Director: John McTiernan
Stars: Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman, Bonnie Bedelia, Alexander Godunov, Reginald VelJohnson

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Die Hard should be blushing. Since John McTiernan’s movie introduced the world to John McClane (Bruce Willis), a cynical NYPD officer trying to save his estranged wife and her colleagues from the terrorists who drop in on their high-rise office Christmas party, countless action movies have aped it, simply changing the location where the trapped lone hero fights against overwhelming odds to a train, a plane, a school, or the White House. None of these movies (or the four sequels) compares favorably to Die Hard, arguably the greatest action movie and the greatest Christmas movie of all time.

A loose adaptation of Roderick Thorp’s 1979 novel Nothing Lasts Forever, Die Hard matches its grand Cowboys-and-Indians spectacle of glass-shattering shootouts and roof explosions with heart and humor in an uncommonly average and relatable hero. Unlike typical steroidal action stars of the ‘80s (see: Arnold Schwarzenegger, who turned down the film), Willis was a comedic actor who had a receding hairline and clearly wasn’t living in the gym. He, like wise-cracking and self-deprecating McClane, was the perfect flawed fit to accentuate the enormity of the task and get invested viewers on the edge of their seats sweating out the twists and turns of his crazy night. Or rather, on the edge of their saddles screaming out “Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker!” —JM