It’s that holiday time of year again and when the gang tires of football, naps, and eating way too much, what better way to celebrate the holidays than that grand year-end tradition, watching Die Hard, a movie that took many people by surprise, none more than its star, now ultra-famous action movie icon Bruce Willis.
Willis was quoted in an interview, after the film was made, saying “I never gave it much thought. I thought, ‘Well, that happened,’ ” says Willis. “But no one ever knows when a film is going to take off. No one could predict this.”
Much to everyone’s surprise, in part, fueled in part by Willis’ instant catchphrase “Yippee-ki-yay,” the John McTiernan-directed Die Hard earned $140.8 million worldwide and spawned a franchise that has tallied $1.1 billion.
Die Hard is a 1988 American action thriller film directed by John McTiernan, written by Steven E. de Souza and Jeb Stuart, and stars Bruce Willis and Alan Rickman. It was produced by the Gordon Company and Silver Pictures and distributed by 20th Century Fox.
The film follows off-duty New York City Police Department officer John McClane (caught in a Los Angeles skyscraper during a heist led by Hans Gruber). Based on Roderick Thorp’s 1979 novel Nothing Lasts Forever. Arnold Schwarzenegger declined to shoot the film as a sequel to his 1985 action film Commando, and Fox reluctantly gave the role to Willis, then known as a comedic television actor. Alan Rickman in this, as always, is memorably terrific along with amusingly sinister and menacing as the homicidal devious ‘gentleman’ thief Gruber.
What makes Die Hard such a timeless, beloved film? Well, for one. It’s an excellent thriller that skillfully juggles suspense, action, and humor. Also, along the way, it skillfully manages to make us care about the characters in the film’s narrative and what’s at stake for them, but most of all, Die hard is just plain fun as Willis’ Mac Clane and Rickman’s Gruber play cat and mouse with each other while the world watches helplessly from the outside. Part of this film’s charm I think, is the knowledge in the back of the mind of the viewer that all will be well and the film’s story will somehow have a happy ending,
The fact we are celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of this iconic film is a small miracle in itself because the production had a bumpy beginning. Die Hard came along at a time of change. You have to remember it was 1987, and things were different then, there was a different attitude towards doing action movies, involving misplaced snobbery of the genre. A lot of actors of the time felt they were too good to make an action film. Action films were what B-stars did, not A-stars. But things were changing, and the action films were becoming the A-pictures, and they were the ones that were starting to make all the money.
The way the story goes, they went to Arnold [Schwarzenegger]. They went to Sly, who turned it down. They went to Richard Gere—turned it down. They went to James Caan—turned it down. They went to Burt Reynolds, and all of these people rejected it because, ironically, they felt the hero MacClane was not hero enough.
There has been a lot of discussion about whether Die Hard is a Christmas movie, and to that, I say of course it is, look at how corny and sentimental it is at its core. The neo-nazi, euro-trash, bad guys have Grinch written all over them and the heavily outmanned working class mutt cop with marriage problems. All the world loves an outnumbered underdog, andJohn McClean is just the right world-weary hero for the job despite himself. As if that wasn’t enough, playing off his story of trying to save his family and marriage is expertly used by the movie to shamelessly emotionally manipulate us so that we have no choice but to root for John all the way because of what’s at stake.
Still not convinced Die Hard is a film worth celebrating? The film’s success created the Die Hard franchise, which includes four sequels, some video games, and a comic book, and later in 2017 was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry. Die Hard has been named one of the best action and Christmas-themed films ever made. The film also ranks No. 20 on Empire’s 2017 list of the 100 greatest movies of all time. Happy Holidays and happy viewing!