Best movie: Die Hard (1988)
When it comes to action movies from the ‘80s, there's Die Hard and then there's everything else. When this movie hit theaters in 1988, it was an immediate sensation and let the world know that the genre could feature more than just muscle-bound bodybuilders attempting to “act” their way from action scene to action scene. By casting Bruce Willis in the role of John McClane, director John McTiernan gave us a look at how the “everyman” would deal with a terrorist attack, which was a welcome change for once.
Willis wasn’t blessed with the biggest muscles, toughest voice, or even a full head of hair in this movie. But he made everyone believe that with a bit of luck and guile that he could save innocents from the ominously German villain Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman). Willis was charming, funny, and smart, and for once the average audience member could imagine themselves being tough enough to do what he was doing on the screen. We just wouldn’t suggest that you try to walk across any broken glass barefoot, though. You’re not that tough.
Runner-up: Die Hard with a Vengeance (1995)
Most people might think that Die Hard 2 is far superior to Die Hard with a Vengeance, but hear us out for a bit. In addition to John McClane being saltier and more foul-mouthed than before, the additions of both Samuel L. Jackson and Jeremy Irons to the cast elevate this movie just slightly over the second installment.
The action is fierce, the relationship between Willis and Jackson is hilarious, and Jeremy Irons as a comic book type terrorist who leaves riddles all around New York for McClane is an inspired choice. It doesn’t really follow the formula from the first two Die Hard films, and for that reason Die Hard with a Vengeance carves out its own identity.