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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.
  • Complete Monster: See here.
  • Contested Sequel: All of the sequels, to some extent. With a Vengeance, directed again by John McTiernan, is the least contested. Taken even further with A Good Day To Die Hard.
  • 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.
    • Irina in Good Day.
    • Maggie Q in 4.0.
  • 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.
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  • 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.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: Looking at the first three films: a tower gets blown up, a terrorist plot with airplanes, and New York City as the target of terrorist attacks.
  • 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 as showcased by AVGN's famous video takedown.
    • 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.
    • Subverted with Die Hard Arcade, which was a generally-unaffiliated game called Dynamite Deka, but became a Dolled-Up Installment when it was localized for the US.
  • "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.
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • 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.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    John: Glass? Who gives a shit about glass?
  • It Was His Sled: Two.
    • The villains' plan to commit mass murder by blowing up the hostages on the roof.
    • Hans's Disney Villain Death, which 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 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.
  • Magnificent Bastard: Hans Gruber is the mastermind behind the scheme to steal hundreds of millions in bearer bonds from the Nakatomi building. Meticulously orchestrating his operation, Hans shows his brilliance by constantly outmaneuvering the police and federal agents and his charisma by remaining level headed as his plan is disrupted and in his dealings negotiating with the hostages. To throw the cops off the trail of his robbery, Hans demands the release of the members of various terrorist groups, confusing the police force and hiding his true intentions. Confronted by the smug Ellis, Has tricks him into giving up McClane's name and nearly gets the location of the detonators McClane has taken. When caught unarmed by John McClane, Hans is instantly able to improvise with an American accent to pretend he is a hostage and throw off suspicion. Though utterly ruthless in the name of his avarice, Hans is an iconic villain because of his wit and charm, setting the stage for countless action villains 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 deporttation so he can interview their children. This leads to Hans discovering Holly's identity. Yeah, she 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:
  • "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 revelatory 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.
  • Sequel Displacement: The original Die Hard was based off of the 1979 thriller novel Nothing Lasts Forever by Roderick Thorp which was a sequel to the 1966 novel The Detective, which was adapted into the movie of the same name in 1968. So technically, Die Hard is actually a sequel to the 1968 film, The Detective, but it is rarely acknowledged as such.
  • 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: Multiple.
  • 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.
  • 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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