Seven Best

Seven Best: Die Hard Clones

The month of April is dedicated to…Die Hard clones. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then John McTiernan should feel pretty good about himself. Movies about a hero being in the wrong place at the wrong time, having to take out an entire squadron of baddies, and eventually saving the day.

We all know Die Hard is the best. But if you’ve been living under a rock and somehow need proof, just look at all the duplicates out there. This movie has practically started its own genre of action movies. This month’s entries are:

  • Cliffhanger
  • Toy Soldiers
  • Under Siege
  • Passenger 57
  • Sudden Death
  • The Rock
  • Olympus has Fallen
  • Skyscraper
  • Air Force One
  • Con Air

The year is 1988 and we are introduced to one of the first, and arguably best, everyman heroes, John McClane. The plot is pretty simple: terrorists have taken over a building and the only one who can stop them is an ex-cop from New York. Yippee ki-yay…

7. Die Hard in a Hockey Rink—Sudden Death

This movie’s John McClane: Jean-Claude Van Damme
This movie’s Hans Gruber: Powers Boothe

Make your case:

Hey. It was the 90s, okay? JCVD was still a hot commodity and the best way to capitalize was to crank out movies where he can kick ass, and where he doesn’t have to talk much. And this movie was fun! I think the problem with action movies nowadays is that they either take themselves too seriously, or they try to manufacture the campiness that these movies naturally had in the 80s and 90s. We all knew going in that this was going to be a Die Hard ripoff with bad acting, but we went anyway. And Powers Boothe as a bad guy? AWESOME.

Most like Die Hard
  • Excellently-cast bad guy
  • Predominantly in one location
  • Terrorists main objective is money
  • Contact with authorities from inside
  • Authority on the outside telling man on the inside to “stand down”
  • They plan to blow something up to mask their getaway
  • Bad guy falls to his death
  • Ends with the police and reporters crowding the scene
Least Like Die Hard
  • Uhhh…it’s a hockey rink
  • Terrorists have a man on the inside
Best one-liner

“He hit his head on the ice. He hit it so hard that his kids will be born dizzy.”

6. Die Hard on a Battleship—Under Siege

This movie’s John McClane: Steven Seagal
This movie’s Hans Gruber: Tommy Lee Jones

Make your case:

Again, it was the 90s.

This may be one of my favorite Steven Seagal movies, and it has nothing to do with Steven Seagal. It’s all about Tommy Lee Jones. You can see early premonitions of his Two Face performance here and it’s fantastic. Another flaw with modern action movies tends to be that they try to do too much with the story. The bad guy has to steal a doodad which will convert the whatsit to allow him to control the nuclear blah blah blah. Tommy’s plan: Steal boat, sell weapons.

Most like Die Hard
  • Excellently-cast bad guy
  • Predominantly in one location
  • Contact with authorities from inside
  • Authority on the outside telling man on the inside to “stand down”
  • Failed incursion
Least Like Die Hard
  • Terrorists main objective is political
  • Terrorists have a man on the inside
Best one-liner

“You’re in the Navy, remember? It’s not a job-it’s an adventure!”

5. Die Hard in the White House—Olympus Has Fallen

This movie’s John McClane: Gerard Butler
This movie’s Hans Gruber: Rick Yune

Make your case:

This. This is an example of a modern action movie that gets it right. No superheroes, no existing IP, just a badass ex-Secret Service agent being a badass. Admittedly, it does suffer from an over-complicated plot. The North Korean terrorists take over the White House, so they can kidnap the cabinet members, so they can get the Cerberus codes, so they can…JUST STOP IT. Bad guys = bad. Gerard Butler = kill them all.

Most like Die Hard
  • Terrorist pretending to be a hostage
  • Predominantly in one location
  • Contact with authorities from inside
  • Authority on the outside telling man on the inside to “stand down”
  • Failed incursion
  • They plan to blow something up to mask their getaway
  • Ends with the police and reporters crowding the scene
Least Like Die Hard
  • Starts with a tragic death
  • Terrorists main objective is political
  • Terrorists have a man on the inside
Best one-liner

“Why don’t you and I play a game of f**k off. You go first.”

4. Die Hard on a Mountain—Cliffhanger

This movie’s John McClane: Sylvester Stallone
This movie’s Hans Gruber: John Lithgow

Make your case:

This movie was a lot better than it should have been as well. I mean, how many ways can you kill someone on a mountain beyond throwing them off? Turns out, a lot. Including impaling someone on a stalactite.

Another instance of a movie succeeding with a simple plot. Bad guys steal and lose money, force good guys to help them find it. That’s it. And another amazing performance from the bad guy. John Lithgow played some of the best bad guys in the 90s. Ricochet, Raising Cain, Cliffhanger, the bad guy in Footloose…

And they’re doing a reboot!

Most like Die Hard
  • Excellently-cast bad guy
  • Starts with a tragic death
  • Terrorists main objective is money
  • Bad guy falls to his death
Least Like Die Hard
  • Untrained hero
  • Terrorists have a man on the inside
  • Not even in a building…are you guys even trying?
Best one-liner

“If you’re looking for Qualen, try about 4,000 feet south of here. He’ll be the one wearing the helicopter.”

3. Die Hard on the President’s Plane—Air Force One

This movie’s John McClane: Harrison Ford
This movie’s Hans Gruber: Gary Oldman

Make your case:

Not your typical action movie. Harrison Ford, Glenn Close, William H. Macy, Gary Oldman, and dozens of “that guys” in secondary roles. And Wolfgang Peterson. So it’s dressed up a bit more than your typical action movie, but don’t get it twisted, it’s still Die Hard. Bad guys take over a building Air Force One, and a New York Cop the President has to save the hostages, and take out the bad guy.

Most like Die Hard
  • Excellently-cast bad guy
  • Predominantly in one location
  • Contact with someone on the outside who doesn’t believe them
  • Contact with authorities from inside
  • Allowed them to kill a hostage to keep from being caught
  • Bad guy falls to his death…kinda
Least Like Die Hard
  • Award-winning cast
  • Terrorists main objective is political
  • Terrorists have a man on the inside
Best one-liner

“GET OFF MY PLANE.”

2. Die Hard on a Plane—Con Air

This movie’s John McClane: Nicolas Cage
This movie’s Hans Gruber: John Malkovich

Make your case:

The Rock, Con Air, and Face/Off. Best Nic Cage run of movies, or best Nic Cage run of movies?

Yeah, this is where the action movies of the 90s started to get silly. “We’ve done all the Die Hard clones already!” “Have we though? What if convicts took over a plane…” This movie was hugely entertaining though. And FILLED with stars. Malkovich, Cage, and Cusack got top billing, but let’s not forget about Ving Rhames, Stev Buscemi, Danny Trejo, and a young Dave Chappelle!

Also, it’s total bullshit that Cameron Poe went to jail in the first place. Fight me, justice system.

Most like Die Hard
  • Excellently-cast bad guy
  • Terrorist pretending to be a hostage
  • Contact with authorities from inside
  • Authority on the outside telling man on the inside to “stand down”
Least Like Die Hard
  • Starts with a tragic death
  • Convicts, not terrorists
  • Multiple locations
Best one-liner

“Sorry boss, but there’s only two men I trust. One of them’s me. The other’s not you.”

1. Die Hard on Alcatraz—The Rock

This movie’s John McClane: Nicolas Cage
This movie’s Hans Gruber: Ed Harris

Make your case:

Ask anyone to name their favorite action movie from the 90s, and almost every one of them will tell you it’s The Rock.

Ex-military operatives have…taken over Alcatraz prison? And plan to launch rockets filled with VX nerve gas into the atmosphere above San Fransisco unless their demands are met? Okay, let’s set aside the part earlier where I said that complex plots are bad. Nic Cage. Sean Connery. That’s all you need to know.

And maybe my favorite fan theory: Sean Connery’s character is actually an imprisoned James Bond.

Most like Die Hard
  • Excellently-cast bad guy
  • Predominantly in one location
  • Failed incursion
Least Like Die Hard
  • Terrorists main objective is political
  • Untrained hero
  • Start on the outside and work their way in
Best one-liner

“Oh, you – Oh, oh. Oh. Well, I only bring it up because, uh, it’s you. You’re the Rocket Man.”

Honorable Mention: Die Hard Also in a Building…It’s Basically Die Hard—Skyscraper

There were a few differences, but basically this is just “What if Die Hard, but the Rock?” Terrorists take over a building, but it’s a bigger building, and a man has to stop them, but he’s a bigger man. Oh and also, he only has one leg. Weird choice, but okay.

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