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.The series is composed of five movies:
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.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.It has spawned a number videogames, some of them based directly on the movies. Also a recent mini-series of comics that showcase John's early days in the force.Now it has a character sheet. Ho ho ho.
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.
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 indestructable superhero trying to save the world because he enjoys it, despite his speech about being "that guy". He's got that same stance in A Good Day to Die Hard, though he also has personal motives and a "wrong place, wrong time" attitude.
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.
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.
In a way, the first movie also counts: the book that it's based on was a sequel to The Detective, which was made into a film starring Frank Sinatra in 1968. Die Hard didn't come out until 1988.
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 where 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.
Television Geography: Regarding the DC-Baltimore area in the second and fourth movies. They've got Washington Dulles International Airport being represented by LAX, 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.
Black Best Friend: Sgt. Al Powell in the first movie becomes McClane's staunchest ally and best source of moral support. Not as big a role in the second, although he is still John's best friend.
Black Dude Dies First: Inverted as the only black member of Gruber's team (see Black and Nerdy above) is the only bad guy with characterization to survive the movie. The black limo driver also lives. In a racial variation, Gruber shows he means business by turning Japanese Takagi into a Sacrificial Lamb early on.
Bond One-Liner: Said by John after he's dispatched a villain who suggested he never pass on an opportunity to kill his enemy:
McClane: Thanks for the advice.
Boring Insult: After Hans Gruber and his band of terrorists are revealed to actually be after $600 million in bearer bonds:
Holly McClane: After all your posturing, all your little speeches, you're nothing but a common thief.
Hans Gruber: I am an exceptional thief, Mrs McClane. And since I'm moving up to kidnapping, you should be more polite.
Bottomless Magazines: Present and averted in the same scene: John McClane and two terrorists are blasting away at each other with submachine guns. John's runs out of ammunition, while the terrorists' don't. Since it was one of the first action movies that had the characters carry around spare magazines and the film explicitly shows the terrorists reloading on multiple occasions, implied aversions in which they reload off-screen can be safely assumed.
Brief Accent Imitation: Alan Rickman put on such a convincing American accent, the director decided to extend the scene where he pretends to be a hostage in order to show it off. Given a Call Back in the third film when his brother (played by fellow Brit Jeremy Irons) puts on a heavy Texas accent.
The FBI, following procedure to the letter. Even if it means that the hostages might suffer.
Car Cushion: John throws a Mook out the window and onto the cop's car below to get his attention.
Car Fu: Argyle, the limousine driver, is oblivious to the hostage situation for half of the movie, and useless for most of the rest, but in the last 15 minutes or so, he slams his limo into the getaway vehicle, trapping it against the wall of the garage and preventing Theo from escaping.
Holly's Rolex, the removal of which kills the Big Bad.
And, to be honest, everything that ever appears on-screen. If it shows up at all, it has an impact on the plot. Everything. Lighters. Shoes. Teddy bears. Glass. Detonators. Cigarettes. Heck, the advice John's seatmate on the airplane gives him in the very first scene of the very first movie. You name it.
Combat Pragmatist: McClane defeats the villain with packing tape and his wife's watch.
The film was praised for the Combat Pragmatist approach; in other words, eschewing the concepts of Boring Invincible Hero (by showing McClane legitimately afraid, and later, bleeding and limping by the last stand versus Hans), Bottomless Magazines (by showing people having to reload) and applying Indy Ploy to a hostage situation (i.e. McClane can't just shoot his way out; he has to think fast to save himself and the hostages).
Corrupt Corporate Executive: Subverted with Joseph Takagi. At the beginning we're led to believe that he might be one. He's not, though he might appear to be one to casual observers. Gruber knows this, and uses it to convince the police that he's a terrorist rather than a thief.
The Cracker: Theo is a more realistic black hat: his main displays of cracking skill consist of tapping in to the building's camera system and guessing Takagi's password to defeat the first of seven locks on the Nakatomi Corporation vault. To disable locks 2 through 6, he uses a big drill. He doesn't even know how to open the final electromagnetic time lock on the vault until he learns about Hans' gaming the FBI into shutting off the power to the entire city grid that the building is on, thus disabling the lock and giving them access to the vault.
Didn't Think This Through: In order to get the terrorists off of killing more of the cops, McClane wraps a computer among some C4 and doesn't bother priming it correctly. So, when it explodes and creates a very huge explosion, his reaction says it all:
Drugs Are Bad: Cocaine-using Ellis is portrayed as a smug loser in relation to this trope.
Dub Name Change: In the German dub of the movie, Hans and Karl are named Jack and Charlie, and all the German lines are replaced by Italian.
Subverted in later releases, which use the original script.
Dynamic Entry: When the terrorists enter the Nakatomi, they seem to be casually talking about the Los Angeles Lakers, the discussion is a distraction to let them get close to the receptionist and kill him, along with a Post-Mortem One-Liner:
Theo: Boom, two points!.
The Eighties: Can you say "smarmy, bearded, Gordon Gekko-type working for a company that has been bought out by the Japanese"? See also the price of gas when Sgt. Powell stops for doughnuts - 74 cents for regular, 77 unleaded. When Theo first enters, he's describing a play involving four members of the remarkable late-eighties L. A. Lakers: James Worthy, A. C. Green, Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Enforced Method Acting: Rickman was supposed to be dropped on the count of "3". He was instead dropped on the count of "2", leading to a completely real look of panic and terror on his face as falls—and him being seriously pissed off at the director.
Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Karl's brother is killed by McClane. Karl wants revenge against McClane, losing interest in the main mission for the rest of the movie.
Evil Laugh: Hans and his colleague share one right before John reveals what he had taped to his back...
Exaggerated Trope: Harry Ellis was played as a comically over-the-top version of the sleazy, smarmy executive.
The Film of the Book: Nothing Lasts Forever by Roderick Thorp. Die Hard is a surprisingly faithful adaptation. Differences include:
In the book the cop character is a retiree, and the wife character is actually his estranged daughter.
The terrorists in the book are not thieves, but sincere terrorists who think the company is evil.
Four Temperament Ensemble: The four main terrorists: Hans is choleric, Karl is melancholic, Eddie is phlegmatic, and Theo is sanguine.
Giving Them the Strip: Hans grabs Holly's wrist as he's about to fall to his Disney Villain Death. John saves her from being dragged down with the villain by unhinging her wristwatch, which makes Hans lose his grip.
Good Smoking, Evil Smoking: John smokes cigs. He's a Bad Ass good guy. The Big Bad Hans also smokes, and even provides a clue for McClane by Gruber's holding the cigarette in the European manner, between thumb and index finger tips instead of between his index and middle fingers, as Americans commonly do. Another clue is that Hans just holds the cigarette and only once takes a drag of it, telling John that he's not a smoker and therefore not being honest about himself.
Hollywood CB: Averted, with McClane's talks with Al the cop audible to the terrorists (hence his use of "Roy" instead of his real name), except for one bit where he interrupts Hans at one point, on a walkie talkie.
Idiot Ball: Glued to the hands of Deputy Chief Robinson in the first movie, until the FBI agents (who may well qualify for Too Dumb to Live) take it away from him. By the end of the movie Robinson is still an ungrateful and impertinent Da Chief.
Improbable Cover: McClane builds a homemade bomb and tosses it down an elevator shaft. When it goes off, a blast of fire shoots upword toward him. He survives by stepping to the side of the door.
Indy Ploy: Practically anything McClane does is without previous planning. He lampshades it frequently: "Oh, John, what the fuck are you doing?" (first, as he ties a fire hose around his waist), "Ah John, what the fuck are you doing out on the wing of this plane?" (second, trying to stop the plane from taking off), "This is a bad idea!" (third, before jumping into a subway train from the sidewalk, and fourth, just before taking down a helicopter with a car.)
Line-of-Sight Name: Hans Gruber uses a false name of Clay while pretending to be a hostage. McClane sees the board where he got the name from, telling him that "Clay" isn't who he says he is. See Spotting The Thread below.
Magic Bullets: Averted when John kills a Mook by shooting him through a table, almost gets shot himself while hiding in an air duct, and all the other "missed" shots still leaving pretty obvious holes in whatever they hit.
Male Gaze: While McClane is battling terrorists, he gives a quick look at a nudie calender on the wall. This is a bit of Fridge Brilliance; he's doing it because he doesn't know his way around the bowels of the building and it's a landmark.
Mr. Fanservice: Quite a few of the accomplices were played by male models. In the first, Karl was a tall Russian ballet dancer with blond hair played by Alexander Godunov, and they were all led by Alan Rickman. And in the second film, some of Stuart's soldiers include Robert Patrick (from T2), Franco Nero (Esperanza), and Don Harvey, to name a few.
Justified in Hans' (Rickman's) case - he mentions getting his suits from a London tailor and alludes to a classical education. It's likely he was educated in England and probably spent a lot of time there.
Justified in the third movie. Simon was running an East German covert unit that trained operatives to be spies in the UK and US. They specalized in mastering regional accents and adopting comprehensive identities, and were left jobless when the Berlin Wall came down.
Not Quite Dead: Karl, not until Al puts a few bullets in him, after professing his fear of using his firearm in the line of duty earlier on.
Only a Flesh Wound: Karl, the terrorist who spends the film trying to avenge his brother's death is "dispatched" by John hanging him with a chain. Despite being hung by his neck, suffocated and presumed dead he still gets one last Not Quite Dead 30 stories below in the lobby.
Holly: There's a pregnant woman out there. [alarmed looks from the bad guys] Don't worry, she's not due for a couple of weeks. But the constant standing isn't doing her back any favors. I'd like to request she be moved to a room with a sofa.
Hans: ...No, but I'll have one brought out to her. Good enough?
Holly: Good enough.
Doesn't quite count as Pet the Dog, because he was planning to murder all the hostages - including her - anyway.
Put Down Your Gun and Step Away: Hans has his gun pressed against Holly's head and orders her husband John McClane to put down his gun. John complies. It's a ruse. The submachine gun is empty anyway, and John has his pistol taped to his back.
Revenge Before Reason: After McClane kills his brother, Karl nearly blows the plan repeatedly in order to get his revenge.
Ripped from the Headlines: Almost literally done in-universe by Hans Gruber in his mischievous demands when he includes the obscure terrorist group "Asian Dawn"... he read about them in "Time Magazine".
Rooftop Confrontation: Featured, with the plot-relevant roof being special because it doesn't survive the fight.
Sherlock Scan: John is able to deduce quite a bit about the Mooks inside the office just by picking up on subtle clues in their attire and actions.
Averted; McClane shoots the window he's swinging towards to weaken it before smashing through, and he looks terrible afterward.
In one scene, Gruber and Karl shoot out the plate glass in some offices so that barefooted McClane will have to walk across broken glass to reach the door. He does so, but has to tear off his shirt and make a bandage for his bleeding foot, and pull a huge fucking shard of glass from it. Test audiences were horrified when he yanked it out. The windows were made of safety glass, because it looks cooler when it breaks.
Soundtrack Dissonance: After everything that's happened, including one last hail of bullets less than a minute earlier, as John and Holly drive off with the smoky backdrop behind them, the cheerful lyrics "Oh the weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful..."
A news report suggests the hostages are entering the first stages, and then the camera pans to the hostages watching a corpse being dragged past them and are terrified of rather than identifying with their captors.
In an amusing mixup / Take That against media pundits and anchors, the author of a book on the subject refers to it as "Helsinki Syndrome", suggesting that he either got his facts wrong or he is ripping off Stockholm Syndrome. The male newsreader tries to clarify to the viewers that he's referring to "Helsinki, Sweden". An initial viewer might think this was a rather embarrassing example of the screenwriter not doing the research, until the shot cuts to a frustrated cameraman rolling his eyes and facepalming in exasperation at the newsreader's ignorance. It's made even funnier considering that the anchor in his blatant mistake is a bit more accurate than the so-called expert (obliquely, as in Sweden = half-right).
Stuffed into the Fridge: Tony, Karl's brother, is found dead inside an elevator, with a Santa Claus hat and with a message from John.
Take That: The dialog between McClane and Gruber about "American cowboys" is an extended Take That by screenwriter Steven de Souza against a number of pretentious European intellectuals and film critics. Gruber's lines about McClane as "Just another American who saw too many movies as a child? Another orphan of a bankrupt culture..." were actually a close paraphrase of a writer's critique of American movies like de Souza's earlier Commando. McClane's famous Catch Phrase retort is essentially de Souza's response.
Taking The Kids: Holly leaves for California due to a great career opportunity and takes the children with her, much to McClane's dismay. They argue about her having done this and her going back to her maiden name.
Talking to Themself: John's muttering to himself during his escapades is borderline schizophrenic.
"Why didn't you try to stop him, John? 'Cause then you'd be dead too, asshole..."
Throw It In: The line "I wanted this to be professional...he won't be joining us for the rest of his life." was an ad lib. Much of the scene where Hans tries to use a fake American accent to pass himself off as a hostage to McClane was apparently ad-libbed after the producers discovered that Alan Rickman could do a good American impersonation.
Too Clever by Half: Harry Ellis is a Smug Snake who decides that he is perfectly capable of handling Gruber himself, and chats with him in a far too casual and egotistical manner. He acts as though he is in charge, not them, they need him, and that he can work things out to everyone's satisfaction because clearly he's smart enough to have them figured out. He does manage to provide them with information, but he doesn't drop the act and keeps on pretending he's a friend of John's when his life is directly threatened. His scheme finally backfires when Gruber calls the bluff and coldly shoots and kills him to prove a point to McClane.
Translation Convention: One possible reason for the scenes in which the terrorists talk to each other in English, despite other scenes in which they are heard talking in German (and the obvious benefit in talking to each other in German whenever possible).
Though no explanation as to why the German terrorist doesn't understand when Hans tells him to "schieß dem Fenster," until he repeats it in English. Or even why he repeats it in English.
It´s terrible German. The confused look he gets in return can be hilarriously captioned with "It´s "Schieß auf das Fenster!", Idiot", which is done so here.
If this is when Hans tells Karl to shoot the glass it could be because Karl doesn't understand the order...why waste bullets on glass when they can shoot him dead? If so this is a Call Back to Hans' plan to have John neutralized, as if the glass cripples him he would no longer be a threat, presumably.
There are a number of hints in the film that Hans is not actually German and his use of the language and nationality is a put-on. This is completely undone by the third movie, though.
Nice suit. John Phillips... London. I have two myself. Rumor has it, Arafat buys his there.
They Just Didn't Care (In-Universe): Gruber asks for the release of a variety of terrorist cells to keep up the image of being a terrorist. When asked by one of his mooks about the one Asian cell out of a list of mostly European terrorist groups, he shrugs and says, "I read about them in Time magazine." Amusingly, it's the Asian terrorists that the police are later shown experiencing red tape with.
Karl: Do you think they will even try to do it? Hans: Who cares.
Western Terrorists: Subverted in that they are not ideological crusaders but mercenaries and thieves who are in it for the money.
Holly: After all your posturing, all your little speeches, you're nothing but a common thief. Hans Gruber: I am an exceptional thief, Mrs. McClane. And since I'm moving up to kidnapping, you should be more polite.
Wicked Cultured: Hans Gruber. He lampshades this by quoting Plutarch's "Life of Alexander" and then comments, "One of the benefits of a classical education."
(Elevator arrives bringing the mooks Hans just called on his radio)
Gruber: "You were saying?"
Wrong Insult Offence: Hans Gruber claims to be a terrorist, but is later revealed to be after 600 million dollars worth of bearer bonds.
Mrs. McClane: After all your posturing, all your little speeches, you're nothing but a common thief.
Hans: I am an exceptional thief, Mrs. McClane. And since I'm moving up to kidnapping, you should be more polite.
Younger and Hipper: The movie is this when compared to Roderick Thorp's Nothing Lasts Forever, the novel it is based on. When the novel was optioned for filming, sixty-something Joe Leland from the book became late-thirty-something John McClane for the movie.
Die Hard 2
Air Vent Passageway: Yet again, though this time it's much larger and McClane uses it as a way to make a surprise attack on Stuart's painter henchmen.
Artistic License - Gun Safety: John empties an entire clip from a machine gun to demonstrate it's loaded with blanks, and does so when it's pointed at an officer. A good example of Show, Don't Tell, to be sure, but incredibly reckless and in real life would have quickly gotten him shot by all the other officers before the confusion cleared.
An Ass Kicking Christmas: The fact that this has now happened twice is referred to a number of times, often for comic relief...
"You know just once, I'd like a regular, normal Christmas. Eggnog, fuckin' Christmas tree, a little turkey BUT NO, I have to crawl around in this fuckin' tin can."
"Another basement, another elevator. How can the same shit happen to the same guy twice?"
Bottomless Magazines: Subverted: McClane accompanies a special forces team to take out the group that has taken over the airport. We see them reload their guns BEFORE they start the move, and they take out the whole base...but McClane later realizes that they reloaded the guns with blanks.
Although, considering that the M P5s they use fire from a closed bolt, there should have been at least one live round fired apiece.
The fight moves we see Colonel Stuart practicing (naked) in the beginning are the exact same ones he uses to kick John's ass at the end.
The radio with the inputted password that gets kicked away during the first fight in the luggage area, and, with a more humorous (though still awesome) bent, the old lady's stun gun. The radio case is a Freeze Frame Bonus since it goes by so quickly.
Click Hello: As Esperanza's plane is coming in to land:
Colonel Stuart:[impersonating the tower] Dulles Tower, Foxtrot Michael One. Dulles Tower, Foxtrot Michael One.
Pilot (Foreign Military Plane): This is Foxtrot Michael One, Dulles. We read you, over.
Colonel Stuart: Foxtrot Michael One, you are to come in on Runway 1-5. I repeat: 1-5.
Pilot (Foreign Military Plane): This is contrary to our instructions. We are to land at Runway 1-0, where we are to be met by representatives of your Justice Dep-[click! A pistol is put to his head]
Gen. Ramon Esperanza: Captain, please tell the tower you will proceed as ordered.
[the pilot looks at his co-pilot, who glares back at him, then looks back at Esperanza, then finally speaks into his headset]
Pilot (Foreign Military Plane): Roger, Dulles. Proceeding to Runway 1-5.
Cowboy Cop: Chief Carmine Lorenzo distrusts McClane, due to this. Ironically they initially clash over Chief Lorenzo disregarding police procedure.
Determinator:McClane, of course. Also, reporter Dick Thornburg is really determined to get the story, although for selfish reasons.
The Dragon: The movie seems completely devoid of a Dragon. Until you find out that Major Grant is in on it.
Electric Company Men Infiltration: Two of Stuart's men, Baker and Thompson, disguise themselves as power company employees to get into the church they use as their base, then they shoot the custodian who let them in.
Empathy Doll Shot: In the aftermath of Colonel Stuart's murder of a plane of innocents.
Eye Scream: McClane takes out Baker at the church with an icicle to the eye.
Foreshadowing: There's quite a few hints that Major Grant is working with Colonel Stuart both in the different color tape for the gun magazines and there's one point near the beginning where one of the mooks mentions that someone got sick and a replacement was brought in. Grant's radioman is the replacement.
Fanservice: Colonel Stuart likes to do his karate naked.
Intrepid Reporter: Samantha Coleman, although she initially annoys John with her questions at first, she is becomes a refreshing change from Thornberg as she helps John chase the villains in her news helicopter. The fact she is getting a a spectacular exclusive of John stopping the terrorists doesn't hurt either.
Never Mess with Granny: The little old lady sitting next to Holly on the plane at the beginning of the film. She absolutely revels in the fact that she now has a stun baton to protect herself, and the fact that she tested it on her dog (who she notes limped for a week before recovering) makes her seem just a wee bit Axe Crazy.
No OSHA Compliance: Inverted as John climbs through the air vents to the skyway, there is lighting in the air vents.
One Riot, One Ranger: When McClane complains about only getting one platoon, the response is "One crisis, one platoon."
Only One: The airport police (for most of the movie) and the military troops sent to take out the terrorists.
Paparazzi: Dick, and he's especially douchetacular this time around. The people in the airport are not told about the terrorist incident, so as not to cause a panic. Dick happens to be on a plane with Holly, in a holding pattern over the airport. When he figures out what's going on, he immediately calls in the story to his producers, smelling a Pulitzer. Then the folks in the airport and the planes see the special news bulletin...
Plot Hole: Airliners in distress are not slaves to Air Traffic Control and are free (and indeed required) to divert to another airport if they can't land at their destination. There are dozens of airports that they could have reached with the fuel they are depicted as carrying, including Andrews Air Force Base, less then away.
Police Are Useless: John empties an entire magazine from a submachine gun at Chief Lorenzo inside the police station and doesn't get gunned down by the rest of the officers? They were blanks, but still, the cops didn't know that!
Power Walk: Col. Stuart and his cohorts do one when they start their operation.
Skeptic No Longer: Captain Lorenzo only believes John McClane about Colonel Stuart and Major Grant working together only after McClane empties a submachine gun (the same kind used by the soldiers in their attack against the terrorist) full of blanks at him. Lorenzo then calls in the cavalry and soon he, McClane and all the airport security is racing to the plane to stop the villains from escaping.
That's actually an in-joke. Director Renny Harlin is Finnish.
Throw Away Guns: Subverted; John McClane tries to convince the airport police chief that there is a serious problem:
"He pulled a Glock 7 on me. That's a porcelain gun, so it doesn't show up on your x-ray machines, and it costs more than you make in a month." "You'd be surprised how much I make in a month." "If it's more than $1.98 I'd be really amazed."
Vapor Trail: In the end, it is what helps the planes to land.
Wham Line: The scene where we are shown that Major Grant is really working with Colonel Stuart:
Soldier: Hey Telford! What was *your* chicken-shit outfit doing while we were taking Grenada? [He and his comrades burst out laughing]
Major Grant: Grenada. Five minutes of firefights, five weeks of surfing!
Corporal Telford: I wish I was with you guys for that! Major Grant: Yeah. Me too, kid. Corporal Telford: Really, sir? Major Grant: Sure. Or we wouldn't have to do this. [pulls out a Bowie knife and slits Telford's throat. As Telford dies, he grabs a two-way radio and contacts Stuart.]
Almighty Janitor: The truck driver. He quickly recovers from John holding him at gunpoint only to prove to be an expert on the aqueduct he's driving a truck for and also knows which President John needs to know.
Awesome McCoolname: There are probably a few more examples throughout the series, but Zeus Carver stands out. It's almost a name worthy of Samuel L. Jackson. Which leads to this:
John McClane: Guy back there called you Jesús.
Zeus: He didn't say Jesús. He said, "Hey, Zeus!" My name is Zeus!
John McClane: Zeus?
Zeus: Yeah, Zeus! As in, father of Apollo? Mt. Olympus? "Don't fuck with me or I'll shove a lightning bolt up your ass Zeus!" You got a problem with that?
Backwards Firing Gun: An alternate ending has McClane threatening Simon Gruber with a Chinese rocket launcher with the sights removed, allowing Gruber to point the rocket whichever way he liked. Gruber ultimately points the rocket launcher the wrong way.
Bait the Dog: Averted with Simon, who doesn't pass the Moral Event Horizon like his brother did but still had planted bombs for McClane to find and disarm in public places.
Batman Gambit: Simon's plan is dependent on the NYPD worrying more about schoolkids than Wall Street (as well as McClane believing that Simon is out for revenge rather than money).
Big Applesauce: Although the New York centrism is fully on display with the other installments, notice how bumbling and ineffective the LAPD and FBI are in Die Hard compared to how well the NYPD is depicted.
Call Back: When John is forced by Simon to walk into Harlem with an offensive sandwich board reading "I HATE NIGGERS", he at least has the foresight to tape a gun to his back.
Chekhov's Gun: Ricky Walsh's badge number (which is how McClane realizes that "Detective Otto" is rogue), the 14 stolen dump trucks (to haul out the gold), and the bottle of aspirin.
The aspirin is a double Chekhov's Gun, as the FBI / CIA agents note that one of the only known facts about Simon is that he suffers migraines.
Combat Pragmatist: McClane prevents the villain from escaping AND defeats him using nothing more than a clue from an aspirin bottle that said villain gave him.
Also, he suggests Zeus pick their cuffs with a splinter in John's shoulder from the cable they slid down minutes earlier. It works in freeing John from his cuffs, but Zeus drops the makeshift lockpick and John still saves Zeus from the explosion by using a small amount of the explosive to break his cuffs.
Simon Gruber, after he reveals that the bomb planted in a school was a fake. His Affably Evil approach comes back to haunt Simon when McClane is able trace him back thanks to the text of an aspirin bottle that Gruber hands to John when McClane is tied and distressed.
Simon: I'm a soldier, not a monster. Even though I sometimes work for monsters.
Simon's men, when entering the Federal Reserve, are shown to leave the guards alive by tranquilizing them, and only kill anyone who tries to resist (such as the guard who is knifed to death by Katya after attempting to fire a shotgun at the other robbers while screaming loudly. A henchman pretending to be a foreman also yells at Otto after that guy shoots Walsh, only for one of the "cop" henchmen to inform him that Otto doesn't speak English.
Zeus passes off a suitcase bomb to two cops, who are actually Simon's henchmen. They take it, because not doing so would have blown their cover. But then, the first guy admonishes his partner for starting to leave it on the sidewalk.
Gosh Dang It to Heck!: A TV-edit of the film has Zeus saying "Look, all brothers don't know how to shoot a gun, you racist melon farmer."
Hollywood Density: Averted when Zeus tries to pick up a loose gold brick that fell out of one of the dump trucks, not knowing how heavy one is. Of course, later on they throw gold bricks as though they were footballs...
Either this trope or Writers Cannot Do Math comes into place with the trucks: in 1995, $150,000,000 worth of gold would be about 9,000 tons—far more than even 14 full dump trucks could take. It would take more than twice that many to do the job.
Hypocritical Humour: John McClane of all people, when a child/thug calls him a "dickhead", tells him to "Watch his mouth".
I Can See You: When Gruber demands to know why John and Zeus weren't there to answer a pay phone at the specific time he demanded, they dismiss him, asking for their next set of instructions. Gruber (quite reasonably, actually) tells John, "You could have just said there was a fat woman using the phone and she refused to get off". Cue the Oh Crap reaction from the two as they realize that Gruber is watching them.
Informed Ability/Brief Accent Imitation: Simon Gruber is identified as an elite East German spy. When Simon appears and introduces himself to Rick Walsh as "Bob Thompson" from the City Engineer's office, Jeremy Irons actually attempts an American accent and the outcome is an stereotypically exaggerated Texan drawl. Given his Laughably Evil nature, he seems to be enjoying himself, joking around in a very morbid and ironic sense in that iconical context and opportunity:
Ricky Walsh:[tries to wave down the trucks] Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!
Simon Gruber: Detective! [shows up, holding a briefcase] Bob Thompson. City Engineer's Office. We'd like to take a look at the damage. [Mathias Targo jumps onto the driver's door of a passing dump truck behind him]
Ricky Walsh: Man, you guys really got here fast! [He and Simon start walking]
Simon Gruber: Well... it's Wall Street, sir. A lot of money here. A lot of opinion majors, the mayor doesn't wanna piss off, you know. Is this it? [sees what his bomb has done, and feigns shock] Holy Toledo! Somebody had fun! [turns to Walsh] I'd appreciate it if you'd show my associates the way down. [smiles]
Jurisdiction Friction: Averted. Inspector Cobb is ordering his men to search the schools and challenges the FBI agents not to pull a jurisdictional stunt. The FBI agent has kids in one of the threatened schools, and he's more than happy to provide assistance.
The Main Characters Do Everything: Zeus - being a civilian - doesn't have to follow McClane once they get to the bridge - as a matter of fact Zeus messes things up a little once on the ship, even after being told not to be the hero. There's absolutely no reason McClane (and definitely not Zeus) needed to go along to Canada at the end.
Made of Iron: Targo. McClane stabs a big sharp piece of metal into the guy's leg and it does nothing.
Malcolm Xerox: Zeus Carver, despite saving McClane from being beaten to a pulp by black men.*
Gruber forced him to wear a sign that said "I HATE NIGGERS". In Harlem. For those not American, this ensures, at best, a violent confrontation, as Harlem is well-known for being a predominantly-black neighborhood.
Motivational Lie: Realizing that Zeus won't help him if it's just one white dude blowing up some others, John tells him that one of Simon's bombs was found in a playground in a black neighborhood.
Mythology Gag: John asks one of the dump truck drivers if they've seen Santa Claus as a distraction while posing as an aquaduct security, a nod to the fact that the previous two films took place at Christmas. Multiple gunshots ensue, both occupants in the dump truck are killed before they can fire their weapons. McClane walks up to the driver's door, opens it, and the driver's body falls out.
N-Word Privileges: John doesn't have them (obviously) and Simon exploits this in an attempt to get him killed. To elaborate: he must wear a sign saying "I Hate Niggers" in Harlem. Unsurprisingly, he's nearly killed.
It should be noted that when they filmed this scene (in Harlem), the filmmakers did not make him wear a sign that said "I HATE NIGGERS". They had him read one that said "I HATE EVERYBODY", then altered it later, probably for the simple fact that the producers did not want to upset the Harlem residents.
The Nineties: Payphones everywhere, the suggestion the bomber could set off a bomb with a beeper. The portable phone in the bomb briefcase was pretty cool for its time.
No OSHA Compliance: For the subway scene, the gratings over the subway tunnel are light enough to be lifted by a single man in a hurry. The glass window on the subway car shatters with a wild kick. (Of course not the one on the back of the train when John has to throw the bomb off.)
Simon Gruber:[casually takes gun from Zeus] You forgot to take the safety catch off. [shoots Zeus in the leg] See, that works. Now where's McClane?
Outrun the Fireball: Subverted: After being told that a bomb was in a garbage can by the phone booth, both Zeus and McClane try to push people aside and then dive to the ground; when no explosion happens, the terrorist's laughter reveals the joke.
"I didn't say 'Simon Says'."
Pants Positive Safety: McClane puts his pistol in his waistband instead of in the shoulder holster he is wearing!
Pet the Dog: Simon orders a mook to let Zeus walk away twice.
Spotting The Thread: McClane realizes that the guards with him at the Federal Reserve are impostors when one of them refers to the elevator they are riding as a "lift" (British terminology) as well as mention a hard rainstorm as raining "like dogs and cats" (when an American would say it's raining "cats and dogs" or "frogs and fishes"). This leads him to examine the "cops" more closely, and he recognizes that one of them is wearing the badge of a friend of his. (McClane had remarked on the badge number then). One final test question later, carnage occurs.
Standard Snippet: '"When Johnny Comes Marching Home" (under the other title, "Ants Go Marching") is featured, which when used during the Federal Reserve heist, in particular that scene where Katya slashes a guard to death, makes it seem epic. Note the third film is the first actually set in New York, where John (McClane) is a police officer.
Technology Marches On: Simon bluffs the police off their radios by insinuating some of the bombs were keyed to police frequencies...then he locks up the entire New York switchboard by calling a popular radio station about the (fake) bomb he planted in a school, to destroy the other means of communication the NYPD could've had. Cell phones would've beaten both in a second (but then, Simon would've probably had something for that eventually as well.)
The riddles would also be a lot less suspenseful if John and Zeus could just Google the answers on their smartphones.
Treasure Room: The Federal Reserve Bank of New York, where Uncle Sam keeps a lot of gold, almost all of it for other countries' central banks.
Simon: Fort Knox — Ha! — is for tourists!
Uncomfortable Elevator Moment: With an initially unsuspecting McClane sharing a small elevator with 4-5 guards, most of them significantly larger than himself. It gets bloody once he realizes they're Simon's henchmen.
Wham Line: After John asks the FBI what "Simon" and his group have to do with him.
"The name 'Gruber' mean anything to you, Lieutenant?"
You Look Familiar: Anthony Peck appeared as a random L.A. cop ("Something about a double cross!") in the first film and and now reappears as NYPD detective Ricky Walsh.
"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.
Farrell: Did you see that?
McClane: Yeah, I saw it, I did it.
Badass Damsel: 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."
Bloodless Carnage: Subverted. Despite concerns over the PG-13 rating, this is still a pretty brutal film.
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.
Co-Dragons: Gabriel's mistress Mai and the French acrobatic henchman Rand.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
The tactic of shooting nearby glass to inflict pain upon John in the first film by Hans Gruber is now used by The Mc Laneson 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 Karamov 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 Komorov 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 Komorov, and she pretends to be on Komorov'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 Komorov 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.
Hero Stole My Bike: John can't do a Flashed Badge Hijack as he's not in his own jurisdiction, so 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. Later when they need another car, Jack nicks one from a Mafiya 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.
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.
Spanner in the Works: Koromov'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.
alternative title(s): Die Hard; Die Hard With A Vengeance; Live Free Or Die Hard; Die Hard2; Die Hard; Die Hard Trilogy 2 Viva Las Vegas; Die Hard Vendetta; Die Hard Arcade; Die Hard Trilogy; Die Hard Nakatomi Plaza; A Good Day To Die Hard; Die Hard; Die Hard 2 Die Harder; Die Hard With A Vengeance; Live Free Or Die Hard; A Good Day To Die Hard; Die Hard 2