Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Die Hard (1988)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Die Hard (1988)

In director John McTiernan's action-thriller blockbuster, based on Roderick Thorp's 1979 novel Nothing Lasts Forever - it was the first in a series of films stretching over a period of over 20 years, featuring Bruce Willis as wise-cracking, tough-guy NYC police cop John McClane with real human vulnerabilities; there were many breathtaking, tense, nail-biting action sequences:

  • NYC detective/cop Lt. John McClane (Bruce Willis) took a flight to Los Angeles, arriving on Christmas Eve, 1988 after a flight from New York; the off-duty cop planned to join his estranged wife (of six months who had relocated to LA) Holly Gennero/McClane (Bonnie Bedelia) at a holiday party in her place of business where she was successfully working as Director of Corporate Affairs - she was located in the 40 story high-rise Plaza Towers in Century City (Los Angeles) - the corporate headquarters of the Nakatomi Corporation; Holly had changed her last name back to her maiden name Gennero

Holly Gennero/McClane (Bonnie Bedelia)

Lt. John McClane (Bruce Willis)
  • fast-talking, inquisitive limo driver Argyle (De'voreaux White) drove McClane to the building and promised to wait for him in the underground parking garage, pending the outcome of his renewed reconciliation with Holly; McClane entered the Christmas Eve party already in progress on the 30th floor, where he met CEO Joe Takagi (James Shigeta), and was led to Holly's private office to speak to her and change his clothes; in her office, he also met Holly's obnoxious, cocaine-using, egotistical co-worker Harry Ellis (Hart Bochner), before briefly bickering with Holly about using her maiden name
  • after a large Pacific Courier truck pulled into the garage, two individuals exited a separate car and entered the building's downstairs lobby - the first was a nasty, long blonde-haired henchman Karl Vreski (Alexander Godunov), who shot and killed both the front-desk officer and security guard; the second assailant named Theo (Clarence Gilyard, Jr.), a black technical-computer expert, disabled all the elevators (except one) and sealed off all the outer entrances and exits to the garage and the building
Main Terrorists

Computer Expert Theo (Clarence Gilyard, Jr.)

Karl Vreski (Alexander Godunov)

Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman)
  • in the parking area, ten other heavily-armed, hi-tech terrorists emerged from the truck; the group was led by the classic bad-guy villain Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman), a well-read ex-member of the radical West German Volksfrei movement; the group quickly infiltrated into the building; frustrated by his brother Tony Vreski's (Andreas Wisniewski) slow work, Karl used a chain saw to slice through all the conduits holding the building's phone wiring to prevent any telephone communications
  • the gunmen took the sole elevator to the 30th floor and interrupted the party with gunfire; they took all the guests hostage, including McClane's wife; in the washroom, McClane (dressed only in a white T-shirt and pants - and barefooted), watched and then fled to a stairwell and various upper floors
  • Gruber was able to identify executive officer Takagi, and accused the company of a "legacy of greed." Takagi was taken to his executive office's board-room on the 34th floor, where the CEO was threatened to reveal the computer's passcodes, to access the $640 million dollars in negotiable bearer bonds locked in the Japanese corporation's vault; when Takagi refused, he was shot point-blank in the head; now, Theo had to hack into the vault somehow - a task that would take a few hours
  • McClane attempted to distract the terrorists by setting off a fire alarm (that was soon cancelled), and by attacking some of them individually; he killed gunman Tony and took his radio, lighter, and machine gun, and then sent Tony's corpse (with a Santa hat and sitting in a chair) down to the 30th floor on the elevator (with an X-mas message: "Now I Have a Machine Gun - Ho-Ho-Ho" scrawled on his sweatshirt) to alert the terrorists to his presence (and his ability to thwart their efforts)
McClane's Warning to the Terrorists: "Now I Have a Machine Gun Ho-Ho-Ho"
  • on the building's roof, McClane used the two-way CB radio (on a reserved channel) to send out a "May-Day" alert about the terrorist take-over; only one officer (at an AM/PM Mini-Mart) was notified of the Code 2 alert at the nearby Nakatomi Building in Century City; LAPD Sgt. Al Powell (Reginald VelJohnson) responded and proceeded to the area
  • meanwhile, in a tense cat-and-mouse sequence, McClane evaded capture and escaped gunfire and pursuit by moving through a maze of airducts and the ventilation/elevator shafts from the rooftop back to the 35th floor and then to floor 31; he quipped:"Now I know what a TV dinner feels like"
  • in the executive office, McClane killed two more terrorists, Heinrich (Gary Roberts) and Marco (Lorenzo Caccialanza), and took C-4 explosives and detonators from Heinrich's bag
  • to confirm to Officer Powell that there were problems in the building, McClane heaved the dead body of Marco out of the skyscraper directly onto his patrol car; the building was quickly surrounded by the LAPD; shortly later, SWAT teams, the FBI in helicopters, and a live-mobile news crew arrived at the scene to report on the incident of international terrorism, led by unscrupulous LA TV reporter Richard Thornburg (William Atherton)
  • McClane radioed Gruber to identify himself, and to harrass and taunt him: "Just a fly in the ointment, Hans, the monkey in the wrench, the pain in the ass..."; Gruber replied that McClane had maybe watched too many TV shows, and thought of himself as John Wayne, Rambo, or Marshal Dillon: "Do you really think you have a chance against us, Mr. Cowboy?", McClane told Gruber that he was partial to Roy Rogers, and then delivered his most familiar line: "Yippee-kai-yay, motherf--ker"

Gruber on the Radio with McClane

  • on the radio with LAPD Sgt. Powell throughout the remainder of the siege, McClane (calling himself "Roy") described the tense situation on the 30th floor with hostages; in the basement garage, limo driver Argyle finally learned of the situation - that the building was under siege, but found he was locked in and trapped
  • the SWAT team arrived in an armored RV, ordered by cantankerous, stubborn and clueless Deputy Police Chief Dwayne T. Robinson (Paul Gleason), who was unaware of the ambush being prepared to greet them; they were assaulted with a massive rocket-missile launcher; to prevent further devastation, McClane opened the elevator doors and sent the C-4 plastic explosives down the shaft ("Geronimo, motherf--ker") - wiping out a few more terrorists (James and Alexander) on the second floor who were firing on the SWAT team; the explosion backfired up the shaft towards McClane who had to jump away to avoid the flames
C-4 Explosives Sent Down Elevator Shaft - Then They Backfired
  • calling himself a "white knight," hostage Harry Ellis attempted to negotiate with the lead terrorist Gruber, telling him that he could pressure his good friend McClane and get him to cooperate and surrender: "I can give him to you," but once it was discovered that Ellis was bluffing, Ellis was summarily shot dead by Gruber; Gruber briefly and falsely demanded from the release of "revolutionary brothers and sisters" around the world in prison, and promised the hostages would survive if they could safely escape via helicopter to the LA Int'l Airport
  • momentarily on the roof-top together, McClane confronted Gruber face-to-face, who faked being one of the escaped hostages who was attempting to send a signal from the roof; once Gruber was revealed as the lead terrorist and held a gun on McClane, he was able to escape and kill two more bad guys (Franco and Fritz); McClane suffered bloodied feet after having to walk through shards of sharp glass of the blasted walls when he fled through an EXIT door
McClane Face-to-Face with Gruber on the Rooftop
  • the FBI unwisely ordered city engineers to cut the building's power (within grid 212, an area encompassing 10 square blocks), exactly what Gruber and Theo wanted, so that the seventh and final "electromagnetic seal" or lock on the vault with the bonds was released (to the tune of Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" movement from the 9th Symphony)
  • two fully armed FBI helicopter gunships approached the rooftop, while the double-crossing Gruber was planning to blow the roof with C-4 explosives when they touched down, to kill the hostages who had been taken there; then Gruber's next objective was to escape with the stolen bonds in an emergency vehicle readied for him in the basement
  • due to Thornburg's ambitious and exclusive TV reporting, Gruber learned that McClane's wife was Holly Gennero; as he ordered the other hostages to the roof, Gruber kidnapped Holly as his own personal hostage
  • meanwhile when attacked by Karl, McClane apparently killed Karl by strangling him with a heavy chain, and then charged up to the roof where he learned that Holly was missing and had been held back by Gruber and taken prisoner on the 30th floor; to save the other hostages, McClane fired a machine gun into the air and ordered them to flee downstairs back to the 30th floor to escape the wired-to-blow roof; unfortunately, he was mis-identified as being one of the terrorists by the FBI agents in the helicopters and was shot at ("I'm on your side, you assholes!" he screamed)
McClane Jumping From the Rooftop to Escape High-Rise's Explosion, While Attached to Firehose
  • he then unraveled a long fire hose, tied it around his waist, and daringly jumped off the side of the building as he was assaulted a second time by helicopter fire; he precariously dangled there over the face of the skyscraper from the rooftop via the firehose, in order to escape and avoid the building's detonation as he steadied himself against the glass with his feet; he made a nerve-biting effort to disattach himself from the hose that was pulling him downward, by shooting out the large pane of glass in front of him; he swung himself into another floor, and untied himself while on his back on the floor before being dragged and reeled out the window to his death; at the same time, Gruber detonated the roof and destroyed one of the FBI helicopters in the process
  • limo driver Argyle, who was in the basement, foiled Theo's escape scheme by ramming his limo into the emergency ambulance getaway vehicle driven by Theo (in a paramedic's disguise) that was to take Gruber from the building; Theo was then punched unconscious
  • in a final tense face-to-face showdown, Gruber was holding McClane's estranged wife Holly hostage; the wearied and bloodied McClane was forced to drop his gun and admit "You got me," but then got into a nervous laughing fit with Gruber (and his thug assistant Eddie (Dennis Hayden)) to distract them; he suddenly reached behind his back to shoot them (with a concealed loaded gun taped to his back with his last two bullets); he shot and killed Eddie in the forehead and wounded Gruber in the shoulder (he blew on the barrel of his pistol and joked: "Happy trails, Hans!") - the bullet also broke the window behind Gruber

Gruber Hanging by Watch Wrist-Band
Gruber Falling Backwards Through Window
Hans Gruber's Plummet to His Death
  • as Gruber stumbled backwards through the broken window pane, he grabbed for Holly's arm and metal Rolex wristwatch-band, nearly dragging her with him; McClane rushed forward and grabbed her, released or unclapsed the band, and watched as Gruber- still threatening with a gun in his right hand, unforgettably fell backwards to his death 30 stories below; Deputy Police Chief Dwayne Robinson watched and commented from the ground below: "Oh, I hope that's not a hostage"
  • bloodied and exhausted, McClane joyously kissed Holly; as they emerged in front of the building; McClane introduced her to LAPD Sgt. Powell; she noticeably identified herself as "Holly McClane"; suddenly, terrorist Karl - thought to be dead - appeared screaming and aiming a machine gun at McClane to ambush him; Powell drew his gun and decisively shot him dead

Karl with Machine Gun

TV Reporter Thornburg Punched in Face by Holly

Argyle: "I've gotta be here for New Years..."
  • Argyle drove his limo through the garage's exit gate to pick up the reunited couple, while TV reporter Thornburg attempted to interview McClane about his "incredible ordeal" - Holly punched him squarely in the face during the live broadcast for earlier revealing her identity (he asked his cameraman: "Did you get that?"); and then while Holly and McClane kissed in the limo's backseat, Argyle joked as he prepared to drive the couple away: "If this is their idea of Christmas, I've gotta be here for New Year's," to the tune of Bing Crosby's singing of: "Let It Snow."

McClane's Limo Driver Argyle (De'voreaux White)

Top of 40 Story High-Rise Plaza Towers (Century City)

CEO Joe Takagi (James Shigeta)

Pacific Courier Truck

John McClane - Wary of the Building's Take-Over

Murder of CEO Takagi - For Not Revealing Vault's Passcode

From Rooftop, McClane Called in a "May Day" Alert

In Ventilation Shaft: "Now I know what a TV dinner feels like"

LAPD Sgt. Al Powell (Reginald VelJohnson) Alerted To Check out Nakatomi Tower

Marco's Body Tossed Onto Top of Sgt. Powell's Squad Car

TV Reporter Richard Thornburg (William Atherton)

Deputy Police Chief Dwayne T. Robinson (Paul Gleason)

Missile Launcher Rocket Aimed at SWAT Armored Vehicle

"White Knight" Harry Ellis (Hart Bochner) - Foolishly Bargaining with Gruber - Claiming to Know McClane

McClane's Bloodied Bare Feet on Glass Shards

Seal on Vault Released

Gruber Kidnapping Holly as His Own Personal Hostage

Karl Strangled With Chain, But Not Dead

Destroyed Helicopter on Exploding Rooftop

Theo's Escape Vehicle (Ambulance) Rammed by Argyle's Limousine

Hostage Situation Thwarted by McClane

McClane's Trick Plan With a Gun Taped To His Back: "Happy Trails, Hans!"

McClane and Holly Kissing - Their Ordeal was Over


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