Often imitated — even by its own sequels — and never quite matched, Die Hard is not only an excellent macho action film, but it’s also a movie with a heart. There’s a lot of good reasons why everything gelled in this picture to make a classic, and I want to go over six small details that always make me smile every time I watch it.
1. The Touch Screen Directory
“Nice toy,” McClane smirks as he uses the Nakatomi Towers’ touch screen directory to locate his wife. It’s a little pointless that the guard makes him do it — after all, there’s only one party in the building as he says a few seconds later — other than to establish that John’s wife is back to using her maiden name. Still, like most 80’s movie technology, it’s shown with such a “gee WHIZ!” excitement about how cool it is (dude, it responds to your TOUCH) that I can’t help but find it charming. Especially now that I lug around a phone that’s fully operated via touch screen.
Even as part of the bad guys’ culturally diverse team, Theo sticks out as somewhat of an aberration. He’s not a soldier, he’s a computer hacker — and he never quite takes the whole operation that seriously. Whether he’s making a bet if the boss will spill the passwords or happily guiding rocket crews to blowing up SWAT “RVs”, his cheerful black humor makes him incredibly likable. And, let’s not forget, he’s the only bad guy who doesn’t get killed — just sucker-punched by Argyle.
3. The Centerfold
Even when on the run from terrorists, John McClane proves that a guy’s attention is always liable to be hijacked by random toplessness. In this case, a centerfold spread in one of the maintenance corridors that catches his eye not once, but twice (the second time he gives a fond pat to the picture as he runs by). Really, if the entire terrorist team were Swedish models, he would’ve lost the fight in six seconds flat.
4. Hans Misquotes John
As a villain mastermind, Alan Rickman’s Hans Gruber long ago established himself as king of the hill for action thrillers. He’s not only ruthless, but he’s incredibly smart as well — a quality that many Die Hard knock-offs neglect. Hans adapts to McClane’s meddling and even pulls the wool over his eye once or twice. That said, one of the highlights of his character is that he really wants to verbally one-up John, but he fails at the end — when he attempts to fling John’s “yippee-ki-yay” quote back at him but fails to add an “-er” at the end, making it sound completely ridiculous.
5. Harvey Johnson, Crappy Newscaster
How weird is it that Die Hard not only has two FBI agents named “Johnson” — and points that out — but a newscaster with that surname as well? There’s a neat undercurrent of news media satire underlying the film, mostly aimed at showing what obnoxious jerks they can be. Harvey gets only a couple brief scenes, but in both of them he’s portrayed as a sap — the first time getting chewed out by a reporter (and barely containing his rage for the cameras), and the second time stating that Helsinki was in Sweden during an interview. D’oh, it was Finland, thanks for playing Harvey!
6. Uli Gets His Candy Bar
Rounding out the hands-across-the-terrorist-world ethnicity, our Asian terrorist Uli is mostly low-key in the film except for one hilarious bit: while waiting for the SWAT team to attack, Uli realizes that he’s taken cover behind a snack bar, and helps himself to one yummy Nestle Crunch. At least he gets his moment of happiness before John kills him.
Remember kids: Nestle Crunch is the preferred candy bar of terrorists, thieves and mass murderers everywhere!