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Die Hard 2

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Die Hard 2
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRenny Harlin
Screenplay by
Based on
Produced by
CinematographyOliver Wood
Edited by
Music byMichael Kamen
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
  • July 4, 1990 (1990-07-04)
Running time
124 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$62–70 million[1][2][3]
Box office$240 million[1]

Die Hard 2 (also known by its tagline Die Harder or Die Hard 2: Die Harder)[Note 1] is a 1990 American action thriller film directed by Renny Harlin, written by Steven E. de Souza and Doug Richardson, co-produced by Joel Silver, and starring Bruce Willis[4] as John McClane alongside Bonnie Bedelia, William Sadler, Art Evans, William Atherton, Franco Nero, Dennis Franz, Fred Thompson, John Amos, and Reginald VelJohnson. The second installment in the Die Hard film series, the film was released on July 4, 1990, in the United States.

As with the first film, the action in Die Hard 2 takes place on Christmas Eve. McClane is waiting for his wife to land at Washington Dulles International Airport when terrorists take over the air traffic control system. He must stop the terrorists before his wife's plane and several other incoming flights that are circling the airport run out of fuel and crash. During the night, McClane must also contend with airport police and a military commander, none of whom want his assistance.

The film was released to generally positive reviews with critics praising the film's action and tone while criticizing elements of the plot. Die Hard 2 was a major box-office success, grossing $240 million and doubling the earnings of its predecessor and finishing as the year's seventh-highest-grossing film. The film was preceded by Die Hard (1988) and followed by Die Hard with a Vengeance (1995), Live Free or Die Hard (2007), and A Good Day to Die Hard (2013).


On Christmas Eve, two years after the events of the previous film,[Note 2] John McClane is now a lieutenant with the LAPD, who arrives at Dulles International Airport to pick up his wife, Holly. Meanwhile, a plane carrying corrupt foreign military leader General Ramon Esperanza is also headed to Dulles under extradition for using U.S. funds to buy drugs.

Waiting to meet Esperanza's plane is disgraced former Colonel William Stuart and a group of ex-military sympathizers who supported Esperanza's actions. Suspicious, McClane follows two of Stuart's men into a restricted baggage sorting area where a gun fight ensues. He kills one man, but the other escapes.

With the help of his friend Sergeant Al Powell, he discovers that the dead man's fingerprints correspond to an American soldier who died in a helicopter accident two years earlier. Putting this together with Esperanza's imminent arrival, McClane reports his concerns to the ill-tempered airport police chief, Carmine Lorenzo, and air traffic control director Ed Trudeau, but neither believes him.

Later, they are convinced when Stuart and his men, operating out of a church on the outskirts of the airport, cut all communications with incoming airplanes, disable all runway lighting, and demand that Esperanza's plane be allowed to land without interference. Under Stuart's direction, Trudeau orders all air traffic controllers to have all planes in Dulles airspace hold in the air despite their low fuel warnings.

McClane becomes worried about Holly's plane and enlists the help of the airport janitor Marvin to fight back. Chief airport engineer Leslie Barnes decides to try using an unfinished antenna array to communicate with the stranded circling airplanes. Lorenzo sends an airport SWAT team with him, but Stuart's men kill them all and destroy the antenna. Barnes is saved by McClane, who kills Stuart's men in turn.

In retaliation, Stuart crashes a British airplane killing everyone on board by impersonating air traffic control and faking the airplane's altimeter reading by recalibrating sea level. Once Esperanza's plane lands, McClane wounds Esperanza before Stuart and his men arrive. They blow up the plane and take Esperanza to the church, but fail to kill McClane. A U.S. Special Forces team arrives, led by Major Grant, of whom Stuart is a protégé.

Grant's men and McClane attack the church. McClane kills one of Stuart's men and gives chase with his gun, but the mercenaries escape on snowmobiles. McClane follows but his vehicle is destroyed by gunfire. Confused as to why he failed to wound anyone, McClane realizes the gun was filled with blanks, meaning the earlier firefight was staged and Grant's team are secretly cooperating with Stuart.

Grant, Stuart, their men, and Esperanza all rendezvous at an airport hangar, where a Boeing 747 that they demanded is waiting for them. On Holly's flight, arrogant reporter Richard Thornburg becomes suspicious as to why the plane has not landed. He taps into the cockpit communications and records an earlier surreptitious transmission from Barnes to all the circling airplanes describing the situation. From the airplane's lavatory, Richard broadcasts the recording live on television, leading to a panic in the airport terminal which prevents McClane and Lorenzo from getting to the 747. Holly subdues Thornburg with a fellow passenger's stun gun.

McClane asks a news crew to fly him via helicopter to intercept the 747. McClane jumps onto the wing and uses his coat to jam the aileron, preventing the plane from taking off. During a fistfight, Grant is killed when McClane kicks him into a jet engine. While fighting Stuart, McClane opens a fuel valve in the engine pylon just as Stuart kicks him off the wing. McClane uses a cigarette lighter to ignite the fuel trail, exploding the plane and killing everyone on board. The fire trail also serves as a landing guide for all airborne aircraft, including Holly's, to land safely.

After McClane and Holly are reunited, Marvin picks them up in his airport cart and drives them away.


Additional cast members include Colonel Stuart's hitmen: Don Harvey as Garber, John Costelloe as Sergeant Oswald Cochrane, Vondie Curtis-Hall as Miller, John Leguizamo as Burke, Robert Patrick as O'Reilly, Tom Verica as Kahn, Tony Ganios as Baker, Michael Cunningham as Sheldon, Peter Nelson as Thompson, Ken Baldwin as Mulkey, and Mark Boone Junior as Shockley. Patrick O'Neal appears as Telford, Major Grant's radio operator.


Development and writing[edit]

Evergreen Boeing 747 (registration N473EV) used in the film
Filming of the Dulles airport concourse scenes took place in the Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX.

The screenplay was adapted from Walter Wager's 1987 novel 58 Minutes. The novel has the same plot but differs slightly: a police officer must stop terrorists who take an airport hostage while his daughter's plane circles overhead, and has 58 minutes to do so before the plane crashes. Roderick Thorp, who wrote the 1979 novel Nothing Lasts Forever, upon which Die Hard was based, receives credit for creating "certain original characters", although his name is misspelled onscreen as "Roderick Thorpe".

One of the writers of the screenplay, Steven E. de Souza, later admitted in an interview for the book Action Speaks Louder: Violence, Spectacle, and the American Action Movie that the villains were based on America's "Central American" meddling, primarily the Iran–Contra affair.[5]

The film was originally budgeted at $40 million.[6] Bruce Willis was paid $7.5 million for reprising his role for the film.[7][8] Producer Joel Silver was accused of profligate spending and it was claimed the film cost $62–70 million.[9][6] Fox domestic distribution president Tom Sherak dismissed the $70 million claim as "absurd".[6] It was reported at the end of filming that Silver had been relieved of day-to-day producing duties.[10]

Scenes of Dulles airport in the snow were to be filmed in Denver but filming was scrapped due to warm weather. Some outdoor scenes were filmed in Alpena, Michigan, while others needing to accommodate the landing of the 747 with snow were filmed at former Kincheloe Air Force Base in Kincheloe, Michigan.[11] Other scenes were filmed on a soundstage in Los Angeles using fake snow.[10]

Die Hard 2 was the first film to use digitally composited live-action footage with a traditional matte painting that had been photographed and scanned into a computer. It was used for the last scene, which took place on a runway.[12]

According to Franco Nero, Silver got the idea to cast him after he saw movie posters of Nero hanging in the office of their mutual accountant. Nero did not want to do Die Hard 2 because he did not like the script and he had committed to do the film Breath of Life. Finally, Silver scheduled Nero's scenes in such a way that the actor could do both films.[13]



In a trailer for the film screened during Christmas 1989, the film had a planned release date of June 29, 1990. This was brought forward to June 22; however, following claims of the film running over time and budget, the release date was pushed back two weeks to July 4.[6]

Home media[edit]

The film debuted on video in the United States on January 31, 1991, and it was the most rented video in its first week above Navy SEALs[14] and sold a record 505,000 units for rental.[15]

The film became available on DVD on March 9, 1999, followed by a 2-Disc Special Edition DVD on July 10, 2001, as part of the Die Hard Ultimate Collection DVD and re-released again in early 2005 as a Widescreen Edition and June 19, 2007, followed by a Blu-ray release on November 20, 2007, and a re-release on January 29, 2013.[16]


Box office[edit]

Die Hard 2 exceeded all expectations by outdoing the box-office success of Die Hard.[17] The film had the largest pre-opening, earning $3.7 million from 1,828 theaters. For six years, it would hold this record until it was surpassed by Independence Day in 1996.[18] It had a wide release in 2,507 theaters in the United States and Canada, grossing $21.7 million its opening weekend.[19] Die Hard 2 went on to gross $117.5 million in the United States and Canada, and $122.5 million internationally, earning over $240 million worldwide,[1] almost doubling that of Die Hard. The film was re-released internationally in 1993 and made $216,339 more, which totaled its gross to $240.2 million.[1]

Critical response[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes, Die Hard 2 has an approval rating of 69% based on 68 reviews, with an average rating of 6.3/10. The site's critical consensus reads: "It lacks the fresh thrills of its predecessor, but Die Hard 2 still works as an over-the-top – and reasonably taut – big-budget sequel, with plenty of set pieces to paper over the plot deficiencies."[20] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 67 out of 100, based on 17 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[21] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A" on an A+ to F scale.[22]

Roger Ebert, who gave the original film a mixed review, described the sequel as "terrific entertainment", despite noting substantial credibility problems with the plot.[23] Jay Boyar of the Orlando Sentinel dubbed the film as being as disappointing a sequel as Another 48 Hrs. and RoboCop 2, and said,

Whatever small pleasure there is to be found in this loud dud is due mostly to the residual good feelings from the first film... As played by Bruce Willis, McClane is still an engaging character, even if he is much less amusingly drawn this time. Willis is in there trying, but the qualities that helped to make his character sympathetic in the first film are missing. McClane no longer worries openly about his personal safety, as he did in the original movie. His quasi-cowboy personality from Die Hard is all but forgotten – he has become more of a Rambo and less of a Roy Rogers. And though the filmmakers try to establish McClane as resistant to advanced technology, this promising idea isn't developed.[24]

Empire magazine rated the film three out of five stars, while stating, "It's entertaining nonsense that doesn't quite manage to recapture the magic of the original. Still, there are some nice moments here, and Willis is on solid ground as the iconic McClane."[25]

Gene Siskel ranked the film as the sixth best movie of 1990.[26][27] Maxim magazine ranked the film's plane crash #2 on its list of "Greatest Movie Plane Crashes".[28]


  1. ^ The film's onscreen title is Die Hard 2, as also given at the initial home-video release's official website. The film's original advertising used "Die Harder" as a tagline, and many releases of the film (e.g. the 2006 DVD release and 2007 Blu-ray release) were marketed under the title Die Hard 2: Die Harder.
  2. ^ There is a deleted scene included with the DVD and Blu-ray versions of the film where McClane tells Marvin the janitor "This is how I spent Christmas last year", which seems to suggest that, given the release date of the first film, Die Hard 2 takes place during Christmas 1989. However, given the various references to the 1990s in the film (including the featured episode of The Simpsons, "There's No Disgrace Like Home", being released in 1990), and the scene in question having been removed, the film can be assumed to take place during Christmas 1990.


  1. ^ a b c d e "Die Hard 2". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved April 22, 2022.
  2. ^ "Bruce Willis: Where Am I?". Newsweek. Retrieved April 20, 2020. ...What did they spend that reported $62 million on making 'Die Hard 2'?
  3. ^ Greenburg, James (May 26, 1991). "Film; Why the 'Hudson Hawk' Budget Soared So High". The New York Times. Retrieved May 1, 2020. ...'Die Hard 2' (1990), which also ran over budget and wound up costing a reported $70 million.
  4. ^ Heritage, Stuart (June 21, 2013). "Die Hard 2 recap: 'Insane bloodlust, gratuitous profanity, zero logic'". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved April 22, 2020.
  5. ^ Action Speaks Louder: Violence, Spectacle, and the American Action Movie, page 165
  6. ^ a b c d "Fox Pushing 'Hard' Bow Back 2 Weeks". Daily Variety. May 14, 1990. p. 1.
  7. ^ Die Hard 2 at the AFI Catalog of Feature Films
  8. ^ "Battle of the Biceps". People Magazine. Retrieved April 16, 2020.
  9. ^ Easton, Nina J. (September 5, 1990). "Hollywood's Summer of Love : Romantic 'Ghost' Outguns Macho Movies to Become Season's Biggest Hit". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 16, 2012.
  10. ^ a b Fleming, Charles (April 25, 1990). "Rush hour for summer pix". Variety. p. 1.
  11. ^ "From Sonic Boom, to Die Hard 2". Soo Today.
  12. ^ Leonard, Matt. "The History of Computer Graphics and Effects". Ohio State University Department of Industrial Interior and Visual Design. Archived from the original on May 17, 2007. Retrieved July 10, 2009.
  13. ^ "Franco Nero interview". THE FLASHBACK FILES. Retrieved February 23, 2021.
  14. ^ "Top 50 Video Titles". Variety. February 11, 1991. p. 35.
  15. ^ Berman, Marc (January 6, 1992). "Rentals Reap Bulk of 1991 Vid Harvest". Variety. p. 22.
  16. ^ "Die Hard 2 DVD Release Date". DVDs Release Dates. Retrieved May 22, 2018.
  17. ^ Tom Sherak (commentator) (May 19, 1995). Die Hard with a Vengeance (DVD). Beverly Hills, California: 20th Century Fox. Event occurs at 35:12. Die Hard 2 actually, as I recall, did better than Die Hard 1, which is very unusual. Sequels normally do about 65% of their original, but this one just exploded.
  18. ^ "Aliens Arrive! And a Nation Stands in Line : 'Independence Day' Tops $11 Million, Making Movie History". Los Angeles Times. July 4, 1996.
  19. ^ "SPIKE, DOING THE SHREWD THING". The Washington Post.
  20. ^ "Die Hard 2". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved October 5, 2021. Edit this at Wikidata
  21. ^ "Die Hard 2". Metacritic. Fandom, Inc. Retrieved April 22, 2022.
  22. ^ "CinemaScore". CinemaScore. Archived from the original on April 13, 2022. Retrieved April 16, 2022.
  23. ^ Ebert, Roger (July 3, 1990). "Die Hard 2: Die Harder (Review)". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved January 1, 2020.
  24. ^ Boyar, Jay (July 3, 1990). "'Die Hard' – 2nd Time Around The Mayhem Misses Mark In 'Harder'". Orlando Sentinel. Florida. Archived from the original on November 4, 2016. Retrieved July 30, 2016.
  25. ^ Thomas, William (October 14, 2015). "Die Hard 2 Review". Empire. Retrieved July 30, 2016.
  26. ^ "Gene Siskel's Top Ten Lists 1969–1998". Alumnus.caltech.edu. February 20, 1999. Archived from the original on July 17, 2011. Retrieved July 30, 2016.
  27. ^ "Siskel and Ebert Top Ten Lists (1969–1998)". Innermind.com. May 3, 2012. Retrieved July 30, 2016.
  28. ^ "The Greatest Movie Plane Crashes". Maxim. Archived from the original on September 30, 2009. Retrieved August 8, 2009.

External links[edit]