Die Hard 2 (sometimes referred to as Die Hard 2: Die Harder)[1] is a 1990 American action film, and the second in the Die Hard film series. It was directed by Renny Harlin, 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 daughter'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".

The film was 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, one year after the Nakatomi Tower Incident, John McClane is waiting at Washington Dulles International Airport for his wife Holly to arrive from Los Angeles, California. Reporter Richard Thornburg, who exposed Holly's identity to Hans Gruber in the first movie, is assigned a seat across the aisle from her. While in the airport bar, McClane spots two men in army fatigues carrying a package; one of the men has a gun. Suspicious, 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 to have been killed in action, McClane believes he's stumbled onto a nefarious plot. He relates his suspicions to airport police Captain Carmine Lorenzo, but Lorenzo refuses to listen and has McClane thrown out of his office.

Former U.S. Army Special Forces Colonel Stuart and other members of his unit set up a base in a church near Dulles after executing the church's custodian. They take over the air traffic control systems, cutting off communication to the planes, and seize control of the airport. Their goal is to rescue General Ramon Esperanza, a drug lord and the 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, and warn the airport's controllers not to try to restore control. Upon learning of this, McClane realizes his wife is on one of the planes circling above Washington, D.C. with too little fuel to be redirected, and will likely crash if the terrorists remain in control. 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. Stuart's henchmen, disguised as airport employees, ambush the group at a chokepoint, killing the SWAT team. With Marvin's help, McClane reaches the massacre via air duct and, after a shootout, rescues Barnes and kills Stuart's men. When Stuart learns of this, he responds 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 the aircraft. In response, a U.S. Army Special Forces team is called in, led by Major Grant. A two-way radio dropped by one of Stuart's henchmen tips McClane that Esperanza is landing. Again with Marvin's aid, McClane gets there before Stuart's henchmen, but Stuart traps him in Esperanza's transport plane and throws grenades into the cockpit. McClane escapes via the ejection seat just as the aircraft explodes. Barnes is then able to help McClane locate the mercenaries' hideout and they tell Grant and his team to raid the location. However, the mercenaries escape on snowmobiles during a shootout between Grant's team and Stuart's men. McClane pursues them, killing two more mercenaries and taking a snowmobile, but the gun he picked up does not work as Stuart shoots at the snowmobile causing it to explode. He realizes that the gun contained blanks and that the mercenaries and Special Forces are working together.

McClane contacts Lorenzo to send out officers to intercept the Boeing 747 in which the mercenaries are planning to escape, proving his story by firing at Lorenzo with the blank gun. A suspicious Thornburg is already monitoring airport radio traffic, and learns about the situation from a secret transmission to the circling planes from Barnes. Barricading himself in the airplane lavatory, he phones in a sensational and exaggerated take on what is happening at Dulles, leading to panic in the airport and preventing the officers from reaching the plane. Listening to Thornberg's live report, Holly enters the lavatory and subdues Thornburg with a tazer.

McClane hitches a ride on a news helicopter that drops him off on the left wing of the mercenary plane and he blocks the ailerons with his jacket, preventing the plane from taking off. Grant emerges and fights McClane, but is sucked into the jet engine and killed. Stuart comes out to fight next, and succeeds in knocking McClane off the plane, but not before McClane knocks open the fuel hatch. After landing, McClane uses his cigarette lighter to ignite the trail of leaking fuel, which races down the runway to the wing, ignites the rest of the fuel and destroys the jet, killing all on board. The passenger planes, circling in the air, use the lighted trail to land, and McClane and his wife are reunited.


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.[2]

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.[3]

The Kincheloe Air Force Base was used for filming. Other 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.[4] Other scenes were shot at Denver's Stapleton Airport, at Universal Studios and the lot at 20th Century Fox in Los Angeles.


Michael Kamen, the composer for the first film, also composed the score for Die Hard 2. Kamen reprises several music cues from his Die Hard score (most notably during the action sequences), as well as adapting Jean Sibelius's "Finlandia" (in a similar fashion to his incorporation of Beethoven's 9th Symphony into the score for Die Hard). The end credits of this film begin with the Christmas song "Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow" (performed by Vaughn Monroe), as they did in Die Hard.

Unlike the previous film, a soundtrack album was released by Varèse Sarabande.


Commercial response

The film exceeded all expectations by actually outdoing the massive box office success of Die Hard. It 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.

Critical reception

The film received a positive critical reception; it garnered a 66% 'Fresh' rating, with an average score of three stars on five based on 47 film critic reviews, at the aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes. Roger Ebert, who gave the original Die Hard a negative review, described the sequel as "terrific entertainment", despite noting the substantial credibility problems with the plot.[5] 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."[6]

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."[7]

Maxim magazine ranked the plane crash #2 on its list of "Greatest Movie Plane Crashes".[8]


  1. The film's on-screen title is Die Hard 2, and the film's official website referred 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.
  2. Leonard, Matt. The History of Computer Graphics and Effects. Ohio State University Department of Industrial Interior and Visual Design. Retrieved on 2009-07-10.
  3. Action Speaks Louder: Violence, Spectacle, and the American Action Movie, page 165
  4. Die Hard 2 Movie credits
  5. Ebert, Roger. Die Hard 2: Die Harder (Review). Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved on 2010-01-29.
  8. "The Greatest Movie Plane Crashes",

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