by Patrick Bromley
1. Sudden Death (1995, dir. Peter Hyams) At the peak of his mainstream success, Jean-Claude Van Damme made one of the very best Die Hard rip-offs, pitting his security guard against Powers Boothe in Die Hard-at-a-hockey-game. Director Peter Hyams (who would team with Van Damme for several movies, including Timecop and Enemies Closer) is very aware of the fact that he's paying homage to the greatest action movie ever made and does so with a slick, violent, often silly tribute that ratchets up the crazy (a fight in a mascot costume, Van Damme on ice) without sacrificing the same blue-collar-guy-in-an-impossible-situation thing that made Die Hard so special.
these outtakes. "I'm leading your hairspace!"
Under Siege (1992, dir. Andrew Davis) Steven Seagal's biggest critical and commercial success does Die Hard on a boat as Seagal's Casey Ryback ("I'm just a cook!") takes on a team of pissed off soldiers. He also has the help of Erika Eleniak, a former Playboy Playmate. I'm sensing a fucking theme there. Solid villain turns from Gary Busey and Tommy Lee Jones elevate this above many Seagal movies of the era (era). This is usually called Seagal's best movie, but I'm guessing that's only by people who haven't seen Out for Justice.
White House Down (2013, dir. Roland Emmerich) One of two Die Hard-in-the-White-House movies released in 2013 casts Channing Tatum as the John McClane (complete with white tank top!) who must protect President Jamie Foxx when terrorists take over. All of the ingredients are here for a really good DH rip-off, but director Roland Emmerich can't help himself from inserting a bunch of stupid, tone-deaf comedy. Plus the movie cheaps out in a few areas where it counts -- like explosions and outdoor photography. Little things. Apologies to F-Head Chaybee for not liking this movie more.
Olympus Has Fallen (2013, dir. Antonine Fuqua) White House Down was beat to the box office by Olympus Has Fallen, the first of last year's Die Hard-in-the-White-House epics. Gerard Butler lacks the "everyman" quality of John McClane (which Channing Tatum captured well despite being a total dreamboat), but OHF picks up the slack by taking the action seriously and really going for the hard-R shit. This is the Die Hard imitation with the most head stabbings. It, too, relies on a lot of CGI explosions and goes on at least a half hour too long, but it's the kind of action movie that's all too rare these days.
Speed (1994, dir. Jan de Bont) This is a Die Hard rip-off on paper only, as a simple plot description makes it sound like Die Hard on a bus. In reality, Speed became its own subgenre of action movie (itself imitated by movies like Chill Factor and Speed 2: Cruise Control) by taking a basic premise and committing to it 100%, casting good actors, having smart writing and taut, capable direction. Speed is nearly the classic that Die Hard is, only it's not Die Hard. That's ok. No movie is. Except Die Hard. Who wants to watch Die Hard?
The Goonies' Sean Astin is the John McClane (sucks to his ass-mar). Astin already did a Die Hard imitation nine years earlier with Toy Soldiers, but this one has Bruce Campbell with a shaved head playing the bad guy. As Die Hard rip-offs go, this one's not very good. As Sean Astin movies go, it's also not very good.
The Taking of Beverly Hills (1991, dir. Sidney J. Furie) It's Die Hard in the richest city in the country! A limping Ken Wahl plays Boomer Hayes, star quarterback and the only man left in Beverly Hills to stop an army of corrupt cops and mercenaries from looting the whole city. As a Die Hard rip-off, it's not great. As a ridiculous early-'90s action movie, it's a hoot. So many football puns.
Passenger 57 (1992, dir. Kevin Hooks) An early Die Hard imitator that's clever in the way moves the single-space location from Die Hard's relatively large and open skyscraper to the inside of a single airplane. Wesley Snipes steps in as the ONE THING THEY DIDN'T COUNT ON in a movie that works as one of the few successful post-'70s blaxploitation movies. It rightly made Snipes an action star, and while it's probably not his best movie, it belongs somewhere in the top five.