Die Hard is the best. 30 years later, no action movie has topped it – at least at doing great action and being an even better movie between the action scenes. If you haven’t seen it in a while, it won’t disappoint.
But say you’ve seen Die Hard a million times. Or you’re waiting to watch it at Christmas. (And to end the debate before it begins, Facebook readers, I’m not saying Die Hard is a Christmas movie – just that it can be if you want it.) With that in mind, I’ve put together some movies and TV shows that made no secret about ripping it off.
This list may not include the best imitators, though possibly the most interesting ones. And why these movies? Because pretty good movies are still, you know, pretty good.
Die Hard 2 (1990)
One of the first imitators to not top Die Hard was Die Hard 2. It’s basically a remake with the setting moved to an airport during a blizzard. The similarities and callbacks are a bit much, and Bruce Willis goes from being a counterpoint to the ‘80s action hero to being yet another action hero.
So why the recommendation? Renny Harlin – who never met a premise he couldn’t make bigger, dumber and more fun – takes over as the director. The first of several big-dumb-fun movies he’d make in the ‘90s (definitely watch The Long Kiss Goodnight).
Star Trek: The Next Generation, “Starship Mine” (1993)
Die Hard on the U.S.S. Enterprise. I’ll take it.
I still can’t believe this exists. It’s an unapologetic Die Hard riff with a Star Trek coat of paint… a very Star Trek coat of paint. Expect technobabble and hammy Data jokes.
Patrick Stewart is the lone hero after bad guys take over the Enterprise. He’s no Bruce Willis – but good enough for the action stuff to work. A fun, inconsequential Trek episode, with points taken off for not having a shirtless Patrick Stewart with a phaser taped to his back.
Sudden Death (1995)
This movie is the best. And so is Van Damme.
Here he’s playing an American everyman (love when these movies do that): a fire marshal working an NHL game which of course gets a bad case of the bad guys (and the bombs they planted). The twist is the fans in the stands have no idea what’s going on.
Van Damme gets to stretch what acting muscles he has – and fight someone in a full mascot costume. Enough said.
Under Siege 2: Dark Territory (1995)
Not gonna go to bat for Steven Seagal, but the first Under Siege was a hit for a reason. Much of its success was pairing Seagal with an above average cast and crew. Under Siege 2 is what happens when things go back to average. Everyone here showed up, did a job and didn’t think twice about anything.
This is just fun enough for a Saturday afternoon, with some dopey action and Seagal’s gift for making awkward one-liners even more awkward. The real problem is doing Die Hard on a passenger train. The worst setting for one of these movies, if not for…
Speed 2: Cruise Control (1997)
No one hears the word “speed” and thinks of an ocean cruise. Equally bad is how Jason Patric takes over for Keanu Reeves. Patric isn’t playing the same character, but a carbon copy of that character. Imagine Sandra Bullock is your friend and you’re trying not to say anything about her awkward rebound relationship – oh, and you’re on a hijacked cruise liner – and you have this movie.
This barely makes the list for 1) Willem Dafoe at his Willem Dafoe-iest as the heavy and 2) some crazy stunts and practical effects, including a full-scale replica of a cruise ship crashing into a fake coastal town.
Community, “Modern Warfare” (2010)
Equal parts parody and homage of action movies (with some Hunger Games thrown in), “Modern Warfare” mocks every trope it can when a paintball contest to win priority scheduling for the next semester at this community college pits every student against each other. (Favorite line: “You could schedule all your classes on a Monday and have a six-day weekend!”)
Joel McHale and his hairline fill in for the Bruce Willis role. It’s an amazingly funny piece of television. The secret to its success is getting an actual action director, Justin Lin of The Fast and Furious movies, to make it.
The Raid: Redemption (2011)
This movie is nuts. It’s an Indonesian martial arts movie where a police raid on an apartment block goes south. The bad guys know they’re coming and trap them in the building. The hero has to take out the bad guys and find a way out.
Great action scenes – but this movie is violent. Apply the same rule to watching this as you do for swimming: wait thirty minutes after eating.
And fun fact: the main cast briefly appears in The Force Awakens before getting devoured by some big-rolling-death-ball-monsters.
Coincidence or not, Dredd has the exact plot as The Raid – except it’s future dystopian cops trapped in a future dystopian apartment high-rise. If you want pure action, The Raid is your movie. And if you want punk rock sci-fi, go with Dredd.
Dredd’s low-budget is a little too obvious, and the dark humor of the Judge Dredd comics is mostly absent. Still a great start to a franchise that never happened. Wish this had some sequels.
Another sci-fi Die Hard – this time on a space station prison. A cocky action hero has to sneak aboard and save the president’s daughter. So, yeah… nothing new. In fact, this resembles Escape from New York so much that the people who made New York won a plagiarism lawsuit.
My lowest recommend here, but not without its charms. Guy Pearce, who you’ve seen in a hundred things, is the best Bruce Willis-type on this list that isn’t Bruce Willis. And I’d probably recommend Die Hard on a space station anyway because it’s Die Hard on a space station.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine, “Yippie Kayak” (2015)
A great example of Nine-Nine’s brand of funny and sweet. Andy Samberg’s character, whose favorite movie is Die Hard, and several of his coworkers get trapped in a department store on Christmas Eve with bad guys. The jokes don’t come from mocking Die Hard, but how Samberg wants the situation to be just like it and keeps getting disappointed.
It’s a great example of what this show’s about: how reality (or this show’s reality) falls short of the movies, along with the idea that we accomplish more working as a team. This episode pokes fun at the idea of movies like Die Hard while still saying they’re awesome.
What’s your favorite Die Hard look alike?