It’s been more than 30 years since Die Hard first graced theaters and sparked a debate over whether or not it’s a Christmas movie (a debate that continues to rage on to this day). In that time, it has spawned four sequels and its lead character, John McClane, has become the template for all action movie heroes.
The movie is endlessly quotable, with fans able to rattle off line after line, and it remains a timeless classic. But there’s only so many times you can watch Die Hard – although it is a lot of times, granted – so here are 10 Movies To Watch If You Like Die Hard.
Ever since Die Hard became lauded as the greatest action movie ever made and everyone in Hollywood saw that it had a premise they could rip off, we’ve seen a steady stream of “Die Hard in a...” knock-offs. A plane, a ship, the White House, space – we’ve been treated to them all. And they all pale in comparison to Die Hard, except for Speed.
Speed is the only “Die Hard in a...” rip-off that holds a candle to the O.G., and it’s the one with the “Die Hard on a bus” premise – who’d have thought, right? A committed lead performance by Keanu Reeves and a vibrant script polish by Joss Whedon make this the Die Hard clone to see.
9 The Last Boy Scout
Funnily enough, Shane Black’s script for The Last Boy Scout was originally titled Die Hard. Producer Joel Silver thought it would suit the then-untitled Christmas thriller he was working on with Bruce Willis at the time and that’s how everyone’s favorite action movie got its title.
After Die Hard made Willis a star, Silver was quick to snatch up Black’s script, now retitled The Last Boy Scout, as a vehicle for him. As a result, the script – particularly Willis’ private eye character Joe Hallenbeck – was heavily rewritten at the studio’s behest to appeal to Die Hard fans. This movie was made for people who like Die Hard!
The awesome thing about Die Hard is that John McClane is a guy we can root for. We see him as a regular guy. Despite his law enforcement training and fighting skills, he’s just like us. And because of that, we want him to defeat the bad guys and save his wife. That’s what makes the movie work.
The same goes for Taken. In Taken, Bryan Mills might have “a very particular set of skills” and a background in the CIA, but at the heart of it, he’s just a father who will do anything to find his missing daughter. We can all relate to that.
This action thriller starring Dwayne Johnson made a moderately sized splash at the box office last year, with a worldwide haul of just over $300 million. Johnson plays a security adviser working on the biggest skyscraper in the world (a fictional one, not the actual biggest skyscraper in the world) when suddenly, his family is taken hostage by bad guys and the building is set on fire.
It’s like Die Hard meets The Towering Inferno, which some critics noted as a negative point, but if you like Die Hard, then why wouldn’t you want to see a version of Die Hard where the building is also slowly burning down? It ups the stakes!
6 The Enforcer
All of Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry movies are classics of the action genre, but fans of Die Hard will arguably respond the best to the third one, The Enforcer. It sees Harry paired up with a younger, more optimistic female cop and sent to take down a criminal organization run by resentful Vietnam vets.
The plot has very little to do with that of Die Hard, nor is the difference between good and bad as black-and-white, but this is the closest we ever saw Harry Callahan to acting like the kind of quippy, sarcastic, wise-cracking action hero that John McClane embodies perfectly.
In Die Hard, Bruce Willis has the most hectic night of his life when his wife is held hostage by some bad guys and he has to fight to save her. In Hostage, Bruce Willis has the most hectic night of his life when his family is held hostage by some bad guys and he has to negotiate their safety.
There are some striking similarities between the plots of these two movies. His central conflict in Hostage is choosing between saving his own family or saving some family he doesn’t know, since he’s the hostage negotiator and both families are taken hostage on the same night.
4 Olympus Has Fallen
In 2013, starved action movie audiences were blessed with two movies that could be described as “Die Hard in the White House.” The one with the bigger budget, White House Down, turned out to be the inferior one and Olympus Has Fallen emerged as the little “Die Hard in the White House” movie that could.
It had less star power, a smaller studio backing it, and half the production budget. But thanks to Antoine Fuqua’s intense, exciting direction – and an R rating – it turned out to be more thrilling, more action-packed, and more emotionally satisfying than its expensive filmic cousin.
3 Beverly Hills Cop
The whole appeal of the John McClane character, and what has made him such an action movie legend, is that he can make us laugh, but he is also sincere when it counts, and he’s a good cop who will do whatever it takes to achieve justice. That happens to also be a perfect description of another action movie legend: Axel Foley.
With Axel, arguably Eddie Murphy’s most famous role, the focus is more on the comedy than the action. But there is still plenty of action in Beverly Hills Cop – it blends brilliantly with the hilarity that Murphy brings to the table.
2 Lethal Weapon
Richard Donner’s noir-tinged 1987 classic birthed many of the buddy cop movie traditions that we take for granted today: the younger live-wire cop, the older cop who’s a week away from retirement, banter drawn from both their age difference and their racial difference etc. Mel Gibson and Danny Glover have instantly fantastic chemistry and it continued for three sequels. What makes Lethal Weapon great is that, like Die Hard, the action drives the story.
1 Die Hard 2: Die Harder
Of all the Die Hard sequels, 1990’s Die Hard 2: Die Harder is the closest to the original. While the other sequels all stand on their own with loose connections to the franchise, the second one follows on pretty much directly from the original.
Again, McClane finds himself in a building (this time an airport) that is being taken over by bad guys, and again, he has to take them on himself in order to keep his estranged wife safe. The sequel has a ton of meta references to the fact that McClane has been through this exact same scenario before.