On Christmas Eve, New York cop John McClane (Bruce Willis) is visiting his estranged wife Holly (Bonnie Bedelia) in Los Angeles, where she works. They are attending a party at Holly's high-rise office block when terrorists, led by the suave Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) break in, taking everyone hostage. McClane manages to evade capture, however, and sets out to rescue his wife and the other prisoners. It is not long before he is running barefoot over shattered glass (ouch!) in a sweaty vest, muttering 'Yippy kay aye' as he dispatches the baddies with bullets and a certain earthy wit.
This seminal 1988 thriller made Bruce Willis a star and established a new template for action stories: "Terrorists take over a (blank) and a lone hero, unknown to the villains, is trapped with them." In Die Hard
, those bad guys, led by the velvet-voiced Alan Rickman, assume control of a Los Angeles high-rise with Willis's visiting New York cop inside. The attraction of the film has as much to do with the sight of a barefoot mortal running around the guts of a modern office tower as it has to do with the plentiful fight sequences and the bond the hero establishes with an LA beat cop. Bonnie Bedelia plays Willis's wife, Hart Bochner is good as a brash hostage who tries negotiating his way to freedom, Alexander Godunov makes for a believable killer with lethal feet and William Atherton is slimy as a busybody reporter. Exceptionally well-directed by John McTiernan. --Tom Keogh