Die Hard

Die Hard

Based on Roderick Thorpe’ novel Nothing Lasts Forever, 1988’s Die Hard made an action star out of Bruce Willis and a tourist attraction out of the Fox Plaza building in Los Angeles. With it’s compelling storyline, wonderful casting and nonstop action, Die Hard proved that the action film genre was far from deceased.

The novel itself was a sequel to a book called Detective, which had also been made into a 1968 film starring Frank Sinatra. While Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Burt Reynolds, and Richard Gere were all offered the role of the fish-out-of water fly-in-the-ointment cop, Willis eventually got the call, and the five million dollar paycheck that came with it, even though he wasn’t well-recognized enough to put his mug on the initial posters. Another unknown (to American audiences, anyway) Alan Rickman delivered a star-making performance as the cultured terrorist leader Hans Gruber, while Bonnie Bedelia, Reginald Veljohnson, Alexander Gudonov, Paul Gleason, and William Atherton gave the film spot-on supporting performances. Action director John McTiernan – who had cut his teeth on Nomads and Predator – made a solid name for himself on this, his third try.

New York cop John McClane (Willis) comes west to sunny Los Angeles for Christmas with his family, beginning with a stop at the high-rise building where his estranged career-woman wife (Bonnie Bedelia) works. But no sooner does he arrive and settle down than a group of sophisticated European terrorists take over while he escapes, barefoot, up to the roof. While McClane tries to alert the sluggish authorities, he’s forced to fend off the terrorists one by one until help can finally arrive. That help turns out to be the skeptical Al Powell (Veljohnson) who realizes the weight of the situation when the body of one of the terrorists comes crashing through his windshield. While the terrorists begin to fret about the “security guard” loose in the building, their leader, Hans Gruber, remains calm.

Police and city officials (including Gleason’s spectacularly smug turn as Deputy Police Chief Dwayne T. Robinson) descend upon the building in an effort to control the situation. And when the FBI comes in and cuts the power in an effort to spook the bad guys, they unwittingly enable Gruber’s master plan. With a penthouse full of hostages, a roof wired with explosives, and terrorists who mean business, it’s sure to be one Christmas John McClane will never forget.

Die Hard‘s fast start at the box office put Willis on posters soon enough, for this and many films that followed over the next two decades. And with over eighty million dollars in domestic receipts pouring in, it delivered a new big screen star in Willis and a franchise born from Officer John McClane. Critics hailed the film as “the return of the action film,” and its success ushered in over a decade worth of copycats. The arrogant right-man-in-the-wrong-place would return to the screen in 1990 (Die Hard 2), 1995 (Die Hard: With a Vengeance), 2007 (Live Free or Die Hard) and 2013, (A Good Day to Die Hard), with several video game incarnations in between, such as this one:

If you count Die Hard as one of your favorite action films of the era, we would love to hear all of your thoughts in our comments section below, as we tip our hats to this unforgettable 80s adventure.

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