A movie set on Christmas Eve was released in the Summer of 1988. It is not very often that such a thing happens - movies with Christmas settings invariably getting a December release. The difference with this film was that it was an action film. Much more suited to the Summertime audiences, it was reasoned. A hit with both critics audiences at the time, the film grew even longer legs as years went on, and now DIE HARD is considered one of the greatest action films ever released. It is also that rare action movie that gets a lot of play during the Holiday season.
Bruce Willis plays John McClane, a New York Cop who comes to Los Angeles to try and reconcile with his estranged wife Holly (Bonnie Bedelia). He goes to meet her at her office Christmas party, but soon the building is overtaken by terrorists lead by Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman). McClane manages to escape and takes it upon himself to stop the terrorists and save his wife. As the night unfolds, it becomes clear that these terrorists are more than what they seem.
What follows is some of the most hair-raising and intelligent action sequencing we’ve ever seen in film. Director John McTiernan paces the film absolutely flawlessly and he balances the nail-biting action with the cat-and-mouse dynamic between McClane and Gruber. He also gives us some wonderful human moments as McClane forms a bond with Sergent Al Powel (Reginal VelJohnson) a Los Angeles cop who responds to McClane’s call and stays with him on the radio throughout the ordeal. The performances are terrific all around. Bruce Willis’ everyman charm serves him very well in the lead role. We totally believe that he is a regular guy that is in over his head and we never waver in rooting for him to save the day. DIE HARD was also the feature film debut of Alan Rickman, who throws everything he has into the character of Hans Gruber and made him one of the most awesome action-movie antagonists in a long time.
So what makes DIE HARD a Christmas movie? That it is set on Christmas Eve is actually crucial to the entire premise of the film. How else would an entire high-rise office building be essentially empty yet accessible to the villains and with hostages readily available? At what other time than during an office Christmas party would this story be possible? There are arguments out there that at its core, DIE HARD is fact a Christmas movie - given that John McClane is giving himself to others and trying to reconnect with family, but it is enough that the Christmas holiday gives us the set-up for one of the coolest movies ever made.
DIE HARD fun facts - The scene where Gruber and McClane meet was written after it was discovered that Alan Rickman does a very good American accent.
Bruce Willis got the role of John McClane after Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Burt Reynolds, Don Johnson, Richard Gere, Harrison Ford, Richard Dean Anderson, Tom Berringer, Nick Nolte, and Robert De Niro all turned it down.
The extra-loud blanks director John McTiernan insisted on using caused Bruce Willis to suffer some permanent hearing loss .
John McClane - Happy trails, Hans!
Harry Ellis - Hey babe, I negotiate million dollar deals for breakfast. I think I can handle this eurotrash.
Hans Gruber - I am an exceptional thief, Mrs. McClane. And since I’m moving up to kidnapping you should be a little more polite.