Prior to the year 1988 when the film Die Hard came out, it was almost unheard of that any TV star was ever able to break out of being famous for a TV show – Bruce Willis in Moonlighting, and then transition to being a movie star. Bruce Willis was probably the first actor to ever break out of being a TV star and he definitely did this faster than any actor in history. Around this same time, Tom Hanks did the same thing but in a different way and his transition took much longer than Bruce Willis having started in the TV series Bosom Buddies in 1982.
What was so great about the movie Die Hard is that it was the first “believable action” movie where the main character is a regular person engaging in an impossible situation but the situations that he was in and then survived were not so over the top that they were not believable. The Terrorist attack in the Nakatomi Tower building where John McClane, played by Willis meets his wife was very believable. The action and the acting that followed was also very believable. The fights were awkward and what you would expect a fight to be in real life. McClane gave as well as he got and was hurt himself in many cases, unlike over the top of action films where the lead actor has such an easy time beating up everyone in sight. I cannot remember any movie before or since that had this level of believability within a story that had this many fight scenes and gunplay. For me, the best part of this entire film was the friendship that happened over the phone between McClane and Sgt. Al Powell, played by Reginald VelJohnson and their meeting at the end of the film, which was one the best and emotional of any action movie I have ever seen. The late actor Alan Rickman was also outstanding in his role as the lead terrorists and he played this particular level of evil in this movie better than any actor I have ever seen. Alan Rickman is one actor who will be very sorely missed by everyone.
When Die Hard 2 came out in 2 years later, I thought at the time that in some ways this movie was even better than the first one. What it lacked was believability because the action scenes were not on the level of the first movie where McClane was barely surviving but believable. In this movie, John McClane seemed more like a super-hero than the everyman he was in the first film. Some of the action scenes in this movie were both over the top but very entertaining, including where McClane ejects from a plane to escape being blown up and the scene where he fights several terrorists all who have machine guns and kills them with just a pistol. This scene is another example where the believability factor in the first movie was removed from this scene in favor of extremely entertaining action. Regardless, Die Hard 2 was a very good movie and one of the rare times when a sequel was as good if not better than the first movie.
Unfortunately as always happens with a movie franchise that makes a lot of money, producers only care about making more money and do not care if they have a great script. The 3rd Die Hard came out in 1995 and it was called Die Hard with a Vengence, and it starred Samuel L. Jackson’s as an ordinary citizen named Zeus Carter, who gets involved with McClane in what turned out to be a ridiculous plot of riddles and McClane and Zeus running around New York City. Very surprisingly the 4th movie in the series, Live Free or Die Hard was relatively good, starring Justin Long who gets paired up with Willis in another terrorist plot. This movie was far-fetched but some of the action scenes were the best of the entire series.
Unfortunately, the fifth and hopefully final Die Hard movie “A Good Day to Die Hard” was a very bad movie which probably ruined the franchise for good. This movie came out in 2013 and since that time it seems that Bruce Willis has been making mostly very bad B movies, which shows how harsh the movie industry really is and once you have a huge bomb, you may just never get another chance to revive your career. Why or how a movie this bad, which had such a bad screenplay was ever made is part of the problem of embedded profits because of name recognition over quality. This is a mistake I have seen made many times over the years.
If you have not seen Die Hard or Die Hard 2 you owe it to yourself to see 2 of the best action movies ever made.