BY JULIE FREEMAN
Year released: 1988
How it fared back then: I was five years old when the first installment of this glorious franchise was released, and although I probably would have loved the hell out of it, I didn’t see it in theatres when it first came out. Based on the 1979 novel Nothing Lasts Forever, Die Hard opened third at the box office, losing out to a couple of other beloved classics: Coming to America and Who Framed Roger Rabbit. While it wasn’t nominated for the Oscar for Best Picture that year (clearly, I was not a voting member of the Academy at the time), it was nominated for a number of the more technical awards, including Best Sound and Best Visual Effects. Although I was a particularly astute five year old, I don’t recall how it was received by the general public when released, but it certainly seems to have garnered more critical success overseas, winning a number of Best Foreign Language Film awards from Japan (a Nakatomi connection, perhaps?).
Why it’s lasted: There have been more generic, uninspired shoot-em-ups than Bruce Willis could unload an automatic weapon at in the past few decades. Why, then, has the Die Hard franchise endured and, dare I say, thrived, for the last twenty-five years? Two words: John Fucking McClane. He will always be one of my favourite action heroes because he is a perfect balance between being an everyman, and being the man that every man aspires to become. I’m not going to lie to you, if I were ever called upon to rid a building of hostage-taking criminals, I would want to be the person that scrawls smug comments on a corpse’s sweater, just to mess with people’s heads. If I’m going to have my mettle tested, then you had better believe I’m going to have fun with it. But McClane isn’t perfect, either. He can’t get along with his wife, he can’t find a pair of shoes to fit him and, as we learn later on, he may have a bit of a drinking problem. These are things to which, for the most part, we can all relate.
Classic moment: Everyone who has ever watched a Die Hard film recalls the utterly brilliant “Yipee ki-yay, motherfucker” that McClane utters in response to Hans Gruber calling him a cowboy. It was even used to promote the later installments in the series. For me, however, the real classic moments are the bits of unabashed silliness that undercut the action, like Agent Johnson and Agent Johnson (no relation), the “fists with your toes” bit and, of course, “Now I have a machine gun. Ho-Ho-Ho.” Also unforgettable, and often referenced, is McClane’s increasingly abused, iconic white tank top, featured fairly recently on Jeff Winger in one of Community‘s many paintball episodes.
Does it still hold up?: In addition to being one of the best Christmas films of all time, Die Hard was simply a well put-together film. The action looked excellent, the performances were strong (has Alan Rickman ever not been awesome?) and the soundtrack was both effective and clever. Here’s where I’m going to get a bit of flack from some of the other movie aficionados I know. I think we automatically assume that when something spawns multiple sequels, they’re never going to live up to the first film and may even end up ruining the original. While I think Die Hard is just as exciting and funny today as it was when I first saw it more than twenty years ago, my enjoyment of the film has only been heightened by how desperately I love the entire franchise. I love each Die Hard film more than the last one I watched, every single time. And yes, that includes the much-maligned A Good Day to Die Hard. Just because John McClane jumps onto the wing of a Harrier jet in flight (because he fucking can, okay?), doesn’t mean I love it any less when he jumps through a window with a fire hose wrapped around his waist.[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-qxBXm7ZUTM]
Julie is a travelling ER nurse who communicates in pop-culture references and wants to live in a universe written by Aaron Sorkin. It’s important to her that you know she can’t possibly be a hipster because she loves basically everything, unabashedly. She tweets incoherently @Julieismagic.