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YMMV / Die Hard

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Works in this franchise with their own pages:


Franchise in general:

  • Acceptable Targets: Unethical news reporters when it comes to Thornburg in the first two films.
  • Adaptation Displacement: Occurs frequently due to Dolled-Up Installment.
    • The first movie was based on the novel Nothing Lasts Forever by Roderick Thorp, which itself is a sequel to The Detective, turned into a film starring Frank Sinatra.
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    • The second one was based on the novel 58 Minutes by Walter Wager.
    • The third one was originally an unrelated screenplay called Simon Says.
    • And the fourth movie was based on a magazine article written in Wired.
  • Awesome Music: Beethoven's 'Ode to Joy' from the first film. It's also featured in the trailers for all the sequels.
    • In terms of music actually written for the movies, Michael Kamen (the first three movies) and Marco Beltrami (who took over following Kamen's untimely demise) turn in some fine work such as Kamen's "The Battle" in the first one and "Shootout And Snowmobile Chase" from the second one, and Beltrami's "Truckzilla" in the fifth.
    • In the first movie, the triumphant sounding music that plays near the end when Powell guns down Karl? It's actually an deleted section from "Resolution and Hyperspace" from Aliens.
  • Complete Monster: See here.
  • Contested Sequel: All of the sequels, to some extent, due to lacking the freshness of the first film. With a Vengeance, directed again by John McTiernan, is the least contested. Die Hard 2 and Live Free or Die Hard had some decent reviews, but A Good Day To Die Hard was wildly panned.
  • Evil Is Cool: Most of the badass villains in the films:
  • Evil Is Sexy:
    • This trope is pretty much a given when your villain is being played by Alan Rickman.
    • Or Jeremy Irons. In a tank top.
    • Or William Sadler in the nude in the second film.
    • Katja in With a Vengeance.
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    • Irina in Good Day.
    • Maggie Q in 4.0.
  • Franchise Original Sin: The central conceit of John McClane being a Badass Normal, with emphasis on the Normal, always had a few holes in it. Even in the first film, there were moments such as the elevator shaft explosion and the kick to the throat where he should've died. In those earlier films, however, he was shown getting badly injured and worn down by the action such that they ended with him just grateful to still be alive, preventing him from coming off as an Invincible Hero protected by Plot Armor. By Live Free, however, that was mostly lost in favor of turning McClane into exactly the kind of Hollywood Action Hero he was originally meant as a subversion of.
  • Franchise Zombie: Has become this as of A Good Day to Die Hard, to the point that Bruce Willis looks like he doesn't want to be involved and is firmly in Money, Dear Boy boredom mode.
  • Friendly Fandoms: With the Lethal Weapon and Terminator fandoms.
  • Germans Love David Hasselhoff: Japan provides the highest foreign box office gross for all four movies, with the highest gross being 81 million dollars for the third movie. The first movie has been spoofed in Japanese media before, and even Bruce Willis came to Japan to do some commercials.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: The video game Die Hard Trilogy has the Die Hard With A Vengeance driving missions, with the final level having McClane chasing Simon in a helicopter and the player having to launch himself in the air and hit Simon's chopper several times until he dies. Then 11 years later on Live Free or Die Hard, where McClane takes down an enemy chopper by launching his car up into the air and having it collide right into it.
  • Iron Woobie: McClane Sr. But he still soldiers on. See Determinator below.
  • It Was His Sled: Most of the films. Yes, even on this very website, which makes it very difficult to watch the entire series unspoiled.
  • No Problem with Licensed Games:
    • The original NES adaptation manages to be both faithful to the film and, in some ways, innovative. (John can't see around corners, for instance, despite the top-down view.) A set number of terrorists spawn in random locations throughout the building, so each playthrough is different. There is, however, quite a bit of Trial-and-Error Gameplay.
    • Die Hard Trilogy for the PS1 is considered to be a great Arcade-styled action game with plenty of variety in the styles chosen for each of the three movies.
    • Die Hard Arcade, which was originally an unaffiliated game (but clearly inspired by the first film) called Dynamite Deka, but became a Dolled-Up Installment when it was localized outside of Japan.
    • Die Hard: Nakatomi Plaza is a pretty fun budget FPS that shows a lot of love and affection for the first film (it started development as a Fan Game before being given an official license).
  • The Problem with Licensed Games:
    • The Die Hard 2 game for computers is an uninspired and repetitive gallery shooter without light gun support, loads of Fake Difficulty and a terrible A Winner Is You ending.
    • Die Hard Trilogy 2: Viva Las Vegas generally lacks the charm and novelty of its predecessor and has stiff controls, bad level design and a weak plot that fails to capture the spirit of the original films.
  • "Weird Al" Effect: Everybody knows McClane's catchphrase "Yippie-Ki-Yay, motherfucker!", but few now remember that the line (or at least the "Yippie-Ki-Yay" part) was derived from the western song "Git Along, Little Dogies".

First movie:

  • Acceptable Ethnic Targets: Hans Gruber is a gleeful send-up of cruel-but-effete Nazi stereotypes (played by an Englishman, obviously) despite that he's a former German communist terrorist (i.e. the Nazis' deadly enemies).
  • And You Thought It Would Fail: Apparently, before Bruce Willis was approached to play John McClane, the job had already been turned down by Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Burt Reynolds, Richard Gere, Harrison Ford and Mel Gibson, who didn't believe in the script, and John McTiernan, who would later direct it, even turned down several offers. When his agent delivered the news to Willis, he immediately advised him not to do it, thinking he'd make a complete fool of himself. However, due to the payment being simply too good to turn down, Willis accepted to play McClane, kicking off his career as one of Hollywood's most popular and well paid actors. Not to mention how the movie became influential in formula and protagonist type of later movies. It is now virtually impossible to find a Best Action Movies list that does not contain it, more often than not, at the top of the pile.
  • Award Snub:
    • Alan Rickman deserved a lot of Oscar nominations, but never more so than for this (and in his theatrical debut, no less). His Hans Gruber has stood the test of time as one of the silver screen's most iconic villains. Empire even named Gruber the 17th greatest film character in 2006. As noted in Die Hard: A Complete Visual History, Bruce Willis also thought Rickman deserved a nomination.
    • Jan De Bont's cinematography and Michael Kamen's score were also un-nominated.
  • Base-Breaking Character: Harry Ellis. Some people finds him funny, while others can't wait for Hans to shoot him in the head.
  • Big-Lipped Alligator Moment: The bizarrely out-of-place scene where John appears to ogle an undressing woman in a nearby building, shortly before he pulls the fire alarm. Even Bruce Willis said he had no idea the scene would play out like that during filming, and believed it to have been inserted just to add a little extra fanservice.
  • Broken Base: Want to start an argument on the Internet? Take a stance on whether or not Die Hard counts as a Christmas movie.
  • Catharsis Factor: As fun and awesome a villain as he is, seeing Hans be dropped to his demise is an amazingly satisfying moment.
  • Complete Monster:
    • Hans Gruber is a self-described "exceptional thief" who leads the takeover of Nakatomi Plaza in Los Angeles. A former German terrorist, Hans is focused solely on his own profit, attempting to steal millions in bearer bonds—a plan which involves demanding the release of numerous terrorists worldwide to throw the authorities off. Executing company head Joseph Takagi when he refuses to cooperate, Gruber has a SWAT team wiped out when they storm the building, and when John McClane interferes, Hans murders a hostage who claims to be John's friend and threatens to begin shooting more until he "gets to someone you do care about!" Hans never intends to let any hostages go, instead placing all of them on the roof to rig it with explosives, which he then plans to detonate—killing over 30 innocent people as a distraction—and fake his own death to escape with the bonds. While only succeeding in killing members of the FBI, Hans immediately kidnaps John's ex-wife before attempting to kill her and John in retribution. Ruthlessly devoted to his own profit above anything else and mixing an utter lack of regard for human lives—even those of his own men—with an air of urbane sophistication, Hans Gruber remains the most deeply personal enemy John McClane has ever faced, and serves as a prototype for countless future action movie villains.
    • In the Second Revised Draft of the script, Hans Gruber poses as a terrorist and holds over 30 people hostage in order to rob the Nakatomi Plaza vault of millions in treasury bonds, indifferent to how much blood is shed in the process. Making pseudo-pleasant small talk with Joseph Takagi about his suit, Hans attempts to extract the vault code from Takagi, callously stating he doesn't need the code when the former admits he doesn't know it. When a SWAT team is called in against Hans and his men, Hans has his men use heavy weaponry against them. In response to John McClane's interference, Hans kills a hostage claiming to be John's friend, threatening to kill more hostages until John returns the detonators and explosives he had stolen, which Hans intends on using against the hostages. In response to a police helicopter flying towards Nakatomi, Hans has his men shoot it with missiles. When the hostages hear an explosion from the vault, Hans shoots a screaming hostage while the rest escape, before proceeding to abduct Holly Gennero, John's wife, then vindictively attempting to eliminate them both.
  • Crosses the Line Twice:
    • Sure, sending Tony's corpse down the elevator was meant as a intimidation tactic, but tucking a Santa's hat on him? Not to mention that John not only wrote "Now I have a machine gun" on his shirt in what is presumably blood, but he also included "Ho-ho-ho" at the bottom.
    • Takagi's death. He explains to Hans that he doesn't have the codes to the vault and goads Hans into killing him, which Hans promply does. What sells it is Hans' deadpan face and his flat "ok" when he shoots Takagi. He couldn't care less.
  • Discredited Meme: As of December 2018, some people are getting over the jokes about Die Hard being the greatest Christmas movie of all time. Bruce Willis went on record declaring he doesn't consider the film to be a Christmas movie.
    • Full quote for context: "Die Hard is not a Christmas movie. It's a goddamn Bruce Willis movie".
  • Ensemble Dark Horse:
    • The highly enjoyable FBI agents Johnson and Johnson, no relation. They show up in the middle of the movie and act like they own the show, only to get blown sky-high at the first chance. They even get a teasing Continuity Nod in the fourth movie.
    • Among Hans's henchmen, Theo, Fritz, and Uli are decently remembered.
  • Evil Is Cool: Hans Gruber and The Dragon Karl.
  • Fandom Rivalry: With Christmas films. The fact that the film is set during Christmas (even though it was released in North America in July) has led to great debates as to whether or not to consider Die Hard a Christmas film, or even how it measures up compared to other Christmas films. In 2015, the British film magazine Empire rated Die Hard the greatest Christmas film ever.
  • First Installment Wins: Every Die Hard movie has been a hit, but only the first is a landmark in popular culture. Bruce Willis himself was quoted as saying that the only good Die Hard movie was the first.
  • Genius Bonus: The Alexander quote Hans mentions ("Alexander wept, for there were no more worlds to conquer") is incorrect. It's actually "Alexander of Macedon, who, upon hearing that there were other worlds, wept that he had not yet conquered one". This is more accurate to Hans' situation, as he has not yet succeeded and soon after dies.
  • Genre Turning Point: The first Die Hard practically set the standard by which all future action films were judged, in terms of their heroes, villains, etc. On top of that, it even created an action subgenre.
  • Harsher in Hindsight:
    • Take a look at the cover. It shows Nakatomi Plaza, which was filmed at Fox Plaza in Los Angeles, with an explosion on the top. The dark stripe down the middle makes it look at first glance like two skyscrapers of a similar look to the World Trade Center. This is further amplified with Hans Gruber's fatal fall from an upper story window; a considerable amount of 9/11 victims died by suicide, jumping from areas of the buildings above the impact site because it seemed preferable to burning alive or suffocating. The shot of his body falling to the ground even bears a disturbing resemblance to "The Falling Man", an infamous photograph of one such "jumper." What's more, like the man in the photograph, Gruber tumbled vertically as he fell to the pavement below.
    • Powell's backstory involves him mistakenly shooting a 13-year old kid who was waving around a realistic-looking toy gun at night. In 2014 a highly publicized incident involved something just like this happening; a 12-year old kid is seen playing around with a realistic-looking toy gun by two police officers who mistake it for a real gun and shoot him in a moment of panic. The portrayal of the incident's effect on Powell as being more worthy of attention than the kid who was shot and possibly killed can be pretty hard to take now.
  • It Was His Sled: Hans' Disney Villain Death at the climax is one of the most iconic shots in the film.
  • Jerkass Woobie:
    • Karl. He shows real grief and rage when Tony becomes the first baddie McClane kills, and loses all interest in the robbery for the rest of the film, so bent is he on avenging his brother, and who wouldn't be furious if their sibling was killed?
    • Arguably Ellis. He's clearly scared when the terrorists first seize control, but he says "Everything's going to be fine" seemingly to reassure the others as well as himself. He may be a shallow and obnoxious self-serving suit, but he's harmless compared to Hans and his team. While he is smug, the fact he can't comprehend what kind of people the thieves are (something he may have picked up on if he hadn't been snorting all that booger sugar) is what gets him killed.
  • Love to Hate:
    • Hans Gruber. Sharp dresser, Deadpan Snarker extraordinaire (de rigeur for a character played by Alan Rickman), and thinks nothing of executing hostages for little more than wasting a few minutes of his time. To date, still the best villain of the franchise and one of the most memorable villains in the medium itself. As he says himself, he's no common thief; he's an exceptional thief.
    • Harry Ellis is a non-villainous example. He may be a Smug Snake and not exactly the brightest one in the group, but he does seem to genuinely care for his workers, and maybe he could have been a decent hero if he didn't underestimate the terrorists or take all those drugs.
  • Magnificent Bastard: Hans Gruber is the debonair mastermind behind the scheme to steal hundreds of millions of dollars in bearer bonds from the Nakatomi building. Meticulously orchestrating his operation, Hans constantly shows his brilliance by outmaneuvering both the police and federal agents working to stop him, as well as cool charisma both when his initial plot is disrupted and in his ability to negotiate with his hostages. To stop the police forces from catching wind of his true intent, Hans phones their negotiators to demand the release of a list of incarcerated terrorists—casually noting to an underling that he got the name of one such group from the news—thus successfully disguising his actual plan. When confronted by a smug hostage, Hans tricks the man into giving up the name of hero John McClane and is nearly able to discern the location of the detonators McClane has been hiding to use against Hans and his men. Later caught unarmed by McClane, Hans effortlessly improvises using an American accent to pretend he is a hostage, a tactic which almost earns him the chance to kill the hero. A ruthless, greedy man, Hans's display of both strategic acumen and charisma nevertheless make him an iconic action film villain who sets the template for countless more to follow.
  • Memetic Mutation:
  • Moral Event Horizon:
    • Hans Gruber's attempt to blow all the hostages away on the roof would have been this. Or even earlier, when he casually executes Mr. Takagi, who Hans mentions is a family man.
    • Thornberg was a self-serving asshole, but he crosses the line when he threatens the McClane's housekeeper Paulina with deportation so he can interview their children. This leads to Hans discovering Holly's identity. Yeah, she had every right to smack him in the face.
  • Narm Charm: Alan Rickman's American accent in the scene where he and McClane first meet is pretty lousy, but it's still a tense moment for the audience and the characters, and one of the film's more popular scenes.
  • Retroactive Recognition:
  • The Scrappy: Deputy Police Chief Dwayne T. Robinson, the film's stupid chief, is only there to be an Obstructive Bureaucrat and slow the pacing of the film to a crawl whenever he's on screen. Roger Ebert actually refused to give the film a thumbs up entirely because of this character's existence, having long grown sick of action movies shoehorning in an idiot authority figure whose sole narrative purpose is to always be wrong to make the hero look good.
  • "Seinfeld" Is Unfunny: Though the action itself holds up, the movie's basic premise and elements being copied so much can often lead to people forgetting just how completely unlike anything else it was at the time. Compare it to Commando, which Schwarzenegger turned down the film to do and a more typical film of the era; a thickly-muscular Invincible Hero globetrotting the world and wiping out an entire terrorist organization singlehandedly in a hail of near-bloodless gunfire as everybody misses him, and realize just how revolutionary a film with a protagonist who's just a somewhat-skilled cop whose feats are mostly realistic, who gets injured and grows tired over the course of the film, with the action kept to a single confined space where every hit is brutal and made to count, would be by comparison.
  • Sequelitis: All of the following movies have suffered varying degrees of this; firmly cemented however with A Good Day to Die Hard, which is almost universally considered the weakest in the series.
  • Signature Scene:
    • McClane talking to himself while crawling through an air vent.
    • McClane and Hans' first conversation via radio, ending with the famous "Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker."
    • "Shoot the glass!", and the ensuing Agony of the Feet.
    • McClane jumping off the exploding rooftop with a firehose tied around his waist.
    • Hans' Disney Villain Death. This one got a flashback in Die Hard with a Vengeance and a Shout-Out in A Good Day to Die Hard.
  • Rescued from the Scrappy Heap: Robinson is The Scrappy while he's in charge of the operation, but when the FBI arrives he becomes Out of Focus - save for a handful of Actually Pretty Funny one-liners.
  • Too Cool to Live: The incredibly charismatic and unflappable Takagi is the first hostage to be executed.
  • Tough Act to Follow:
    • While some of the sequels have their fans, none of them have come even close to matching the original in either acclaim or cultural impact.
    • On another note, none of the other films in the series has had a Big Bad as iconic as Hans Gruber.
  • Vindicated by History: While audiences were largely pleased by the film on release, critics were initially lukewarm. The late Roger Ebert gave the film a two star review and was especially critical of the film's use of Police Are Useless, and several others considered the film too violent and simplistic. By the late 1990's, critical opinions had shifted drastically enough (thanks to sequels and other films copying its formula to lesser success) that Die Hard went under reevaluation, and today it commonly holds the top spot on many "greatest action film" lists.
  • What an Idiot!: Early on, following the advice someone he met while arriving in L.A., John McClane takes his shoes off and walks barefoot in the Nakatomi building to relieve some tension. During this, Hans Gruber and his men take over the building, and McClane is forced to sneak out but unable to get his shoes back on, forcing him to remain barefoot. When John kills the first of Gruber's men he attempts to take his shoes, but to his chagrin finds out that they are too small to fit him.
    You Would Think: That John would continue doing this with any future members of Gruber's team that he'd manage to kill until he found a pair of shoes that he'd be able to wear.
    Instead: McClane does not think to do this again at all. It's understandable if he's being fired at or being chased by Gruber's men since he'd be more focused on not dying, but he even forgets this during one good portion of the film where he isn't being hunted down and is in a room with 2 goons he's just killed: while he throws the body of one out the window to alert Al, he takes whatever he can from the other including some explosives he was going to use for Hans and his cigarettes, but for some reason not his shoes. And later on one of Gruber's men proceeds to shoot out several pieces of glass, causing McClane's unprotected feet to get completely cut up.
  • Win the Crowd: The first few scenes of the movie establish the setting and characters brilliantly, getting the viewer invested in the film before the tension even starts building.
  • WTH, Casting Agency?: Not well remembered, but at the time, putting Bruce Willis on the project was this in spades. The lead role was written for the 72-year old Frank Sinatra, and at the time Willis was a comedian in a downward spiral; internal strife and Shipping Bed Death were destroying Moonlighting, and most viewers knew him as "The guy from the Seagram's Wine Coolers commercials." Imagine a modern film built around Tommy Lee Jones suddenly swapping his role for Andy Samberg. Better yet, imagine it working, transforming that rubberface into an action hero. What. The. Hell.

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