Analysis of Die hard

Summary Die Hard tells the story of John McClane, a police officer who is caught up in a terrorist attack on a corporate building during Christmas Eve. As the only person who can stop the terrorists from detonating explosives, McClane must fight with bravery and ingenuity to save his wife and the hostages held by the terrorists. Despite losing some hostages and getting shot in the leg, McClane ultimately succeeds in stopping the terrorists and escaping with his wife, with the help of fellow police officers and the SWAT team.

Screenplay Story Analysis

Story Critique Die Hard has become a classic action movie that is known for its thrilling story. The film manages to keep the audience on the edge of their seats throughout the movie. While the character development is minimal and the dialogue can sometimes be cliché, the plot is well-structured with a high stakes story that audiences can root for. The terrorist occupation and McClane's attempts to stop them create a tense, action-packed environment. There are times when the script could have given more attention to character development, but the pacing of the story and the suspenseful action more than make up for those shortcomings.
Suggestions: To improve the screenplay, the characters can be given more backstory and personality to build a deeper connection with the audience. Another suggestion is to include more dialogue that is authentic and unique to the characters. While the action scenes are thrilling, the audience could feel more engaged if they connect with the story on an emotional level. Lastly, the script can add more clues and hints about the terrorists' backstory to create a more engaging conflict. Adding these elements can elevate Die Hard from a great movie to an all-time classic.

Note: This is the overall critique. For scene by scene critique click here

Characters in the screenplay, and their arcs:

John McClane

McClane is a tough, experienced, and skilled police officer who maintains a strong sense of duty and a desire to protect his loved ones. He is characterized by his snarky attitude and willingness to take risks.


Officer Powell is a dedicated and loyal police officer who is committed to helping McClane. He starts off as a cautious and somewhat inexperienced cop, but as the situation escalates, he becomes more instrumental in providing tactical and emotional support to McClane. Powell is shown to be a friendly and supportive ally to McClane, providing him with valuable information and emotional support throughout the event. Powell is portrayed as a character who is empathetic and is able to connect with McClane on a deeper level, which makes him an important ally in McClane's fight against the terrorists.


Holly is a capable and assertive executive who works for Nakatomi Corporation. She loves her husband deeply and is determined to survive when she is taken hostage by terrorists. She is confident, strong-willed, and intelligent. Despite the danger she faces, she refuses to let the terrorists break her spirit.


Joseph Takagi is a confident, calm and well-dressed businessman who is the boss of Nakatomi Corporation. He is not easily coerced and stands up for what he believes in. He is taken hostage and pressured for information. He is initially unwilling to give up what Hans wants, but eventually succumbs to the threat of violence. He is a brave executive, who refuses to give in to the terrorists' demands.


Ellis is a greedy businessman who is selfish and shortsighted. He has an awkward dynamic with John, one of Holly's colleagues. He becomes restless and tries to negotiate directly with Hans, endangering the hostages. Throughout the movie, he is shown as an out-of-touch executive who can't handle high-stress situations and will do anything to save his own life.

Hans Gruber

Hans Gruber is a sophisticated, intelligent and ruthless mastermind who is willing to kill to achieve his goals. He enjoys toying with his hostages and is witty and calm under pressure. He is confident in his ability to manipulate events to his advantage and enjoys a challenge, seeming to enjoy the game of outmaneuvering his opponents. His approach is strategic and calculating, with a focus on executing his plan flawlessly. He is also a cold and calculating villain who will stop at nothing to achieve his goals.


Karl is a ruthless and loyal henchman who is fiercely determined to capture McClane. He has a personal grudge against McClane for killing his brother earlier in the film. Karl is skilled in combat and highly dangerous, but is also impulsive and prone to making mistakes. He follows orders without question and is quick to anger. Overall, Karl is a formidable opponent for McClane.


John McClane is a tough and resourceful NYPD officer who is willing to risk his life to protect the innocent. He is highly skilled in tactics and is determined to stop any threat that comes his way. McClane is also flawed and vulnerable, with a tendency to make sarcastic remarks and refuse to back down in the face of danger. He is emotionally stable and is driven by a deep love for his wife, Holly.


Hans is a highly intelligent, cold, and calculating terrorist leader who stops at nothing to achieve his goals. He remains calm and collected even in chaotic situations, using his charisma to manipulate others. He is a mastermind, highly-organized and efficient in delegating tasks to his team. He is willing to harm innocent people to achieve his goals, becoming increasingly unhinged as events spiral out of control.


Theo is a multi-faceted character who starts off as a clean-cut junior executive, mistaken by McClane to be a hostage and then teams up with him. He is initially panicky and fearful, but willing to learn in dangerous situations. As the movie progresses, he is revealed to be a calculating, cold-blooded terrorist who underestimates McClane and engages in a stand-off with him. One of the terrorists with expertise in hacking and technology, Theo is a confident and sadistic henchman.

Deputy Chief Robinson

Deputy Chief Robinson is a seasoned law enforcement officer who is known for his no-nonsense approach to dealing with criminals. He has spent his entire career in the police force and has been promoted through the ranks due to his diligence and dedication. He is a hard-nosed negotiator who is determined to resolve the situation at hand without unnecessary violence. However, Robinson's stubbornness and pride often get in the way of his judgment, leading him to make rash decisions in tense situations. He is a man who values his authority and reputation above all else, sometimes to the detriment of his empathy for others.


Deputy Chief Robinson is a stubborn and hard-headed captain with the LAPD who initially lets his emotions get the best of him when trying to negotiate with terrorists. He is frustrated with the situation and takes this anger out on his fellow law enforcement officers, specifically FBI agents Johnson and Johnson. Robinson has a commanding presence but can also be impulsive and short-tempered. He clashes with McClane and represents the bureaucratic interference that can impede emergency situations. Despite his flaws, Robinson is a dedicated cop who wants to do what is best for his city.

Character Arc Critique Suggestions
John McClane Over the course of the film, McClane evolves from a tough, guarded, and skeptical cop to a resourceful and determined hero who will do whatever it takes to protect the hostages and stop the terrorists. He learns to rely on his instincts, adapt to his surroundings, and work with others to achieve his goals. He also reconciles with his wife and learns the importance of communication and honesty in a relationship. By the end of the film, McClane has become a more well-rounded and empathetic character. The character arc for John McClane is well-established and provides a satisfying conclusion to his story. However, some of his transitions from one mindset to the next could be more fully developed, particularly his shift towards working with others and reconciling with his wife.
To improve the character arc, the screenplay could include more scenes showing McClane working collaboratively with the other characters, such as Powell and his wife. Additionally, more dialogue between McClane and his wife could add depth to their reconciliation and provide a stronger emotional payoff at the end of the film.
Powell Powell's character arc involves him overcoming his fears and doubts as he becomes more involved in the situation. At the beginning of the movie, Powell is hesitant and unsure of his abilities, but as the situation escalates and he becomes more involved, he gains confidence and becomes more capable. This is demonstrated when he is able to communicate with McClane and the terrorists and help identify their plan. Powell's character arc culminates when he helps McClane during the final confrontation, proving to himself and others that he has what it takes to be a true hero. While Powell's character arc is well-developed, it could have been more impactful if more time was spent exploring his personality and backstory. It would have been interesting to learn more about what motivates Powell and what his past experiences were. Additionally, the transition from a cautious and hesitant cop to a confident and capable hero could have been more pronounced and impactful if we had seen more of Powell's struggles and doubts throughout the movie.
To improve Powell's character arc, it would be beneficial to spend more time exploring his personality and backstory. This could be accomplished by including scenes that shed light on Powell's motivations and past experiences. Additionally, to make Powell's character arc more impactful, his doubts and struggles should be emphasized throughout the movie. This would make his eventual transformation into a hero more impressive and meaningful.
Holly Holly starts off as a successful executive at Nakatomi Corporation. However, when she is taken hostage by terrorists, her life is thrown into chaos. She is scared, but determined to survive. Throughout the course of the movie, she communicates with her husband John via CB radio. Through their conversations, she is able to maintain her hope and spirit. By the end of the movie, Holly not only survives the ordeal but also gains a new appreciation for her husband and the importance of family. The character arc of Holly is well-defined and provides an emotional impact. However, it would be beneficial to explore more of her personal life outside of her relationship with John. This would add more depth to her character and give her more agency in the story. Additionally, it would be interesting to see how the events of the movie affect her long-term.
Perhaps we could see Holly interacting with her coworkers or friends outside of work, which would give her more depth as a character. We could also explore how the events of the movie affect her relationship with John and her outlook on life.
Takagi Takagi starts off as a confident and unbreakable businessman who values his company and its employees. He is taken hostage by the terrorists but still refuses to give in to their demands despite the danger to his life. However, when he realizes that the lives of his employees are also at risk, he is willing to make a personal sacrifice by giving up the code to the vault. This decision ultimately leads to his tragic demise when Hans decides to execute him despite getting what he wanted. Takagi’s character arc is centered around his evolution from a man focused on self-preservation to someone who is willing to put his own life on the line for the greater good. The character of Takagi is well-written, but his arc is quite predictable. It is clear from the beginning that he is a man who values his company and its employees, so his eventual sacrifice feels like a foregone conclusion. Additionally, his death feels like a plot device to further the narrative rather than a natural consequence of his arc.
To improve Takagi’s character arc, the writers could have added more dimension to his character. Perhaps they could have shown him struggling with his decision to give up the code, or grappling with the guilt of sacrificing himself for others. Additionally, his death could have been more impactful if there was greater build-up and emotional resonance leading up to it. Takagi’s character would have benefited from more complex writing and greater attention to detail.
Ellis Ellis starts out as a selfish and shortsighted businessman who tries to use his connections to get the terrorists what they want. As the situation in the tower escalates, he becomes restless and tries to negotiate directly with Hans, putting the hostages in danger. However, when faced with the reality of the situation, Ellis begins to understand the severity of the situation. He realizes that he has made a fatal mistake by thinking he could outsmart the terrorists and pay the ultimate price for his arrogance. Although his character arc is short-lived, his fatal mistake and ultimate death serve as a warning to the other hostages and John McClane. In the end, his cocky and naive attitude cost him his life. The character arc for Ellis is short-lived and somewhat predictable. His character starts out as greedy and selfish, and his arc ends with him paying the ultimate price for his arrogance. While his death serves as a warning to the other hostages and John McClane, it would have been interesting to see a more dynamic arc where Ellis learns and grows from his mistakes before his ultimate demise.
To improve Ellis's character arc, consider adding more depth to his character by exploring his motivations and backstory. It would be interesting to see a more human side to Ellis, such as his family life or personal struggles, which would make his fatal mistake and ultimate death more impactful. Additionally, consider having Ellis learn and grow from his mistakes rather than just being a warning to others. This would add a more dynamic element to his character and make his arc more complex and engaging.
Hans Gruber Hans Gruber starts out as a cold and calculating terrorist who is focused on executing his plan flawlessly. He is intelligent and strategic in his approach, but as he faces challenges from McClane, he becomes increasingly fascinated with him, enjoying the game of outmaneuvering him. By the time McClane finally takes him down, Hans has become completely fixated on winning the game and defeating McClane, to the point where his earlier ruthless and calculating nature has almost been replaced by a manic obsession with winning. In the end, he is defeated not just by McClane, but by his own fixation on winning at all costs. The character arc is strong and well-written, but it might benefit from more development of Hans' backstory. We don't know much about what drives him, beyond the fact that he is committed to his mission, and more exploration of his motivations might add depth to the character. Additionally, it might be interesting to see more conflict between Hans and his own team, or to learn more about how he became involved in terrorism in the first place.
To improve the character arc, consider adding more backstory for Hans, exploring his motivations and what drives him. Additionally, adding more internal conflict between Hans and his own team, or exploring how he became involved in terrorism, could add additional complexity to the character. Finally, it might be interesting to see more development of the relationship between Hans and McClane, beyond the cat-and-mouse game they play throughout the movie.
Karl Throughout the film, Karl becomes increasingly obsessed with capturing McClane. He is willing to go to extreme lengths to catch him, even sacrificing his own safety and the safety of his team. However, as the film progresses, McClane outwits Karl multiple times, causing him to become more and more unhinged. Karl's obsession ultimately becomes his downfall, as he becomes too focused on capturing McClane and loses sight of the bigger picture. In the end, Karl is taken down by McClane. The character arc for Karl is strong and well-defined. However, it could benefit from more exploration of his motivations and backstory. We understand that Karl has a personal grudge against McClane, but we never learn more about his relationship with his brother or why he is so fiercely loyal to Hans. Additionally, Karl's obsessive behavior could be more clearly tied to his desire for revenge against McClane.
To improve the character arc for Karl, consider adding a scene that explores his relationship with his brother and his reasons for being loyal to Hans. This will give the audience a deeper understanding of Karl's motivations and make him a more fully realized character. Additionally, tie Karl's obsession with capturing McClane more explicitly to his desire for revenge against him. For example, he could become fixated on taking down McClane as a way of avenging his brother's death.
McClane At the start of the movie, McClane is struggling to overcome the challenges presented by the terrorists but as the movie progresses, he evolves into a clever and courageous hero who is willing to risk everything to save his wife and stop the terrorists. McClane's character arc is driven by his determination to protect those he cares about and his willingness to adapt to new situations. Through his experiences in the movie, McClane becomes more self-aware and able to handle his flaws, ultimately leading to his success in foiling the terrorists' plan and saving the innocent. The character arc is well-done, showcasing a clear progression from a struggling officer to a hero who is able to take control of the situation. However, there could be more focus given to McClane's vulnerabilities and how they affect his actions throughout the movie. Additionally, the arc could benefit from more fleshed-out emotional moments that help highlight McClane's motivations and inner struggles.
To improve the character arc, it would be useful to include some more introspective moments where McClane reflects on his flaws and vulnerabilities. These moments could help the audience connect with him on a deeper level and increase the emotional impact of his journey. Additionally, giving McClane more opportunities to showcase his tactical abilities and strategic thinking would make his success against the terrorists more believable and satisfying.
Hans Hans starts off as a confident and calculated leader, in control of the situation. He is willing to make bold moves and sacrifices for his agenda, using hostages as leverage. However, as his plan begins to unravel, and he loses communication with his team, Hans becomes increasingly unhinged and desperate. He becomes more violent and reckless, ultimately culminating in his death at the hands of John McClane. The character arc for Hans is well-defined, but it could benefit from more depth and nuance. While he is portrayed as highly-intelligent and efficient, there isn't much exploration of his backstory or motivations. Additionally, his descent into desperation and violence could be more subtly portrayed, rather than relying on a sudden shift in his behavior.
To improve the character arc for Hans, consider adding more to his backstory or motivation. This could help the audience understand why he is so determined and ruthless. Additionally, his descent into desperation could be more gradual, with subtle changes in his behavior over time rather than a sudden shift. This could make his character more nuanced and interesting to follow throughout the movie.
Theo Theo's character arc in the screenplay is a journey from an unsuspecting junior executive to a manipulative and ruthless terrorist. Initially, he is seen as a victim who is forced into the terror plot. However, as the story unfolds, Theo's true nature is revealed, and he becomes a calculating and dangerous adversary for McClane. In the end, he is killed in a struggle with McClane. Throughout the movie, Theo struggles with conflicting emotions of fear, greed, and loyalty towards his terrorist comrades. He slowly realizes his true talent for technology and hacking and uses this to his advantage to manipulate the situation in his favor. However, his overconfidence leads to his downfall, ultimately pushing him towards his demise. Theo's character arc is well-executed. However, it would have been interesting to see more depth in his conflicting emotions, which could have added a layer of complexity to his character. Also, while Theo's expertise in hacking and technology is highlighted, it is not fully explored and developed, which could have added more depth to his character arc.
To improve Theo's character arc, more attention could be paid to his internal conflicts and motivations. This could be done by exploring his past and how he became involved in terrorism. Additionally, developing his expertise in technology and hacking could help make him stand out more as a character and create more opportunities for conflict with McClane.
Deputy Chief Robinson Throughout the movie, Deputy Chief Robinson experiences a character arc from being brusque and incapable of handling the situation at hand to becoming a hesitant but ultimately swayed police officer. At first, he is hostile and unsympathetic towards McClane, blaming him for the current situation. However, as he becomes more deeply involved in the hostage crisis, Robinson begins to question his own judgment and the validity of his approach. He clashes with McClane over strategy and tactics, but ultimately recognizes that the other man's unorthodox methods may be the only way to save the hostages. By the end of the movie, Robinson has learned to let go of his pride and authority and is ultimately swayed by McClane's argument for nonviolence. The character arc for Deputy Chief Robinson is interesting, but it could benefit from more elaboration and exploration. The character is introduced as a brusque and unsympathetic law enforcement officer, but the reasons for this personality trait are not fully explored. Additionally, Robinson's transformation from a hostile negotiator to a more empathetic one seems a bit rushed. The screenplay would benefit from more nuanced character development and a slower build-up to Robinson's transformation.
To improve the character arc, the screenplay should explore the reasons behind Robinson's hostility and unsympathetic attitude. Perhaps he has had negative experiences in the past that have made him distrustful of others. Additionally, the transformation from hostile negotiator to empathetic one could be more gradual, with Robinson slowly learning to trust McClane and recognize the validity of his methods. This would allow for more nuanced character development and a more satisfying character arc for Deputy Chief Robinson.
Robinson Throughout the film, Robinson undergoes a character arc where he grows to respect and work alongside McClane. Initially at odds with each other, Robinson and McClane slowly begin to trust and rely on each other's skills to take down the terrorists. Robinson learns to put aside his pride and ego, and works towards a common goal with his fellow law enforcement officers. He also realizes that sometimes unconventional tactics are necessary to handle emergency situations. In the end, Robinson and McClane have developed a mutual respect for each other, with Robinson acknowledging that McClane's unconventional methods were critical in stopping the terrorists. The character arc for Robinson feels a bit rushed and could benefit from more development. While he starts off as an antagonistic figure, his turn towards collaborating with McClane feels abrupt and could use more build-up. Additionally, his growth towards accepting unconventional tactics feels like a missed opportunity for deeper development since it's not a unique or unexpected lesson to learn in action films.
To improve Robinson's arc, there could have been more scenes that flesh out his past experiences and motivations for his initial antagonism towards McClane. This could have added more nuance to their relationship and given more justification for his eventual alliance with McClane. Additionally, his growth towards accepting unconventional tactics could have been explored more meaningfully if he had more pushback against McClane's methods earlier on in the film. This would have created a greater sense of tension and given his character arc a more significant impact.
Theme Theme Details Themee Explanation
TerrorismThe plot revolves around terrorists infiltrating a building and holding people hostage.The central theme of the screenplay is terrorism and the fear, danger and uncertainty it brings. It highlights the impact of terrorism on individuals, society, and the government. It also shows the bravery and resilience of the protagonist in the face of such a threat.
HeroismJohn McClane is the protagonist who saves the hostages and defeats the terrorists.Heroism is a recurring theme throughout the screenplay. The character of John McClane represents the archetypal hero, who is brave, resourceful, and determined to save others. He puts his life on the line to save the hostages and defeat the terrorists. The theme explores the qualities of a hero and the impact a hero can have on others.
Love and FamilyThe relationship between John McClane and his estranged wife, Holly, is explored, and they reconcile in the end.Love and family are underlying themes in the screenplay. The reconciliation of John and Holly highlights the importance of love and family in overcoming adversity. The theme explores the impact of family on an individual's actions and the role of love in bringing people together.
Violence and RevengeThe screenplay contains several violent scenes and highlights revenge as a motif.Violence and revenge are recurring themes throughout the screenplay. The terrorist's motivation is revenge, and they carry out violent acts to achieve their goal. The theme explores the impact of violence and revenge on individuals and society, highlighting the destructive nature of these actions.
Police CorruptionThe character of Deputy Police Chief Dwayne T. Robinson is portrayed as corrupt and ineffectual.Police corruption is a minor theme in the screenplay. The character of Deputy Police Chief Dwayne T. Robinson is portrayed as corrupt and ineffectual. The theme explores the impact of police corruption on individuals and society, highlighting the need for transparency and accountability in law enforcement.

Screenwriting Resources on Themes


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