Die Hard on an X

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

German Terrorist: Attention American workers: Your plant has been taken over by an all-star team of freelance terrorists.
Homer: Not on my shift! [ jumps into an overhead vent ]

The Simpsons, "And Maggie Makes Three"

Bad guys have taken over the good guys' ship/station/what have you, but, unbeknownst to the villains, one or more good guys are hiding out in their midst, engineering their overthrow. At least one air vent will be crawled through. At least one hostage will be a member of The Hero's family and another will be executed while trying to negotiate with the villains.

Named after a meme within the entertainment industry based on the movie of the same name, starring Bruce Willis. One of the most important action films of all time, if all the copycat ripoffs are any indication. An old story says that the pitches for many action films basically went "Die Hard on a...", until one day, someone tried to pitch a movie as "Die Hard in an Office Building." Apparently, they were unaware that the original Die Hard film did take place in an office building.

This plot can be used as the action for a Bottle Episode. The bad guys may unknowingly have Bruce Wayne Held Hostage. Expect to see at least one Bulletproof Human Shield show up.

See also All Your Base Are Belong to Us, Spanner in the Works.

Recycled in Space is the general trope for remaking works in a new setting.

Examples of Die Hard on an X include:

Anime and Manga

  • Daphne in the Brilliant Blue has a two-part episode that mashes up Die Hard with a Homage to classic disaster movie parody Airplane!, of all things, called "Die Hard, Play Hard".
  • The Zone of the Enders anime series Dolores I has an episode titled "Die Hard", where James Links does this on an oxygen plant on Mars. He even Hangs a Lampshade when he wishes it were Christmas halfway through the episode.
  • When a group of terrorists take over Sakuya's titanic ship in an episode of Hayate the Combat Butler, it gets Lampshaded by the narrator, who tells us that "Die Hard on a boat will be right back."
    • The title of a chapter in the corresponding manga storyarc? "Titanic Episode 4 - With a Vengeance".
  • The events on the Sand Steamer in Trigun.
  • Parodied/Lampshaded in the Full Metal Panic! light novels. In this case, it's the good guys pretending to be terrorists in order to catch real terrorists, and they nickname the heroic troublemaker among the passengers John McClane.
    • Also played straight in Into The Blue and the corresponding anime arc, in which Gauron hijacks the Tuatha de Danaan, with Sousuke, Kurz, and (eventually, thanks to Tessa's efforts) Kaname loose on board.
  • Early Reins: Die Hard on a train! In The Wild West! And the heroes are Girls with Guns!
  • The 1931 story arc of Baccano!, AKA "The Grand Punk Railroad" takes it Up to Eleven. On a train! With three gangs hijacking at the same time, two serial killers, and three immortals! You almost forget hostages are involved, sometimes.
  • Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex plays with this when Aramaki and the Major go to London. While visiting a friend who runs a wine bank, Aramaki and his friend are taken hostage by ex-mob bank robbers, but the mob itself gets tipped off, and the bribed police force then besieges the bank. Aramaki manages to convince the robbers to work with him so that they can figure a way out of the police siege.

Comic Books

  • Ms. Tree had a story titled "New Year's Evil" where a deranged gunman takes over the rooftop restaurant where Michael Tree is celebrating New Year's Eve. Michael happens to be in the ladies rom at the time. Cue this trope.
  • JSA #10: Wildcat goes Die Hard in the JSA Mansion.
  • The three-issue arc of Doctor Strange after his first victory against Dormammu is essentially Die Hard in the Sanctum Sanctorum. Strange is knocked out by a bomb and wakes up to find a metal plate over his face and steel gauntlets on his hands that prevent him from spellcasting, and with three underlings of his nemesis Mordo in the house. It takes a combination of wits, skill and luck to beat them all.


  • Die Hard, logically enough:
    • The first film is Die Hard (on a high-rise).
    • Die Hard II is Die Hard in a snowed-in airport.
    • On the other hand, neither Die Hard With a Vengeance nor Live Free or Die Hard follow this trope, which is due to both having been written as stand-alone films that were then shoehorned into the franchise.
    • Die Hard II was also written as a standalone film, adapted from an entirely different novel (58 Minutes by Walter Wager) than the first film (adapted from Roderick Thorp's Nothing Lasts Forever).
  • Under Siege and Under Siege 2: Die Hard on a warship and train, respectively.
  • Sudden Death has Jean-Claude Van Damme as a security guard trying to stop Die Hard in a stadium.
  • The second half of the John Woo classic Hard Boiled is essentially Die Hard in a Hospital in true Heroic Bloodshed style, as the bad guys take everybody hostage at the hospital. Tequila and Alan, along with the rest of the force in the hospital, have to get everyone out before the bad guys blow everything to hell.
  • Cliffhanger is Die Hard on a mountain.
  • Speed is often touted as "Die Hard on a bus" despite not being exactly that. It does involve crawling through elevator shafts, the undercarriage of a bus and on top of a speeding subway train. Speed 2 is Die Hard on a boat.
  • Skyscraper is a rehash of the original Die Hard, also taking place in a highrise. It stars Anna Nicole Smith. Seriously.
  • Octopus: Die Hard on a sub, then on a boat, with Russian terrorists. Oh, and a really big octopus.
  • The little known movie Concrete War can also be classified as Die Hard in an office building (though to be fair, it's the two good guys who are invading the building the baddies are holed up in)
  • Lampshade Hanging added to the movie adaptation of Dave Barry's Big Trouble. Elliot is left on his own in the kitchen when a pair of crooks take everyone else in the house hostage. A character watching outside comments to his partner, "We have a Die Hard situation developing in the kitchen."
  • Lampshaded in Masterminds, where the student trapped in a taken-over private school observes "We've got a die hard situation here."
  • Passenger 57: Die Hard on a plane. Just blacker.
  • Executive Decision is also Die Hard on a plane. Just with an insertion of the McClane via a docking stealth fighter. And Steven Seagal. Briefly.
  • Air Force One: Die Hard on, well, Air Force One, with the McClane replaced with The President of the United States, played by Harrison Ford.
  • Con Air also has some traits of Die Hard on a plane, though it ends off the plane.
  • Snakes on a Plane: Die Hard on a...you can probably guess.
  • Phone Booth, an actual non-ironic Hollywood blockbuster, proudly declared itself to be Die Hard in a phone booth. It was made by Joel Schumacher and starred Forest Whitaker, Colin Farrell, Kiefer Sutherland, and Katie Holmes.
  • Half Past Dead: Die Hard in a prison.
  • Paul Blart: Mall Cop: Die Hard in a mall as a comedy.
  • The "Die Hard in a mall" concept had been previous done seriously in the obscure action movie Christmas Rush AKA Breakaway.
  • A planned sequel to Kevin Smith's Mallrats was Mallrats 2: Die Hard in a Mall, purposefully invoking this trope right down to the name.
  • Family-friendly version: Three Ninjas: High Noon at Mega Mountain, which is Die Hard in an amusement park. The titular brothers (and, to a lesser extent, Hulk Hogan) take the place of John McClane, Loni Anderson takes the place of Hans Gruber. It's like the writers of the film watched Die Hard and decided to make it family-friendly by making it a Three Ninjas movie.
  • The Fifth Element, in its middle section, briefly becomes Die Hard on a boat... IN SPAAAACE!!! It also has Bruce Willis shooting bad guys and blowing stuff up.
  • The Taking Of Beverly Hills is Die Hard in a city
  • Run is Die Hard in a city.
  • Beverly Hills Cop III is Die Hard in an amusement park (at least in part).
  • Dolph Lundgren starrer Agent Red is Die Hard on a submarine
  • Home Alone is Die Hard FOR KIDS!
  • The Rock is Die Hard on Alcatraz.
  • Armored is Die Hard in an armored truck.
  • Fast Five Die Hard in an armored car in Brazil.
  • The b-movie Velocity Trap is Die Hard on a spaceship.
  • The movie Hostage is Die Hard in a house, bonus points for having Bruce Willis as the main character.
  • The Tower is "Die Hard without the bad guys!" Seriously, Paul Reiser is trapped inside an evil, sentient office skyscraper.
  • The Canadian b-movie Lethal Tender is Die Hard in a water treatment plant.
  • The b-movie Final Voyage is Die Hard on a cruise ship, and even features Erika Eleniak as The Load.
  • The short Joyride is Die Hard in the trunk of a car.
  • Demolition High - Die Hard in a high school
  • Day of the Wolves is Die Hard in a small town. However, being made in 1971, it predates Die Hard. A gang of bad guys have a plan for Taking Over the Town. What they hadn't counted on was the police chief being fired that morning, and so being at home instead of where they expected him to be.
  • Bloodfist VI is Die Hard in a nuclear missile silo. Wilson plays a military courier who's running late and winds up interrupting the terrorist plans. As one of the terrorists states, "Wrong place. Wrong time."
  • Most of The Interceptor is Die Hard on a C-5.
  • Masterminds is, plot points and all, Die Hard in a prep school.
  • 30 Days of Night is Die Hard in a small Alaskan town with vampires.
  • Lockout is Die Hard in a futuristic space prison.
  • The Raid is Die Hard in a rundown apartment complex.
  • Airheads: Die Hard in a radio station, played as a comedy, wherein the terrorists are the good guys and the guns aren't real. Michael Richards plays the McClane reimagined as The Fool.


  • The Doctor Who New Adventures novel GodEngine traps thirtieth-century cop Chris Cwej in a Martian military base, upon which he promptly proceeds to wreak mayhem using a strategy his partner informs us is officially known as "The McClane Protocol".
  • Artemis Fowl 's author Eoin Colfer has described the first book in the series as "Die Hard with fairies."
  • Judith & Garfield Reeves-Steven's novel Quicksilver is Die Hard in the Pentagon
  • Vertical Run by Joseph Garber is Die Hard in an office building, where the John McClane of the story is the only target.
  • "We have a Die Hard situation forming in the kitchen . . ."
  • The Ciaphas Cain short story Traitor's Gambit is Die Hard on a spaceship, complete with Cain taunting the head terrorist over a vox unit and the terrorist's leader being more in it for financial gain than for the cause.
    • Cain's Last Stand has a scene where a survivor of an alien attack is hiding in the vents. The fact he's still alive when the Tyranids almost always gravitate to the vents (and attack through the same vent moments later) is the first clue they weren't the original attackers.
  • The Young Bond short story "A Hard Man to Kill" is Die Hard on an ocean liner, starring a teenaged James Bond.

Live-Action TV

  • Parodied on The Ben Stiller Show playing Bruce Willis in a Die Hard sequel... set in a supermarket.
  • In the 9th and worse season Roseanne copied "Under Siege II... of course, it was All Just a Dream.
  • Star Trek has done Die Hard on a spaceship for a number of episodes across the series:
    • Star Trek: The Original Series: "Space Seed". However, this aired before Die Hard was released. So Die Hard is sort of "Space Seed in an office building"! Sort of...
    • Star Trek: The Next Generation: "Starship Mine" and "Rascals" (with the added dis-/advantage that Picard, Guinan, Ro and Keiko were transformed into children before the Ferengi takeover). Arguably, Star Trek: First Contact is like this as well.
    • TNG: "Timescape" has elements of "Die Hard in a temporal anomaly".
    • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: For the first part of Season 6, the eponymous station is in enemy hands. Also, the beginning of Season 2 sees the crew temporarily handing the station over to Bajoran radicals. And then there's the shrunken shuttlecraft episode, definitely the Spiritual Successor of The Next Generation.
    • Star Trek: Voyager: "Basics," "Macrocosm," and "Message in a Bottle". The Doctor was frequently the Bruce Willis, his Projected Man status making him immune to whatever incapacitated everyone else.
    • Star Trek: Enterprise: "Acquisition", "Catwalk", and "Chosen Realm".
    • Usually any time that Jefferies Tubes are mentioned, you know there's going to be a Die Hard plot, except for that one episode where Picard ended up playing the flute in them like an insane homeless man.
  • Alias: "The Box".
  • Blakes Seven did this once.
    • The episode was "Power Play" by Terry Nation, in case anyone was curious. Although bad guys taking over the Liberator wasn't exactly a rare occurrence...
  • The Sentinel had an episode called "Dead Drop", which involved the main character trying to catch the bad guy by going up elevator shafts, running up stairs, and, in a true Die Hard moment, swinging in through a window.
    • The second episode of the series fit this trope as well, but it advanced the plot by forcing Jim to use his abilities around his boss several times, letting him in on the secret.
  • A second-season episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer admits that it's ripping off this device by entitling the episode where everyone is trapped in a vampire-infested school (Die Hard at Sunnydale High) with Buffy as their only hope "School Hard".
  • In the pilot of Entourage, Vince gets pitched a script that is described as "Die Hard at Disneyland."
  • Farscape: "I Shrink Therefore I Am". Die Hard is even mentioned by name.
  • The Highlander the Series episode "Bad Day in Building A" is notable in that it borrows the Die Hard formula to the point of its Technical Pacifist hero killing enemy mooks, including at least one he had clearly already succeeded at tying to a chair. Because the Power of Willis is such that even Duncan MacLeod must kill for it.
  • The short-lived series John Doe had an episode called "Doe or Die", which was previously titled "Doe Hard".
  • The Lois and Clark episode "Fly Hard", in which terrorists take over the Daily Planet building. Of course, part of the humor is that Jimmy Olsen is really missed by the terrorists when they rounded up the hostages (while Clark Kent, of course, is rounded up with everyone else). Jimmy deludes himself into thinking he's Bruce Willis and is going to save everyone's lives in a rather hilarious Internal Monologue held while crouching in a stairwell. He, of course, ends up accomplishing nothing much in particular before Superman suddenly "arrives" to save the day
  • In an episode of 3rd Rock from the Sun, a retiring professor says that he's going to work on his novel, which he describes as "Die Hard only set in an office building". Dick points out the truth, greatly annoying the man.
  • Stargate SG-1 inverted this trope: in "Bad Guys" the SG-1 itself is mistaken as a group of terrorists in an alien museum, and a bumbling security guard believes himself to be the McClane. Naturally, they Lampshade it:

Mitchell: [over radio while held at gunpoint] "Uh, we've got ourselves a John McClane wannabe here."
Daniel: "John McClane? What?"
Teal'c: "Die Hard."

    • They've played it straight a few times. The Prometheus has been taken over by alien or human bad guys on at least two occasions, and once SG-1 had to take it back from an alternate SG-1. (Long story.) The SGC has also been the target of this a few times. (In "Foothold", for example, the aliens were masquerading as the regular characters, and Sam was the only one who was really herself). Die Hard... In Colorado?
  • Stargate Atlantis is fond of this trope:
    • "The Storm" and "The Eye" is a very deliberate reference, because the Big Bad (Acastus Kolya) is Robert Davi - who was one of the FBI agents in the original Die Hard. "The Return" does it as well, and also the final season's "The Prodigal", which even ends with Teyla tossing series Big Bad off the top floor of the Atlantis main tower. Note that "The Storm/The Eye", "The Return," and the above-mentioned SG-1 episode "Bad Guys" were all penned by staff writer Martin Gero, who apparently has a favorite movie.
    • Averted with "Midway". The Wraith have taken over the SGC, and there are only two people conscious on our side. Perfect time for another "Die Hard at the SGC"... except the two conscious people are Teal'c and Ronon. Instead of sneaking around, they just start killing every Wraith they can find.
  • The CSI New York third-season finale "Snow Day" is another example.
  • MacGyver: "Phoenix Under Siege".
  • The Middleman episode "The Clotharian Contamination Protocol", in which Die Hard is referenced repeatedly, both by the characters and via in-jokes. The HQ is aided by the Nakatomi Protocol, which widens the air ducts and initiates a lockdown. Toward the end of the episode it becomes Die Hard In An Android.

Dubby: How often does the HQ get invaded?
The Middleman: About three times a year.

  • Chuck, which not only has bad guys taking over the Buy More, but also has has Al from Die Hard in it, as Big Mike's cousin.
    • And in a different episode, different bad guys take over the store after Black Friday when Morgan, Jeff and Lester are the only ones inside. The bad guys take Jeffster hostage while Morgan was in his office taking a foot bath...in a tank top...without shoes. Yes, he uses the vents to get around, yes, he knocks a box of tacks off a shelf...and steps on them. Yes, he decides to make a rescue with a gun taped to his back.
  • The Battlestar Galactica reboot does this in "The Oath" and "Blood on the Scales," with mostly Lee and Kara (and a bit of Tigh/Adama) as the McClane. Even Tyrol gets to play McClane as he crawls through service tunnels and air ducts for most of the episode.
  • Burn Notice had an episode where Michael and a rival go Die Hard in a Bank.
    • A more recent episode played with the formula. Michael infiltrates a gang of criminals who take over a small airport and take hostages (including Michael's mother). What does Michael do? Sabotage the operation from within and direct the blame towards a nonexistent airport employee.
  • It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia has "The Gang Gets Taken Hostage". Frank is stuck in the air vents while the Mc Poyle's hold the rest of the gang hostage. He even has to walk over broken glass and tape a gun to his back. And at one point he yells "Yipee Ki Yay Mr. Falcon!"
  • Human Target has had Die Hard On a Bullet Train Pilot (complete with air vent crawl!) and Die Hard In a Monastery Sanctuary.
  • A season finale episode of Third Watch was essentially "Die Hard in a hospital with five times more cops", and was very action packed for the type of series it was.
  • As the characters repeatedly Lampshade, Jim & George's subplot of the No Ordinary Family episode "No Ordinary Detention" is Die Hard in a police station. The trope is also Invoked, as they explicitly base their plan on McClane's actions. George compares himself to Sgt. Powell ("Let me be your black dude"), and Jim at one point uses the family-friendly half of McClane's Catch Phrase.
  • Mad About You played with being Die Hard in a Hospital because the hospital is sealed off after Bruce Willis gets hurting 'filming the latest Die Hard film, Die Already. He ends up wandering the hospital ("Do I look concussed?") and helping Paul Riser's character make it to his daughter's birth.
  • Happens in Global Dynamics in Eureka, with Jo Lupo and Zoe Carter.

Video Games

Web Comics

  • "The Dragon Doctors" arc "Thieves of life" is a "Die Hard In A Hospital" scenario. Goro, the sickly surgeon, is fighting off four thieves while awaiting her Life Energy transplant.
  • Bob the Angry Flower: From the people who brought you Submarine Action Movie and Airplane Action Movie', now comes Train Action Movie!!!
  • In strip #349 of Micheal Firman's Moe, while not a reconstruction of this trope in itself, the titular character tries to pitch an action-romance movie based on this format, albeit without being able to think of any romantic movie to merge Die Hard with.

"I'm picturing something like Die Hard meets... That scene in Die Hard where he gets all gushy over his wife"

Western Animation

  • Parodied with the page-quote exchange on The Simpsons. Just to clarify, those events didn't really happen. They're a fabrication by Homer.
    • The episode where Maggie rescues the other babies from a creche made a lot of references to The Great Escape, but was actually more like Die Hard In A Nursery.
  • The Fillmore! episode "A Cold Day at X".
  • The South Park episode "Super Fun Time" is essentially Die Hard at Ye Olde Settlement, where a team of terrorists, complete with a Hans lookalike, takes a frontier-town educational park hostage after robbing a Burger King.
  • An episode of Beast Wars does this with a unique twist: It's the building where Rattrap is hiding that is trying to kill him. He sets off the security system and tries to deactivate it.
    • And an episode of Transformers Animated did Die Hard on an Elite Guard Spaceship. Complete with bomb-down-the-elevator-shaft and grumbling while crawling through the air vent.
  • The "Hostage Crisis" episode of Star Wars: The Clone Wars was basically "Die Hard in the Republic Senate building" with Anakin as John McClane and bounty hunter Cad Bane as Hans Gruber. Instead of having no shoes like McClane, Anakin has no lightsaber. Unlike most examples of the trope Anakin does not stop the villains, they successfully take over the building, make their demands and then make good their escape. Anakin himself is captured without putting any real dents in the villains' efforts and spends the rest of the crisis unconscious and held with the rest of the hostages. However, Anakin does get a redemption at the end of the episode when he saves the lives of the hostages when Cad Bane was going to blow them up after he had already gotten away.
  • A clip show episode of The Critic was framed around Jay's show being taken over by terrorists led by a Hans Gruber Expy. In the end they were defeated by Highly-Visible Ninja Milton Berle.
  • The Dexter's Laboratory episode "Trapped With A Vengeance" had Dexter facing the janitor at school, and had several Shout Outs to iconic scenes from Die Hard.
  • The Swat Kats episode "Destructive Nature" actually is Die Hard in an office building—only with a Mad Scientist and his Man Eating Plants as the villains.
  • In the Young Justice episode "Home Front", Robin and Artemis are hunted throughout their own base by a team of ridiculously powerful androids.
  • From The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes:
    • "Masters of Evil" had some of the Avengers' biggest villains at the time take over the Avengers Mansion, and capture five of the Avengers. Ant-Man, Hawkeye, and Black Panther subsequently had to rescue their fellow superheroes.
    • "Alone Against AIM" was actually promoted once as, "Die Hard at Stark Industries!" The Scientist Supreme cuts off the power at the main Stark Industries office building, and takes Pepper Potts hostage, while also stealing some of Iron Man's armor. This leaves an un-armored Tony Stark having to stop AIM from blowing up the building, with the Technovore chasing him in pursuit of the arc reactor in his chest. One scene even shows Tony descending an elevator shaft together with Maria Hill.