Franchises of All Time
The 'Die Hard' Films
Die Hard 2: Die Harder (1990)
Die Hard Films
Die Hard (1988) | Die Hard 2: Die Harder (1990) | Die Hard With a Vengeance (1995)
Live Free or Die Hard (2007) | A Good Day to Die Hard (2013)
Film Plot Summary
A TV news broadcast in the terminal, with cutaways to a local hotel room where Colonel Stuart (William Sadler) was seen, described how deposed South American dictator Ramon Esperanza (Franco Nero) from the Republic of Valverde would be delivered for immediate extradition to the US (arriving at Dulles Airport in about three and a half hours). He had been supported by US money and advisors only a few years earlier to fight against Communist insurgents, with illegally supplied weapons despite a Congressional ban. He had used the funding to engage in cocaine smuggling and was being brought to the US for trial on racketeering, bribery, and drug running charges. It appeared that an elite band of armed, hired terrorist mercenaries, led by former U.S. Army Special Forces Colonel Stuart, were converging on the airport and awaiting Esperanza's arrival.
McClane was also awaiting the arrival of his wife's inbound plane from Los Angeles, about a half hour late in landing. [Another passenger on her plane was ambitious LA TV reporter Richard "Dick" Thornburg (William Atherton). After Holly had assaulted him at the end of the previous film, he brought a restraining order against her to keep her 50 yards away at all times.] In the nearby Hidey Lake Community Church, two men posing as DWP electrical workers in orange uniforms killed the church's pastor, and then radioed that the "clubhouse" was open - it would serve as a base of operations for the fanatical Colonel Stuart. Back at the airport, McClane followed suspicious looking men with a package into a restricted baggage area. When he asked for ID, he found himself in a shootout and brutal fistfight with both men. He killed one of them (named Cochrane) on a baggage conveyor belt, but the other one escaped when McClane was mistaken by the cops as one of the bad guys.
Inept, bullheaded, airport security chief Capt. Carmine Lorenzo (Dennis Franz) reprimanded McClane was breaking various airport rules and regulations, and for using his gun. On the other hand, McClane was perturbed that the crime scene area wasn't sealed off, while Lorenzo beefed sarcastically: "Hell, let's shut down the whole f--king airport!" McClane feared that a larger job was about to happen, since the bad guys used a Glock 7 porcelain gun. He obtained crude fingerprints from the deceased mercenary and faxed them to Twinkie-eating, LA police officer Sgt. Al Powell (Reginald VelJohnson). Powell phoned back with the suspicious results: the deceased Sgt. Oswald Cochrane, an American advisor in Honduras, had been dead for two years - killed in a helicopter accident in 1988! The deteriorating blizzard weather conditions and reduced visibility caused the airport's Chief of Air Operations Trudeau (Fred Thompson) to order incoming planes to be slowed down and to circle the airport.
McClane reported his findings to Trudeau, and warned: "Somebody's about to seriously f--k with this airport." He suspected that professional mercenaries were awaiting the arrival of the "world's biggest drug dealer" - meanwhile, Stuart's base of operations remotely took over the airport's control tower communications and shut off the runway lights. Incoming planes about to land were diverted as Trudeau ordered: "Stack 'em, pack 'em, and rack 'em." He then worried about planes running out of fuel in a few hours: "They're gonna be dropping on the White House lawn." Colonel Stuart contacted the Dulles airport control tower, informing Trudeau that a plane landing in 58 minutes would be carrying Esperanza. It was to land and remain unapproached on an isolated runway. He also demanded a fully-fueled 747 cargo conversion plane to be at his disposal, and warned the controllers to not attempt to restore their systems.
Despite the stern warnings, Dulles communications director Leslie Barnes (Art Evans) plotted to use the newly-installed communication transmitters at the unfinished Annex Skywalk to try to re-establish air traffic communications with the delayed, incoming planes. McClane thought to himself: "How can the same s--t happen to the same guy twice?" As he approached the Annex Skywalk, Barnes was accompanied by a SWAT team, but they were ambushed by Stuart's mercenaries. Everyone but Barnes was killed by the time McClane arrived through a ventilation shaft - he dispatched with Stuart's men, including O'Reilly (Robert Patrick) who was about to shoot Barnes. Their plan to set up the antenna array was derailed when the apparatus was blown up - and McClane knew they were in trouble: "Bait, jerk us off, make Lorenzo sacrifice his best men. Make you waste your time, time we don't have."
Angered that his own men had been eliminated, Stuart threatened Trudeau for disobedience. "To pay the penalty," he demonstrated his ruthlessness ("Watch this") by deliberating preparing to crash a Windsor Flight # 114 British jetliner on a flight path onto the runway with its ground level re-calibrated 200 feet lower. McClane attempted to circumvent the impending crash by lighting hand-held torches and signaling the plane as it landed, but he failed - everyone was killed on board (Stuart gloated: "That concludes our object lesson for this evening").
A special government Army platoon unit was called upon to assist in the crisis -- a counter-terrorist team known as Special Forces "Blue Light" led by Major Grant (John Amos), who vowed about Stuart: "Now we're here to take Colonel Stuart down. And we will take him down. You see, I served with him. I taught him everything he knows." McClane was skeptical: "Did things just get better or worse?" Using airphones, some of the planes were alerted, and others with enough fuel were diverted to Atlanta, but there were still a number of planes circling Dulles. Barnes was able to change the outer marker beacon transmission to voice (rather than a beep) to alert the planes that terrorists had taken over, and to warn planes not to respond to his broadcast. McClane realized that he had a two-way radio from one of Stuart's downed mercenaries in the luggage area, and was capable of hearing Stuart's communications to his men. He learned that Esperanza's plane had just appeared on the scope - and that Stuart was lighting a runway for its arrival.
Onboard Esperanza's plane, the deposed dictator escaped from his chains and held a gun on the pilots of his plane, as they were ordered to land on runway 1-5 - he forced them to comply with Stuart's demands. But then he killed both pilots, as the plane lost cabin pressure when a bullet pierced the windshield, and visibility was near zero. On the two-way radio, McClane overheard that Esperanza was making a visual landing on a different runway (2-5 right), and hurried there. After the plane landed, the dictator opened the door and declared: "Freedom" as McClane greeted him with a punch to the jaw. Gunfire erupted as Stuart and his men arrived to pick up Esperanza, but McClane was able to wound the dictator in the shoulder. McClane was trapped in the cockpit, which became riddled by bullets. When grenades were thrown into the cockpit through smashed windows, McClane ejected himself and parachuted to safety, as fire trucks arrived. Stuart and Esperanza escaped.
Major Grant was angered by McClane's actions, telling him: "You're the wrong guy in the wrong place at the wrong time." McClane replied: "The story of my life." Meanwhile, on board Holly's plane, reporter Thornburg had learned about the terrorist plot through one of his broadcast receivers he had with him, and phoned his newsroom to report the emergency situation. Barnes and McClane surmised that the mercenaries had taken over the church near the west side of the airport as their base of operations, and prepared to raid it. Barnes radioed to tell Lorenzo (and Grant) to provide backup support - they quickly arrived to surround the building, but the mercenaries (and Esperanza) escaped on snowmobiles after wiring the building and their equipment to explode with booby-traps. With McClane in pursuit, he killed a few of the men - and followed on one of the snowmobiles. He accidentally discovered that the mercenaries' guns were firing blank ammunition (their cartridges were marked with blue tape; live ammo was marked with red tape). He was astonished to realize that the Special Forces men and the mercenaries appeared to be working together. Stuart, Esperanza and the others on snowmobiles proceeded to Hangar 11 to board the prepared 747 plane.
Aspiring network reporter Thornburg's report, phoned in, about the terrorist takeover of Dulles ("The truth is terrifying") caused a mass panic at the airport. Lorenzo eventually believed McClane when he reported that Grant was working together with Stuart: "They're gonna get on the same goddamn plane with him and take off with him...When the army canned Stuart, he must have loaded that unit with his own men," and that the firefight at the church was only a "sideshow." Lorenzo ordered his men to wear full body armor and assemble with weaponry to intercept the 747 plane ("It's time to kick ass") at Hangar 11, although they were stymied by the crowds exiting the airport. McClane found a newscopter reporter at the airport, Samantha Coleman (Sheila McCarthy), and hitched a ride to Hangar 11, where they found that the plane was already headed for the runway and almost ready to take off. At the same time, Holly's Northeast Airlines plane was attempting an emergency landing due to its low fuel situation.
In the climactic ending, McClane attempted to thwart the take-off of Stuart's plane (with mercenaries, Major Grant and Esperanza onboard). From the copter, he was dropped onto the 747's left wing, where Grant emerged ("I'll do him") and confronted him, resulting in Grant being bloodily sucked into a cylindrical jet engine after a fight with McClane atop the wing. The getaway plane exploded when McClane (after being kicked off the plane by Stuart) ignited the jet's trail of fuel (from its opened hatch) with his lighter, after speaking his famous line: "Yippie-kai-yay, motherf--ker!" After the explosion, he yelled: "Holly, here's your f--kin' landing light! Whoo!"
All of the stranded, circling planes landed using the light of the explosion as a guide, as the film concluded. McClane was happily reunited with his wife as she jumped onto an emergency landing chute to the snowy runway and they embraced, while emergency crews arrived. She asked: "Why does this keep happening to us?" He responded: "Let's go home." Lorenzo drove up and ripped up McClane's parking ticket, shouting: "It's Christmas!" The film ended with the familiar tune, "Let It Snow" sung by Bing Crosby.
Film Notables (Awards, Facts, etc.)
Based on Walter Wager's novel 58 Minutes.
This sequel was set in 1990, about one year after the events of the original film, again on Christmas Eve.
From a production budget of approximately $70 million, the film's box-office was $117 million (domestic) and $239 million (worldwide).
The film was criticized for its preposterous, illogical situation and factual impossibilities that wouldn't occur in real life.
Series-Introduction - Index to All Films | Series-Box Office