#821 Die Hard (1988)

When Die Hard hit the big screen, Bruce Willis wasn’t much of anyone on Hollywood’s big screens. After this movie premiered in 1988, he became a household name and one of the biggest box office draws of the late 20th century. In addition to his performance that evoked heroism, drama, and humor, Alan Rickman’s performance as Hans Gruber was also a legendary intro to Hollywood after similarly only appearing in some small television dramas (however his impact on the stage prior to acting on film is undisputed). As each seemingly incidental story arc and setup unfolds in this heart-pounding action flick, it’s easy to root for the good guys to come out on top and find that all of the little setups have a rewarding place later in the film.

Repeated viewings over the past thirty years, and this “one-man-army…rollercoaster ride of a movie” (Joanna Berry, Schneider) has certainly kept its charm and not gotten old. It is simply one of the greatest action movies ever made, from its opening frames in a turbulent airplane to the unforgettable final sequence outside the doomed Nakatomi Plaza. A true edge-of-your-seat popcorn classic.

As a kid that grew up in the midst of all of these incredible films as they came out,  Die Hard evokes some real nostalgia when I watch it. As a trained writer years later, I am in awe of all of how well this film is able to inject little plot and story elements that eventually pay off by the end of the film. I have probably watched this movie a hundred times, and not only has it has not gotten old, but it manages to surprise me with some new elements of wonder every time I watch it.

From sets and costumes that are surprisingly not (that) dated (somehow), to the personalities of even the smallest actor having a convincingly fleshed-out idea of their motivations and character, Die Hard is the yardstick by which every action film that came after it is measured. The sequels are even more fun, my favorite in the original trilogy being …with a Vengeance which actually bucked the trend of bad sequels happening to good movies. I hate to admit it, but I haven’t seen the fourth or fifth yet for fear that it will turn out like my experience with Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull – as The Last Crusade came out in 1989…  Those were the years of good movies, folks, and apparently the ones we’re living in now are the years of the bad, too-stretched-out sequels.

Anyway, Die Hard remains one of my favorite film staples with good reason. It was a pleasure revisiting it as I make my way down Schneider’s list. Side note, it is only one of a handful of Christmas films I can actually stomach. It shares a spot on the list with Gremlins, Bad Santa, Lethal Weapon, Harry Potter, Edward Scissorhands, The Nightmare Before Christmas (which, let’s face it, is a Halloween movie), and RENT (which I would say I prefer the filming of the stage musical to the actual feature film).

This is a movie based on a book, but not one I will likely be picking up.


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