Die Hard is a 1988 American action film directed by John McTiernan. It is based on the 1979 novel Nothing Lasts Forever by Roderick Thorp, and it stars Bruce Willis and Alan Rickman.
Die Hard follows New York City police detective John McClane who is caught up in a terrorist takeover of a Los Angeles skyscraper while visiting his estranged wife.
The role of McClane was turned down by a host of the decade’s most popular actors, including Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone. Known mainly for work on television, Willis was paid $5 million for his involvement, placing him among Hollywood’s highest-paid actors. The deal was seen as a poor investment by industry professionals and attracted significant controversy before its release. Filming took place between November 1987 and March 1988, on a $25 million–$35 million budget and almost entirely on location in and around Fox Plaza in Los Angeles.
Expectations for Die Hard were low; some marketing efforts omitted Willis’s image, ostensibly because the marketing team determined that the setting was as important as McClane. Upon its release in July 1988, initial reviews were mixed: criticism was focused on its violence, plot, and Willis’s performance, while McTiernan’s direction and Rickman’s charismatic portrayal of the villain Hans Gruber were praised. Defying predictions, Die Hard grossed approximately $140 million, becoming the year’s tenth-highest-grossing film and the highest-grossing action film. Receiving four Academy Award nominations, it elevated Willis to leading-man status and made Rickman a celebrity.
Die Hard has been critically re-evaluated and is now considered one of the greatest action films, and is also often named one of the best Christmas films. It revitalized the action genre, largely due to its depiction of McClane as a vulnerable and fallible protagonist, in contrast to the muscle-bound and invincible heroes of other films of the period. Deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” by the United States Library of Congress, Die Hard was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry in 2017.