2.3k voters

'Die Hard' Ripoffs, Ranked By How Hard They Die

Updated July 8, 2021 15.1k votes 2.3k voters 115.2k views22 items

List RulesVote up the action movies that copied Die Hard most effectively.

One man. One hostile setting. No way out except by fighting. Die Hard didn't invent that scenario, but it codified it in the modern era. A cop on his way to see his wife, in over his head when terrorists take over the whole building - it was a formula for action-in-a-box, boosting Bruce Willis from comedy relief to ass-kicking American hero.

Naturally, many imitators followed. And while many just followed the heroic American template of McClane, this list celebrates the ones that followed the formula. A man (or woman, though that is sadly rare) in a confined space that has been taken by opponents - and who can only fight his way out, with occasional help from the outside where available by slender lifelines.

Here are the best imitators. Vote up the action movies that are basically Die Hard in different settings but do it so well you don't even mind that they're derivative. Yippie kai yay, brother flockers.

  • Video: YouTube

    Die Hard on: Alcatraz.

    The John McClane: Technically there are two heroes, but the closest to McClane's everyman cop is Nicolas Cage's chemical weapons specialist, Dr. Stanley Goodspeed. Sean Connery's ex-con John Mason is more of the action hero, but it's Goodspeed's tale, and a rare instance of Cage playing nerdy in an action film. 

    The Hans Gruber:
     Ed Harris as disgruntled Marine Frank Hummel, holding San Francisco hostage until the government pays well-deserved benefits to the families of men killed on covert missions.

    Does it die hard? It takes a while to settle into Die Hard mode, but once it does, it does so with force. Before Bad Boys 2, this was the one Michael Bay action movie it was considered okay to like, and its villain is more nuanced and sympathetic than most, to the point that he even reveals his threats were all a bluff.
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  • Video: YouTube

    Die Hard on: A bus. Though it also begins with Die Hard in an elevator, and ends with Die Hard on a subway train.

    The John McClane: Keanu Reeves as Jack Traven, an unflappably cool Los Angeles SWAT officer.

    The Hans Gruber: Dennis Hopper as mad bomber Howard Payne, who has a fetish for impromptu pop quizzes. 

    Does it die hard? Better than most. Reeves is often derided as a subpar actor, but he's very good at playing characters who exist in a trance-like state, be they dunces like Ted Theodore Logan or otherworldly messiahs like Neo. Here, this works to his advantage by making Jack a hero who doesn't seem to know he's supposed to be afraid, though Sandra Bullock steals the movie as the commuter/de-facto bus driver who most definitely is afraid.

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  • Video: YouTube

    Die Hard on: Air Force One. Duh. (For non-Americans, that's what we call the President's personal jet.) 

    The John McClane: The freakin' President himself - Harrison Ford as James Marshall.  

    The Hans Gruber: Gary Oldman as a hijacking Russian terrorist named (what else?) Ivan.  

    Does it die hard? It's everything you want from a generic Harrison Ford movie, including the obligatory part where a bad guy smushes his face against something, the part where he points his finger in his opponent's face to make a point, and the memorable one-liner ("Get off my plane!"). But while Die Hard transcended what we thought a Bruce Willis movie could be at the time (remember, he was known for Moonlighting and Blind Date), this falls well within everyone's comfort zone.
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  • Video: YouTube

    Die Hard in: Washington Dulles International Airport.

    The John McClane: John McClane again, though technically this sequel is based on a novel in which the hero is named Frank Malone.

    The Hans Gruber: William Sadler's rogue Col. Stuart, though he's in league with dictator Ramon Esperanza (Franco Nero) and Special Forces Major Grant (John Amos).

    Does it die hard? Can a sequel properly be called a rip-off? When it's the only sequel that follows the formula of the original (Die Hards 3-5 are pretty open-world), the answer is yes. Though an airport is really too big a location to give that taut sense of confinement Nakatomi Tower had, this is still the one Die Hard sequel that opts for more of the same.
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