Die Hard with a Vengeance

Die Hard with a Vengeance is a 1995 American action film directed by John McTiernan (who directed the first installment). It was written by Jonathan Hensleigh, based on the screenplay Simon Says by Hensleigh and on the characters created by Roderick Thorp for his 1979 novel Nothing Lasts Forever. Die Hard with a Vengeance is the third film in the Die Hard film series, after Die Hard 2 (1990). It is followed by Live Free or Die Hard (2007) and A Good Day to Die Hard (2013).

Die Hard with a Vengeance
Die Hard With A Vengance.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJohn McTiernan
Screenplay byJonathan Hensleigh
Based on
Produced by
CinematographyPeter Menzies Jr.
Edited byJohn Wright
Music byMichael Kamen
Distributed by20th Century Fox (North America)[1]
Buena Vista International (International)[2][3]
Release date
  • May 19, 1995 (1995-05-19) (United States)
Running time
128 minutes[2]
CountryUnited States
Budget$90 million[5]
Box office$366.1 million[5]

The film stars Bruce Willis as NYPD Lieutenant John McClane and Samuel L. Jackson as McClane's reluctant partner Zeus Carver, who team up to stop bomb threats across New York City carried out by "Simon" (Jeremy Irons). It was released on May 19, 1995 to mixed reviews and became the highest-grossing film of the year.


The Bonwit Teller department store in New York City is destroyed by a bomb during the morning commute. The New York Police Department gets a call from "Simon" claiming responsibility. He threatens to detonate another unless suspended police officer Lt. John McClane is dropped in Harlem, wearing a sandwich board with a racial slur on it. They comply, and McClane is called in.

Zeus Carver, an electrician with a nearby shop, sees McClane wearing the board. McClane explains he is an officer on a case, but is soon attacked by a group of angered black men. He and Carver manage to escape in a taxi. At NYPD headquarters, they learn that a large quantity of binary liquid explosive has been stolen, part of which was used for the bomb. Simon demands that McClane and Carver both follow his instructions, posing a series of timed challenges that lead them to the Wall Street subway station. McClane boards the Brooklyn-bound 3 train in search of a bomb Simon has placed on it, while Carver hurries to answer Simon's call at a pay phone. McClane finds the bomb and throws it off the train just before it detonates, derailing the train and damaging the station.

McClane and Carver regroup with the police and FBI agents, learning that Simon is "Peter Krieg", a former colonel in the East German People's Army and a mercenary-for-hire. However, Krieg's real name is Simon Peter Gruber, the brother of Hans Gruber, whom McClane had killed years earlier in Los Angeles.

Simon then calls the group, telling them about a bomb in a New York public school, set to explode once class lets out and equipped with a radio detonator triggered by the use of FBI and police bands. Simon will give McClane and Carver the school location if they follow his riddles, warning that he will detonate the bomb if any evacuation attempts are made. While McClane and Carver do Simon's next task, the police organize a search of the city's schools, using 9-1-1 to coordinate. McClane realizes that Simon is using the bomb threat to distract the police away from Wall Street, which has no public schools. They return there to find that Simon's men have tunneled into the Federal Reserve Bank and stolen $140 billion of gold bullion in dump trucks. They follow the trucks into an aqueduct in Tunnel No. 3. Carver continues Simon's game while McClane follows the trucks.

McClane kills the crew members of one dump truck and commandeers it. Simon blows up a cofferdam, intending to flood the tunnel and drown McClane, but McClane is ejected through an air vent and reunites with Carver. Surviving a car chase with Simon's men who had followed Carver, they find that each driver was carrying enough money to pay for a bridge toll. They sneak aboard a tanker vessel docked in Long Island Sound, but Simon and his crew capture them and place them next to a bomb in the cargo hold. The school bomb, Simon explains, was a fake intended to distract the police. He broadcasts a message proclaiming his intent to destroy the tanker and scatter the stolen bullion across the bottom of the sound, destabilizing the Western world's economy. After he leaves, Carver and McClane free themselves and escape the tanker just before the bomb detonates.

As McClane and Carver are debriefed by the police, McClane reports that none of the bullion was on the tanker, using his knowledge of the Gruber family to deduce that Simon had intended to keep it. While trying to call his estranged wife Holly, McClane glances at a bottle of aspirin given to him by Simon and notes that it was purchased at a truckstop in Quebec on the Canada–U.S. border. McClane, Carver, and the police arrive at a warehouse near the truckstop where Simon and his men are distributing the bullion and planning their escape. The rest of Simon's men are captured, while Simon and his girlfriend Katya attempt to escape via helicopter. McClane shoots an overhead power line that falls onto the helicopter, causing it to crash and explode. After celebrating their triumph, Carver persuades McClane to call Holly again.


Additional cast members include Simon's goons: Richard Council as Otto, Mischa Hausserman as Mischa, Phil Theis as Erik, Robert Sedgwick as Rolf, Sven Torvaid as Karl, Timothy Adams as Gunther, Tony Halme as Roman, Greg Skrovic as Kurt, Bill Christ as Ivan, Gerrit Vooren as Nils and Willis Sparks as Klaus. Aldis Hodge and Michael Alexander Jackson appear as Raymond and Dexter respectively, Zeus's nephews caught in the school bomb panic; Hodge would later play a different role in A Good Day to Die Hard.


Development and writingEdit

Like most of the films in the series, the premise of this film was repurposed from a stand-alone project. Various scripts were written for Die Hard 3; a number of them were ultimately rejected by Bruce Willis on the grounds that they felt like retreads of the action movies that came in the wake of the first film.[6] One script, originally titled Troubleshooter, had McClane fighting terrorists on a Caribbean cruise line, but was rejected for being too similar to Under Siege.[7] Troubleshooter was later repurposed for Speed 2: Cruise Control.[6]

The script ultimately used was intended for a film entitled Simon Says, originally positioned as a Brandon Lee vehicle and the character of Zeus was written with an actress in mind. Warner Bros. bought the script and rewrote it as a Lethal Weapon sequel. Warner Bros. later put the script in turnaround, only to be purchased by Fox and rewritten as a Die Hard film.[6]

Andy Vajna replaced Joel Silver and Larry Gordon as the producer on the film due to a fall-out with Willis.[7] As a result, Vajna's company, Cinergi, acquired foreign rights to the film. In most regions, the film rights were acquired by Disney and Summit Entertainment, while Fox retained domestic rights.[1] In July 1997, Cinergi sold its 50% stake in the film to Fox for $11.25 million.[8]


Laurence Fishburne was originally offered the co-starring role of Zeus Carver, a part also written for him, but wanted a higher fee. Producer Andy Vajna held out on the deal. Fishburne had earlier turned down the role of Jules Winnfield in Pulp Fiction, which was eventually played by Samuel L. Jackson. Fishburne was talked out of playing Jules by his representatives who wanted him to only accept leading parts, otherwise he would be stuck career-wise as a supporting actor. Subsequently, Pulp Fiction premiered at the Cannes Film Festival during the same time as Fishburne's pay negotiations. Vajna also attended the event to support Willis who was appearing in the Quentin Tarantino film. Tarantino recalled that Vajna was so impressed by Jackson's performance that he offered him the part of Carver instead. Fishburne later filed a lawsuit against Vajna's company Cinergi for reneging on a verbal agreement.[9][10] The lawsuit took two years and Fishburne received a settlement.[11]



RCA Victor albumEdit

Michael Kamen returned to score the third film, again incorporating other material into his score (most notably "When Johnny Comes Marching Home", not included on the soundtrack album). Excerpts from his scores for Die Hard and Die Hard 2 were also included in the new film. The soundtrack was released by RCA Victor.

  1. Summer in the CityThe Lovin' Spoonful (2:44)
  2. Goodbye Bonwits (6:28)
  3. Got It Covered – Fu-Schnickens (4:13)
  4. John and Zeus (3:19)
  5. In Front of Kids – Extra Prolific (2:44)
  6. Papaya King (5:20)
  7. Take A-nother Train (2:55)
  8. The Iron Foundry – Alexander Mosolov (3:08)
  9. Waltz of the Bankers (4:13)
  10. Gold Vault (3:45)
  11. Surfing in the Aqueduct (2:30)
  12. Symphony No. 1Johannes Brahms (15:00)
  13. Symphony No. 9Ludwig van Beethoven (9:46)

La-La Land albumEdit

In 2012, La-La Land Records released a limited edition two-disc soundtrack containing the Kamen score.[12]

All tracks composed by Michael Kamen except where noted.

  1. Summer in the CityThe Lovin' Spoonful (2:45) (by John Sebastian, Mark Sebastian & Steve Boone)
  2. Main Title (0:16) (cue deleted from final film)
  3. Goodbye Bonwits (6:28)
  4. John and Zeus (3:20)
  5. Taxi (1:51)
  6. Neat Bomb (2:11)
  7. Papaya King (5:19)
  8. 72nd Street Phone (3:18)
  9. Taxi Chase (5:08)
  10. The Subway, Pt. 1 (4:24) (final film version)
  11. The Subway, Pt. 2 (2:15) (final film version)
  12. Take a-nother Train (2:54)
  13. Feds (4:42)
  14. Rings a Bell (8:28) (features music from Ode to Joy by Ludwig van Beethoven)
  15. Infiltration (5:33) (features music from Ride of the Valkyries by Wagner & When Johnny Comes Marching Home by Louis Lambert (Patrick Gilmore))
  16. Bank Invasion (4:15)
  17. Back to Wall Street (2:55)
  18. Fake Cops (1:42)
  19. The Federal Reserve (2:18) (features music from Daisy Bell by Harry Dacre & When Johnny Comes Marching Home)
  20. Bank Elevevator (2:54) (features music from When Johnny Comes Marching Home)
  21. Gold Room Aftermath (1:36)
  22. Panic (2:04)
  23. Aqueduct (2:10)
  24. Santa Claus (2:36)
  25. Yankee Stadium & School and Tunnel (3:42) (features music from When Johnny Comes Marching Home)
  26. Refrigerator Bomb (0:40)
  27. Surfing in the Aqueduct (2:29)
  28. Ticking Refrigerator (0:50)
  29. Mercedes Chase & School Assembly (3:14)
  30. Aftermath & Waiting and Falling (2:00)
  31. Hooking the Boat (5:45) (final film version)
  32. Bunny & Fire Drill (2:39)
  33. Running in the Halls (1:42)
  34. Bomb Goes into Hold (5:42)
  35. John Makes it Mad (1:39)
  36. Holly & Celebration (3:17) (features music from When Johnny Comes Marching Home)
  37. Oh, Canada! (Showdown with a Vengeance) (3:23) (features music from O Canada by Calixa Lavallée & Sir Adolphe-Basile Routhier)
  38. Johnny Comes Marching Home (End Credits) (1:45) (features music from When Johnny Comes Marching Home)
  39. Regret (1:50)
  40. Hooking the Boat (4:23) (version from earlier cut of the film)
  41. On the Freighter & John Makes it Mad (3:33)
  42. Wall Street Station (1:29)
  43. The Subway, Pt. 1 (1:30) (segment deleted from final film version)
  44. The Subway, Pt. 2 (0:47) (segment deleted from final film version)
  45. Ode to Johnny (3:13) (features music from Ode to Joy and When Johnny Comes Marching Home)
  46. No Rush (1:20)
  47. Escape (2:04)
  48. The Foundry (Iron Foundry) – Alexander Mosolov (3:09)
  49. Waltz of the Bankers (4:17) (track original to the first soundtrack album)
  50. Gold Vault (3:50) (track original to the first soundtrack album)
  51. Somebody Had Fun (Wild Snare) (1:14)
  52. Johnny Comes Marching Home (Wild Vamps) (1:28) (features music from When Johnny Comes Marching Home)


Home mediaEdit

Die Hard with a Vengeance was released on VHS on December 19, 1995,[13] on LaserDisc on January 17, 1996, and on DVD on March 9, 1999. A special edition was released on DVD on July 10, 2001 and then re-released in February 2005 and 2007.[14] The film was released on Blu-ray in 2007 and 2013.[15]

Alternative endingEdit

An alternative ending to the one shown in the final movie was filmed with Jeremy Irons and Bruce Willis, set some time after the events in New York. It can be found on the Special Edition DVD. In this version it is presumed that the robbery succeeds, and that McClane was used as the scapegoat for everything that went wrong. He is fired from the NYPD after more than 20 years on the force and the FBI has even taken away his pension. Nevertheless, he still manages to track Simon using the batch number on the bottle of aspirins and they meet in a bar in Hungary. In this version, Simon has double-crossed most of his accomplices, gotten the loot to a safe hiding place somewhere in Hungary, and has the gold turned into statuettes of the Empire State Building in order to smuggle it out of the country; but he is still tracked down to his foreign hideaway. McClane is keen to take his problems out on Simon, who he invites to play a game called "McClane Says". This involves a form of Russian roulette with a small Chinese rocket launcher that has had the sights removed, meaning it is impossible to determine which end is which. McClane then asks Simon some riddles similar to the ones he played in New York. When Simon gets a riddle wrong, McClane forces him at gunpoint to fire the launcher, which fires the rocket through Simon, killing him.[16][17]

In the DVD audio commentary, screenwriter Jonathan Hensleigh claims that this version was dropped because the studio thought it showed a more cruel and menacing side to McClane, a man who killed for revenge rather than in self-defense. The studio was also displeased with the lack of action in the scene, feeling that it did not fit as a "climax" and therefore chose to reshoot the finale as an action sequence at a significant monetary cost. Hensleigh's intention was to show that the events in New York and the subsequent repercussions had tilted McClane psychologically. This alternative ending, set some time after the film's main events, would have marked a serious break from the Die Hard formula, in which the plot unfolds over a period of roughly 12 hours.[17]

According to the DVD audio commentary, a second alternative ending had McClane and Carver floating back to shore on a makeshift raft after the explosion at sea. Carver says it is a shame the bad guys are going to get away; McClane tells him not to be so sure. The scene then shifts to the plane where the terrorists find the briefcase bomb they left in the park and which Carver gave back to them (in this version it was not used to blow up the dam). The film would end on a darkly comic note as Simon asks if anyone has a four-gallon jug. This draft of the script was rejected early on - possibly due to the similarity of the ending to Die Hard 2, where all the villains board a plane that later explodes - so it was never actually filmed. The rocket-launcher sequence was the only alternative ending to be filmed.[17]


Box officeEdit

Die Hard with a Vengeance opened in the United States on May 19, 1995 and earned $22,162,245 in its opening weekend.[18] In Japan it set a record opening for 20th Century Fox with a five day gross of $13.5 million and was number one for five consecutive weeks.[19][20] Its opening in France set a summer record with a gross of $8.8 million in its first 8 days.[20] The film went on to gross $100,012,499 in the United States and Canada, and $266,089,167 in other markets, giving it a total worldwide gross of $366,101,666 and making it the highest-grossing film of 1995.[5][21]

Critical responseEdit

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 59% based on 76 reviews, with an average rating of 6.10/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Die Hard With a Vengeance gets off to a fast start and benefits from Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson's barbed interplay, but clatters to a bombastic finish in a vain effort to cover for an overall lack of fresh ideas."[22] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 58 out of 100, based on 19 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[23] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A–" on an A+ to F scale.[24]

Roger Ebert of Chicago Sun-Times gave the film three stars out of four, praising the action sequences and the performances of Willis, Jackson, and Irons, concluding: "Die Hard with a Vengeance is basically a wind-up action toy, cleverly made, and delivered with high energy. It delivers just what it advertises, with a vengeance."[25] Entertainment Weekly's Owen Gleiberman disliked the film, stating that while "[John] McTiernan stages individual sequences with great finesse... they don't add up to a taut, dread-ridden whole".[26] James Berardinelli thought that the explosions and fights were "filmed with consummate skill, and are thrilling in their own right".[27] Samuel L. Jackson's performance in the film was also praised by critics. Desson Howe of The Washington Post thought that "the best thing about the movie is the relationship between McClane and Zeus," saying that Jackson was "almost as good as he was in Pulp Fiction."[28] For Variety, Brian Lowry wrote the film was the "least accomplished" of the Die Hard series, but "even a subpar adventure won't kill this series, as the pic's built-in audience will make it a major summer attraction, if perhaps one lacking quite the stamina of the first two movies".[29]

Empire magazine's Ian Nathan gave the film three out of five stars review stating that "Die Hard with a Vengeance is better than Die Hard 2, but not as good as the peerless original. Though it's breathless fun, the film runs out of steam in the last act. And Jeremy Irons' villain isn't fit to tie Alan Rickman's shoelaces."[30] In the Crime Time Filmbook, which archives various UK film reviews, the film was given a 5/5 star review citing it as "...simply the best Action film of the decade, leaving imitators like Bad Boys, Executive Decision, The Rock and Chain Reaction in varying depths of shadow.[31]

Empire considered it to be one of the 50 greatest film sequels in 2009.[32] Ben Sherlock of Screen Rant regarded it as the best sequel of the franchise.[33]


A novelization by Deborah Chiel was first published on May 28, 1995. The novel is written in third person omniscient and has a somewhat darker tone in comparison to the final film.

The novel provides a deeper exploration into McClane's psyche and shows how angry and broken he has become since leaving Holly and becoming an alcoholic. McClane's introduction is also different. In the film, McClane is first seen in the police van to Harlem while being briefed on what is going on. The novel includes a scene before this where Connie and Joe find McClane in his messy apartment.

Simon's henchwoman Katya appears much later into the story than she does in the film. She is not involved in the Federal Reserve robbery and instead appears just before Simon and Targo take off in one of the dump trucks. Like the final film, she ends up killing Targo for Simon.

The original placement of the "Yippee-Ki-Yay" line is included. Instead of being used at the end, McClane uses the line when talking to Simon over the radios while in the aqueducts. This was meant to be in the same vein as the original use of the line in the first movie.

Zeus' original backstory is presented in the novel, explaining why he is looking after his nephews and why he hates white people. During the car chase, Zeus explains that his brother was killed during a drug raid. When McClane suggests that it was his brother's own fault, Zeus explains that his brother was never involved in drugs and the only reason he was there was to bring Zeus home.

The novel also uses the "McClane Says" ending rather than the film's version of the finale.


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  20. ^ a b Groves, Don (August 14, 1995). "O'seas B.O. shimmers in August heat". Variety. p. 10.
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External linksEdit