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Action Jackson

10 Reasons Why Die Hard Is the Best Action Movie Ever Made

Catch Die Hard as part of IFC's July 4th action movie weekend.

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Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox

Forget all the sequels, which have morphed from carbon copies of the original to blue tinged exercises in bland action. For our money, the original Die Hard is the greatest action movie ever made. With Die Hard and Die Hard 2 airing as part of IFC’s Independence Day weekend action extravaganza, we thought we’d look back at the original ’80s classic, and figure out once and for all why it was the best of the best. So welcome to the party, pal, let’s do this!

10. The Title Kicks Ass/Makes No Sense.

Die Hard
20th Century Fox

Here’s a fun fact: Die Hard is based on a novel called Nothing Lasts Forever by the awesomely named Roderick Thorp. Here’s another fun fact: Nothing Lasts Forever is a terrible title. Seriously, it sounds like a late period Sean Connery Bond film that would’ve costarred, say, Daryl Hannah.

So clearly the title had to be changed, which gives us Die Hard, aka the perfect movie title. But what does it actually mean? Is it because it’s “hard” to make John McClane “die,” much like it was “hard to kill” Steven Seagal in the 1990 action thriller of the same name? The phrase “die hard” usually means someone who cannot be swayed from a point of view, no matter the evidence. So…was John McClane unwavering in his belief that he was a badass? If that’s the case, he was right, but it’s still sort of confusing. Whatever the title means, it is amazing, and as a die hard fan of Die Hard, we can’t picture this movie called anything else.


9. Every Character is a Classic. Even Argyle the limo driver.

Die Hard cast
20th Century Fox

How many movies have such a memorable collection of side characters? From ’80s douchebag master William Atherton’s sleazy newscaster, to doomed cokehead Harry Ellis, from limo driver Argyle, to Special Agents Johnson and Johnson, no matter the part, every character makes an impression. Has there ever been a more delightfully Eurotrash collection of random bad guys than Hans Gruber’s killer crew? Heck, even Nakatomi Plaza has a distinct personality of its own. Just think about the fact that this movie has the bad guys from Ghostbusters 2 and The Goonies AND The Breakfast Club all in supporting roles, and we haven’t even gotten to Reginald VelJohnson, aka lovable dad Carl Winslow from Family Matters, playing his first of many cop roles here.


8. It birthed the entire “Die Hard on a…” genre.

Die Hard
20th Century Fox

You have to wonder how the filmmakers originally pitched this movie. Every action movie that followed simply used it as a reference point. Speed is Die Hard on a bus. Cliffhanger is Die Hard on a cliff. Snakes on a Plane is Die Hard on a plane with snakes. How easy it would have been if they could have just pitched Die Hard as Die Hard in a…building? The fact that countless other movies got their green light by aping the premise of this movie speaks to how brilliant it was. All you need is a location, a bunch of bad guys taking it over, and one guy crazy enough to try to stop them. It’s the perfect action movie premise, with no frills — just the ultimate engine for righteous violence.


7. Yippee ki yay, mother…

Die Hard
20th Century Fox

Has a movie ever had a more memorable collection of one-liners than Die Hard? “Welcome to the party, pal!” “Now I have a machine gun. Ho-ho-ho.” “Nine million terrorists in the world and I gotta kill one with feet smaller than my sister.” “Come out to the coast, we’ll get together, have a few laughs.” “Yippi-ki-yay, motherf—er.” While Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jean-Claude Van Damme were stuck delivering cheesy puns as they dispatched forgettable villains, John McClane and Hans Gruber’s lines always felt genuine, hilarious and cool at the same time. This was a real world, filled with people who also happen to be badass mofos.


6. The Action!

Die Hard
20th Century Fox

Holy Jamoley, the action! How a movie can have such over-the-top action, and yet keep it grounded, is a miracle of writing and directing. Die Hard still has some of the best action ever committed to film, without the help of CGI, superheroes or karate kicking on wires. Characters get hurt here, and when they die, you feel it. McClane needing a pair of shoes becomes a major plot point when he’s forced to run across shards of glass, and then has to spend a scene picking the remnants out of his shredded feet. By the time we reach the explosive finale, the gritty, grounded action had set a highwater mark that has yet to be topped.


5. Hans Gruber is a bad guy with style…

Hans Gruber
20th Century Fox

There’s never been a better action movie villain than Hans Gruber, the slick European terrorist who reads Time Magazine and is an expert on both hostage taking and tailored suits. Amazingly, Die Hard is Alan Rickman’s first film, having made a name for himself in theater and television. Bringing a certain intelligence and class to what could have been a typical heavy, Rickman created a stone cold killer with ice in his veins. Nothing could fluster him, not even John McClane. Even his final plummet to his death is a moment of pure action movie style and grace. Speaking of…


4. …Who dies in spectacular fashion.

Hans Gruber death
20th Century Fox

Spoiler alert, but Hans Gruber dies. I know, shocker. But while action movies too often look for the most overblown way to take down their villains (like when Travolta took a missile to the stomach in Broken Arrow), Die Hard went the other way. After building up a complicated rivalry between Gruber and McClane throughout the movie, John had a chance to save this killer’s life. Instead, he let gravity take its course. Great villains deserve great deaths, and none are more memorable than the panicked look Alan Rickman gives as he takes one last look at Nakatomi Plaza from the outside.


3. It has a simple premise filled with twists and turns.

Die Hard gun
20th Century Fox

For a movie with such a straight-ahead, good vs. bad plot, the movie has a remarkable number of twists and turns. A brutal scene in which McClane is forced to sacrifice one egotistical cokehead in the name of saving countless other lives. Hans Gruber pretending to be a goofy American businessman in over his head, talking McClane into giving him a gun, only to realize that the NYPD cop was one step ahead of him the whole time. The fact that Gruber was playing terrorist, while actually there to pull of a heist. Even the ending, with McClane seemingly losing, only to pull a Christmas surprise off his back just in time. Ho, ho, ho, indeed. This movie, with its silly premise and overblown action, has no business being as clever as it is.


2. John McClane is all of us having the worst day ever.

Die Hard party
20th Century Fox

It was the era of the steroid freaks as supermen. Arnold. Sly. Action heroes were more than human, thanks to a gym membership and a syringe. Thankfully, Die Hard zigged when everyone else zagged, giving us a relatable protagonist who bled when you pricked him, and always felt like he’d rather be taking a nap than having to deal with this crap. Bruce Willis, with his rapidly retreating hairline and sarcastic New York attitude, was someone we could relate to.


1. It’s a freakin’ Christmas movie!

Die Hard Christmas
20th Century Fox

It’s Christmas! Who doesn’t love Christmas? While most action movies take place in a sort of all purpose season that allows for lots of rippling muscles and skin to be seen, Die Hard goes all in on Christmas, with our favorite jingles, and some Yuletide joy. You can keep your Miracle on 34th Street and A Christmas Story — we want a little blood and badassery with our eggnog.

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Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.



Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.

via GIPHY

Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…

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IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.

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IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).

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IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.

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IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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