Why There Was A Fight Over Die Hard's Home Video Release

Bruce Willis as John McClane in Die Hard

Whether you watch it as a Christmas tradition or play it any other time of the year, Die Hard has been an action movie staple since its release in July 1988. The Bruce Willis-led story's theatrical run went off without a hitch, but apparently there were some issues with the home video release, as Die Hard suffered from distortion due to the fact that it wasn't being presented in widescreen on VHS. DC Comics writer Tom King, whose mother worked at 20th Century Fox at the time Die Hard came out, recalled:

My mother was an exec at Fox when it came out. She actually worked in 'Nakotomi plaza' (Fox plaza) at the time. Grew up visiting her in that building, happily hoping to be shot at. My mom was in the home video department at Fox. When Die Hard came out on VHS, it was horribly distorted by pan and scan. I remember her working to get the widescreen bars added, which was considered crazy at the time. It was a big fight.

Having recently watched Die Hard, Tom King (whose notable comic book credits include the current Batman run, Grayson and The Vision) shed light on how Die Hard's initial home video launch got off to a bad start. We take for granted watching movies in widescreen on our TVs, computers and smart devices nowadays, but in the late 1980s, adding those black bars wasn't the norm. As a result, while Die Hard was now available to add to movie collections and be stocked at rental stores (those were the days), the quality initially wasn't up to snuff compared to how it was screened in theaters. Enter King's mother, who fought to toss aside the 'pan and scan' method in favor of putting Die Hard in the proper widescreen format. She was truly a woman ahead of her time!

Tom King also mentioned on his Twitter page that he appreciates Die Hard for how it has a "tough single mother at its heart," as Bonne Bedelia's Holly Gennaro-McClane reminds his own tough single mother. Next year, Die Hard will celebrate its 30th anniversary, and ahead of this momentous occasion, the movie was recently added to United States' National Film Registry. But even ignoring all the accolades it has earned and continues to received, let's just be thankful that we can still watch Die Hard the way it was intended to be experienced: in glorious widescreen.

Die Hard spawned four sequels, the most recent one, A Good Day to Die Hard, being released in 2013. Die Hard 6, which will follow a younger, pre-first Die Hard movie John McClane, is in development, so stay tuned to CinemaBlend for more updates on that project. In the meantime, you can check out our 2018 premiere guide to see what movies will be released over the next 12 months.

Adam Holmes
Senior Content Producer

Connoisseur of Marvel, DC, Star Wars, John Wick, MonsterVerse and Doctor Who lore. He's aware he looks like Harry Potter and Clark Kent.