Everyone has a favourite Die Hard movie and that movie is usually Die Hard.
But while Bruce Willis’ first outing as John McClane is the standard-bearer for the franchise, what about the rest of the films?
With that in mind, loaded is revisiting all five films to put together an official ranking of all the movies, starting with the worst and working our way up to the best, which is Die Hard.
Live Free Or Die Hard
Let’s kick things off with a bit of controversy. Willis’ fourth outing as John McClane might have garnered better reviews than A Good Day To Die Hard, but it’s not aged well.
From the film’s dated cyber terrorism plotline through to the presence of Justin Long as McClane’s hacker sidekick Matt Farrell, this feels like a clumsy attempt at a more-family friendly entry into the franchise.
Add in the fact that excellent Mary Elizabeth Winstead is squandered in a bit-part role as McClane’s daughter, while Kevin Smith pops up in a painful cameo, and it’s arguably the blandest entry to date.
Nowhere is this better demonstrated than in the film’s main villain: Timothy Olyphant’s very vanilla cyber-terrorist Thomas Gabriel, an entirely forgettable foe.
Though the stunt in which McClane launches a car at a helicopter is cool, the rest is pretty forgettable, safety-first, fare.
A Good Day To Die Hard
It’s not that A Good Day To Die Hard is a particularly good sequel. It’s just got a bit more balls to it than Live Free Or Die Hard.
Jai Courtney is solid enough as Jack McClane, an undercover CIA operative working out of Russia, who teams up with his rather tired looking father (Willis) for some Moscow-based mayhem.
By no means a classic, the franchise still benefits from a change of scene, while the array of Russian villains and henchman dispatched keeps things interesting enough.
It’s an overly loud movie too, full of explosions and grisly deaths, with a couple of decent twists you might have forgotten about.
Throw in some nods to the original film and some enjoyable back and forth between Willis and Courtney and you have a movie that’s nowhere near as bad as you remember.
It’s also got some striking action set pieces, at the very least, especially that helicopter-based finale.
Die Hard 2
Now we get to the good stuff. While it’s tricky enough deciding which of the later films is the worst of the bunch, it’s far harder choosing which of the first two sequels stands as the best.
Die Hard 2 loses out here, but only just. Though it didn’t quite recapture the magic of the first movie, it does at least double down on a lot of what made the first film so great.
There are more henchman, more major gunfights, and a lot more casualties. There are also two decent villains in William Sadler’s naked tai-chi-loving Colonel Stuart and John Amos as Major Grant. Neither is a match for Alan Rickman’s Hans Gruber but, combined, they do a good job.
Throw in some clumsy political commentary on goings on in South America, Denis Franz and a fun set piece involving grenades and a crashed-out plane’s ejector seat and you have the makings of a very enjoyable action film. It’s just not Die Hard.
Die Hard With A Vengeance
Die Hard With A Vengeance took things city-wide, with a film that serves as much as a thriller as it does a straight up action movie.
While the hokey story about German mercenaries using a series of bombs to distract the authorities from a raid on the federal reserve is perhaps a little too ambitious/unrealistic for its own good, it makes for a thrilling ride and undoubtedly represents the best sequel of the franchise.
Much of that has to do with the casting. From Samuel L. Jackson’s fine turn as Zeus Carver through to the inspired decision to make Jeremy Irons’ Simon Gruber the brother of Hans, this is an excellent action movie anchored by strong central performances.
In fact, Die Hard With A Vengeance might even have usurped the original as the best, or even stood as a contender, were it not for the film’s somewhat weak conclusion, which was changed after the studio decided the original rocket launcher roulette ending was too violent.
It’s nevertheless an ambitious and well-executed follow-up.
The original and undoubtedly the best of the bunch, Die Hard set the blueprint for the modern action movie.
Featuring a fresh-faced Willis in his breakthrough role and with Rickman proving equally effective as Hans Gruber, Die Hard’s strength lies in its simple premise and effective execution.
It’s just a man fighting a one-man war against a bunch of guys with guns, taking them out one by one in cool ways, usually punctuated by pithy one-liners. Stephen E. De Souza co-wrote the script, injecting a sense of fun and ingenuity into proceedings.
It’s a sweet movie too, whether it’s McClane’s journey to reunite with his wife Holly, or his radio-based chats with Al Powell, viewing can prove a strangely poignant experience.
The small characters work well too, with characters Johnson and Johnson, Richard Thornburg and Harry Ellis all lending memorable support along the way too.
There have been many imitators but few that have come close.
DIE HARD – 30TH ANNIVERSARY it out on 4K Ultra HD™, Blu-ray™ & Digital Download now.