Bruce Willis' breakout film has guns, violence, stereotypes.
Based on 37 reviews
Based on 216 reviews
Common Sense is a nonprofit organization. Your purchase helps us remain independent and ad-free.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
Suggest an Update
A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Die Hard is an iconic 1980s action movie starring Bruce Willis as a rogue cop who must save a building full of hostages shortly before Christmas. It's packed with extreme acts of violence by both villains and the hero, including a bloody execution, many on-screen killings, and point-blank murder. A hanging poster briefly displays female nudity; a couple is interrupted during sex and shown out a door, partially naked (nothing sensitive is shown). Strong language includes "s--t," "a--hole," and frequent use of "f--k." The film deals in stereotypical portrayals of foreigners (German terrorists, Japanese capitalists) and a Latina maid/nanny.
Fine for tweens if you fast forward a couple parts
Report this review
Great action movie!
Report this review
What's the Story?
In DIE HARD, New York police officer John McClane (Bruce Willis) hoped to spend Christmas with his estranged wife and children in Los Angeles. What he gets instead is a bone-crunching, foot-cutting, guns-blaring battle to the death with a band of German terrorists. Planning to raid highly secure vaults with a high-tech, high-powered ambush, Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) and his posse hijack John's wife's company Christmas party. Despite the "help" of the LAPD and FBI, McClane must scrap his way through the melee, free the hostages, and maybe even repair his troubled marriage.
Is It Any Good?
Although this iconic action movie is quite entertaining, some might find parts of it dated and offensive. Released near the end of Ronald Reagan's presidency of rah-rah Americanism, Die Hard takes full advantage of German stereotypes with gigantic, creepy Aryan villains and positioning good ol' American cops as unquestionable heroes. After the movie became a mega hit, Willis -- known mainly at this point for his work on television's Moonlighting -- was reborn as a bona fide action star.
Excellent supporting actors deserve kudos along with Willis and the film's special effects. Rickman's (Galaxy Quest, the Harry Potter movies) slickly evil portrayal of Hans is on the mark, and Reginald VelJohnson (Papa Winslow from Family Matters) gives an excellent performance as the only LAPD officer who's helpful to McLane. Viewers may also recognize 1980s baddies Paul Gleason (The Breakfast Club) as the less-than-helpful Deputy Chief, and William Atherton (Ghostbusters, Real Genius) as an opportunist news reporter.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about stereotyping and vigilante justice in Die Hard. Are John's actions -- blowing things up, killing, etc. -- warranted by the situation? Should he have taken alternate measures to deal with the situation?
The film uses a number of stereotypes in the development of its villains. What characteristics unite people like Hans and Karl? Are such generalizations problematic? How do films today approach this subject?
All of the film's active characters -- John, Al, Hans, and his helpers -- are men. Can you think of more recent action films that feature women as main characters?
Talk about cops using violence as a means to an end. With news stories about cops using violence against Black citizens, how does this portrayal affect the way we look at the effectiveness of violence?
- In theaters: July 15, 1988
- On DVD or streaming: March 9, 1999
- Cast: Alan Rickman, Bruce Willis, Reginald VelJohnson
- Director: John McTiernan
- Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Run time: 132 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: strong violence and pervasive strong language
- Last updated: December 23, 2022
Our Editors Recommend
Mismatched cops spar in violent '80s action hit.
The Fifth Element
Futuristic comic book spectacle fun, but riddled with guns.
Engaging Jackie Chan movie for older teens and up.
For kids who love action
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.See how we rate