It's surprising that the Library of Congress still hasn't added Die Hard to the National Film Registry. Even if there weren't a strong fan campaign in support of the honor (you can nominate it by e-mailing the government here), there are simply few Hollywood productions in the modern era more deserving. Aside from it simply being one of the best action movies of all time, it's also one of the most influential. Enough that "Die Hard in X" is sort of a subgenre, and we don't necessarily dismiss movies for being copycats of such a monumental work.
We've been reminded of the influence a lot this year. Aside from it being a big anniversary (the original turns 25 in a few weeks), there's also been a Die Hard sequel that was released a few months back, which ironically didn't even feel like a Die Hard movie, and two similarly plotted Die Hard knockoffs involving the residence of the president of the United States. First was Olympus Has Fallen and now there's this weekend's big opener White House Down.
The new one is receiving terrific buzz, too, in spite of mixed reviews. People are saying it's the best kind of dumb summertime popcorn flick, and therefore it seems to be one of the favorite Die Hard disciples in a long time. Maybe since Speed, which was probably the first huge hit that people acknowledged as a knockoff yet enjoyed anyway. Well, if we don't count Die Hard 2, which is a sequel but totally qualifies as a formula repeat. The fact that it was adapted from a novel not intentionally affiliated with the first film makes it fit even more. Also, it was the only one of the series' four sequels to follow the basic premise associated with the franchise.
Interestingly enough, Die Hard isn't really the first movie about a hostage situation in which the solo hero happens to already be in the location of the plot. The Bullet Train is a 1975 film that stars Sonny Chiba as a conductor tasked with defusing the bomb while also keeping his train from going under a certain speed. Hardly able to be called a Die Hard knockoff, it still might be one of the more entertaining "Die Hard on an X" movie. The website TV Tropes calls this an "Ur example" of the subgenre.
As that same site illustrates in its list of other examples, these movies were most common in the '90s, when we got the highest grossing (domestically) knockoff Air Force One, along with variations such as Under Siege, Cliffhanger, Passenger 57, Sudden Death and Toy Soldiers, all of which figure on Scott Weinberg's list of the best Die Hard knockoffs early last year. Let's not forget that even the Beverly Hills Cop series went with a knockoff for its third installment while Home Alone sort of gave us a family-friendly take on the idea.
Many others have done polls and lists on the same topic of late, which it should be noted might be because we're getting a resurgence of "Die Hard in an X" films. A lot of answers to Matt Singer's Criticwire Survey timed to Olympus Has Fallen cited new foreign films The Raid: Redemption and Sleepless Night, both of which might remind us of Die Hard while not exactly fitting the plot conventions.
My favorite, although it's a bit of a deviation, is The Rock. But I don't think we've yet seen the BEST Die Hard knockoff. Given the popularity of Air Force One and likely success of White House Down, it's obvious that the plot of Die Hard 6 has to see John McClane (Bruce Willis) elected president.
What's your favorite Die Hard knockoff?
Here are some responses received so far via Twitter: