suddenly "short circuits", causing flickering as the the searchlights fade, climaxing in a total power outage.
Magic Floppy Disk: Averted. There are USB thumb drives. This film came out in 2007 and was one of the first films that use them.
Manipulative Editing: The baddies' video message to America mixes together clips from various American presidents to voice their speech.
Market-Based Title: The film is known as Die Hard 4.0 in the UK and other parts of Europe.
Serial Escalation: The indoor car chases, as well as McClane using a car to take out a helicopter. The makers also try to set a new record for "amount of punishment ever inflicted upon an action star without killing him."
And then, as if the car-helicopter collision isn't enough, McClane destroys an F-35 with a semi-truck.
Shoot the Hostage: Taken to a whole new level by the fact that McClane is the hostage; he shoots himself in the shoulder to kill the Big Bad.
...all you gotta do...is pick up a kid... out of Jersey ...and take him down to D.C.! [gets into cop car] How hard can that be, huh? Nah, can't be that hard, can it? [turns on car's lights and sirens] Nah, gotta be a...Senior Detective. [starts speeding down tunnel as a sniper shoots at him from a helicopter] You think if I'm in a traffic jam...throwing a car at me's gonna stop me, huh? [the sniper shoots the car, causing it to light on fire.] Great. Car's on fire. [Jumps out of car just before it goes off of a ramp and crashes into the helicopter, absolutely destroying it.]
Applied Phlebotinum: Komarov reveals that the file is kept in a radioactive vault where the bad guys can't get at it. They chopper in a tank full of a chemical which when sprayed around the place somehow removes the radiation so that everyone can take off their gas masks.
Artistic License - Geography: McClane and Jack drive from Moscow, Russia, to Chernobyl, Ukraine, in what appears to be only a few hours. Without passports. (In reality this would be about a 20 hour drive).
Artistic License - Military: Moscow has one of the most paranoid air defenses and military response protocols in the world. Somehow none of these are present when an American drone is flying over the city or when a rogue attack chopper is shooting buildings in said city up, not to mention the lack of anything other than a few police units responding to what would likely be seen as a terrorist attack.
Attack Drone: An American drone appears over Moscow airspace.
The tactic of shooting nearby glass to inflict pain upon John in the first film by Hans Gruber is now used by the McClanes on the villains.
The death of the villains is a combination of tributes to Die Hard 1 and 3, involving a spectacular flailing fall, being chopped to pieces by a spinning motor AND an exploding helicopter.
John pulling shrapnel out of Jack while bonding with him is similar to how he bonded with Al 25 years ago over the radio as he pulled broken glass out of himself.
When he's discovered in the bunker near the end of the film, Komarov (who had been speaking in his natural voice up to this point), makes a show of acting scared, much like Hans Gruber did when he pretended to be "Bill Clay" in the original film. He also tries moving towards a nearby gun and when that fails uses his radio to summon help. In addition, the shot where Komarov falls off the building towards the helicopter blades evokes Hans' death scene from the same film.
Crazy-Prepared: Several instances throughout the movie. John himself qualifies on a mental level - it's almost as if he more than expected to have to take down another terrorist group this time (after twenty years, he'd have to be terminally stupid to not see it coming by now).
Cutting the Knot: Jack is arguing with Komarov over what security is in the hotel, when they see John bribing an employee for his access card. Later Jack is trying to break into a car, when John turns up having stolen the keys.
The Dog Bites Back: Chagarin betrayed and got Komarov arrested. After he kills Alik, he calls Chagarin, who gets killed afterwards by one of his men.
Double Reverse Quadruple Agent: Irina. You think she's working with Chagarin against Komarov, and she pretends to be on Komarov's side in order to lure him out. On the contrary! Turns out that she's really working for daddy dearest after all!
Dramatic Gun Cock: By John McClane. He pumps a shotgun (which, alas, he never gets to use) once in the elevator, then pumps it again when the bad guys show up. This should have ejected at least one unfired shell.
Et Tu, Brute?: Chagarin's betrayal of Komarov by letting him be arrested by the Russian police.
Generation Xerox: Jack. He's every bit as badass as his father is and he easily qualifies as the most competent and useful sidekick John McClane has ever had - to the point where there are times in the movie where John himself seems more like the sidekick.
First John steals some poor sap's old truck when he goes chasing after Jack.
"Call a cop!"
Then he runs out into the road trying to get someone to stop their car and ends up getting knocked over by a Mercedes SUV. When the owner jumps out and starts abusing him in Russian, John punches him in the face and makes off with his car.
"You think I understand a word you're saying?!"
Later when they need another car, Jack nicks one from outside a Mafia hangout, knowing the trunk will be full of weapons.
Indy Ploy: Given that its John McClane, this should come as no surprise. Lampshaded on two different occasions by John and Jack, once in the ballroom, the second as they're about to go into Pripyiat.
Ludicrous Gibs: bad guy falling off the roof + high-speed spinning helicopter rotor = SPLAAAAT
McGuffin: The file proving Chagarin's involvement in the Chernobyl accident. Which doesn't exist — Komarov is actually planning to get his hands on a stache of weapons-grade plutonium he had to leave there after the accident.
More Dakka: McClane kills several mooks using a M249 machine gun. Also the Hind helicopter that attacks the McClanes.
Reed Richards Is Useless The bad guys have a compound that "neutralizes the radiation" at Chernobyl. Why the Russian/Ukranian governments haven't just USED THIS yet is never addressed. Why they need to sell Plutonium to terrorists to make money rather than just selling this magical chemical....is never addressed.
Spanner in the Works: Komarov's plan to have his rival free him from prison and take him directly to his plutonium is interrupted by the CIA trying to spring him (because they also believe the file is real) while the CIA's plan is stymied by John McClane who holds Jack up for a crucial few minutes because he thinks his son is a crook who's getting himself in even more trouble.