Plot: John McClane (Bruce Willis) is ready to enjoy his vacation time with his family this Christmas holiday. McClane is a New York City police officer, but he has the holidays off, so he travels to Los Angeles to spend time with his wife, who lives in L.A. for her work. The two have a rocky relationship, but McClane wants to patch things up and be together again. McClane meets his wife at her office building, where her company is holding a Christmas party, and have the building all to themselves. While McClane is cleaning up and making little fists with his toes, things take a more sinister turn, as a team of terrorists invade the building. As the terrorists begin to start the wheels turning on their mission, McClane is able to sneak off without being seen. This leads to McClane against mastermind Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) and his team of elite terrorists, but who will survive this showdown?
Entertainment Value: Easily one of the greatest American action movies ever made, Die Hard is a relentless thriller that never eases up and over time, has even turned into a Christmas classic. This movie just works on all levels, to the point that it transcends genre and becomes a great movie, rather than a great action movie, which is a great compliment. The narrative is simple, but it works because the characters are well developed and there’s little wasted time, even exposition is handled in ways that keep you hooked in. This might be a large scale action spectacle at times, but there are so many little moments that shine, adding so much to the experience. Die Hard also crafts an effective atmosphere, with consistent tension and a sense of claustrophobia, as McClane is forced into the shadows and has to operate in such limited ways. The action set pieces are a lot of fun, but to me, it is the characters, atmosphere, and visuals that have made Die Hard so beloved, as these elements bolster and enhance the action scenes. But make no mistake, the movie delivers when it comes to action and memorable one liners, so Die Hard is soaked in the 80s action vibes and to me, remains one of the genre’s absolute best.
Bruce Willis has enjoyed a remarkable career in front of the camera, but his role as John McClane is likely the one he is most associated with. This is an iconic character to be sure, an action hero with some solid depth and good development, which is perhaps one of the reasons the role endures so well. If McClane just rattled off one liners, he might be quoted often, but since he is such a fleshed out, authentic character, he rises above the usual genre heroes. A great action hero needs a great villain of course, which leads to Alan Rickman, another reason Die Hard works so well. Rickman dials up the role and is a fun bad guy, a wild blend of calculating and always on the brink of unhinged, an ideal foil for McClane. The two have such epic banter as well, with so many quotable and memorable moments. The cast here also includes Bonnie Bedelia, William Atherton, Reginand VelJohnson, Paul Gleason, Hart Bochner, and of course, the bad ass Alexander Godunov.