Die Hard (1988) - Plot Summary Poster



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  • An NYPD officer tries to save his wife and several others taken hostage by German terrorists during a Christmas party at the Nakatomi Plaza in Los Angeles.

  • NYPD cop John McClane goes on a Christmas vacation to visit his wife Holly in Los Angeles where she works for the Nakatomi Corporation. While they are at the Nakatomi headquarters for a Christmas party, a group of robbers led by Hans Gruber take control of the building and hold everyone hostage, with the exception of John, while they plan to perform a lucrative heist. Unable to escape and with no immediate police response, John is forced to take matters into his own hands.

  • New York City policeman John McClane (Bruce Willis) is visiting his estranged wife (Bonnie Bedelia) and his daughter and son Christmas Eve. He joins her at a holiday party in the headquarters of the Japanese-owned business she works for. But the festivities are interrupted by a group of terrorists who take over the exclusive high-rise, and everyone in it. Very soon McClane realizes that there's no one to save the hostages -- but him.

  • John McClain, a new York City cop flys to LA to visit his wife at a Christmas party. But when twelve terrorist attack the building at the same night, McCain is the only hope of saving everybody. With nothing but a handgun and his wits he is forced to take on Hans Gruber and his fellow terrorists.

  • Tough New York cop John McClane finds himself in a tight situation when an office building in Los Angeles is taken over by terrorists. Apart from himself, everyone else in the building - including his wife - is held at gunpoint while their captors spell out their demands. The F.B.I. are called in to survey the situation, but John McClane has other plans for the terrorists...

  • New York cop John McClane flies to Los Angeles on Christmas eve to spend the holidays with his family. He arrives at the Nakatomi corp. building for his wife's office party. International terrorists take over the building and hold every one as hostage to steal $600 million of bonds from the vaults of the building. Now its up to McCLane to face the terrorists and save his wife and the other hostages.

  • In the city of Los Angeles, a Christmas party is held on the 30th floor of the Nakatomi Plaza Hotel. While the party is going on, downstairs, a band of German terrorists arrive and take the entire building hostage including its employees and attempt a huge robbery. But the only one who eludes capture is New York City Cop John McClane who launches a one man war in an attempt to stop the terrorists and save all hostages including his wife Holly.

  • John McClane is a cop from New York City who is on his way to Los Angeles to see his kids and his wife Holly, who moved to LA because of a job at the Nakatomi Corporation. When he arrives at Nakatomi Plaza, he meets Holly's boss Joe Takagi and her co-worker Harry Ellis. He and Holly go into a private bathroom and get into an argument. When Holly leaves to give a speech, thirteen armed terrorists lead by Hans Gruber seize control of the building and take the occupants of the 30th floor, who are the only ones left in the building, hostage. Luckily, they missed John and he has to figure out how to save the hostages before the terrorists get their way.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • John McClane, a detective with the New York City Police Department, arrives in Los Angeles to attempt a Christmas reunion and reconciliation with his estranged wife Holly (Bonnie Bedelia), who is attending a party thrown by her employer, the Nakatomi Corporation, at its still-unfinished American branch office headquarters, the high-rise Nakatomi Plaza. McClane is met at the airport by Argyle, a limo driver charged with taking John to Holly's office. Argyle quickly deduces that McClane has come to LA to patch things up with Holly and offers to park the limo in the building's garage for a short time until McClane figures out his accommodations. As he enters the lobby, he finds that the building's staff directory is an automated computer program listing Holly under her maiden name, Gennaro. When he gets off the elevator on the 30th floor, he sees a lavish holiday party is underway. John is met by Holly's boss, Joseph Takagi, a genial Japanese businessman. After McClane refreshes himself from the flight in Holly's corporate bathroom, they have an argument over the use of her maiden name but Holly is called away.

    As the party continues, a large moving van from "Pacific Courier" makes its way to the building. Two men, Karl (Alexander Godunov) and Theo (Clarence Gilyard Jr.), arrive in a car at the front entrance to the building. At the security desk they divert the security guards' attention away from the trucks. Karl guns down the guards while Theo commandeers the closed circuit security field and locks down all the elevators except for the service car. Terrorists led by the slick and well-mannered German anarchist Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) emerge from the trucks and hold the partygoers as hostages in exchange for terrorist operatives in prison. In the confusion, McClane is able to disappear unnoticed into the building's maintenance areas but forgets to take his shoes along, leaving him barefoot. Takagi is taken from the party to the building's conference room and learns that Gruber is actually using the hostage situation as a cover to steal $640 million in bearer bonds stored in the building's vault. McClane, having made his way to the anteroom outside the conference room, is unable to stop Gruber from executing Takagi when he refuses to give him the vault's combination.

    McClane attempts to alert the local police by setting off a fire alarm -- his attempt fails when Hans has one of his men cancel the alarm and he is promptly discovered by Karl's brother, Tony. McClane kills Tony, taking his gun and radio, but finds the man's boots are too small. McClane places Tony's corpse in the only elevator left operational and hides on top of the car. Hans' men discover Tony in the elevator with an elf's hat on his head and a message written in Sharpie on his sweatshirt that reads "NOW I HAVE A MACHINE GUN; HO-HO-HO". While Hans angrily talks the situation over with his men, McClane writes down as many details about them as he can including some of their names and how many voices he hears. Karl is enraged and wants to leave immediately to find McClane but Hans stops him, saying that they need time for Theo to penetrate the outer locks of the vault and for the police to arrive.

    McClane makes it to the roof and tries to call the LAPD on Tony's walkie-talkie. Overheard by Hans and his men, he sends Karl to the roof to hunt down McClane. While McClane argues with the LAPD over his distress call -- they believe it to be a prank -- Karl and two of Hans' men attack, forcing McClane to retreat into the tower's ventilation system. When he emerges, he tries to get the attention of Sgt Al Powell (Reginald VelJohnson), sent by the dispatcher McClane had contacted before. When Marco and Heinrich find him in the conference room, McClane narrowly kills them both. Initially finding nothing amiss, Powell is ready to drive off but McClane, in a desperate move before his last hope for outside help leaves, gets his attention by throwing Marco's corpse out of the window and onto Powell's patrol vehicle. Another detachment of Gruber's men opens fire on Powell's car as he reverses out of the front circle and crashes, frantically calling for backup in his panicky state.

    While searching Heinrich's pockets and bag, McClane finds the henchman was carrying a significant quantity of C4 explosive and detonators. McClane taunts Gruber using Heinrich's walkie-talkie and tells him he killed a few of his men, giving Hans their names. Karl reports to Hans that McClane wasn't bluffing and that their adversary took Heinrich's bag, which presumably held all the detonators.

    With Powell now fully convinced that the emergency call was real, the situation rapidly escalates as the LAPD comes in force and surrounds the Nakatomi Building with a large SWAT force. However, Gruber is not too concerned: although the police responded somewhat sooner than he planned thanks to McClane's interference, the police are a necessary and unwitting part of Gruber's plan. As part of that plan, Gruber contacts the police with a list of difficult demands such as the release of various real terrorists he has no connection with and has only read about in the news to stall them. After he finishes with his bogus demands, Gruber gives Karl the order to hunt down McClane.

    Meanwhile, the SWAT team, led by Deputy Chief Dwayne Robinson (Paul Gleason) arrives to storm the building. However, Theo monitors their movements on the security feed and alerts Gruber. Talking furiously to Powell, McClane attempts Robinson to stop the SWAT team from walking into a trap, but Powell cannot convince Robinson or the SWAT chief. The SWAT team is repelled, the SWAT armoured vehicle is disabled by a rocket launcher, and the police are out-gunned by the firepower of the terrorists and their strategic spots in the building. To stop two of Gruber's men from continuing to fire rockets upon the disabled SWAT armored car, McClane drops C4 down the elevator shaft and blows out the entire floor where the terrorists are planted, giving the cops a chance to retreat. By this time the news media are on the scene, led by sleazy reporter Richard Thornberg (William Atherton), and the FBI, led by Special Agent Johnson (Robert Davi) and his partner, Special Agent Johnson (Grand L. Bush) arrive to commandeer the situation. As they make their plans to shut down Hans and his crew, Thornberg discovers who McClane really is and that his wife lives in the area. He goes to Holly's house and, after threatening Holly's Latina housekeeper with deportation, interviews the McClane children on live TV.

    As the remainder of Gruber's men attempt to find McClane and the detonators, one of the hostages, Harry Ellis (Hart Bochner), believing he can negotiate with Hans, betrays McClane's identity, claiming they're old friends. Gruber suddenly breaks into a conversation between Powell and McClane, telling McClane he knows who he is, and demands that his adversary return the detonators or else he will kill Ellis. McClane refuses to surrender, pleading with Ellis to stop their dialog because Ellis doesn't understand the predicament he's put himself in. Gruber kills Ellis, to the horror of the police who have been listening in. McClane continues to keep moving through the building to learn more about Gruber's plans. McClane and Gruber accidentally meet but Gruber gains McClane's trust by passing himself off as an escaped hostage. McClane hands Gruber his pistol and tells him to stay close while they look for a way out of the building. Gruber then contacts his henchmen while pointing the pistol at McClane. When he pulls the trigger, it clicks on an empty chamber. McClane scoffs at Gruber's attempt to kill him just as Gruber's men arrive, opening fire immediately and pinning McClane down in a room full of computer terminals and glass-walled offices. Gruber suddenly gets an idea to shoot out all the glass in the room, making it treacherous for McClane to find a way out while he's barefoot. McClane flees anyway, dropping the bag containing the detonators. Gruber happily retrieves the bag however Karl is still furious that McClane got away.

    A few minutes later, while hiding in a nearby men's room, McClane talks to Powell while removing a large piece of glass embedded in his foot. McClane asks Powell about his past and Powell reveals that he hasn't had the nerve to draw his pistol in the line of duty in several years because he shot a young boy who pointed a toy pistol at him. McClane wraps his foot in his tank top and tells Powell to contact Holly after the ordeal is over and let her know he loves her. Powell tells McClane to hang in and that his fellow officers even have a betting pool going on him. McClane sets out for the roof, curious as to why Gruber was snooping around there when he found him.

    The two overzealous FBI agents play their final card by shutting off the building's power while they plan a helicopter raid onto the roof. However, Gruber had planned for the FBI's predictability - disconnecting the power has shut down the final electromagnetic lock on the vault and given him access to the bonds. McClane, inspecting the top level, finds out Gruber has used the recovered detonators to rig the helipad on the building's roof with explosives. Gruber plans to demand helicopters to carry himself, his men and the hostages to a waiting plane at an airport. After the FBI informs Gruber that his demands have been met, Gruber's men force the hostages to the roof to be killed by the explosions, so they can escape in the confusion. McClane, after fighting off Karl and failing to warn the police of the Gruber's doublecross, is able to get the hostages back inside safely, but the FBI helicopter shoots at him, believing he's one of the terrorists. The helipad explodes, the helicopter is destroyed and both Johnsons are killed. McClane escapes again by jumping from the roof with a fire hose tied around his waist. He shoots out a window a few stories down and swings himself inside to safety.

    Gruber has discovered from Thornberg's newscast that Holly Gennaro is McClane's wife. He holds her hostage to prevent McClane from interfering in his getaway. McClane, down to his last two bullets, is able to lull Gruber into a trap; he surrenders with his pistol taped to his back. He draws quickly, killing the last remaining henchman, Eddie, and shoots Gruber through the chest, who falls backwards and out of the building through a window. Gruber manages to hang onto Holly's wristwatch, his weight dragging her out the window as well. McClane is able to unstrap the watch and lets Gruber fall to his death. Meanwhile, Theo is knocked unconscious by Argyle, while preparing their getaway vehicle, an ambulance, in the parking garage. McClane and Holly leave the building together, and meet Powell for the first time. Karl, posing as an injured survivor, bursts out behind McClane and Holly with his assault rifle, but Powell draws and shoots him before he can harm McClane and Holly. Thornberg attempts to interview them as they are leaving the scene, Holly punches him in the face for broadcasting his interview with their kids. McClane and Holly leave in Argyle's limo as the building is secured by the police.

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