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Every Die Hard Movie Ranked Worst To Best

Yippee Ki-Yay, mother — well, you know the rest. "Die Hard" is an iconic action movie franchise which currently spans five films and combines sly one-liners with explosive action sequences. The original "Die Hard" took Bruce Willis from major TV star to major movie star and set a precedent for big budget epics that would influence action movie filmmaking for the next decade. Its cultural impact has been wide, with references to the film series popping up in productions as different as 2012's big-screen remake of Fox's "21 Jump Street" and NBC's "Brooklyn Nine-Nine."

Which of the series' five films is the absolute worst and which is the best? We've endeavored to rank the entire "Die Hard" franchise from bottom to top using both our humble opinion and such metrics as audience scores from Rotten Tomatoes and IMDb. Beware the shattered glass sprinkled across the floor, keep and eye out for rogue German terrorists with guns, and let's get down to business.

A Good Day to Die Hard (2013)

At the very bottom of the pile lies "A Good Day to Die Hard" (2013), the latest entry into the series. It holds a 40% audience approval score on Rotten Tomatoes, and a 5.3 on IMDb, with a Rotten Tomato critical consensus of only 13% fresh. While the film grossed $304 million worldwide on a $92 million budget (per Box Office Mojo), its reputation with critics and fans has never recovered and it remains the least popular installment of the series.

"A Good Day to Die Hard" tries its hardest to drag Detective John McClane (Bruce Willis) into the 2010s, but instead it puts him on a plane to Russia and crams him into dozens of implausibly-shot action sequences, each duller than the last. Worse, Jai Courtney has negative screen chemistry with Willis as McClane's son, Jack. 

John McClane the younger has grown up to become an undercover CIA operative. When he's arrested after an assassination attempt gone wrong, he tries to protect his cover by offering testimony against Yuri Komarov (Sebastian Koch), the government whistleblower he's been assigned to protect. Seeking to extricate his child and concerned that he's gone rogue, John travels to Russia. The twosome subsequently team up to protect Yuri against a corrupt Moscow official named Viktor Chagarin (Sergei Kolesnikov), who wants Yuri eliminated before he can inform the CIA. 

Chagarin is a pale echo of Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman), and the film is a pale echo of better "Die Hard" films. The resultant product is flat, with Willis displaying little of his characteristic sparkle between gun fights, making "A Good Day to Die Hard" an eminently skippable installment.

Die Hard 2 (1990)

We know — this is probably a controversial choice, but "Die Hard 2" (1990) comes in at fourth place on this list. With an audience score that reaches 70% fresh at Rotten Tomatoes and a 7.1 approval rating at IMDb, fans and critics have dinged this big-budget sequel for copying the best plot points of "Die Hard" without adding many fresh twists to its formula. McClane's tense race against time to end a hostage crisis before hundreds of innocent plane passengers die at least boosts this one above "A Good Day to Die Hard."

"Die Hard 2" moves the film's action from the compact environs of California's Nakatomi Plaza to the expansive Dulles International Airport. John McClane is there waiting for his wife, Holly (Bonnie Bedelia), to fly in from Los Angeles on Christmas Eve when he notes two men in military uniforms behaving suspiciously. McClane has unwittingly wandered in the middle of a terrorist plot hatched by Colonel William Stuart (William Sadler) to free drug lord General Ramon Esperanza (Franco Nero) from American custody before he can face extradition on drug trafficking charges. Jamming communication between the airport's radio control towers and planes still in mid-flight, the terrorists cut its runway lights and demand a jet so they can fly Esperanza out of the country. 

The movie does boast two interesting deviations from the first film. One pits Holly against reckless journalist Dick Thornburg (William Atherton). The second is a truly over-the-top final sequence in which McClane jams the engine of a 747 with his winter coat, then dukes it out with Stuart on the terrorists on wing of the distressed plane. It's both memorable and highly improbable in the most delightful way.

Live Free or Die Hard (2007)

Who says you can't teach an old action protagonist new tricks? "Live Free or Die Hard" (2007) picks up McClane's life over a decade after we last saw him and doesn't miss a beat. The film boasts an 86% percent fresh audience approval score at Rotten Tomatoes and a critical score of 82%, making it the first "Fresh" entry in the franchise to make this list. Like "Die Hard 2," it also has a 7.1 audience score on IMDb. The film is loaded with well-shot action pieces and some of the best supporting work in the franchise's history from an ensemble of talented actors.

Much of what makes "Live Free or Die Hard" fun is the chemistry between Willis and Justin Long. Long portrays Matt Farrell, a young hacker who attempts to help McClane prevent former Defense Department analyst and current cyber terrorist Thomas Gabriel (Timothy Olyphant) from triggering a "fire sale" that will shut down the American infrastructure on the Fourth of July. The perpetually nervy Long shows a surprisingly smooth side to his acting persona over the course of the movie, and he bounces easily off of the perpetually wry Willis.

The supporting cast only adds to the film's enjoyability factor, with Maggie Q making a wonderful henchwoman for Gabriel as Mai Linh. Olyphant already had his credentials in villainy locked down after portraying Mickey Altieri in "Scream 2," and in "Live free or Die Hard" he takes those chops to a fresh level and give a performance that radiates a feral sort of intensity. Add in a supporting role for actor/director Kevin Smith as a hacker named Warlock and Mary Elizabeth Winstead making her first appearance as John's daughter, Lucy, and you have a fun way to spend an afternoon.

Die Hard with a Vengence (1995)

The flawlessly cast "Die Hard with a Vengeance" (1995) would be an incredibly interesting film even if it weren't the third entry in a blockbuster franchise. It's a movie that has the courage to completely deconstruct the seemingly invincible John McClane and partners him up with a Harlem-based electrician, then plunges both men into a deadly game of "Simon says."

In the five years since "Die Hard 2," McClane has fallen from grace. He's been drummed out of the police force, divorced from Holly, estranged from his kids, and is an alcoholic. Then, someone sets off a bomb in New York's Bonwit Teller department store. The man who claims responsibility refuses to speak to anyone but McClane, who is reluctantly put on the case. The man on the other end of the line tells John that they're going to play a game of "Simon says" — and if McClane fails any tasks given to him, another bomb will go off.

Enter Zeus Carver, who finds himself swept up into McClane's latest adventure. Samuel L. Jackson and Bruce Willis have such a natural repartee with one another that we could watch them read the phone book out loud. As McClane and Zeus, they carry between them a sense of uneasy mistrust that dissolves into a mutual sense of respect. The road there is fraught and fascinating, and unlike anything you're likely to have seen in an action film.

Providing the cool to Jackson and Willis' heat is the chilly Jeremy Irons as the mysterious Simon, whose connection back to the first film makes a wonderful amount of sense. With an 83% percent audience approval score at Rotten Tomatoes and 7.6 at IMDb, it continues to stand the test of time.

Die Hard (1988)

To paraphrase Sidney Prescott in "Scream 4," don't mess with the original. "Die Hard" is a fondly remembered action blockbuster for a reason. Balancing Willis with the sophisticated, chilly villainy of Alan Rickman's Hans Gruber in a high-stakes fight to keep the terrorist from blowing Nakatomi Plaza sky-high is pure genius. Fan reactions back this up — it sits at 94% at Rotten Tomatoes with an identical critical score. Fans at IMDb have given it an 8.2, both the highest scores the franchise has earned on either website.

McClane is both a perfect action protagonist and an everyman who just wanted to work out his troubled marriage to his estranged wife Holly. He attends her company's Christmas party in the hope of cementing their reunion, but a group of German terrorists burst in and ruins their plans. McClane quickly realizes he's the only person there who knows how to diffuse the hostage crisis that ensues, but he has to battle the odds, a lack of immediate reinforcements, and some surprisingly bright counter-moves from his antagonists to get there.

Rickman is a perfect foil for Willis: efficient, brilliant and icy. Willis makes walking through a field of broken glass and crawling up an air vent look like both the hardest and the easiest things to do in the world. Able support is provided by Bedelia and Reginald VelJohnson as Sergeant Al Powell, who becomes McClane's only contact with the outside world. The incredibly compact and tightly-plotted action yarn lacks an ounce of extra fat on it.

There's only one question left to ask: Is "Die Hard" a Christmas movie? Two of the five films in the franchise take place during the holiday season, after all. With this list now complete, let the debate begin.