Die Hard is a 1988 American action film and the first in the Die Hard film series. The film was directed by John McTiernan and written by Jeb Stuart and Steven E. de Souza. It is based on a 1979 novel by Roderick Thorp titled Nothing Lasts Forever, itself a sequel to the book The Detective, which was previously made into a 1968 film starring Frank Sinatra. The film was produced by Lawrence and Charles Gordon, along with Joel Silver.
It stars Bruce Willis as NYPD officer John McClane and Alan Rickman as terrorist thief Hans Gruber. The film was followed by three sequels; Die Hard 2 in 1990, Die Hard With A Vengeance in 1995, and Live Free or Die Hard in 2007.
On Christmas Eve, Detective John McClane (Bruce Willis) of the New York City Police Department arrives in Los Angeles to reconcile with his estranged wife, Holly Gennaro (Bonnie Bedelia). McClane is driven to the Nakatomi Plaza building by a limo driver named Argyle (De’voreaux White). The company Christmas party is disrupted by the arrival of thirteen terrorists led by Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman). The terrorists cut the telephone lines, seal the building exits, and replace the building guard with one of their own. Hans and his group secure the party goers as hostages, but McClane manages to slip into the stairwell of the building. Gruber portrays himself to the police as a terrorist working towards various extremist goals, but it is revealed that they are actually trying to steal $640 million in bearer bonds from the Nakatomi vault. When Nakatomi executive Joseph Takagi (James Shigeta) refuses to reveal the code for one of the vault’s seven locks, Gruber executes him. Gruber orders Theo (Clarence Gilyard Jr.), his technical expert, to break through the locks on the vault. Theo reminds Hans that the final lock is powered by circuits that cannot be cut locally. Gruber promises to handle the last lock.
McClane moves through the building, hiding from or killing the terrorists he encounters. He learns more of their motives while acquiring a two-way radio, C4 explosives, and detonators from the body of one terrorist. McClane uses the radio to attract the attention of the LAPD, who send Sergeant Al Powell (Reginald VelJohnson) to investigate. Gruber sends his men, led by Karl (Alexander Godunov), to kill McClane and retrieve the detonators. Fooled by the impostor guard, Powell is about to leave when McClane drops the corpse of a terrorist onto Powell’s police car. McClane explains the situation via the two-way radio as the police, led by Deputy Police Chief Dwayne T. Robinson (Paul Gleason), arrive. The police send in a SWAT team and an armored vehicle. McClane and Powell are unable to prevent the SWAT team from being ambushed, but McClane manages to kill the terrorists attacking the SWAT team. One of Holly’s coworkers, Harry Ellis (Hart Bochner), tries to negotiate with Hans and McClane for the return of the detonators. McClane refuses to return them, and Gruber shoots Ellis. The FBI arrive, and take control from the police. They order the power to the building shut down, which deactivates the vault’s final lock as Gruber had intended. Theo ransacks the now-open vault, loading the bearer bonds into an ambulance to be used as their getaway vehicle.
McClane continues to sneak through the building to detain the terrorists. When he finds Gruber working at the explosives planted on the roof, Gruber passes himself off as an escaped hostage. McClane lets down his guard, and gives Gruber a gun; when Gruber calls in for help from the other terrorists and attempts to fire at McClane, McClane is forced to flee, leaving being the detonators. The roof is rigged to explode with the detonators, and Gruber lures the FBI into the trap by asking for helicopter transport for him and his men to Los Angeles International Airport in exchange for the hostages; Gruber plans to use the roof explosion to make the authorities believe him to be dead and allow him to escape with the bonds. As the helicopters travel to the scene, Gruber observes a television news story from investigative reporter Richard Thornburg (William Atherton) that Lucy mentions that Holly is McClane’s wife. With the helicopter nearing with Johnson on board, Gruber orders the hostages to the roof, taking personal control over Holly. McClane arrives at the roof, deals with the terrorists escorting the hostages including Karl, and scares the hostages back downstairs before the roof explodes, engulfing the FBI helicopters killing Johnson. Meanwhile, Argle stops Theo from escaping by knocking him unconscious. Realizing Gruber holds Holly and that he is down to his last two bullets, McClane offers to give himself over, and uses the feint to shoot Gruber’s last man and knock Gruber backwards through a window. Gruber, still hanging onto Holly by her watch, attempts to drag her with him, but McClane is able to unclasp Holly’s watch in time and catch her while Gruber falls to his death.
McClane and Holly are escorted from the building, meeting Powell in person. Karl’s body is brought out on a stretcher when he rises up with a gun and points it at McClane. Karl is shot by Powell before he can open fire, and Argyle comes crashing out the parking garage in the limo, after having detained Theo attempting to escape in the ambulance. John and Holly are driven off by Argyle, their relationship renewed by their experiences.