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Top 10 Die Hard Ripoffs

Die Hard was a substantial movie in terms of what it did for the action film genre. It turned convention on its ear, catapulted Bruce Willis from “TV Hunk” to “Film Superstar,” and forever reinvented the action movie pitch meeting. Shortly afterwards, action film ideas were lobbed at studios with the “Die Hard on a _____” formula.

This article is a ranking of the best of those Die Hard clones. Only films for which we’re sure the pitch included “Die Hard on a _____” were considered, and we’ve ranked them by overall quality.

10. Passenger 57 (1992)


Presumed Pitch: “It’s Die Hard on a plane!”

Synopsis: Starring tax-evader Wesley Snipes in a movie where terrorist take over an airplane. Good thing Snipes’ character, John Cutter, is, get this, an FAA in-flight undercover security officer! One by one he takes down the baddies, a la John McClane.

Twist on the Die Hard Formula: African-American lead character. Plane instead of office building.

Also Stars: Elizabeth Hurley, Bruce Greenwood, and Tom “Coke” Sizemore.

Similar Character Depth: Like McClane, Cutter has wife issues. But where McClane’s marriage is on the rocks, Cutter’s wife is merely dead. Ooooh, emotional turmoil!

Other similarities: Main character named John.

Dumbass Tagline That Doesn’t Come Close to “Yippee-ki-yay, Mother F*****”: “Always bet on black.”

Pathetic Bad Guy Quote Attempting to Mimic Hans Gruber’s Acerbic Wit: “Did you and your friend enjoy yourselves down in the lower gallery? Down in that tight, little place? Tell me something, Marti. Did the hero get into your tight, little place?”

Trivia Tidbit: The role of John Cutter originally was offered to Sylvester Stallone, who wisely turned it down.

See Also: Executive Decision (“It’s Passenger 57 on a…plane.”), Turbulence (“It’s Lauren Holly…on a plane”), Air Force One (“It’s Die Hard on a plane, only John McClane’s the President!”), and Flightplan (“It’s Air Force One on a plane…only John McClane is a possibly insane woman nobody believes!”)

9. Sudden Death (1995)


Presumed Pitch: “It’s Die Hard…at a hockey game!”

Synopsis: All Jean Claude Van Damme’s Darren McCord wants to do is watch a hockey game with his kids. However, a terrorist plot to kidnap the Vice President, who is attending the game as well, gets in the way. One by one, McCord’s disgraced former firefighter takes out the baddies.

Twist on the Die Hard Formula: LOTS more innocent people to save. Hero dons mascot costume for major fight scene.

Also Stars: Powers Boothe, Raymond J. Barry, and Bill “Real Life Hockey Announcer As Himself” Clement

Similar Character Depth: More broken home nonsense. The kids live with Mom, who sullies their opinion of Dad. What is it about divorce that makes civil servants so good at dismantling intricate terrorist plots?

Other Similarities: Last-minute reveal that terrorists have rigged part of the building with explosives!

Dumbass Tagline That Doesn’t Come Close to “Yippee-ki-yay, MotherF*****”: “Don’t f*** with me, I’m about to have a very bad day.”

Pathetic Bad Guy Quote Attempting to Mimic Hans Gruber’s Acerbic Wit: “What do I want? World peace, an end to bigotry, and no more mini-malls.”

Trivia Tidbit: Jaromir Jagr, who played for the Penguins at the time of the movie, wasn’t happy that the hockey player wearing his number (68) was on the ice for three of the opposing teams goals, making him a minus 3. (If you know anything about the plus/minus stat in hockey or about Jagr…that’s hilarious).

Also See: TimeCop (“It’s Sudden Death…in…the future!”)

8. Con Air (1997)


Presumed Pitch: “It’s Die Hard on a plane full of prisoners!”

Synopsis: Nicolas Cage is Cameron Poe, a newly released ex-con on a plane full of still-cons.  There’s some hooey about how that’s the only way they can transport him. When the still-cons overthrow the guards, only Cameron stands between them and their freedom. Good thing this ex-con is also an ex-highly-decorated-US-Army-Ranger.

Twist on the Die Hard Formula: Hero speaks in awful southern accent. Hero pretends to be one of the bad guys for large part of the plot.

Also Stars: John Malkovich, John Cusack, Ving Rhames, and Dave “Flee The Country” Chappelle

Similar Character Depth: Wow…more broken home drama. Hasn’t seen his kids in a while, the lady love is unsure of him…are you surprised?

Other Similarities: Like McClane, Poe has someone on the outside of the situation (Cusack) who he talks to and gets advice from.

Dumbass Tagline That Doesn’t Come Close to “Yippee-ki-yay, MotherF*****”: “What do you think I’m gonna do? I’m gonna save the f****** day!”

Pathetic Bad Guy Quote Attempting to Mimic Hans Gruber’s Acerbic Wit: “Ladies and Gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. I have the only gun on board. Welcome to Con Air.”

Trivia Tidbit: Colm Meaney (the Scottish Engineering guy from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) is in this movie, and he was also in Under Siege and Die Hard 2.

Also See: (Man, how many times do I have to list all these airplane movies?) Air Force One (“Con Air in a government plane!”), Executive Decision (“Con Air with a nerdy hero”), Passenger 57 (“Con Air with an African-American hero”), Turbulence (“Con Air with a girl-from-Dumb-and-Dumber hero”).

7. Toy Soldiers (1991)


Presumed Pitch: “It’s Die Hard in a boarding school!”

Synopsis: A boarding school for rebellious rich kids is taken over by terrorists because one of the school’s students is the son of a judge presiding over a terrorist leader’s trial. Say that five times fast. It’s up to the troubled youths to take back the school they hate having to attend.

Twist on the Die Hard Formula: Protagonists are bratty rich kids instead of washed up cops. Also Stars: Louis Gossett Jr., Wil Wheaton, and Sean “Hairy Feet” Astin

Similar Character Depth: Lead characters don’t like authority figures telling them what to do.

Other Similarities: Guns, terrorists, threats…the usual suspects.

Dumbass Tagline That Doesn’t Come Close to “Yippee-ki-yay, Mother F*****”: “F*** my father and f*** you too. I’m not going anywhere without my friends.”

Pathetic Bad Guy Quote Attempting to Mimic Hans Gruber’s Acerbic Wit: “You really have no sense of discipline, do you?”

Trivia Tidbit: This movie has a character named Phil Donoghue.

See Also: Sky High (“It’s Toy Soldiers…with Superheroes!”), TAPS (“It’s Toy Soldiers…with land developers instead of terrorists!”)

6. From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)


Presumed Pitch: “It’s Die Hard…in a brothel…with vampires!”

Synopsis: The Gecko brothers (George Clooney and Quentin Tarantino) are on the run from the law. Crossing the border into Mexico, they hold up in a greasy strip club, only to discover that the danger within the bar is much greater than the danger posed by the cops.

Twist on the Die Hard Formula: Vampires instead of terrorists.

Also Stars: Salma Hayek, Cheech Marin, and Harvey “Bad Lieutenant” Keitel

Similar Character Depth: Protagonist(s) has a potty mouth.

Other Similarities: High body count.

Dumbass Tagline That Doesn’t Come Close to “Yippee-ki-yay, Mother F*****”: “I may be a bastard, but I’m not a f******’ bastard.”

Pathetic Bad Guy Quote Attempting to Mimic Hans Gruber’s Acerbic Wit: “I’m not gonna drain you completely. You’re gonna turn for me. You’ll be my slave. You’ll live for me. You’ll eat bugs because I order it. Why? Because I don’t think you’re worthy of human blood. You’ll feed on the blood of stray dogs. You’ll be my footstool. And at my command, you’ll lick the dog shit from my boot heel. Since you’ll be my dog, your new name will be “Spot”. Welcome to slavery.”

Trivia Tidbit: Quentin Tarantino was originally set to direct the movie, but decided not to direct so that he could focus more on the screenplay and his role as Richard Gecko. (You’ll have to keep reading without me…I need a moment to chuckle over the mental picture of Tarantino focusing on his acting).

See Also: 30 Days of Night (“It’s From Dusk ‘Til Dawn…but in a dark Alaska town instead of a strip club in Mexico!”)

5. Under Siege (1992)


Presumed Pitch: “It’s Die Hard on a boat!”

Synopsis: Steven Seagal is Casay Ryback, a cook on board a US Navy Battleship that has just been, you guessed it, taken over by terrorists. Good thing this cook is, brace yourself, an ex-Navy SEAL. Ryback runs around for a couple hours, wreaking havoc in the terrorists’ evil plans.

Twist on the Die Hard Formula: Lead character has heavy martial arts training evidenced in how he off’s the bad guys.

Also Stars: Tommy Lee Jones, Gary Busey, & Erika “Boobs” Eleniak.

Similar Character Depth: Ryback, like McClane, is a “loose cannon,” always butting heads with his higher ups.

Other Similarities: Terrorists’ main goal is committing a robbery to make a profit.

Dumbass Tagline That Doesn’t Come Close to “Yippee-ki-yay, Mother F*****”: “Nobody beats me in the kitchen.”

Pathetic Bad Guy Quote Attempting to Mimic Hans Gruber’s Acerbic Wit: “Four minutes ahead of schedule. Damn, I’m good.”

Trivia Tidbit: Erika Eleniak, who plays a Playboy Playmate that jumps out of a cake, actually is a former Playboy Playmate. Sweet! Talk about typecasting.

Also See: Under Siege 2 (“It’s Under Siege 1…on a train!”)

4. Speed (1994)


Presumed Pitch: “It’s Die Hard on a Bus!”

Synopsis: Keanu Reeves is officer Jack Traven, who is being picked on by his mad-bomber nemesis. He has to find a solution to the most common of law enforcement issues: a bus with a bomb on it that will explode if the bus drops its speed below 50 mph.

Twist on the Die Hard Formula: Lead character develops romance, also has a partner. Main baddie has vendetta against hero.

Also Stars: Jeff Daniels, Sandra Bullock, and Dennis “Save For Retirement” Hopper

Similar Character Depth: There is no apparent attempt at character depth.

Other Similarities: The film’s terrorism action kicks off in an LA downtown highrise.

Dumbass Tagline That Doesn’t Come Close to “Yippee-ki-yay, Mother F*****”: “He lost his head.” (after the bad guy gets decapitated in the subway).

Pathetic Bad Guy Quote Attempting to Mimic Hans Gruber’s Acerbic Wit: “I’m smarter than you, Jack! I’m smarter! I’m smarter!”

Trivia Tidbit: Director Jan De Bont was the Director of Cinematography on Die Hard.

Also See: Speed 2: Cruise Control (“It’s Under Siege…on a boat…wait a second…it’s Under Siege on a different kind of boat!”)

3. Star Trek: First Contact (1996)


Presumed Pitch: “It’s Die Hard…on the Starship Enterprise!”

Synopsis: The Borg, a lethal and ruthless race, take over the Enterprise after following the ship back in time. Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) and his crew must outwit, outlast, and, wait a sec…sorry about that, they must seize back control of the ship and stop the Borg from assimilating the entire galaxy.

Twist on the Die Hard Formula: Well, the whole Star Trek angle, for starters. An old bald guy as the main protagonist instead of a young bald guy. Evil aliens in place of terrorists.

Also Stars: Jonathan Frakes, Alfre Woodard, and James “That’ll Do Pig” Cromwell

Similar Character Depth: Picard, like McClane, is very stubborn, at least when it comes to the Borg.

Other Similarities: The Borg are like the thieves/terrorists in Die Hard, only they don’t want money…they want our souls.

Dumbass Tagline That Doesn’t Come Close to “Yippee-ki-yay, Mother F*****”: “The line must be drawn here! This far, no further! And I will make them pay for what they’ve done.”

Pathetic Bad Guy Quote Attempting to Mimic Hans Gruber’s Acerbic Wit: “Small words from a small being, trying to attack what it doesn’t understand.”

Trivia Tidbit: For inspiration prior to filming, director Jonathan Frakes says he viewed the films Alien (1979), Aliens (1986), Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), Blade Runner (1982), and Jaws (1975)…(and, obviously, Die Hard).

See Also: Any other Star Trek Movie (“It’s First Contact…without the Borg!”)

2. Air Force One (1997)


Presumed Pitch: “It’s Die Hard on Air Force One!”

Synopsis: Hijackers have taken over the President’s plane on his way back from Moscow. Unfortunately for them, the President is a Medal-of-Honor-winning former soldier, and he won’t stand idly by while his family is threatened.

Twist on the Die Hard Formula: The plane-instead-of-a-building thing. Also, the protagonist is the President instead of a vacationing cop.

Also Stars: Gary Oldman, Glenn Close, and William H. “Where’s my dinner” Macy.

Similar Character Depth: The President pretty much singlehandedly takes down the terrorists, as did McClane.

Other Similarities: The terrorists express a desire to have an imprisoned comrade released.

Dumbass Tagline That Doesn’t Come Close to “Yippee-ki-yay, Mother F*****”: “GET OFF MY PLANE!”

Pathetic Bad Guy Quote Attempting to Mimic Hans Gruber’s Acerbic Wit: “You who murdered a hundred thousand Iraqis to save a nickel on a gallon of gas are going to lecture me on the rules of war? Well DON’T.”

Trivia Tidbit: The lead role was written for Kevin Costner, but he was heavily committed to The Postman, and suggested Harrison Ford for the part. I don’t even know where to start with this little bit of trivia hilariousness.

See Also: All those other plane movies we’ve already mentioned a hundred times (Passenger 57, Turbulence, Executive Decision, Con Air, etc.).

1. Die Hard 2 (1990); Yes the best-ever Die Hard rip-off was its own sequel)


Presumed Pitch: “It’s Die Hard…at a major airport!”

Synopsis: John McClane, at the Dulles Airport to pick up his on-again wife, quickly finds himself in the middle of yet another terrorist plot. This time, the baddies have set up a command center that allows them to crash the circling planes above at will. With a dense airport security chief and crooked military reinforcements…it’s up to McClane to save the day again.

Twist on the Die Hard Formula: Expands the small playing field of a business tower to an entire airport.

Also Stars: Bonnie Bedelia, William Sadler, and Dennis “Sipowitz” Franz

Similar Character Depth: Well, it’s the same character…so…thus, the same depth.

Other Similarities: This crisis also takes place at Christmastime.

Dumbass Tagline That Doesn’t Come Close to the original “Yippee-ki-yay, Mother F*****”: Hey, Carmine, let me ask you something. What sets off the metal detectors first? The lead in your ass or the shit in your brains?

Pathetic Bad Guy Quote Attempting to Mimic Hans Gruber’s Acerbic Wit: “Happy landings, asshole.”

Trivia Tidbit: The Russian title for “Die Hard” in all of the movies is, “A Hard Nut to Crack”.

See Also: The Russian copy of Die Hard With a Vengeance (“It’s A Hard Nut to Crack…in New York City!”)

Feel free to comment on those that should have made the list.  Until next time…


Del Paxton


Comment from Doc
Time: November 1, 2007, 12:31 pm

Great list. A tad bit of a stretch on From Dusk Til Dawn, as the title of “bad guys” changes throughout, but very nice indeed. How about “Nick of Time”? Interesting twist on the genre, with fairly good acting from an outstanding cast of Depp and Walken.

Comment from KW
Time: November 1, 2007, 1:36 pm

Yeah, Nick of Time is a pretty good addition to the list. Confined space, and in real time. Nick of Time was 24 before 24 existed.

Comment from Sam Loomis
Time: November 1, 2007, 6:48 pm

Outstanding list. I’ve actually listened to a White Hot Sax while watching “Sudden Death;” best way to enjoy Van Damme.

And I agree on paper, it looks like a good choice by Sly to not appear in “Passenger 57;” however, let’s not forget he chose instead to star in “Stop Or My Mom Will Shoot!” with Estelle Getty; ah, the allure of Estelle.

You know, the Projectionist did a “Die Hard” knock-off with Estelle Getty back in the day called “Extremely Hard!” He went by the alias, Project This, I believe, but we all knew who it was. I think I was contractually obligated when I became a part of this site to never mention that; oh well. Once again, awesome list.

Comment from Anonymous
Time: January 12, 2008, 3:53 pm


Comment from JS
Time: March 16, 2008, 2:02 pm

Haha, nice list! Also fun to read the similarities/dumb taglines etc., which make it more than just a list.

Suggestions for further additions:
- Daylight with Sylvester Stallone (Die Hard in a tunnel!)
- Cliffhanger with Sylvester Stallone (Die Hard in the Rocky Mountains!)
- First Blood with Sylvester Stallone (Die Hard with a Vietnam vet!… oh wait, Die Hard is First Blood in a business tower!)
- The River Wild with Meryl Streep (Die Hard on a river!)
- Trespass with Bill Paxton (Die Hard with a treasure!)
- Panic Room with Jodie Foster (Trespass with a chick!)
- Home Alone and Home Alone 2 with Macaulay Culkin (Tresspass around Christmas!… oh wait Die Hard with a kid!)
- Desperate Measures with Andy Garcia (Die Hard in a hospital!)
- No Way Out with Kevin Costner (Die Hard in the Pentagon!… oh wait, Die Hard is No Way Out with cops and guns!)
- Death Warrant with Jean-Claude Van Damme (Die Hard in a prison!)
- The Rock with Nicolas Cage (Die Hard on Alcatraz!)
- The Taking Of Beverly Hills with Ken Wahl (Die Hard in Beverly Hills!)

It surprises me that there are no Ahnuld The Governator movies that match the Die Hard scenario; the closest I could think of is Commando, but it doesn’t really fit.

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