Director: John McTiernan
Starring: Bruce Willis and Alan Rickman
On the Netflix page for Die Hard, the first critic's review listed is that by Roger Ebert, who smugly puts the film in its place with a blurb saying that its "inappropriate and wrongheaded interruptions reveal the fragile nature of the plot and prevent it from working." No one cares, Roger. Perhaps you missed the memo, but Die Hard is a movie about a badass cop being as big of a badass as humanly possible while fighting a dozen evil, German terrorists. It's an unspeakably masculine action movie with its own testosterone supply, and it therefore precludes itself from answering to any criticism that presupposes it to be anything else.
With twenty-plus years of reflection and three sequels, it probably goes without saying that Die Hard succeeds in its mission to kick the ass of every person that watches it. But the very fact that this is an action movie that relies heavily on gun battles, state-of-the-art-for-their-time explosions, and a script that bestowed "Yippee ki-ay, motherfucker!" into the American lexicon raises some eyebrows. Can a pure adrenaline rush of a movie be discussed alongside, say, Casablanca?
According to the IMDb's thousands of users, the answer is yes. There aren't many movies like Die Hard on the Top 250 – there's really none, in fact, unless you count The Bourne Ultimatum. But Bruce Willis as John McClane breathed life into the action genre not by breaking the mold and trying to do something more arty or film-school-chic with it, but simply by executing the living hell out of it. There's nothing new or state-of-the-art in Die Hard. There's just 133 minutes of an unbelievably awesome cop killing twelve terrorists with superior firepower. That's all. It succumbs to some clichés of the action genre, but isn't too cheesy to take seriously, and the ending is perfectly satisfying. For action movie fans, it's hard to imagine any other film being the genre's holy grail. For movie fans who aren't particularly interested in action flicks – yours truly included – it has everything that makes the genre so safe and familiar while still knocking you down with its endless barrage of explosions and gunfire at every corner. It's even reasonably well-acted.
If every action movie was as good as Die Hard, perhaps the genre's name wouldn't be a derogatory term used to describe whatever Michael Bay is working on. Since that's never going to happen, if you want to watch an action flick, you may as well start here.
The Good: "Yippee ki-ay, motherfucker!" 'Nuff said.
The Bad: Wasn't a big fan of how the TV crew was portrayed as a bunch of bumbling child endangerers. That's not how (most) journalists act, promise!
The Skinny: Deserves its spot. Yippee ki-ay.