Thirty-years ago the (fictional) Nakatomi building was taken over by German terrorists who would be thwarted by a barefoot off-duty New York cop becoming one of the best action movies of all time.
Based on Roderick Thorp’s 1979 novel Nothing Lasts Forever that’s actually a sequel to his 1966 novel The Detective. The Detective was turned into a 1968 movie of the same name starring Frank Sinatra. After the book “Nothing Lasts Forever” was written FOX studio’s was contractually obligated to offer Sinatra the lead role even though he was 73 years old at the time. Sinatra turned it down.
Released on July 12, 1988 at a cost of $28 million dollars and earning $140 million worldwide, Die Hard turned a television actor, best known for his role as David Addison on Moonlighting into an action star.
When we first meet John McClane he’s digging his left hand into the armrest of his seat as his plane is landing at LAX. In a conversation with the gentlemen sitting next to him, he gives McClane advice about surviving air travel. After arriving at his destination and settling in, he should take off his shoes and socks and make fists with his toes on the carpet.
That advice to McClane seems mundane, right? But it’s those subtle things that director, John McTiernan did with the story that makes Die Hard such an awesome filled movie. The advice given on the plane may have seemed lame at the time, but without knowing it McTiernan was giving the audience a bit of a heads up.
It was a simple scene that set up the reason why McClance would wind up barefoot for a majority of the movie.
Of course you can’t have a good action movie without a ruthless villain. The late, Alan Rickman was cast as Hans Gruber, Die Hard was Rickman’s first ever feature length film.
Rickman’s role as Hans Gruber in Die Hard got the actor named as the 46th best villain in film history on AFI’s 100 Years…100 Heroes & Villains. Personally he should be ranked higher up, but what do I know.
Surprisingly enough Rickman almost turned down the role as Hans Gruber as he felt Die Hard was not the kind of movie he wanted to make. Younger movie fans may remember him more for his role as Severus Snape in the Harry Potter franchise.
Rickman did take issue with being typecast as a villain, despite the fact that he was best known for playing the unsympathetic character.
In an age of comic book movies that have world-ending plots with action to match a movie like Die Hard seem surprisingly low key. The character of John McClane may not be a superhero, but his sarcasm and humor in an otherwise life threatening situation makes him in a way a more believable hero. The heroics of John McClane are improvised craziness that you know would never really work and yet they somehow feel authentic.
The success of Die Hard established what would become a formula for action films featuring a lone everyman against a colorful terrorist character in an isolated setting. Several of those films that followed this formula were often referred to as “Die Hard on a”, well you get it.
Such movies as Under Siege (1992, “Die Hard on a battleship”), Passenger 57 (1992, “Die Hard on a plane”) and Speed (1994, “Die Hard on a bus”) are just small examples.
So what is it that makes Die Hard such a beloved action movie loved by all?
First, Bruce Willis and Alan Rickman were perfectly cast in their respected roles. It has a high-body count, packed with great set pieces, shrewdly plotted, cleverly constructed with a protagonist that’s compassionate.
Not every action movie today or even back in the 1980’s had memorable lines, but with Die Hard who can forget one very simple one: “Yippee-ki-yay, motherf*cker!” That simple little line would not only helped define Die Hard as a movie, but also become the unofficial catchphrase of the franchise to come.
Something that bugs me, as a fan of Die Hard is a lot of fans look at it as a Christmas movie and I disagree with that. Now maybe I’m wrong or I just don’t get it, but I’ve always thought a Christmas movie as one where Christmas is the main theme and not just a backdrop.
If you see Die Hard as a Christmas movie and it has become part of your families yearly tradition during the Holiday season then by all means enjoy. As for myself I just see Die Hard as one of the best action films with Christmas as the time of year.
30 years later, does Die Hard still hold up? Yes! It’s a masterpiece in storytelling with a compelling pace and tone. It’s a fun ride, humors, but not comical. It’s action, but not so over the top it becomes ridiculous.
If you’ve never seen Die Hard, where the hell have you been living? If you have then you know there’s a balance struck between the haphazardness of McClane and the meticulousness of Gruber that still makes Die Hard one of, if still not the best action movie today.
Die Hard was released to Theaters on July 15, 1988
Cast: Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman, Bonnie Bedelia, Reginald VelJohnson, Alexander Godunov, Andreas Wisniewski, Paul Gleason, Robert Davi, Grand L. Bush, William Atherton
Die Hard Synopsis:
New York City policeman John McClane (Bruce Willis) is visiting his estranged wife (Bonnie Bedelia) and two daughters on Christmas Eve. He joins her at a holiday party in the headquarters of the Japanese-owned business she works for. But the festivities are interrupted by a group of terrorists who take over the exclusive high-rise, and everyone in it. Very soon McClane realizes that there’s no one to save the hostages — but him.
Categories: Movie Anniversaries