Film Comment: The Greatest Action Movie Ever? Die Hard, obviously


I’ve spent many evenings in pubs with friends discussing classic films like The Godfather,  Anchorman and Pulp Fiction, occasionally chastising and outcasting various acquaintances for their cinematic ignorance (usually down to a deprived upbringing: I blame the parents.)  I’ve spent even longer excitedly recounting scenes with the same friends reeling off quotes in parrot-like fashion. But, ultimately, the conversation always turns bitter at the end of the evening as the age old question comes to light: “Which is the greatest action movie ever?”

It’s Die Hard.

It angers me that I even have to justify this. As I sit on my sofa hunched over the laptop with notes everywhere and Bruce Willis’s face staring back up at me with that look of fear and determination (It’s okay Bruce, we’ll get through this) I’ve realised that I am far more prepared to write a Year 3 film dissertation than I am a simple, light-hearted article for The Edge. Nonetheless, I’m being told that regardless of how many times I scream it in people’s faces and slam my fist on the table this is ultimately not yet considered a fact and therefore I have to explain the reasoning that forms my opinion… At least I don’t have to use Harvard referencing though.

Die Hard is an Action film.

First and foremost, one of the qualifying factors for Die Hard to claim the prestigious title of ‘Greatest Ever’ is that it is an Action film. I know what you’re thinking… “Duh!” People often argue that the likes of Saving Private Ryan and Black Hawk Down should be considered. Unfortunately, these do not qualify as they are in fact War films. They have their own category. Die Hard is one of those shameless 80s Action movies that is as great as it is cheesy! This comes from an era when the genre is really defined by excitement, explosions and the romantic undercurrent throughout the plot that we all pretty much ignore as opposed to the heavy reliance on special effects and CGI that we see today. It is at this point that I should hasten to point out that I am only referring to the original. Die Hard. 4.0 makes me want to self-harm. The plot is so incredibly simple for this film that I could explain it to an eight-year old: John McClane goes to a party – baddies take over – McClane kills them all. In fact, it almost seems plausible. But, we will come back to this later…

Die Hard is a Christmas film.

Not only is Die Hard the greatest action movie ever, but it’s also A CHRISTMAS MOVIE! Therefore, by default, it’s the greatest Christmas movie ever. (Also, add this to your Christmas list.)

It’s based on a book.

Bet you didn’t realise that. Nor did I to be honest but a quick search on wikipedia confirms it. Die Hard pretty much happened by accident. The book was inspired by the film The Towering Inferno, which itself is considered one of the greatest disaster films of all time. The film adaptation was intended to be a sequel to Commando (I’m not too sure how that would have worked – for a start, no one is going to believe that Schwarzenegger could fit in a vent) but had to be reworked. The film is remarkably similar to the book, so, I think we can safely say that it’s a pretty good adaptation amongst everything else. It’s actually more successful than the book. Even Harry Potter fans admit that the films are shit in comparison and so will a lot of die hard Tolkien fans. (Did you see what I did there, by the way?)

Young Bruce Willis is a handsome man.

Every heterosexual male will have a man crush, whether they realise it or not. Mine is young Bruce Willis. Any girl that isn’t excited by the prospect of this charming, blue-collar chap crawling around in a vest for two hours isn’t worth talking to, in my opinion. Also, while we’re discussing Bruce Willis, did you know he used to be private investigator? That’s right, he’s just as cool in real life.

You could be John McClane.

Ultimately, my argument comes down to one thing. As epic as Jason Bourne (Bourne series), Bryan Mills (Taken) and James Bond (Bond series, obviously) are, you are quite likely NEVER going to be them. Their life has revolved around being awesome, learning martial arts and having super-secret agent stuff.  John McClane is just a working-class bloke caught in a bad situation. If you’re wearing shoes you have one up on John. He survives through sheer grit and determination through a situation you could plausibly find yourself in – wrong place, wrong time. Think about it – what would you do? Be honest with me, you don’t see yourself cowering in the corner doing cocaine like matey-Jim that gets himself killed. You’re whooping butt, McClane style! Furthermore, can you quote the whole of the speech from Taken? If you can, I bet it took you ages to learn. McClane keeps things simple, because he’s one of us.










Yippee-Kai-Yay Motherfuckers.


Die Hard (1988), directed by John McTiernan, is released on blu-ray and DVD in the UK by Twentieth Century Fox, Certificate 18.


About Author



    • avatar
      Andrew J Ovenden on

      True. That is pretty epic. But, the original Die Hard is a much more realistic and plausible Action film, which is part of my problem with other movies in this genre.

Leave A Reply