Die Hard — or How to kill a franchise

Hefas Moviestuff
6 min readJan 20, 2021


With the Die Hard franchise, Hollywood has been quite successful in killing of a fantastic franchise very effectively. It takes a certain amount of skill to evolve a franchise from one of the best action movies ever produced, to one of the worst action movies ever produced. And to completely misinterprit and destroy a great character like John McClane.

Die Hard

Gruber and McClane at Nakatomi Plaza.

1988 was the year when John McClane reached our silver screens for the first time. For most people, “Die Hard” must have been a totally unexpected hit. Bruce Willis was mostly known from “Moonlighting” on tv, and the mediocre Blake Edwards comedy “Blind Date”. The movie was directed by John McTiernan (who would later wind up in jail, but that is a different story).

I was curios of the movie, since I had seen some behind-the-scenes stuff on “MTV At the Movies”, and thought it looked interesting. But to be honest — the first time I saw the title of the movie, I thought it was a German movie.

When I entered the movie theatre back in 1988 I was not at all prepared for what I was about to see.

What made the character John McClane work was that he was an ordinary person — he was human, and not a hero. He was scared of flying, and had problems with his marriage. He most certainly did not want to fight terrorists (who were not actually terrorists) in a skyscraper, but found himself in a situation where he had no choice.

The main villain, Hans Gruber, was an exceptional villain, played by the late Alan Rickman — who is simply amazing as Gruber. The movie, while action-packed, remains relatively grounded (at least by todays standards), and never loose touch of the human sides of the story. And Willis gets dirtier and bloodier throughout the running time. He suffers, and wishes he was somewhere else.

This movie establishes the “Die Hard”-franchise. A movie about a vulnerable, unwilling hero, in a movie with blood-soaked action-sequences and with a foul language full of inventive cursing.

When the light went up in the theatre that evening, we all knew we had seen something special. I felt like I had seen the perfect action movie. To me, “Die Hard” is still one of the true classics of the 1980's.

Die Hard 2- Die Harder

Parking at the airport.

We move on to 1990 and the inevitible sequel, with the inventive name “Die Hard 2”. This time the director was Finnish Renny Harlin — and I would say that this movie is the higlight of his career (perhaps with the exception of “The Long Kiss Goodnight”).

In this movie we need to accept that John McClane ends up in a similar situation, again at christmas. Not likely, but sure…why not?

“Die Hard 2” is a decent action flick, not perfect by any means, but I rewatched it the other day, and it’s still a pretty good movie. McClane is still human, and a reluctant hero. We recognize the bloody action sequences, the foul language, and the villains are pretty good villains. I mean — they are not Hans Gruber, but ok.

The scale is bigger though — we are no longer in a claustrophobic skyscraper, but in an entire airport.

Anyways, I was happy leaving the theatre. It was still “Die Hard”.

Die Hard With a Vengeance

Five years later — 1995 — and time for sequel number 2. It’s no longer christmas, and McClane is a drunk, suspended from his job. His marriage is over.

John McTiernan is back as director. For some reason, the filmmakers have decided that the scale needs to be bigger. A snowed in airport is by no means enough, now the scale is the entire city of New York. And John McClane is not enough, he needs a sidekick — enter Zeus (Samuel L. Jackson), who is not a fan of white people.

Exiting the theatre this time, I was deeply dissapointed. I felt the movie was nothing like it’s two predecessors. Someone had decided that more of everything would be a good thing, and it was not. And that claustrophobic feeling was not there anymore.

In defense of the film, it still has many of the elements of the original movie. Lots of blood, bad language..and a decent villain. Jeremy Irons is pretty good as Simon — the brother of dear old Hans Gruber.

I have actually reevaluated the film over the years. The performances of Willis and Jackson are ok, but it’s still not on the same level as the two first films. And what’s up with that ridicolus title?

Live Free or Die Hard

“Look mom, I have no hair.”

Speaking of silly titles - I give you: “Live Free or Die Hard”. The title is in fact so stupid that 20th Century Fox renamed it “Die Hard 4.0” outside the US. Which, to be honest, is also a pretty silly title.

Even more disturbing was the fact that the new sequel was PG-13. That’s right, a PG-13 “Die Hard”, meaning no blood or bad language. Did the producers even bother to see the three previous films? And since the movie obviosly needed to appeal to everyone, a teenager needed to be inserted, in true “24”-style. Not that Justin Long was terrible in the film.

John McClane is no longer the reluctant hero, but he is beginning to transform into some kind of superhero. The villain is totally forgettable — I struggle to remember anything that Timothy Olyphant does. And now New York is not big enough, now the entire country is in jeopardy.

And to make it even worse, John McClane…once scared of flying… walks on the outside of a flying jet fighter. WHAT?

This is no longer a “Die Hard” movie. This is just wrong, although somewhat entertaining at times.

A Good Day to Die Hard

I can not find the words…

Could this be the worst movie title ever? I can not find the word to describe this movie. There is absolutely no connection to the 1988 original.

John McClane has his son join him this time. And his son is some kind of secret agent.

How did anyone give this movie the green light? John McClane is now in Russia to help his son, who is in trouble with Russian justice. But of course, he proves to be a superagent, and lots of pointless action begin.

People change, but McClane in this movie has nothing whatsoever in common with McClane from the 1988 classic. And the villain of the movie…I honestly don’t even remember what he looked like.

This is trash. I hope someone got fired because of this movie.

I was planning to rewatch this movie before I wrote this, but I decided I didn’t want to.

…and that was the end of the franchise…

There was for a while talk about “Die Hard Year One”, but thankfully someone stopped it.

I just can’t understand, how on earth can Hollywood waste great characters like this? One wonders what would have happened if they stayed true to the original concept.



Hefas Moviestuff

I am a movie fanatic, that love to share my thoughts about movies. 2021 I will spend a lot of time rewatching movies from the past.