10 Die Hard Movies That Aren’t Die Hard Movies

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Cliffhanger (1993)

Director: Renny Harlin (Die Hard 2: Die Harder, The Long Kiss Goodnight)
Villain’s agenda: Recovery of stolen money
Overlooked hero? Yes – they thought he was dead, but he’s a resilient bastard.
Yippee-Ki-Yay Moment: "Keep your arms and legs inside the vehicle at all times!"

Proving that the Die Hard formula needn’t necessarily be restricted to claustrophobic indoor settings, Cliffhanger plonks mountain-rescue boy Sylvester Stallone on the side of a snowy edifice. The job he’s lumbered with is foiling John Lithgow’s plan to steal $100m from the US treasury, the money having been deposited in the Rockies after a mid-air transfer went somewhat awry. Deaths are by gun, gravity, drowning and stalactite. And it’s not all snow; there are caves too. Amusingly, Lithgow goes with a hammy British accent for his ex-US Military Intelligence officer.

See also:

  • IcebreakerDie Hard in a ski resort, with Sean Astin and Bruce Campbell
  • CrackerjackDie Hard in a ski resort, with Thomas Ian Griffith and Christopher Plummer
  • FirestormDie Hard in a forest, with Howie Long and William Forsythe

Toy Soldiers (1991)

Director: Daniel Petrie Jr (Writer of Beverly Hills Cop)
Villain’s agenda: Release of his father from extradition to the US
Overlooked hero? More underestimated than overlooked
Yippee-Ki-Yay Moment: "Fuck my father and fuck you too!"

This is a weird collision of Die Hard with something like Dead Poets Society. A school for the sons of the wealthy is targeted by Andrew Divoff as a likely source of hostages, and it’s up to a plucky gang of upper class reprobates – led by Sean Astin and Will Wheaton – to upset his plans. Luckily, despite being posh boys, they have a bit of a problem with authority. Louis Gossett, Jr., R. Lee Ermey and Denholm Elliott are among the adults on the right side of the law.

See also:

  • Demolition HighDie Hard in a school, with Corey Haim

Under Siege (1992)

Director: Andrew Davis (Nico, The Fugitive)
Villain’s agenda: Theft and sale of nuclear weapons; revenge against the CIA
Overlooked hero? Yes: he was in a freezer in the kitchen
Yippee-Ki-Yay Moment: "Keep the faith!"

Steven Seagal’s already increasing corpulence is given some narrative justification here: he’s a chef. But, luckily he’s a badass chef who used to be a Navy SEAL, which means he has the skills (and indeed the skillets) both to pay the bills and to take down mad, counter-culture CIA rogue agent Tommy Lee Jones. Helping him in his quest to decimate henchmen and get back to his pots and pans is Baywatch star Erika Eleniak, who sadly forgot her clothes. Die Hard in this case lends not only a plot structure but also a major setpiece, where Seagal’s stuntman jumps away from an explosion with something tied round him.

See also:

  • Under Siege 2: Dark TerritoryDie Hard on a train, with Seagal and Eric Bogosian
  • Crash DiveDie Hard on a submarine, with Michael Dudikoff and Frederic Forrest
  • Counter MeasuresDie Hard on a different submarine with Michael Dudikoff again

No Contest (1995)

Director: Paul Lynch (Prom Night, No Contest 2)
Villain’s agenda: Hostage taking and extortion
Overlooked heroine: Yes: because she’s a woman! ZOMG!
Yippee-Ki-Yay Moment: "You better wipe your lip - there's a trace of venom showing."

Yup, even Shannon Tweed made a Die Hard, and that’s not even a fnar-fnar pun about one of her erotic masterworks. Nobody gets their kit off in this, and it even has Die Hard alumni Robert Davi in it. We’d make a joke about him firing his agent, but he’s actually been in much worse. The set-up here is that Tweed is the hostess of the Miss Galaxy beauty contest, who turns out to be "Bruce Lee with boobs" (yes, someone actually says that line) when a hostage-taking gang shows up. Hate comedian Andrew "Dice" Clay plays lead villain Oz to reasonable effect – he’s a cock, obviously, but he can deliver a sneery line and he’s self-aware enough to play up to a crap movie – and he’s henched, though you may not believe it, by none other than "Rowdy" Roddy Fucking Piper. He doesn’t make this good, but it’s always nice to see him.

See also:

  • No Contest 2Die Hard in a museum, with Tweed, Lance Henriksen and Bruce Payne

Sudden Death (1995)

Director: Peter Hyams (Outland, Timecop)
Villain’s agenda: Ransom of US Vice President
Overlooked hero? Not really: there are plenty of uncontained people in the stadium, but he’s the only one that’s rumbled something’s up
Yippee-Ki-Yay Moment: "You lose, pal."

Jean-Claude Van Damme’s McClane cipher in this film even gets a similar name: he’s called McCord. He’s the fire marshal in the Pittsburgh Civic Arena during a playoff final between the Penguins and the Chicago Blackhawks, which as fate would have it is also the event Powers Booth has chosen for his exceptional kidnap and ransom scheme. Van Damme’s second film in a row with Peter Hyams (after Timecop), Sudden Death is ruined by the presence of really irritating children, and redeemed by a protracted ending where various people hang off things. But any film where Van Damme fights a woman in a giant cartoon Penguin outfit just about pays its way.

See also:

  • DerailedDie Hard on a train, with Van Damme again

Speed (1994)

Director: Jan De Bont (Cinematographer on Die Hard)
Villain’s agenda: Extortion backed up by elaborate bomb threats.
Overlooked hero? No: he’s targeted deliberately by the villain.
Yippee-Ki-Yay Moment: "Yeah? Well I’m taller!"

Included here more because it’s generally perceived as Die-Hard-On-A-Bus, and we wanted to demonstrate that that’s kind of erroneous. Firstly, it’s on a bus, and in a lift and on a train. Secondly, our hero Keanu Reeves isn’t there by accident. And thirdly, he’s not offing bad guys one-by-one. Not Die Hard in the slightest then: it’s more along the lines of a disaster movie. But lest we forget, Die Hard itself was a kind of tweaked Towering Inferno concept, and Speed’s Die Harditude also comes from its relentless narrative, the prolonged enclosure in the bus-bound section, and by Dennis Hopper’s scenery-chewing villain. Like Grunge sweeping away Hair Metal, Speed shook the action genre up for a while, to the extent that people called Die Hard With a Vengeance "Speed in New York".

See also:

  • Speed 2: Cruise ControlDie Hard on a really slow cruise ship, with Jason Patrick instead of Keanu
  • Dirty Harry – For the section that became the whole of Die Hard With a Vengeance, where Andrew Robinson gives Clint the runaround
  • Daylight – Disaster movie-tinged Die Hard in a tunnel, with Stallone

Command Performance (2009)

Director: Dolph Lundgren (The Defender, The Mechanik)
Villain’s agenda: Revenge against the Russian president
Overlooked hero? Yes: he was getting stoned in the toilet
Yippee-Ki-Yay Moment: "I guess the show’s over."

This is a latecomer to the cycle; it’s only three years old. What we have here is Dolph Lundgren (who also directed) as the drummer in a rock band, maneuvered into position as all-round day-saver when terrorists invade a Soviet concert venue. His band CMF (Cheap Mother Fuckers) are a sort of post-grunge affair, opening for a dance pop star (kind of like Turbowolf opening for Jessie J) which doesn’t bear much scrutiny, but hey, it’s Russia. It turns out that Dolph is an ex-Hell’s Angel who had sworn off violence. Thankfully that doesn’t last long.

Airheads (1994)

Director: Michael Lehmann (Heathers, Hudson Hawk)
Villain’s agenda: Airplay
Overlooked hero: Sort of
Yippee-Ki-Yay Moment: "I ain’t lip-syncing, man!"

A wild card since it’s a comedy rather than an action movie, but Airheads turns out to be a stealth Die Hard, to the extent that it was even filmed around the Fox/Nakatomi Plaza. In an inversion of the formula, our heroes are the "terrorists": in this case a lame rock band – The Lone Rangers, comprising Adam Sandler, Steve Buscemi and Brendan Fraser – staging a stunt to take a radio station hostage to get their demo some exposure. Police and crowds gather outside as the situation gets out of hand, and Doug Beech (Michael Richards), the station’s accountant, overlooked by the boys, starts talking to the cops on a stolen radio and crawling around in the air ducts. He’s not quite as effective as Bruce Willis.

Passenger 57 (1992)

Director: Kevin Hooks (Fled, Black Dog)
Villain’s agenda: Escaping the FBI
Overlooked hero? Yes: he was in the toilet
Yippee-Ki-Yay Moment: "Always bet on black!"

In which Wesley Snipes, as ex-cop John Cutter, boards a flight that will shortly be hijacked by Bruce Payne as Charles Rane, "The Rane of Terror", which is probably the best joke in the movie. Shorter than most flights from the UK to France, Passenger 57 manages to be completely bland, despite the awesome Snipes and the scene-stealing Payne. It was a huge hit though, kicking off Snipes’ action career. Without this, there might be no Blade, so for that, perhaps we should thank it.

See also:

  • Air Force OneDie Hard on a plane, with Harrison Ford and Gary Oldman
  • Executive DecisionDie Hard on a plane, with Kurt Russell, Steven Seagal and David Suchet
  • Con Air – although it doesn’t spend its whole time on the plane

Point Blank (1998)

Director: Matt Earl Beesley (Second unit director on Braveheart)
Villain’s agenda: Buying his freedom with hostages
Overlooked hero? No, he’s sent in
Yippee-Ki-Yay Moment: None – Rourke barely speaks in this film.

One from Mickey Rourke’s doldrum days, he made this a year after playing the villain in Van Damme’s Double Team. There’s nothing anywhere near as mental here as Rourke’s Double Team tiger-fight in the Roman amphitheatre full of landmines, but he does get to back-flip down a corridor to avoid a hail of bullets. The situation here is that Danny Trejo – on particularly crazed form as Rourke’s evil twin – has taken over a Texas shopping mall, as the muscle for mastermind Paul Ben-Victor. Rourke, who used to be a Texas Ranger and a mercenary and a military advisor in Sierra Leone, goes in for a reunion. Point Blank is not to be confused with the Lee Marvin film of the same name. Because it’s shit.