Remembering “Die Hard”

posted by Coate on July 15, 2008 at 4:09 pm

Twenty years ago today, the classic action flick “Die Hard” was released.


Compiled by Michael Coate

John McClane … Bruce Willis
Holly Gennaro-McClane … Bonnie Bedelia
Sgt. Al Powell … Reginald Veljohnson
Dwayne T. Robinson … Paul Gleason
Argyle … De'voreaux White
Thornburg … William Atherton
Ellis … Hart Bochner
Hans Gruber … Alan Rickman
Karl … Alexander Godunov
Theo … Clarence Gilyard, Jr.

DIRECTOR: John McTiernan

SCREENPLAY: Jeb Stuart and Steven E. de Souza (screenplay), Roderick Thorp (novel)

RELEASE DATE: Friday, July 15, 1988 (70mm limited release); Wednesday, July 20, 1988 (general release)

“40 Stories Of Sheer Adventure!"
"An Adventure That Will Blow You Through The Back Wall Of The Theatre.”







“Nine million terrorists in the world, and I got to kill one with feet smaller than my sister.” – McClane

“I am an exceptional thief, Mrs. McClane.” – Hans

“Oh my god! The quarterback is toast!” – Theo

“You throw quite a party. I didn’t realize they celebrated Christmas in Japan.” – McClane / “We’re flexible. Pearl Harbor didn’t work out, so we got you with tape decks.” – Joe Takagi

“We’re going to need some more FBI guys, I guess.” – Dwayne T. Robinson

“Hey, business is business. You use a gun. I use a fountain pen. What’s the difference?” – Harry Ellis


“Alan Rickman, a British stage actor, in his movie debut as the chief terrorist, creates a classic villain.” – Dave Kehr, Chicago Tribune

“‘Die Hard’ is dynamite.” – Joel Siegel, Good Morning America

“[bruce] Willis has found the perfect vehicle to careen wildly onto the crowded L.A. freeway of ‘Lethal Weapons’ and ‘Beverly Hills Cops.’ And he keeps a respectable grip on the wheel, his only acting requirements being to shift that ‘Moonlighting’ glibspeak into R-rated high-drive and fire his Baretta 92 to heart’s content.” – Desson Howe, The Washington Post

“‘Die Hard’ is exceedingly stupid, but escapist fun.” – Caryn James, The New York Times

“This summer’s action movie to see.” – Mike Clark, USA Today

“For sheer roller-coaster thrills, the pick of the crop is ‘Die Hard’.” – David Ansen, Newsweek

“See it in 70mm and kick back; it’s a party of a movie.” – Peter Stack, San Francisco Chronicle

“‘Die Hard’ has audiences rising to their feet and screaming at the screen! You’ll have a whale of a time.” – Mike McGrady, Newsday

“‘Die Hard’ is the archetypal big-deal Hollywood exploitation picture. It’s like a giant war toy, a triumph of well-oiled mechanical precision that performs miracles of destruction. As a grand flourish of cinematic technique, it is awesome; as a human drama, it is disgusting and silly, a mindless depiction of carnage on an epic scale.” – Kevin Thomas, Los Angeles Times


09.21.1988 … France (“Lepiegede Cristal”)
09.23.1988 … Taiwan
09.27.1988 … Philippines
09.28.1988 … Italy (“Trappola de Cristallo”)
09.28.1988 … Spain (“Jungla de Cristal”)
09.30.1988 … Sweden (“Operasjon Skyscraper”)
10.06.1988 … Australia
10.07.1988 … Austria (“Stirb Langsam”)
10.07.1988 … Finland (“Vain Kuolleen Ruumiini Yli”)
10.07.1988 … New Zealand
10.19.1988 … Hong Kong
10.19.1988 … Singapore
11.11.1988 … The Netherlands
11.11.1988 … Norway (“Die Hard: Operasjon Skyscraper”)
11.11.1988 … Thailand
11.11.1988 … West Germany (“Stirb Langsam”)
12.02.1988 … Malaysia
12.15.1988 … Argentina (“Duro de Matar”)
12.26.1988 … Denmark
02.02.1989 … United Kingdom
02.11.1989 … Japan
04.13.1989 … Mexico (“Duro de Matar”)
04.20.1989 … Colombia (“Duro de Matar”)


The Nakatomi Plaza featured in the film is the Fox Plaza, the Los Angeles corporate offices of 20th Century Fox Film Corporation.

“Die Hard” is based upon the 1979 book “Nothing Lasts Forever” by Roderick Thorp.

The world premiere of “Die Hard” was held on July 7, 1988 at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills, CA.

Bruce Willis received a then-record $5 million salary for his acting services.

Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Burt Reynolds and Richard Gere all reportedly passed on playing the role of John McClane.

“Die Hard” was nominated for four Academy Awards: Film Editing, Sound, Sound Effects Editing, Visual Effects. The film won a BMI Film Music award for Michael Kamen’s original score and a Hocho Eiga Sho (“Best Foreign Picture for 1989”) from the Japanese newspaper Hochi Shimbun.

For the theatrical film prints, a spherical film element of the 20th Century Fox logo that opens the film was (mistakenly) used instead of an (appropriate) anamorphic element, resulting in a noticeably stretched-out image.

“Die Hard” spawned three sequels: “Die Hard 2” (1990), “Die Hard With A Vengeance” (1995) and “Live Free Or Die Hard” (2007).

“Die Hard” inspired the ultimate motion picture high-concept story idea expression: “Die Hard on a ______.”


The following is a list of the 70mm Six-Track Dolby Stereo presentations that were booked for the film’s exclusive, limited-market release. These “Cinema Treasures” were the best venues in which to experience “Die Hard.” (The 35mm general release and 70mm moveover, sub-run, and international bookings have not been included.)

Boston CINEMA 57
Cincinnati KENWOOD
Houston SPECTRUM 8
Minneapolis SOUTHTOWN
Philadelphia SAMERIC
San Francisco CORONET
Seattle CINEMA 150
Vancouver GRANVILLE 7

Sources/References: Numerous newspaper articles, reviews and advertisements; and Boxoffice; Boxofficemojo; Cinerama and Large-Frame Exhibition in Canada; “Die Hard” (1988, 20th Century Fox); The Hollywood Reporter; Internet Movie Database; Newsweek; Time Magazine; Variety.

Special thanks to Thomas Hauerslev, Stan Malone, and the librarians and research assistants who contributed to this project.

So¦what are your “Die Hard” memories?

Comments (26)

PeterApruzzese on July 15, 2008 at 4:53 pm

I don’t remember if it was on the limited-market release or not, but the UA Cinema 46 in Totowa played Die Hard in 70mm as well. It was a great looking and sounding show there in the big house.

raysson on July 15, 2008 at 6:30 pm

I remember seeing this movie twice in the Carolinas.

Once in limited release in Charlotte at the Park Terrace Theatre where it was shown at the time on the huge widescreen in 70mm-6 track Dobly Stereo,and it was an experience I will never forget.
I remember how huge the auditorium was at Park Terrace at the time.

The other time was in Durham where this film was shown in a 35mm print that didn’t look interesting.

GFeret on July 15, 2008 at 7:04 pm

Ahh…Alan Rickman—SNAPE from Harry Potter, the Spock-derived character in GALAXY QUEST, and recently in SWEENEY TODD. What I remember most about the 1st DH is Bruce W. still having a measure of hair topside. The last, DH #4 wasn’t much good, with a terrible ending.

CinemarkFan on July 15, 2008 at 8:00 pm

My parents took everybody to see this on my youngest bro’s sixth b-day a week later at River Oaks 1 (later #9) in Calumet City, Il. My Dad would go on to see this another couple of times in it’s theatrical run.

Me, I was born two years later, but I saw it when I was four on my older brother’s VHS recording off HBO. I love it to this day. Without “Die Hard”, there would be no “Under Seige”, “Passenger 57”, “Sudden Death”, or the Corey Haim b classic, “Demolition High”.

To Chicagoians who might see this thread, here’s the expanded release list for Wednesday July 20th, 1988

Arlington Heights: (Cineplex Odeon) Town & Country Mall
Calumet City: (Cineplex Odeon) River Oaks #1
Chicago: (M&R) Dearborn Cinema
Chicago: (Cineplex Odeon) Chestnut Station
Chicago: (M&R) Webster Place
Chicago: (Cineplex Odeon) Nortown
Chicago: (General Cinema) Ford City
Chicago Ridge/Oak Lawn: (Cineplex Odeon) Commons of Chicago Ridge
Forest Park: (Cineplex Odeon) Forest Park Mall
Hillside: (M&R) Hillside Square
Niles: (Cineplex Odeon) Golf Mill
Northbrook: (Cineplex Odeon) Edens

Of Note, this movie along with “Midnight Run” were the first movies to play at the then all-new Webster Place Theater. Happy 20th anniversary, and “yippee ki yay”!

moviebuff82 on July 15, 2008 at 8:51 pm

I first saw this movie a year ago because of the new Die Hard movie that came out last summer. The first one is still the best. Part 2 was good, and part 3 was decent, Part 4 sucked since it was rated pg-13 but then became unrated in the dvd version. I think they should not make more die hard movies since Willis is getting too old.

HowardBHaas on July 15, 2008 at 11:44 pm

The Baronet in NYC was the smaller auditorium, not the larger Coronet auditorium upstairs.

I enjoyed “Die Hard” on the huge screen in the original, huge historic Boyd auditorium (then named Sameric) in Philadelphia. The screen was much larger than the Wisconsin Avenue’s 2 big screens in DC. It was a fun action film.

KingBiscuits on July 16, 2008 at 12:10 am

I’ve only seen Live Free Or Die Hard in a theatre. What a waste of time and money. A 35mm print of the original ran recently in THX near me but I didn’t go since it was only a midnight show and I don’t have a car.

And I’m surprised that this played in 70mm in St. Louis. Especially since nowadays it seems that St. Louis is a secondary market.

If you want Mr. Coate, you can e-mail me about more 70mm engagements in Missouri at

Chris Utley
Chris Utley on July 16, 2008 at 12:19 am

Heh…the “Memorable Dialogue” is all the PG lines. Understandable – as all of the TRULY MEMORABLE DIALOGUE is unprintable at this site! :o)

It was a hot summer Saturday in St. Louis during my summer vacation. I was all lined up to see “Coming To America” for the 4th time at the Esquire. It was sold out. P.O'ed, I bought a ticket to the only show that still had seats available: some movie called “Die Hard” with the dude from “Moonlighting.”

I got my popcorn. I sat down. The Fox logo came on. Argyle picks John McClaine up at the airport in the limo with Run DMC’s “Christmas In Hollis” playing – the audience laughed out loud…probably because we weren’t used to hearing a hip-hop/rap record played on a “mainstream” movie before. McClaine argues with his wifey, does the “toe schrunching” thing, in come the bad guys and the party began.

The tagline promised to blow us through the back wall of the theatre. TRUER WORDS WERE NEVER SPOKEN!

We howled with laughter & cheers upon the first utterance of “Yippie Kay Aye, MOFO!” We cringed whenever Hans Gruber spoke. We clapped when bad guys got shot. We darn near fainted when we saw those shards of glass in Bruce’s feet. We hooped and hollered when Hans bit the dust…and darn near tore out the chairs in the place when Sgt. Al Powell took out the last bad guy.

And all that fun was in 70MM.

By far, one of the greatest experiences I have ever had in a movie theatre! Every time I watch Die Hard again, I flash back to that hot Saturday afternoon!

Coate on July 16, 2008 at 12:23 am

As the author of the original posting, I’d like to mention that since its posting, the article has been edited. Two entries from the Memorable Dialogue section, both of which included profanity, have been deleted by a moderator.

The complete version of the article can be found on the Fans of Showmanship website.

Normally, I wouldn’t condone profanity in the postings, but since these clearly were quotes of dialogue from the movie, rather than words coming from a member making a post, and because I had shown the courtesy of including a “Spoiler Alert: Includes Profanity” blurb, I thought including those lines would have been fine, especially since one was the signature line from the movie and the other was, in my opinion, among the most humorous.

I’m fine with the editing decision as it is their website and they can run it as they see fit. I just wanted to bring it to your attention.

Chris Utley
Chris Utley on July 16, 2008 at 12:28 am

Would using ****’s be a sufficient substitute for spelling the actual curse words?

JSA on July 16, 2008 at 1:55 am

When this first came out, it seemed to me that this was a cross between “Lethal Weapon” and “Towering Inferno” with, as Chris pointed out, the guy from a goofy TV show. Anyway, my roomates at the time dragged me out, so we went to a late show in Stanton (that’s in Orange County, CA) expecting the worst.

My goodness, what a ride! This truly delivered the goods. On account of the extreme sound level, I ended up with one of the worst headaches in my life, but it was all worth it.

Sadly, the sequels failed to match the original, and needless to say, I did not even see the last one.

MPol on July 16, 2008 at 2:16 am

Without having seen any of the “Die Hard” Series, unfortunately, JSA, the failure of sequels to match the original is all too common, although there have been some notable exceptions. Superman I and Superman II were both very good, as were Spiderman I and Spiderman II. I didn’t go to see any of the other ones, because, as I figured they would be, the other sequels to both Superman and Spiderman were disastrous failures.

pbubny on July 16, 2008 at 3:12 am

The original “Die Hard” looks more and more like a classic Hollywood blockbuster—“classic” as in something that was uncommonly well done for its time and has held up unexpectedly well. The one saving grace of the sequels was Bruce Willis; having created the character of John McClane, he did that character justice no matter how ridiculous or tedious his surroundings got. My “Die Hard” experience was at the now-defunct Cinema 46 in Totowa, NJ, unfortunately not in 70mm but thankfully in the original big screen auditorium as opposed to the two tiny add-ons that made it into a triplex. As JSA put it, what a ride!

Jonesy on July 16, 2008 at 5:18 am

I had a part time job at Malco’s Winchester Court Cinemas in Memphis at the time. The print came with a letter (I wish I’d kept) from McTiernan. It went something like this:

“Die Hard starts out loud. It’s supposed to be loud. Please don’t turn it down.”

It’s a shame Die Hard isn’t playing in more theatres this year. Every film is better on the big screen, but some benefit more than others. Die Hard really benefits.


neeb on July 16, 2008 at 7:19 am

I didn’t see Die Hard until it came to video.
But I made sure to see every entry thereafter in the theater…
I did finally see an actual print at UCLA with DP Jan de Bont in 1994.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on July 16, 2008 at 3:44 pm

Good action. Yes! Interesting special effects. Yes!
Memorable dialogue? Did we see the same movie?
Take out the F word and you practically have a silent movie.

AdamBomb1701 on July 16, 2008 at 6:00 pm

I saw “Die Hard” on a Friday night dinner date with my then-wife. We got tickets to see the film at a small discount through the restaurant we ate at (Millard Fillmore’s, IIRC) which was right next to the theater. It was quite a nice experience. The movie was great. The theater was packed. Sadly, the theater (the Staten Island UA Multiplex in Travis) the restaurant and my marriage all went down the tubes. I do have all the “Die Hard” movies on DVD, though.

MPol on July 16, 2008 at 11:20 pm

Hey Jonesy and Paul Bubny!!


“It’s a shame Die Hard isn’t playing in more theatres this year. Every film is better on the big screen, but some benefit more than others. Die Hard really benefits.”

reinforces the fact that I feel exactly the same way about the great golden oldie-but-goody movie musical classic, West Side Story. How I wish WSS would play in more theatres more often this year, and forever. The MGM adage “Unlike other classics, West Side Story grows younger” is so true.

This, too:

“The original "Die Hard” looks more and more like a classic Hollywood blockbuster—“classic” as in something that was uncommonly well done for its time and has held up unexpectedly well. "

could be said for West Side Story.

Jonesy on July 17, 2008 at 6:02 am

MPol –

There are screenings of West Side Story coming up in CT, KY, and several in CA, including a new 70MM print in S.F.

Find listings at:


Jonesy on July 17, 2008 at 6:17 am

Crap – that’s www.OnTheBigScreen.NET

Sorry – long day.

Coate on July 17, 2008 at 10:30 am

The two lines of dialogue deleted from my posting were:

“Do you really think you have a chance against us, Mr. Cowboy?” â€" Hans / “Yippee-kai-yay, motherf***er.” â€" McClane

“Attention, whoever you are, this channel is reserved for emergency calls only.” â€" Supervisor / “No f*ing sh, lady! Do I sound like I’m ordering a pizza?” â€" McClane

WayBackWhen2008 on July 18, 2008 at 3:42 am

Aside from what everybody else mentioned, what I remember most was the intro song…Christmas in Hollis by Run DMC. Great intro!!

MPol on July 19, 2008 at 6:23 am

Thanks, Jonesy.

Since Hartford, CT is about a 2-hour drive from where I live, I plan to drive down to Hartford to see the screening of West Side Story there. Regarding KY and CA, including S. F.—too far for me.

Coate on August 5, 2008 at 3:10 pm
QUOTE: "I remember seeing this movie in limited release in Charlotte at the Park Terrace Theatre where it was shown at the time on the huge widescreen in 70mm-6 track Dobly Stereo,and it was an experience I will never forget. I remember how huge the auditorium was at Park Terrace at the time." -- posted by raysson on Jul 15, 2008 am31 10:30am

As I pointed out in my original post, Fox did not include Charlotte as a part of the film’s 20-market limited release. In fact, when the film opened in Charlotte on July 20, it did not play in 70mm, nor was it booked at the PARK TERRACE.

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on July 26, 2010 at 9:23 pm

Can’t believe parents would take six year old to see this MOVIE rated R on his birthday,No wonder this country is going to pot.

GeorgiaYankee on July 17, 2023 at 7:16 pm

35 years, amazing. One of my favorite films of all time. I was 5 years old when it was released so I watched it and fell in love with the film (and specifically Alan Rickman as Hans Gruber) MUCH later on VHS and DVD. I’d LOVE to see it exhibited in its 70mm form one day. Sad to see many of the theaters that originally showed it in 70mm are long gone. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing it in 35mm at Atlanta’s Plaza Theatre during the holidays. The print they showed was rough, battered and jumpy but somehow that made the experience all the more enjoyable. The sequels and imitators can’t touch this first one, in my opinion.

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