There are quite a few action franchises as loved as Die Hard, and typically, with movies in a franchise, some are a little worse for wear than others. Since 1988, Die Hard has given the “Die Hard on X” idea, where studios have tried to replicate the success of Die Hard with movies like Speed (Die Hard on a Bus) or White House Down (Die Hard at the White House). Still, none of them could ever quite get the success that the original McTiernan-directed film gave FOX in the 80s.
Let’s take a look back at the five films in the Die Hard franchise as I rank them.
A Good Day to Die Hard
While A Good Day to Die Hard is an entertaining action movie in its own right, it’s not a good entry in the Die Hard franchise. 2007’s Live Free or Die Hard left a disappointing taste in the mouths of many with its PG-13 rating, and when FOX announced that the fifth movie would return the franchise to its mature-rated roots, fans were excited to see Willis return as McClane.
However, that excitement quickly faded as this movie proved that a simple rating doesn’t make or break a movie. A Good Day to Die Hard is a slightly entertaining and cliché action movie, but it’s not a good one. Bruce Willis is more or less just Bruce Willis in the movie, and his chemistry with Jai Courtney, who plays his son Jack, is non-existent.
The first four Die Hard movies had non-stop tension and always had McClane in trouble and thinking how he could escape this situation; this movie had none of that. A Good Day to Die Hard is more of a bad video game movie influenced by Michael Bay with mindless action and a very weak plot.
Die Hard 2: Die Harder
Die Hard 2 is a fun movie, but it’s more of an ambient movie than one you must pay attention to. It’s solid as an action movie and a decent Die Hard movie as it gets everything mostly right as a Die Hard movie, though it’s everything you can think of when you hear the phrase “sequel to hit action movie.”
The plot for Die Hard 2 is a mess and a basic action, but McClane is 100% the relatable human cop. He’s always trying to prove himself to other people and wants to help, while everyone around makes it harder.
Die Hard 2 isn’t a bad movie, but it has a lot of cheesy things that haven’t aged all that well, though it’s still pretty entertaining.
Live Free or Die Hard
Live Free or Die Hard was directed by Len Wiseman, who gave us the Underworld franchise. This movie is about when people started to jump off the Die Hard train, slightly over the top with some of its action pieces, but it’s more of a Die Hard movie than A Good Day to Die Hard, even its PG-13 version.
Bruce Willis returns as John McClane, this analog cop living in this digital age, and this was the first movie in the franchise to explore electronic warfare and what that could mean if the right person engaged in it. When this movie came out, the biggest complaint was that it was PG-13 and not rated R.
For its PG-13 rating, Wiseman did a great job filming the action and stuntwork for the film, and it’s engaging and full of tension. Using McClane’s age shows how a person might be in a scenario where he might be on top of things, but now, in this new age of the world, he has no clue how to be that guy. This movie shows us that instead of being two steps ahead of everyone, he must run to catch up with others.
I don’t know if this movie was filmed with an R-rating in mind and edited to be PG-13, but there is an unrated version out there that features all the blood-spewing gunshots, and the well-known oneliner McClane states that the end of the first movie.
Die Hard with a Vengeance
Die Hard With a Vengeance sees the return of Bruce Willis as John McClane and John McTiernan as the director who directed the first movie. Unlike the first two movies, Die Hard 3 brings McClane and Zeus, played by Samuel L. Jackson, to the streets of New York to solve impossible riddles before Simon, played by Jeremy Irons, blows up another bomb.
Samuel L. Jackson, as Zeus, is technically the sidekick in this movie, but he’s more than just the guy who helps McClane; Zeus is a very active character and always has an opinion and never has a problem stating it. These two characters are thrown into these situations, which is believable and works well. Die Hard 3 took a lot of risks in making this movie about a game of wits rather than a typical action plot. This movie has some of the best casting in any action movie, especially a Die Hard film.
I had a hard time placing this movie; I love this movie and the one I have as #1, so in my mind, I view both entries as the best of the franchise since both have some connective tissues embedded in them
Die Hard gave us Bruce Willis as an action hero, though he wasn’t your typical Rambo or Terminator; he’s a human character just there to see his wife and kids for the holidays. He’s the wrong guy at the wrong place at the wrong time. McClane struggles throughout the movie, and just as he gets the leg up on the bad guys, the bad guys get the leg up on him.
One of the best things about this movie is that the hero and villain don’t meet until very late in the film. That’s unheard of for its time; the two communicate through walkie-talkies, and McClane also talks with another cop on the ground similarly. It’s hard to pull off, but this movie does it and does it well.
Die Hard redefined action movies and the genre and has one of the best villains in movie history.
Die Hard is one of my favorite action movies, and I watch it yearly for Christmas.