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Die Hard (film series)

Die Hard series is an American action film series that originated with Roderick Thorp's novel Nothing Lasts Forever. All five films revolve around the character of John McClane (portrayed by Bruce Willis), a New York City/Los Angeles police detective who continually finds himself in the middle of violent crises and intrigues where he is the only hope against disaster.[3] The films have grossed a combined $1.4 billion worldwide. Die Hard, Die Hard 2, and Live Free or Die Hard received positive reviews from critics, while Die Hard with a Vengeance received mixed reviews, and A Good Day to Die Hard was negatively received.

Die Hard
Die Hard film logo.png
Created byRoderick Thorp
Original workNothing Lasts Forever (1979)
Owned by20th Century Fox
Print publications
Novel(s)The Detective (1966)
Nothing Lasts Forever (1979)
58 Minutes (1987)
ComicsDie Hard: Year One[1]
A Million Ways to Die Hard[2]
Films and television
ArticlesA Farewell to Arms


Film Release date Director Screenwriter(s) Story by Producers Status
Die Hard July 15, 1988 (1988-07-15) John McTiernan Jeb Stuart & Steven E. de Souza Lawrence Gordon and Joel Silver Released
Die Hard 2 July 4, 1990 (1990-07-04) Renny Harlin Steven E. de Souza & Doug Richardson Charles Gordon, Lawrence Gordon and Joel Silver
Die Hard with a Vengeance May 19, 1995 (1995-05-19) John McTiernan Jonathan Hensleigh John McTiernan and Michael Tadross
Live Free or Die Hard June 27, 2007 (2007-06-27) Len Wiseman Mark Bomback Mark Bomback & David Marconi Michael Fottrell
A Good Day to Die Hard February 14, 2013 (2013-02-14) John Moore Skip Woods Alex Young and Wyck Godfrey

Die Hard (1988)Edit

The first film begins on Christmas Eve when McClane comes to reunite with separated wife Holly (Bonnie Bedelia) in Los Angeles at her company's Christmas party. Holly left to pursue her career with their two children, and uses her maiden name.

At the fictional Nakatomi Plaza, East German terrorists break in and take the celebrants hostage. McClane escapes detection and hides throughout the building. He kills off the gang and learns their real plan, to steal $640 million in bearer bonds from the building's vault. In the finale, McClane shoots the terrorist leader, Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman), out the window to fall thirty stories.

It was released on July 15, 1988 to positive reviews and grossed $140.8 million worldwide.

Die Hard 2 (1990)Edit

The second film takes place two years after the first, again on Christmas Eve. In Washington, D.C., McClane waits for his wife at Washington Dulles International Airport. Mercenaries led by former U.S. Army Special Forces Colonel Stuart (William Sadler) take over the airport communication systems, stranding planes in the air, including the one with McClane's wife. Colonel Stuart wants to free a captured Latin American dictator (Franco Nero) en route to the airport. McClane discovers the plan, including a conspiracy between Stuart and an Army counter-terrorist unit sent to stop him. He foils their plans and provides a visual landing signal for the circling aircraft by exploding the villains' getaway plane.

It was released on July 4, 1990 to positive reviews and grossed $240 million worldwide.

Die Hard with a Vengeance (1995)Edit

In the third film, McClane is back in New York City, separated from his wife, suspended from the police force, and a borderline alcoholic. A terrorist known only as "Simon" (Jeremy Irons) threatens to blow up various locations in the city unless McClane will play his twisted version of Simon Says, riddles and challenges.

Zeus Carver (Samuel L. Jackson), a shopkeeper from Harlem, saves McClane after the first challenge, and reluctantly continues to help. The FBI reveal Simon is the brother of Hans Gruber, killed in the first film. McClane learns revenge is a cover story for robbing the New York Federal Reserve. McClane tracks Simon to the Canada–US border. McClane kills Simon by shooting at a power line above Simon's helicopter.

It was released on May 19, 1995 to mixed reviews and grossed $366.1 million worldwide.

Live Free or Die Hard (2007)Edit

The fourth film, which was released as Die Hard 4.0 outside North America, takes place on Independence Day, over a decade after Die Hard with a Vengeance. McClane is divorced, and estranged from his daughter Lucy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). Cyber-terrorists hack into computers at the FBI, who had sent McClane to bring in computer hacker Matthew "Matt" Farrell (Justin Long) for questioning. Assassins hired by terrorist mastermind Thomas Gabriel (Timothy Olyphant) attempt to kill McClane and Farrell. Farrell tells McClane that the terrorists are actually in the middle of a "fire sale" — a crippling cyber-warfare attack on the national infrastructure: power, public utilities, traffic, and other computer-controlled systems. Although the terrorists capture Lucy and Farrell, McClane foils the criminals and saves the hostages.

It was released June 27, 2007 to positive reviews and grossed $383.5 million worldwide.

A Good Day to Die Hard (2013)Edit

The fifth film is set a few years later, mostly in Moscow, Russia and Chernobyl (Pripyat), Ukraine. McClane finds out that his estranged son John "Jack" McClane, Jr. (Jai Courtney) was arrested in Moscow for murder. When he arrives at the Moscow courthouse for Jack, Russian terrorists bomb the building and Jack escapes with imprisoned ex-billionaire Yuri Komarov (Sebastian Koch). In an intense car chase, McClane pursues and saves the pair. Jack, unhappy at the unexpected arrival, reluctantly picks up his father.

When they stop at a CIA safe house in Moscow, McClane learns Jack is a deep-cover CIA operative trying to get close to Komarov for his file that incriminates corrupt, high-ranking Russian official Viktor Chagarin (Sergei Kolesnikov). Chagarin's henchmen, led by his main enforcer Alik (Radivoje Bukvic), attack the safe house. McClane holds them off, and escapes with Jack and Komarov.

They retrieve a key for the file in Chernobyl, and meet Komarov's daughter Irina (Yuliya Snigir). Irina betrays them to Alik. The McClanes escape, without Komarov. Jack explains Komarov and Chagarin were partners in stealing weapons-grade uranium from Chernobyl, but enemies after the Chernobyl incident.

In Chernobyl, the McClanes learn Komarov wanted the weapons-grade uranium for himself, and killed Alik and Chagarin. Irina, always on the side of her father Komarov, tries to save him. McClane goes after Irina, while Jack chases her father. Jack throws Komarov off of the roof; he falls on the rotors of the helicopter and gets shredded to bits. When Irina tries to kill the McClanes, they jump into a pool of rainwater. Irina still crashes her helicopter into the building where they were, and dies in the explosion. The father and son walk away, reconciled.

It was released on February 14, 2013 to overwhelmingly negative reviews and grossed $304.7 million worldwide.


Prequel television seriesEdit

When the production was formally announced for the fifth film in the series, Bruce Willis expressed his desire to retire the John McClane character in a sixth and final film.[4][5] By September 2017, Wiseman publicly floated that he was casting for a young version of John McClane for his self-penned origin story called John McClane, whose plot was rumored to borrow heavily from the Die Hard: Year One comic book mini-series.[6] Six months later, the studio enlisted duo Chad Hayes and Carey W. Hayes to re-write the screenplay after Bruce Willis refused to endorse the previous edition and its actor.[7][8]

In July 2018, producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura submitted an updated treatment titled McClane, further confirming that the storyline features elements of McClane's and Holly's characters in the 1970s, intermixed with their present-day counterparts.[9][10] The following month, Wiseman stated that pre-production on the new film should start "...fairly soon, no dates" once the script has been completed.[11] Tobey Maguire joined the production team late Summer 2018.[12] By December 2018, di Bonaventura handed in yet another draft, this time without input from Willis.[13] Production designer Carol Uraneck, who was hired in September 2018, later left the project by the close of the year.[14] In February 2019, the production team made a revision to the writing, insinuating that the project, though supposedly moving forward, is on the studio's backburner, as evidenced by executives not even having read the script yet.[15] Actress Mary Elizabeth Winstead said that she would be interested in returning as Lucy Gennero-McClane in a future installment, but later intimated doubt that, due to scheduling,[16] the film would ever get made.[17][18]

Die Hard was removed from the Fox imprint through at least its 2021 slate, after Disney's acquisition and senior management shake-up, which saw the dismissal of its theatrical distribution executive, Chris Aronson.[19][20][21]

The production was later cancelled outright in August 2019 after further consideration by Disney.[22][23] In lieu of the reorganization of both companies, the media giant is said to be rebooting development of McClane for streaming as a television series.[24][25]

Cast and crewEdit


Character Films
Die Hard Die Hard 2 Die Hard
with a Vengeance
Live Free or
Die Hard
A Good Day to
Die Hard
1988 1990 1995 2007 2013
John McClane Bruce Willis
Holly Gennero Bonnie Bedelia Bonnie Bedelia
Bonnie Bedelia
Al Powell Reginald VelJohnson
Richard Thornburg William Atherton
Lucy Gennero-McClane Taylor Fry Mary Elizabeth Winstead
John "Jack" McClane, Jr. Noah Land Jai Courtney
Hans Gruber Alan Rickman Alan Rickman
(archive footage)
Karl Vreski Alexander Godunov
Harry Ellis Hart Bochner
Deputy Dwayne Robinson Paul Gleason
Argyle De'voreaux White
Col. William Stuart William Sadler
Captain Lorenzo Dennis Franz
Major Grant John Amos
General Esperanza Franco Nero
Leslie Barnes Art Evans
Trudeau Fred Thompson
Marvin Tom Bower
Zeus Carver Samuel L. Jackson
Simon Gruber Jeremy Irons
Walter Cobb Larry Bryggman
Joe Lambert Graham Greene
Connie Kowalski Colleen Camp
Mathias Targo Nick Wyman
Katya Sam Phillips
Matt Farrell Justin Long
Thomas Gabriel Timothy Olyphant
Frederick 'Warlock' Kaludis Kevin Smith
Miguel Bowman Cliff Curtis
Mai Linh Maggie Q
Trey Jonathan Sadowski
Yuri Komarov Sebastian Koch
Irina Komarov Yuliya Snigir
Alik Radivoje Bukvic
Mike Collins Cole Hauser
Viktor Chagarin Sergei Kolesnikov
Murphy Amaury Nolasco


Crew/detail Film
Die Hard Die Hard 2 Die Hard with a Vengeance Live Free or
Die Hard
A Good Day to
Die Hard
Composer Michael Kamen Marco Beltrami
Cinematographer Jan de Bont Oliver Wood Peter Menzies, Jr. Simon Duggan Jonathan Sela
Editor(s) Frank J. Urioste
John F. Link
Stuart Baird
Robert A. Ferretti
John Wright Nicholas Del Toh Dan Zimmerman
Production Companies Gordon Company
Silver Pictures
Cinergi Pictures Cheyenne Enterprises
Dune Entertainment
Ingenious Film Partners
Giant Pictures
TSG Entertainment
Distributor 20th Century Fox
Release date July 15, 1988 July 4, 1990 May 19, 1995 June 27, 2007 February 14, 2013
Running time 132 minutes 124 minutes 131 minutes 129 minutes 97 minutes[26]


Source material for the filmsEdit

Die Hard is adapted from the 1979 novel Nothing Lasts Forever by Roderick Thorp.

Die Hard 2 was adapted from the 1987 novel 58 Minutes by Walter Wager.

Die Hard with a Vengeance was adapted from a script called Simon Says by Jonathan Hensleigh, which was also briefly considered to become the script for Lethal Weapon 4.[27][28] The hook in Hensleigh's screenplay that captured the attention of director John McTiernan was the idea of a man being targeted for revenge by someone whose life he had unwittingly destroyed. Once the Simon character became the brother of Hans Gruber and the backstory was established, the project fully came together. It was novelized by Deborah Chiel.[29]

Live Free or Die Hard was based on the 1997 article "A Farewell to Arms" written for Wired magazine by John Carlin.[30] It also drew on a script 20th Century Fox owned called "", which dealt with a massive cyberterrorism attack against the U.S. and was nearly put into production in 2001 but ultimately abandoned because several elements in the story too closely resembled the September 11 attacks.

A Good Day to Die Hard was the first film in the series to come from an original screenplay, and not be based upon any prior works. The original screenplay was penned by Skip Woods.


Box office performanceEdit

Film Release date Box office gross Box office ranking Budget Ref(s)
North America Other
Worldwide All time
North America
All time
Die Hard July 15, 1988 $83,008,852 $57,759,104 $140,767,956 #734 N/A $28,000,000 [31]
Die Hard 2 July 4, 1990 $117,540,947 $122,490,147 $240,031,094 #446 #445 $70,000,000 [32]
Die Hard with a Vengeance May 19, 1995 $100,012,499 $266,089,167 $366,101,666 #596 #223 $90,000,000 [33]
Live Free or Die Hard June 27, 2007 $134,529,403 $249,002,061 $383,531,464 #336 #201 $110,000,000 [34]
A Good Day to Die Hard February 14, 2013 $67,349,198 $237,304,984 $304,654,182 #977 #314 $92,000,000 [35]
Total $502,440,899 $932,645,463 $1,435,086,362 $390,000,000

Critical and public responseEdit

Although the first Die Hard has been credited as one of the greatest action movies of all time,[36][37] critical reaction to its sequels has varied.

The original Die Hard received substantial praise. Pete Croatto of called the film "a perfect action movie in every detail, the kind of movie that makes your summer memorable."[38] James Berardinelli wrote that the film "represents the class of modern action pictures and the standard by which they must be judged."[39] Critic Desson Howe wrote that "Willis has found the perfect vehicle to careen wildly onto the crowded L.A. freeway of Lethal Weapons and Beverly Hills Cops."[40] Willis was also called "perfect as the wisecracking John McClane"[39] and "an excellent casting choice as a sardonic action hero."[41] Alan Rickman's portrayal of villain Hans Gruber was described as "marvelous"[42] and "a career-making performance."[43] Gruber also ranked 46 on the villain side of AFI's 100 Years...100 Heroes and Villains. In 2007, Entertainment Weekly ranked Die Hard the greatest action film of all time.[44]

The first sequel, Die Hard 2, received positive reviews, although not as many as the original. Despite only giving the original film two stars, critic Roger Ebert gave this film three and a half stars and called it "terrific entertainment."[45] James Berardinelli called the film "somewhat-muddled but still entertaining."[46] Peter Travers wrote that "however impressively made, Die Hard 2 begins to wear thin."[47]

The third film, Die Hard with a Vengeance, received mixed reviews. Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly stated that while "McTiernan stages individual sequences with great finesse... they don't add up to a taut, dread-ridden whole."[48] James Berardinelli thought that the explosions and fights were "filmed with consummate skill, and were thrilling in their own right."[49] Samuel L. Jackson also received praise for his role in the film. Desson Howe of The Washington Post thought that "the best thing about the movie was the relationship between McClane and Zeus," saying that Jackson was "almost as good as he was in Pulp Fiction."[50][51]

The fourth film, Live Free or Die Hard, received highly positive reviews. Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle claimed that the film "is the best in the series, an invigorating return to the style of blockbuster that dominated summers back in the early 1990s."[52] USA Today film critic Claudia Puig said that the film "delivers when it comes to kick-butt, action-packed mayhem," but "as a convincing techno-thriller, it doesn't really work."[53]

The fifth film, A Good Day to Die Hard, received mostly negative reviews from critics. Critics lambasted the installment for "[entering] generic action movie territory", as written by reviewer James Bernardinelli,[54] with a "cliched [and] uninspired script". Peter Rainer of the Christian Science Monitor wrote, "John's appeal was always his ordinariness, but director John Moore has him surviving more explosions than Wile E. Coyote, and with hardly a scratch."[55] A. O. Scott of The New York Times also commented that the series has taken a downfall with the movie, saying "Everything that made the first "Die Hard" memorable—the nuances of character, the political subtext, the cowboy wit—has been dumbed down or scrubbed away entirely."[56] Willis has however, been cited as the film's redeeming quality, with Chris Vognar of the Dallas Morning News saying "Willis' presence at least provides undercurrents of easy jocularity."

In CinemaScore polls conducted during the opening weekend, movie audiences gave the series the grades listed below on an A+ to F scale.

Film Rotten Tomatoes Metacritic CinemaScore
Die Hard 93% (74 reviews)[57] 72 (14 reviews)[58] A+[59]
Die Hard 2 68% (63 reviews)[60] 67 (17 reviews)[61] A[62]
Die Hard with a Vengeance 52% (62 reviews)[63] 58 (19 reviews)[64] A−[65]
Live Free or Die Hard 82% (208 reviews)[66] 69 (34 reviews)[67] A−[62]
A Good Day to Die Hard 15% (226 reviews)[68] 28 (41 reviews)[69] B+[70]

Other mediaEdit

Video gamesEdit

A number of video games based on the successful movie franchise Die Hard have been released over the years, ranging from beat 'em ups to first-person shooters. While some of the games are based directly on the movies, a few further detail the adventures of John McClane between or after the series.

Comic booksEdit

In May 2009, BOOM! Studios announced that they would be releasing an ongoing Die Hard comic series that would serve as a prequel to the first movie. Its story is set in 1976 and follows John McClane as a rookie cop in the NYPD,[1][71][72] and is scripted by Howard Chaykin.[73] The first issue of Die Hard: Year One was released on September 30, 2009. Eight issues have been released, with the eighth released on April 12, 2010.

The official description read:

Every great action hero got started somewhere. Batman Begins. Bond had his Casino Royale. And for John McClane, more than a decade before the first Die Hard movie, he’s just another rookie cop, an East Coast guy working on earning his badge in New York City during 1976s Bicentennial celebration... and the Summer of Sam. Too bad for John McClane, nothing's ever that easy.[71][74]

A Die Hard ChristmasEdit

The official description read:

A delightful Christmas storybook for adults based on the action-packed Die Hard movie

All John McClane wants for Christmas is to reunite with his estranged family. But when his wife’s office holiday party turns into a deadly hostage situation, he has to save her life before he can get home in time for Christmas!

The unconventional fan-favorite movie Die Hard is now an illustrated storybook—complete with machine guns, European terrorists, and a cop who’s forced to rely on all his cunning and skills (and the help of a fellow officer) to save the day. Based on the classic “Night Before Christmas” poem and filled with whimsical illustrations, this cleverly reimagined homage is destined to become a holiday classic.

  • Contains adult material including violence and strong language. Reader discretion is advised. Ho-ho-ho.[75]

See alsoEdit

Other appearancesEdit

The character John McClane also appears in the 1993 film Loaded Weapon 1, which is also portrayed by Bruce Willis, in a comical cameo.

Bruce Willis appeared in the 2019 film The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part in which he is crawling through an air vent in a reference to his character from the first Die Hard film.


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  2. ^ Squires, John (November 29, 2018). "Gruesome New Graphic Novel A Million Ways to Die Hard Pits John McClane Against a Serial Killer Obsessed With Movies". Bloody Disgusting. Bloody Disgusting. Retrieved February 27, 2019.
  3. ^ Sternbergh, Adam (February 21, 2013). "On the Enduring Appeal of 'Die Hard'". The New York Times Magazine. Retrieved February 25, 2013.
  4. ^ "Bruce Willis Fears Being Replaced in Die Hard 6". ThaIndian. ThaIndian News. October 9, 2010.
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External linksEdit