Die Hard 2

Die Hard 2

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Renny Harlin
Produced by
Screenplay by
Based on 58 Minutes by
Walter Wager
Characters by
Roderick Thorp
Music by Michael Kamen
Cinematography Oliver Wood
Edited by
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release dates
  • July 4, 1990 (1990-07-04)
Running time
123 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $70 million[1]
Box office $240 million[1]

Die Hard 2 (sometimes referred to as Die Hard 2: Die Harder)[2] is a 1990 American action film and the second entry in the Die Hard film series. It was released on July 4, 1990. The film was directed by Renny Harlin, written by Steven E. deSouza and Doug Richardson, and stars Bruce Willis as John McClane. The film co-stars Bonnie Bedelia (reprising her role as Holly McClane), William Sadler, Art Evans, William Atherton (reprising his role as Richard "Dick" Thornburg), Franco Nero, Dennis Franz, Fred Thompson, John Amos, and Reginald VelJohnson, returning briefly in his role as Sgt. Al Powell from the first film.

The screenplay was written by Steven E. de Souza and Doug Richardson, adapted from Walter Wager's novel 58 Minutes. The novel has the same premise but differs slightly: A cop must stop terrorists who take an airport hostage while his wife's plane circles overhead. He has 58 minutes to do so before the plane crashes. Roderick Thorp, who wrote the 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".

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, maintenance workers, and a military commander who does not want his assistance.

The film was preceded by Die Hard and followed by Die Hard with a Vengeance in 1995, Live Free or Die Hard in 2007 and A Good Day to Die Hard in 2013.


On Christmas Eve, two years after the Nakatomi Tower Incident, John McClane is waiting at Washington Dulles International Airport for his wife Holly to arrive from Los Angeles. Reporter Richard Thornburg, who exposed Holly's identity to Hans Gruber in the Nakatomi Tower, is assigned a seat across the aisle from her. In the airport bar McClane spots two men in army fatigues carrying a package, one of whom has a gun. He follows them into the baggage area. After a shootout, he kills one of the men while the other escapes. Learning the dead man is a mercenary thought killed in action while originally serving with the US military, McClane relates the situation to airport police Captain Carmine Lorenzo, but Lorenzo has McClane ejected from his office.

Former U.S. Army Special Forces Colonel William Stuart and other members of his unit set up a base in a church near Dulles. They take over the air traffic control systems, cut off all communication to the planes and seize control of the airport. Their goal is to rescue General Ramon Esperanza, a drug lord and dictator of Val Verde, who is being extradited to the United States to stand trial on drug trafficking charges. They demand a Boeing 747 cargo plane so they can escape to another country with Esperanza in tow, and warn the airport controllers not to try to restore control. McClane realizes his wife is on one of the planes circling above Washington, D.C. with too little fuel to be redirected. He prepares to fight the terrorists, allying himself with a janitor, Marvin, to gain larger access to the airport.

Dulles communications director Leslie Barnes heads to the unfinished Annex Skywalk with a SWAT team to re-establish communications with the planes. Just before reaching the Skywalk, the entire group and Barnes are ambushed by Stuart's henchmen at a checkpoint, and the SWAT team is killed in the ensuing firefight. With Marvin's help, McClane reaches the massacre scene, rescuing Barnes and killing Stuart's men. Stuart retaliates by recalibrating the instrument landing system and then impersonating air traffic controllers to crash a British jet, killing all 230 passengers and crew on board. A U.S. Army Special Forces team is called in, led by Major Grant. By listening in on a two-way radio that was dropped by one of Stuart's henchmen, McClane finds out that Esperanza, who's killed his captors and is now flying, is landing.

With Marvin's aid, McClane reaches the aircraft before Stuart's henchmen, but Esperanza traps him and the others throw grenades into the cockpit. McClane escapes via the ejection seat merely seconds before the grenades detonate and the aircraft explodes. Barnes helps McClane locate the mercenaries's hideout and they tell Grant and his team to raid the location, but the mercenaries escape on snowmobiles. McClane pursues them, but the gun he picked up does not kill anyone when fired. He discovers that the gun is loaded with blanks, and he is horrified to discover that the mercenaries and most members of the Special Forces team have been in cahoots all along.

McClane contacts Lorenzo to intercept the Boeing 747 in which the mercenaries will escape, proving his story by firing at Lorenzo with the blank gun. A suspicious Thornburg is monitoring airport radio traffic, and learns about the situation from a secret transmission to the circling planes from Barnes. He phones in a sensational and exaggerated take on what is happening, leading to panic and preventing the officers from reaching the escape plane. Holly subdues Thornburg with a Stun gun.

McClane hitches a ride on a news helicopter that drops him off on the wing of the mercenary plane. He jams the left inboard aileron with his jacket, preventing the plane from taking off. Esperanza, who is flying the jet, is shocked when he sees McClane on the wing. Grant emerges and fights McClane, but McClane knocks Grant off the wing and into an engine, which sucks him in, vaporising him. Stuart then comes out and succeeds in knocking McClane off the plane. He removes McClane's jumper and re-enters the plane. However, he fails to realise McClane opened the fuel hatch before he fell off. McClane uses his cigarette lighter to ignite the trail of fuel, which destroys the jet, killing Esperanza, Stuart and all on board. The pilots of Holly's plane uses the fire trail to help them land, which the other passenger jets do as well. The passengers are safely evacuated and McClane and his wife are happily reunited. Lorenzo appears and thanks John.


The terrorists

Production and promotion

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.[3]

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.[4]

Scenes were shot at the Alpena Airport in Northern Michigan. The location was chosen in part because of its propensity for snowfall, but due to a lack of snow before and during filming artificial snow had to be used.

General Esperanza's aircraft is a Fairchild C-123K Provider. This is a twin engine propeller aircraft modified to appear with four jet engines for the film. The pods for the J-85 jet booster engines are still visible under the wings between the mock-up jet engines.


Box office

The film exceeded all expectations by actually outdoing the massive box office success of Die Hard.[5] The film had a budget of US$70 million and had a wide release in 2,507 theaters, making $21.7 million its opening weekend. Die Hard 2 has domestically made $117.5 million and $239.5 million worldwide, almost doubling that of Die Hard.[1]

Critical reception

Die Hard 2 received positive reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a 69% "Fresh" rating based on 61 reviews, with an average rating of 6.1/10. The 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".[6] Roger Ebert, who gave the original film a negative review, described the sequel as "terrific entertainment", despite noting the substantial credibility problems with the plot.[7] Jay Boyar of Orlando Sentinel dubbed the film as being as disappointing a sequel as Another 48 Hours and RoboCop 2 were and described the film as having "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."[8]

Empire Magazine delivered a 3/5 star rating to the film 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."[9]

Gene Siskel ranked the film as the 6th best movie of 1990.[10][11]

Maxim magazine ranked the plane crash #2 on its list of "Greatest Movie Plane Crashes".[12]


  1. 1 2 3 "Die Hard 2 - Box Office Mojo". Retrieved July 23, 2011.
  2. The film's on-screen title is Die Hard 2, and the film's official website at the Wayback Machine (archived June 21, 2008) refers to it as such. 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 Disc release) came out under the title Die Hard 2: Die Harder. Several other official sources, such as the director's website and the Die Hard Trilogy video game, also refer to it as Die Hard 2: Die Harder.
  3. Leonard, Matt. "The History of Computer Graphics and Effects". Ohio State University Department of Industrial Interior and Visual Design. Retrieved July 10, 2009.
  4. Action Speaks Louder: Violence, Spectacle, and the American Action Movie, page 165
  5. 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.
  6. Die Hard 2 at Rotten Tomatoes
  7. Ebert, Roger (July 3, 1990). "Die Hard 2: Die Harder (Review)". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved January 29, 2010.
  8. Jay Boyar (July 3, 1990). "'Die Hard' - 2nd Time Around The Mayhem Misses Mark In 'Harder' - tribunedigital-orlandosentinel". Articles.orlandosentinel.com. Retrieved July 30, 2016.
  9. William Thomas (October 14, 2015). "Die Hard 2 Review | Movie - Empire". Empireonline.com. gb. Retrieved July 30, 2016.
  10. "Gene Siskel's Top Ten Lists 1969-1998". Alumnus.caltech.edu. February 20, 1999. Retrieved July 30, 2016.
  11. "Siskel and Ebert Top Ten Lists (1969-1998)". Innermind.com. May 3, 2012. Retrieved July 30, 2016.
  12. "The Greatest Movie Plane Crashes", Maxim.com

External links

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