Thirty-three years ago, the film Die Hard premiered. Die Hard is the first film in what would become the Die Hard franchise, that includes four film sequels—Die Hard 2, Die Hard with a Vengeance, Live Free or Die Hard, and A Good Day to Die Hard—video games, comic books, toys, board games, clothing, and collectibles. In 2017, the United States Library of Congress selected the film for preservation in the National Film Registry, finding it “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.
Title: Die Hard
Directed by: John McTiernan
Produced by: Lawrence Gordon, Joel Silver
Screenplay by: Jeb Stuart, Steven E. de Souza
Based on: Nothing Lasts Forever by Roderick Thorp
Starring: Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman, Alexander Godunov, Bonnie Bedelia
Music by: Michael Kamen
Cinematography: Jan de Bont
Edited by: Frank J. Urioste, John F. Link
Production companies: Gordon Company, Silver Pictures
Distributed by: 20th Century Fox
Release date: July 15, 1988
Running time: 132 minutes
Budget: $25 million–$35 million
Box office: $139.8 million–$141.5 million
On Christmas Eve 1988, NYPD Detective John McClane arrives in Los Angeles, intending to reconcile with his estranged wife Holly. He is taken to Nakatomi Plaza by his driver Argyle, to attend a Christmas party held by Holly’s employer, the Nakatomi Corporation; Argyle waits for McClane in the garage. While McClane changes clothes, the tower is seized by the German radical Hans Gruber, and his heavily-armed team: Karl, his brother Tony, Franco, Theo, Alexander, Marco, Kristoff, Eddie, Uli, Heinrich, Fritz, and James. Those inside the tower are taken hostage, except for McClane, who slips away.
Gruber interrogates Nakatomi executive Joseph Takagi for the building’s vault code. Gruber reveals that he plans to steal $640 million (equivalent to $1.38 billion in 2019) in untraceable bearer bonds; they are pretending to be terrorists to conceal the theft. Takagi refuses to cooperate and is executed; Theo is tasked with breaking the vault’s locks. McClane, who was secretly observing nearby, triggers a fire alarm to alert the authorities. Tony is sent after McClane; McClane kills Tony, obtaining his weapon and radio, which he uses to contact the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD). Sargent Al Powell is sent to investigate.
McClane kills Marco and Heinrich, recovering the latters bag of C-4 explosives and detonators. Powell prepares to leave after an uneventful observation until McClane drops Marco’s corpse onto his patrol car. Powell summons the LAPD; a SWAT team siege the building but are neutralized by gunfire on the ground floor, and anti-tank missiles fired by James and Alexander. McClane throws some C-4 down an elevator shaft, causing an explosion that kills the pair and ends the assault.
Holly’s co-worker Ellis attempts to mediate between Gruber and McClane for the latters surrender. McClane refuses, and Ellis is killed. Gruber checks the explosives installed on the roof and encounters McClane. He portrays himself as an escaped hostage. McClane offers him a gun, and Gruber attempts to shoot McClane; the gun is empty. Karl, Franco, and Fritz arrive; McClane kills Fritz and Franco, but is badly injured by shattered glass from shot-out office windows, and is forced to flee, abandoning the detonators.
Outside, the FBI agents commandeer the situation, ordering the city blocks’ power be shut off. As Gruber had anticipated, the power cut disables the final vault lock; his team collects the bonds. Gruber demands a helicopter to the roof. The FBI agrees, intending to send gunship helicopters to eliminate the group, regardless of collateral damage to the hostages.
A despondent McClane contacts Powell. He tells McClane that he once accidentally shot a child while on patrol, and has not used his gun since. McClane realizes Gruber intends to detonate the rooftop—killing the hostages and FBI—to fake his team’s deaths. Karl confronts McClane and they fight. Gruber sees a news report by reporter Richard Thornburg on McClane’s children and deduces that he is Holly’s husband. The hostages are escorted to the roof, but Gruber keeps Holly with him. McClane seemingly kills Karl and rescues the hostages just before Gruber detonates the roof, destroying the FBI helicopters. Meanwhile, Theo retrieves their getaway vehicle from the parking garage but is neutralized by Argyle, who has been following the events on his radio.
A weary and battered McClane finds Holly with Gruber and his remaining men, Eddie and Kristoff. After knocking Kristoff unconscious, McClane confronts Gruber and is ordered to surrender his submachine gun. McClane does this to spare Holly but distracts Gruber and Eddie by laughing, allowing him to grab a concealed pistol taped to his back that contains two bullets. McClane wounds Gruber and kills Eddie; Gruber crashes through a window but grabs onto Holly’s wrist. Gruber makes a last-ditch attempt to kill the pair, but McClane unclasps Holly’s wristwatch causing Gruber to fall to his death on the street below.
Outside, McClane and Holly meet Powell. Karl emerges and attempts to shoot McClane, but is killed by Powell. Thornburg arrives and attempts to interview McClane, but Holly punches him. Argyle crashes through the parking garage door in the limo, and leaves the area with McClane and Holly.