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Franchise / Die Hard

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Yippie-kai-yay, motherfucker!

Major Grant: You're the wrong guy at the wrong place at the wrong time.
John McClane: Story of my life.

A landmark action thriller movie franchise that started with the greatest Christmas movie ever made in 1988 when the world was introduced to a new kind of badass, John McClane. He is usually called "the right man in the wrong place at the wrong time." Bruce Willis stars as McClane, a New York cop 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 (here with the places where the action is set):

There were plans to make a sixth and final movie entitled McClane, but it was shelved as a result of the Disney/20th Century Fox merger in 2021, and then it officially died when Bruce Willis announced his retirement from acting due to his aphasia diagnosis in 2022.

The 1991 thriller film Ricochet, starring Denzel Washington and John Lithgow, takes place in the Die Hard universe, both films starring Mary Ellen Trainor as a LA news reporter Gail Wallens. The films share many of the same production team, including producer Joel Silver and Steven E. de Souza.

On the comedic side, Bruce has made a Crossover Cameo as John McClane in Loaded Weapon 1 (1993) and allusion to McClane's use of Air-Vent Passageway for his appearance in The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part (2019). In 2020, Bruce, Clarence Gilyard, and De'voreaux White reprised their roles of John McClane, Theo, and Argyle for the commercial DieHard Is Back.

An Year One comic series entitled Die Hard: Year One has also been published by Boom! Studios. A graphic novel titled A Million Ways to Die Hard was published in 2018 by Insight Comics.

USAopoly published the Asymmetric Multiplayer Tabletop Game, Die Hard: The Nakatomi Board Game.

It has spawned a number video games, some of which are directly based on the movies:

In 2021, Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War and Call of Duty: Warzone had a crossover in which McClane was added as a playable Operator and Nakatomi Plaza was added to the latter's "Verdansk '84" map.

Scripts of the first film can be found at specialty stores:

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.

Now I have a trope example list. Ho ho ho:

  • Adaptation Amalgamation: Any Die Hard sequel is there because all of them were based, mostly, on unrelated source material.
  • Badass Family: The McClanes and the Grubers.
  • 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.
  • Bond Villain Stupidity: Present in all the movies, but used sparingly to keep the villains threatening.
  • 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.
    • The Czech equivalent of the catchphrase was changed to a "jackass" instead.
  • Brooklyn Rage: Guess where John is from.
  • Busman's Holiday: Although John McClane is an NYPD cop, his first two adventures take place away from New York while he's presumably on leave (given that it's Christmas and he's trying to reconcile with his wife). It's not until the third movie that he finally gets to have an adventure in the Big Apple - and even then, he's suspended and so isn't technically supposed to be involved.
  • Catchphrase: "Yippie-ki-yay, motherfucker!"
  • The Cavalry Arrives Late: Subverted; the police always arrive early on, but they just can't do anything about the situation, as the villain has already factored their expected response into his plans.
    • You'd think by now that John would wise up, and start mentoring a few rookies.
  • Chronic Hero Syndrome: John has a violent version of this.
  • Clothing Damage: John gets noticeably more raggedy from various injuries in each movie.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Many of John's lines are guilty of this trope.
  • Da Chief: Deputy Chief of Police Dwayne T. Robinson in the first film, Airport Police Captain Carmine Lorenzo in the second film and Captain Walter Cobb in the third film. The first two are jerkasses/Neidermeyers while Cobb is a classic Reasonable Authority Figure.
  • Denser and Wackier: As detailed here. It begun with "everyman stuck in a building filled with baddies", but by the fifth movie he's Made of Iron and barely flinches while destroying everything in his path.
  • 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.
    McClane: I'm like that fuckin' Energizer Bunny.
  • Deadpan Snarker: McClane in all films.
  • "Die Hard" on an X: The Trope Namer and Trope Codifier. Happens to the one and only John McClane fairly often.
  • Dolled-Up Installment:
    • 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. The french title is "58 Minutes to Live" mirroring this.
    • 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 "", 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 Sega Beat 'em Up Die 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.
  • Downtime Downgrade: John and Holly's marriage. First movie: On the rocks, restored by Rescue Romance. Second movie: Appears stable. Third movie: On the rocks again, and John unintentionally leaving her hanging on the line while he goes to confront the Big Bad probably didn't help. Fourth movie on: Divorced.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: No matter what adventures McClane may go on, by the start of the next film he'll be back to being a Jerkass 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.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: There are many examples of bad guys lamenting the deaths of their loved ones:
    • The Dragon in the first movie is deeply angered after his brother is killed by John and spends most of the movie wanting revenge.
    • Simon admits he didn't like Hans, but he was still family to him.
      • In the same movie, one of his men makes a toast to fallen comrades and he shares the sentiment.
    • When Gabriel learns about his girlfriend's death, he is shocked into silence and seems to be on the verge of tears as he tells John It's Personal.
    • At the end of A Good Day to Die Hard, Irina Komarov dies in a suicidal spur-of-the-moment attempt to kill both McClanes after seeing her father thrown to his death by Jack.
  • 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).
  • Good Old Fisticuffs: At least one scene in every film.
  • Guile Hero: John McClane. Overshadowed by the more prominent Action Hero profile.
  • Handguns:
    • In "Die Hard", although John McClane seeks out a machine gun (ho-ho-ho) at the first opportunity, he's still eventually reduced to his trusty pistol.
    • He's able to take out a helicopter in "Die Hard with a Vengeance" with a snub-nosed revolver. To be fair, he didn't aim directly at said helicopter...
  • Hate Sink:
    • Deputy Chief Dwayne T. Robinson is a high ranking LAPD officer who is borderline-imbecilic in his decisions and aggressively dismissive of Sgt. Al Powell's suggestions with regards to the course of action the police must take. Rather than investigate the body of a dead gunman, Robinson dismisses the body as a suicide victim, ignoring the bullet holes on Powell's car. When John McClane tries to warn Robinson about a trap laid by the gunmen, Robinson ignores the former's warning, then complains about his men being covered in glass when John neutralizes two gunmen using explosives. It bears mention that Robinson is such a hardcore example of this that he alone is the reason Roger Ebert gave the film a two-star/thumbs down classification in his review.
    • Special Agent "Big" Johnson and Agent "Little" Johnsonnote  are arrogant FBI Agents who talk down to Powell and the aforementioned Robinson. Against Robinson's protests, the agents unwittingly play into the robbers' hands by cutting the power. Upon estimating a 20-25% loss of hostages if they take out Hans Gruber and his crew, the agents decide to attack regardless of civilian casualties. After mistaking John McClane for a gunman, both agents end up getting killed when Hans blows up the roof and their helicopter is caught in the blast.
    • Richard "Dick" Thornburg is the amoral reporter that ends up exposing Holly McClane's identity by threatening the McClanes' housekeeper with deportation and terrorizing their kids, all for the sake of a story. When Dick attempts to interview John and Holly, he receives a well-deserved punch in the face, courtesy of the latter. In Die Hard 2, Dick is mentioned to have made a scathing article about airlines and stewardesses, and to whit treats the stewardesses with disrespect. When Dick broadcasts on international TV that the airport has been hijacked, thereby causing a panic that the authorities were desperately trying to avoid, he is tased by Holly to shut him up.
    • Colonel William Stuart, the Big Bad of 2, is a stoic, smug, and utterly vile sociopath who kills an untold number of innocent civilians and places even more at risk by turning off the runway lights at Dulles Airport, leaving them unable to land, simply because he feels his political disillusionment gives him the right to betray his own country and to get a reward for rescuing a notorious drug dealing and monstrous dictator, who he is convinced will somehow help America. He also has several Dulles Airport employees and air police officers killed without remorse for the "crime" of trying to rescue the civilians aboard the aircraft he is holding hostage, and takes it personally when McClane kills the mooks that did this in self-defense, crashing an entire plane full of civilians which has children aboard in retaliation and enjoys the whole thing, clearly feeling nothing but satisfied by it. He doesn't even care about his men and doesn't give a damn about their deaths, only reacting the way he does because he feels like it's a personal insult. By the end of the film, you’re definitely rooting for him to die painfully, which he does.
  • Hellish Copter: Various helicopters meet their ends due to rocket launchers, power lines, and police cars.
  • 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.
  • Indy Ploy: In contrast to the villain's carefully laid plans, John McClane does everything on the fly, leading to absurd decisions that many times nearly kill him. 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.)
  • Invincible Hero: John started off as an aversion of this trope as a hero who gets hurt like anyone else would, but by Good Day, he's able to brush off falling through several stories of glass despite pushing 60.
  • 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 starts out as a bit of a jerkass but slowly lightens up.
  • Laughably Evil: Both Gruber brothers occasionally slip into this, Simon more so.
  • Made of Iron: As the intro noted, John McClane followed Indiana Jones in the school of "action hero who is beaten by everyone\everything on his path and yet survives". Some of the people he encounters (Karl, Mai) are also resilient as hell.
  • Mugged for Disguise:
    • 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.
  • No One Should Survive That!: This trope is invoked at least once every 10 minutes while watching these films.
  • Oddly Named Sequel 2: Electric Boogaloo
  • Once per Episode: "Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker."
    • Every movie but the second reveals that the terrorists are actually doing a great robbery.
  • One-Man Army: Practically a Trope Codifier.
  • Perma-Stubble: McClane.
  • 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...
  • Rated M for Manly: Yes.
  • Rescue Romance: The first two movies are the Rated M for Manly version of a love movie: Yes, Holly, your husband may not always say the right thing, or remember to bring romantic gifts. But when you truly need him, he will literally fight his way through an army for you. What more proof do you need that he really loves you?
  • Right Man in the Wrong Place: With the exception of the third movie, McClane always found himself in the middle of something that was generally beyond his training as a police officer.
  • Rule of Cool: Most of the stunts performed by John, although the first movie at least complies with physics fairly well.
  • 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: Starting with the third, the Die Hard sequels start with John McClane back to being a down-on-his-luck cop on the outs with his family (in the second, he's in a relatively good mood... until disaster finds him again). Possibly justified by his being something of a headstrong Cowboy Cop with a drinking problem; the acclaim he gets for his heroics is balanced by repeatedly getting in trouble.
  • Shared Universe:
  • 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.
  • Super Window Jump
  • 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.
  • True Love Is Boring: Poor John and Holly just couldn't catch a break.
  • The Unfettered: The Dragon in each movie.
  • 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.

"Now I know what a troper feels like."


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Alternative Title(s): Die Hard Trilogy, Die Hard Trilogy 2 Viva Las Vegas


Die Hard Trilogy 2

Full title: Die Hard Trilogy 2: Viva Las Vegas.

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