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It would be very hard for me to count how many times we have argued over the Die Hard franchise in the CinemaBlend offices. There are watercooler topics -- conversations that we regurgitate every other year -- and then there is the raging Die Hard debate. It goes like this: Some in the office feel that the best sequel in the Die Hard franchise is the third movie, John McTiernan's Die Hard with a Vengeance. It has even been suggested that With A Vengeance might be better than the original Die Hard, to claim the title of "Supreme Die Hard Movie."
This is blasphemy.
But we have had the conversation so many times, I want to open it up to the CinemaBlend readers, so you can hammer this out in the comments section. The headline defines our parameters. We are not trying to debate the best Die Hard movie. It's the first movie. Anyone who thinks otherwise is just plain wrong.
But the debate over the sequels rages on. Personally, I'm a Die Hard 2: Die Harder guy. Here's why: I think a Die Hard movie is defined by a cramped space. It's confined to an office building, or -- in the case of Renny Harlin's bone-crunching sequel -- a busy airport on Christmas Eve. The Christmas setting helps, but I think the moment With A Vengeance opens up the playing field to all of Manhattan (and, later, Canada), it stops being a true Die Hard movie.
Also, Die Hard 2 has a component that I find to be crucial. John McClane (Bruce Willis) needs to be the right guy in the wrong place at the wrong time. This box is checked in Die Harder, but is NOT in With a Vengeance. In fact, to make matters worse, McClane is dragged into the action in the third movie, and never really goes through the hoops to stop Simon because he actually wants to. In the first two movies, McClane fights hard to stop the bad guys for his own personal reasons... and because he believes it's the right thing to do. Never once in Vengeance do I believe that McClane is stepping up to act because he thinks he's doing the right thing. He actually resists it every step of the way. That's not My John McClane (trademark). That's just Bruce Willis in another routine buddy cop thriller.
To that end, I'd almost suggest that the fourth movie, Live Free or Die Hard, feels more like a traditional Die Hard movie than its immediate predecessor. It's McClane being in the wrong place at the wrong time. It's McClane standing up for what's right. The presence of Justin Long prevents me from ever considering Live Free as the best Die Hard sequel, but it's far better than we could have hoped.
And A Good Day To Die Hard is far worse that we could have imagined. We debated this on the ReelBlend podcast recently, if you want to hear that full conversation. It was eye-opening!