Ask any action movie fan who their favorite fictional character is and they’ll likely name John McClane within a couple of seconds. It’s Bruce Willis’ most famous role, and that’s for a good reason. In every Die Hard movie, McClane is the reluctant hero.
He’s never expecting to get thrust into action – he might be barefoot at his estranged wife’s office Christmas party or hungover and suspended from the force – but when he is, he always pulls through and saves the day. That’s what makes him a great character. So, Die Hard fans, here are John McClane’s 10 Greatest Quotes.
10 “Just once, I’d like a regular, normal Christmas!”
John McClane is pretty annoyed for most of the runtime of Die Hard 2, and it’s understandable. The poor guy had his last Christmas ruined when bad guys took over his wife’s office Christmas party, and now, this Christmas is being ruined when bad guys take over the airport where he’s supposed to be picking up his wife from her flight.
He even describes his ideal Christmas celebrations in the monologue, and it doesn’t involve bad guys: “Just once, I’d like a regular, normal Christmas! Eggnog, a f*****’ Christmas tree, a little turkey. But no! I gotta crawl around in this motherf*****’ tin can!”
9 “The s*** we do for our kids.”
Among the Die Hard fan community, the fifth movie – A Good Day to Die Hard – is particularly maligned. The action falls flat and there’s not much of a plot. But there is one cool line in it. This line reinforces the core ideology of John McClane’s character: he’s just a regular guy.
He’s tried to be a good husband and a good father and he’s failed miserably at both, because he was too busy fighting bad guys in the wrong place at the wrong time. Now, he’s trying to make things up by traveling to Russia to fight the bad guys who are threatening his all-grown-up son.
8 “...I gotta kill the one with feet smaller than my sister.”
In the first Die Hard movie, John McClane spends most of the plot with no shoes on. He was trying out a technique to alleviate athlete’s foot that he was told by a passenger on the plane when the bad guys started shooting and then he was doomed to fight off a team of criminals in his bare feet.
As he makes his way through the bad guys, he tries to take their shoes – only to find that the first one he killed has tiny feet. This line is McClane’s hilarious way of saying the shoes don’t fit and it’s mathematically improbable that the guy he killed would have such small feet.
7 “You are about to have a very bad day.” “Tell me about it.”
This line comes from the first meeting of John McClane and Zeus Carver in Die Hard with a Vengeance (a.k.a. the Lethal Weapon-y one).
Zeus has spotted McClane walking around Harlem wearing a sandwich board that says, “I Hate N******,” per Simon Gruber’s request, and he explains to him, “Not to get too personal, but a white man standing in the middle of Harlem wearing a sign that says, ‘I Hate N******’ has either got some serious personal issues, or not all his dogs are barking...Now, you’ve got about ten seconds before those guys see you, and when they do, they will kill you, you understand? You are about to have a very bad day.” And McClane simply replies, “Tell me about it.”
6 “Say hello to your brother!”
Every action movie hero needs a quippy one-liner to say when they kill the bad guy. The distinction in Die Hard with a Vengeance is that McClane has a history with the villain, Simon Gruber – he killed his brother Hans in the first movie.
So, he simply tells him, “Say hello to your brother!” before shooting down a wire that gets caught in Simon’s helicopter’s rotors and crashes it. McClane doesn’t have a lot of classic one-liners in the third movie, since he was paired with Samuel L. Jackson’s Zeus Carver and the humor in the movie comes from their back-and-forth, but this is a great one.
5 “Welcome to the party, pal!”
No one has ever had more trouble getting the cops to notice illegal activity than John McClane. When he calls 911, they think he’s prank-calling them. When he finally gets a squad car out to the building and Al Powell heads into the lobby to check it out, the bad guys in disguise charm him away.
So, McClane has to toss the body of the guy he just killed out the window and onto Al’s windshield just to get him to realize something’s going on. And when he finally does, McClane utters the iconic quip, “Welcome to the party, pal!”
4 “Do you know what you get for being a hero? Nothin’.”
In Live Free or Die Hard, McClane explains the problems with his heroic lifestyle to Justin Long’s Matt Farrell: “Do you know what you get for being a hero? Nothin’. You get shot at. Pat on the back, blah blah blah. ‘Attaboy.’ You get divorced...Your wife can’t remember your last name, kids don’t want to talk to you...You get to eat a lot of meals by yourself. Trust me, kid, nobody wants to be that guy. I do this, because there is nobody else to do it right now. Believe me – if there was somebody else to do it, I would let them do it. There’s not, so I’m doing it. That’s what makes you that guy.”
3 “How can the same s*** happen to the same guy twice?”
Die Hard 2 is one of the great sequels that basically rehashes the original, but with a self-aware wit. John McClane himself is pretty irritated that he has to crawl around air vents and dodge bullets as he saves a building from a criminal siege yet again. Another version of this self-aware line comes up later.
Major Grant tells McClane, “You’re the wrong guy in the wrong place at the wrong time,” and McClane replies, “Story of my life.” In that line, actually, McClane points out why Die Hard 2 had to be a rehash of the first one. This is who this character is – he has to be in the wrong place at the wrong time for the story to work.
2 “Come out to the coast, we’ll get together, have a few laughs...”
One of the hallmarks of the John McClane character is that he talks to himself when he’s alone. It’s what keeps him from going insane in the face of an endless stream of life-threatening action.
This all began in the first movie when he was in the air vents, imitating his wife as she invited him to fly out to L.A. to spend the holidays with her and the kids: “Come out to the coast, we’ll get together, have a few laughs...” McClane is never expecting action in these movies and that’s what makes them – and his sarcastic wit – such a delight.
1 “Yippee-ki-yay, motherf*****.”
How could this not take the top spot on a list of John McClane quotes? It’s his catchphrase! He even mumbles it in the ones rated PG-13. In the first movie, it’s just a response to Hans Gruber’s assertion that McClane is a Wild West cowboy caught at the wrong place in history.
That’s a large part of his characterization, as he was based on the snarky protagonists of western movies. Of course, beyond that initial context, it has since become one of the most iconic catchphrases in the history of action cinema. It’s the line that we most closely associate with the character.