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This article is about the 1988 action film. For other uses, see die hard
Die Hard is an Academy Award nominated 1988 American action film. It was written by Jeb Stuart and Steven E. de Souza, stars Bruce Willis, Bonnie Bedelia, Alan Rickman, Paul Gleason, Reginald VelJohnson and William Atherton, and was directed by John McTiernan. A critical and commercial success, Die Hard propelled Willis' film career and established Rickman as a popular portrayer of villains in American film. The film also started the Die Hard series.
The movie is based on a 1979 novel by Roderick Thorp titled Nothing Lasts Forever, itself a sequel to the book The Detective, which was previously made into a 1968 movie starring Frank Sinatra.
John McClane, a detective with the New York City Police Department, arrives in Los Angeles to attempt a Christmas reunion with his estranged wife Holly. He is taken by limousine driver Argyle to her workplace, the high-rise Nakatomi Plaza. While Argyle waits in the building's parking garage, McClane joins the Nakatomi Christmas party where he finds Holly and they get into an argument over her use of her maiden name Gennero. Holly leaves McClane in a small room near the party.
A gang of men led by German terrorist Hans Gruber invade the building, under the pretense of gaining the release of various terrorist operatives. The party-goers are subdued and it is revealed that the group are actually thieves; they plan to use the false terrorist crisis to cover their looting of $640 million in bearer bonds from the building's vault. Theo, the group's technical mastermind, begins disabling the vault locks, warning Gruber that the final electromagnetic lock is uncrackable.
McClane slips away during the party round-up, and his attempt to summon help brings him into confrontation with gang member Tony. Tony is killed, prompting the man's brother, Karl, to lead a hunt for the police officer through the building. McClane convinces a Los Angeles Police Department radio operator to send a patrol unit to Nakatomi, then secures the attention of responding officer Al Powell by dropping one of the terrorists onto the patrol car's hood. He also takes C4 explosives and detonators off the body of another terrorist.
in Los Angeles, portrayed in the film as Nakatomi Plaza.
The LAPD responds in force, but this only accelerates Gruber's timetable. The LAPD attempts to take over the building by sending a SWAT team and then an armored vehicle, but both are repelled by Gruber's men. When Gruber ignores McClane's request to back down, McClane retaliates by bombing an entire floor of the building with the rest of the C4 in McClane's possession. Holly's coworker Ellis reveals McClane's identity to Gruber and is murdered when McClane does not return the detonators.
While checking on the explosives set beneath the roof, Gruber finds himself in an unplanned face-to-face meeting with McClane and attempts to pass himself off as a hostage. Karl and his men interrupt the conversation and McClane loses the detonators as he flees. As he tends his wounds, Powell tells him via radio how he had shot a youth "armed" with a toy gun and became a desk sergeant afterwards.
The FBI arrives on the scene and orders the building's power cut. This merely deactivates the final lock on the vault, and Gruber "negotiates" with the FBI to release the hostages on the rooftop via helicopter. The FBI agents plan to double cross the "terrorists" with a surprise gunship attack, even if it means losing some of the hostages, but Gruber has wired the top of the building with the C4 and plans to blow it up to cover his escape.
Just as McClane discovers the primed C4, he is attacked by Karl. After a vicious battle, McClane leaves him for dead. Outside the building, a TV reporter named Richard Thornburg finds McClane's children and interviews them. Gruber realizes that Holly is McClane's wife and takes her aside as a special hostage. Theo goes to the parking garage to prepare the group's getaway ambulance. Argyle, who has been watching the situation on his limo's TV, rams the vehicle and punches Theo unconscious.
McClane drives the hostages back down to safety, but the FBI fires at him and Gruber proceeds with the C4 detonation. The resulting explosion destroys the FBI helicopter. McClane escapes the blast by jumping over the side of the building with a fire hose tied around his waist.
McClane confronts Gruber as Gruber holds Holly at gunpoint. McClane tricks Gruber with a false surrender and shoots him, knocking the man out a shattered window and dropping him thirty stories to his death. As McClane and his wife leave the building, Karl reappears one last time, only to be gunned down by Powell. Thornburg approaches the couple for an interview, but Holly punches him in the face and couple departs the scene in Argyle's battered limo.
Fox Plaza in Los Angeles was used for exterior shots of the Nakatomi building. Die Hard follows its source material — Roderick Thorp's novel Nothing Lasts Forever — closely, much of the film's memorable scenes, characters, and dialogue taken directly from the novel. Nothing Lasts Forever, a sequel to Thorp's earlier novel The Detective, was written with the intention of being adapted into a film sequel to the film adaptation of The Detective, which starred Frank Sinatra. When Sinatra turned down the offer to star in the sequel, the story was altered to be a stand-alone film with no connections to The Detective. Other changes included the older hero of the novel becoming younger, the hero's daughter becoming his wife, and the American Klaxon Oil Corporation becoming the Japanese Nakatomi Corporation. The novel's tone is darker and more serious than the film's, and the political fighters of the novel became thieves in the film. Director John McTiernan states on the DVD commentary that these changes were made because he wanted to bring "joy" to the story.
In the German dub, the names and backgrounds of the German-born terrorists were changed into English forms (mostly into their British equivalents, though two were turned Italian): Hans became Jack, Karl became Charlie, Heinrich turned into Henry (in the scene where John is writing down the names of the terrorists, he says "I'm gonna call you Hans and Karl, just like the two evil giants in the fairy tale" while referring to them as Jack and Charlie later). The new background depicts them as some internationally organized terrorists having gone freelance and for profit rather than ideals . This was because German terrorism (especially by the Rote Armee Fraktion) was still considered a sensitive issue by the German government in the 1980s.
According to commentary from the movie's DVD release, Alan Rickman's surprise when Gruber is dropped from the building is genuine: the director chose to release Rickman a full second before he expected it in order to get genuine surprise, a move which angered Rickman. The text commentary track also reveals that the shooting script did not originally feature the meeting between McClane and Gruber pretending to be a hostage; it was only written in when it was discovered that Rickman could do an American accent.
Die Hard's title has been changed for different market releases to an extent rarely seen. It was renamed Big Building Fight in Thailand. In Spain, it was renamed La Jungla de Cristal (The Glass Jungle). In Latin America it was renamed Duro de Matar (Hard to Kill). In Russia the film was named Крепкий Орешек (A Hard Nut to Crack) (word-for-word — Hard Nutlet). In Poland it was named Szklana Pułapka (The Glass Trap). In Portugal it was named Assalto ao Arranha-Céus (Assault to the Skyscraper). In Greece it was named Πολύ σκληρός για να πεθάνει (Too tough to die). In Norway it was named Operasjon Skyskraper, which translates into "Operation Skyscraper". It was later changed to its original name. In France, it was named Piège de Cristal (The Crystal Trap). In Yugoslavia, the film was named Umri Muški (Die like a Man). In Romania, it was renamed Greu de ucis (Hard To Kill, like the Latin American title). In Finland, the film was named Vain kuolleen ruumiini yli (Only over my dead body). In Germany, the title was Stirb langsam (Die Slowly). The Hungarian title was Drágán add az életed (Give your life expensive). In Estonia, the title was translated to Visa Hing (Sturdy Soul). In Israel, the title was translated to Met Lihyot (Dying to Live). In Czech Republic, the title was translated to Smrtonosná Past (Lethal Trap). In China it became "終極警探" ("Ultimate Detective").
"Ode to Joy" from Beethoven's 9th Symphony is featured prominently in Kamen's score throughout the film, in many guises and variations. This was director John McTiernan's idea - he conceived Hans Gruber and his terrorists as descendants of the Beethoven-loving criminal gang in Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange and wanted to underline the association in the score. Thematic variations on "Singin' in the Rain" are also featured as the theme for the character Theo. Basing his score around thematic variations on well-known pieces is a conceit that Kamen would repeat in Die Hard 2 (which featured Jean Sibelius's Finlandia) and Die Hard With A Vengeance (which featured variations on the Civil War marching tune, "When Johnny Comes Marching Home").
The final 4 minutes were tracked with music from two other Twentieth Century Fox features - these were 'temp tracks' which the studio ultimately decided to leave in the picture. The poignant music heard when McClane and Powell see each other for the first time is from John Scott's score for Man On Fire (1987). When Karl appears with his rifle, a cut from the 1986 sci-fi action movie Aliens composed by James Horner is heard. This music can be found on the Aliens soundtrack as the first few minutes of the cue "Resolution and Hyperspace" - much of it was not used in the final cut of Aliens, and was replaced instead with an edited version of the track "Bishop's Countdown".
When Die Hard was released, it was considered one of the best action films of its era. This is probably in part due to the fact that there are few artificial plot points in the story. The film features Willis as a sympathetic hero with typical human weaknesses, unlike the Übermensch heroes exemplified by Arnold Schwarzenegger. It is noted for including humor as a complement to the action and dramatic elements of the story. It is said to have reinvented the action genre and set the stage for '90s action/thriller movies such as Under Siege, Passenger 57 and Speed. "Die Hard on a _____" became a common way to describe the plot of many of the action films that came in its wake. For example, 1994's Speed was called "Die Hard on a bus" The movie was also responsible for creating an "action star" archetype that is a far more fallible and human hero than the muscle-bound Arnold Schwarzenegger/Sylvester Stallone type of years previous.
It was highly acclaimed by critics and spawned three popular sequels: Die Hard 2 (1990), Die Hard with a Vengeance (1995) and Live Free or Die Hard (2007), all featuring Willis as McClane. Die Hard was listed at #39 on the AFI's 100 Years... 100 Thrills list of the most thrilling American movies of all time in 2001. In 2003, Hans Gruber was listed at #46 on the AFI's 100 Years... 100 Heroes and Villains special.
Die Hard had a budget of $28 million. Released in 1,276 theaters, it grossed $7.1 million in its opening weekend. The film earned $83 million domestically and $138.7 million worldwide. The movie was nominated for Best Sound Effects Editing, Best Film Editing, Best Sound and Best Visual Effects. John McClane's infamous line "Yippee ki yay, motherfucker" was voted as #96 of "The 100 Greatest Movie Lines" by Premiere magazine in 2007. In the June 22, 2007 issue of Entertainment Weekly, it was named the best action movie of all time.
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