Die Hard movies. What more do I have to say? The film series that put Bruce Willis on the map, the 1988 masterpiece spawned four sequels, all of them, beside Die Hard 2, having playful fun with the original title, like Die Hard With A Vengeance, Live Free Or Die Hard, and my personal favorite title, A Good Day To Die Hard.
And one thing that’s really interesting is that all the Die Hard movies, besides the first two, are really spread out when it comes to releases. I think this is important to note, since the quality of some of these films is really dependent upon the seeming indestructibility of John McClane when compared to what his character goes through, which I’ll explain in greater detail later. There were once rumors that there was going to be a Die Hard prequel, but those plans have since been nixed. Whether or not we'll ever see Bruce Willis return to the role of John McClane for another Die Hard movie remains to be seen. For the time being, let's rank and compare the five Die Hard movies that have been released.
Oh, and minor spoilers up ahead.
5. A Good Day To Die Hard (2013)
Starring Jai Courtney, Cole Hauser, Yulia Snigir, and Sebastian Koch (and Bruce Willis, of course), and directed by John Moore, A Good Day To Die Hard finds John McClane in Russia -- the tagline was even, Yippee Ki-yay Mother Russia -- as he’s trying to locate his son (Played by Jai Courtney). McClane thinks his son’s a criminal, but things are not what they seem, and the two end up working together in order to protect an important Russian figure.
A Good Day To Die Hard, while having my favorite title in the series, is by far the worst movie in the franchise. It’s all because of how indestructible John McClane is in this movie. Plus, he kicks even more ass in this one than he did in the first film, which is completely unbelievable. Aren't you supposed to get slower with age? That would have actually been an interesting angle. But this movie takes in the complete opposite direction, and he seems to be in the best shape of his life, which makes it pretty boring. And Jai Courtney as his son isn’t helping, either. His character feels thrown in to add some life to the series, but his character only drags it down more by not being interesting in the slightest. I remember walking out of the theater angry after I saw this movie because I hated it so much. It’s just really bad. There’s no other way to put it.
4. Live Free Or Die Hard (2007)
The first (and only) PG-13 Die Hard movie, would you believe that the fourth installment in the series was actually inspired by an article in Wired Magazine about cyber-terrorism? Directed by Len Wiseman, and starring “I’m a Mac” Justin Long, Cliff Curtis, Maggie Q, and Timothy Olyphant as the big bad cyber-terrorist, Live Free Or Die Hard is about old school John McClane preventing a cyber attack that would wreck America’s infrastructure if it went through. Action ensues.
And it’s really fun! A lot of people were skeptical about a PG-13 Die Hard movie, but all the elements are intact, besides the swearing, of course. That said, Live Free Or Die Hard is where the ridiculousness of John McClane’s character starts to really kick in. At no point do you ever feel like he’s in any immediate danger. I mean, my man is riding on the back of a plane in this one. Who does he think he is? Tom Cruise? So, while yes, it’s a fun movie (And some even think it’s the second-best Die Hard flick), that lack of danger puts it at a lower place on this list. Sorry.
3. Die Hard 2 (1990)
Speaking of planes, Die Hard 2 is pretty much just the original Die Hard… but with planes. Starring William Sadler, Bonnie Bedella, and Franco Nero, and directed by Renny Harlin, this film finds John McClane waiting for his wife at the airport. He then gets involved in another terrorist attack where a former colonel (played by Sadler) is willing to crash every plane in a terminal if he doesn’t get his demands.
Die Hard 2 is definitely the worst of the original Die Hard trilogy, and I was tempted to put it at number 4 since it’s pretty much just a retread of the first movie (It even takes place on Christmas Eve, meaning it also annoyingly gets clumped in with the original Die Hard as being “a Christmas movie”).That said, I still like McClane better like this when he’s more down to earth and actually like a real person put in an extreme situation. In other words, I don’t hate it. I just don’t like it much, either. Next to the fifth movie, I’ve probably watched this one the least.
2. Die Hard With A Vengeance (1995)
Starring Samuel L. Jackson and Jeremy Irons, and directed by the first movie’s director, John McTiernan, Die Hard With A Vengeance is basically about John McClane and an electrician (played by Samuel L. Jackson) running all over New York to prevent bombs from going off. It’s a lot of fun!
In fact, I’m going to be real with you. Die Hard With A Vengeance is my favorite Die Hard movie. I know it’s not the best, but it is my favorite. It’s the interaction between Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson that really sells it. They have such great chemistry together, and they’re so funny. (“He didn’t say Jesus. He said, ‘Hey, Zeus. My name is Zeus.”) I also love the Simon Says game going on here and the ultimate reveal of who Jeremy Irons’ character actually is. Yes, it’s a silly film, but I’ve definitely seen it the most. That said…
1. Die Hard (1988)
The best movie is undoubtedly the first one. Directed by John McTiernan, and starring Bonnie Bedelia and Alan Rickman as the series best villain, Hans Gruber, the first Die Hard, which is based off the novel Nothing Lasts Forever, is about terrorists hijacking a building and taking hostages, and the lone cop who takes them out.
Die Hard is often considered one of -- if not the -- best action movies of all time. And for good reason. John McClane is a true everyman in this movie, and it’s genuinely tense because he’s so vulnerable. My favorite part is when he cuts his feet on glass, and he’s hobbling around. And Hans Gruber is just the best. He seems all suave and sophisticated, but he’s really just BS’ing his way though everything, so you have two guys who are kind of out of their depth figuring their way through things, which makes it all the more enjoyable. I mean seriously, who doesn’t love the first Die Hard?
And that’s the list. I’m actually really interested to hear your thoughts on the best Die Hard in the poll below. And if you want to know what Bruce Willis or Samuel L. Jackson will be doing in the future, then make sure to come by here often.
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Rich is a Jersey boy, through and through. He graduated from Rutgers University (Go, R.U.!), and thinks the Garden State is the best state in the country. That said, he’ll take Chicago Deep Dish pizza over a New York slice any day of the week. Don’t hate. When he’s not watching his two kids, he’s usually working on a novel, watching vintage movies, or reading some obscure book.