It’s hard to think of a more definitive, big-budget American action film than Die Hard. The movies, which kicked off in 1988, starred a lone police officer, often dubbed “the wrong guy in the wrong place at the wrong time,” who’s left to take out terrorist after terrorist in installment after installment.
We first meet John McClane (a role that, in retrospect, could only be Bruce Willis) on his way to a Christmas party at the Nakatomi Plaza—it’s the reason why many people (myself included) swear up and down that Die Hard is acceptable to watch on the holidays. A quarter into the film, after he lays out his first of many kills, we know a few things: McClane isn’t as vein-bulgingly buff or as macho as his peers in the late ‘80s, but he’s pumped full of personality, wit and smarty-pants comments that Ah-nold or Stallone couldn’t dream of delivering.
Although his motives and commentary might be a little off, main bad guy Hans Gruber does get one thing right: McClane is a modern, handgun-toting cowboy. And from that declaration on out, it’s a special brand of action history: Dozens of hostages are saved, FBI agents are belittled, reporters are punched (yes, we got that), glass is picked out of feet, laughs are had and so many pesky terrorists die.
With Die Hard’s fifth installment out as of yesterday, we’re taking a look back at 10 of our favorite McClane moments (and discovering that nothing truly compares to the first along the way). Yippee-ki-yay, readers.
10. “Thanks for the Advice.”
Perched on a desk above John McClane, one of the terrorists in the original Die Hard tries to deliver some tough truth on what he thinks is an easy kill: “Next time you have the chance to kill someone, don’t hesitate,” he sneers.
It’s a fair enough statement, considering McClane nearly spared him his life a few minutes before, but that doesn’t stop some well-placed bullets and an even better-placed one-liner: “Thanks for the advice.”
9. McClane Grabs a Gun From a Moving Sidewalk
Die Hard 2
Normally any person pinned down to the ground in an airport would accept defeat, but not John McClane, who used a moving sidewalk to make his handgun come to him. Aside from big explosions and snarky comebacks, our hero’s utilization of his surroundings is one of the biggest staples in the Die Hard series, something that was still very intact in the second installment. The move isn’t quite The Force or anything, but it put the weapon he needed into his hand just in time to take out a nasty terrorist.
8. The Vent Scene
If this scene is iconic enough to be the inspiration for a Die Hard mural, here’s why: It’s McClane’s character all wrapped up—ahem, cellophane style, in a TV dinner. Here we see McClane as a man of espionage, a down-and-dirty blue-collar hero and most importantly, a smartass all in a few seconds.
7. The Bloody Feet
John McClane learns early on in the Die Hard series that taking the advice of strangers isn’t always a great idea. Take for example, his plane partner’s advice that whenever he arrives at a destination, he should take off his shoes and ball his toes up like a fist. It’s comforting, maybe, but that’s no help when he’s unexpectedly surrounded by broken glass and international terrorist Hans Gruber’s best and burliest.
Although seeing McClane’s plucking of the glass out of his feet isn’t easy to watch, it’s one of the things that makes the original Die Hard completely separate from the rest. Sure, there are 13 terrorists against one rogue New York cop who is low on ammo, rest and patience. But why not throw in a set of torn-up tootsies to make the victory all the sweeter?
6. Die Hard 2’s Hilarious Self-Awareness
Although Die Hard 2 (often billed as Die Harder) didn’t come close to living up to the first film, there were plenty of self-aware pokes at its existence to begin with (and that it’s happening around Christmas again, no less). Hell, they even just tacked “er” on the title as the tagline of the movie. Here are some of our favorite quotes:
“I can’t fucking believe this. Another basement. Another elevator. How can the same shit happen to the same guy twice?”
“[Muttering] Egg nog, Christmas tree, but no, I have to crawl around this motherfucking tin can!”