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Hero Overview

Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker!
~ John McClane's famous catchphrase.

John McClane, Sr. is the main protagonist of the Die Hard film series. He is an Irish-American NYPD detective lieutenant who has the gift to be at the wrong place at the wrong time, getting involved in many terrorist attacks, that he often has to stop by himself. He also worked with the Los Angeles Police Department for a year.

He was portrayed by Bruce Willis, who also portrayed Butch Coolidge in Pulp Fiction, Joe Hallenbeck in The Last Boy Scout, Korben Dallas in The Fifth Element, Harry Stamper in Armageddon, David Dunn in Unbreakable and Glass, John Hartigan in Sin City, A.K. Waters in Tears of the Sun, Frank Moses in Red, Mr. Church in the Expendables franchise, RJ in Over the Hedge, and Paul Kersey in Death Wish.


McClane is a streetwise and wisecracking cop, who travels to Los Angeles on Christmas Eve in an attempt to get back together with his estranged wife, Holly. When he arrives at her office skyscraper where she works, the building is taken over by a team of 13 European terrorists, led by master thief Hans Gruber, who intends to steal $640,000,000 in negotiable bank bonds in the building's vault. Barefoot and armed only with his Beretta 92F service pistol, he kills them all, avoided getting shot by Special Agent Johnson who mistaken him for one of Gruber's men and drops him out a thirty story high window when he attempts to kill Holly.

In Die Hard 2: Die Harder, set one year later, McClane takes on a group of mercenaries who took over the Washington-Dulles International Airport in Washington in order to free a dictator, D.C. Holly is on one of the planes that the terrorists are forcing to circle around the runway, desperately low on fuel. McClane takes on all the terrorists again and kills their leader, Colonel Stuart, by lightning a trail of fuel which causes their airplane to explode as it takes off in an escape attempt.

McClane's next appearance is in Die Hard with a Vengeance. McClane has become an alcoholic since Holly left him, and has been suspended from the force. He is reinstated when terrorist mastermind Simon Gruber, Hans' brother, plants bombs all over New York City and threatens to detonate them unless he goes through his twisted game of nearly impossible riddles and tasks, which send him careening from one end of the city to the other in a race against time with a tough, hotheaded shopkeeper named Zeus Carver. McClane was able to save some passengers in a subway train when a bomb exploded causing the subway train derailed, due to the interference of a Transit Cop who ordered Zeus to raise his hands up. This is seemingly a revenge plot for his brother, but it is revealed to be a gold heist from the Federal Reserve worth of $140 billon. McClane later kills Simon by shooting his helicopter down into some power lines.

In Live Free or Die Hard, McClane is in his fifties and winds up getting drawn into a plot with a young hacker by a new breed of cyber-terrorists to shut down the United States Government infrastructure and then rob it blind in the denouement. McClane is able to outsmart the terrorists who use all their means to try and kill him, even tricking a fighter jet into attacking him while he is driving their semi truck. McClane later kills their leader, Thomas Gabriel, by shooting him through his own shoulder after he tries to kill McClane's daughter, Lucy.

In A Good Day to Die Hard, he stops a nuclear weapons heist in Russia with his son, Jack. He and Jack kill Yuri Komarov and Irina Komarov, his daughter. Jack kills Yuri by tossing him off a roof into helicopter roters and Irina commits suicide in an attempt to kill Jack and John by crashing her helicopter into the building they were in. The two return back home and reunite with Lucy.

The sixth film is in the pre-production, but the speculated plot involves McClane going to Japan with Lucy to receive an honor from the Nakatomi corporation from the first film, only for it to be taken over by Japanese terrorists who are presumably trying to rob it.


McClane's appearance varies throughout the series, but the basis remains the same. It often consists of a flannel shirt, a pair of light trousers and a white tank top that is blackened over the course of each respective film. McClane's hairline also noticeably recedes until the point of it being almost invisible in the fourth film. McClane was a small but muscular man. With a tattoo on his left arm and a slightly unshaven face, McClane cut quite the intimidating figure when dealing with criminals. McClane had a scar on his left eyebrow that received further damage in bothDie Hard and Die Hard 2. The scar can still be seen in Die Hard with a Vengeance, but goes missing in the later sequels.

John is an average American man still stuck in the 20th century. With his cocky nature, McClane is able to stir up friendships quite easily as seen by his interaction with an airplane passenger in the first film. However, this cocky nature also lands him in trouble with other authority figures in the series such as Dwayne T. Robinson and Carmine Lorenzo. Wisecracking and a smirk whenever he talks to someone, McClane held a very laid back and cool approach to dealing with the people around him, this ease would quickly disappear, however, when faced with life threatening occurrences such as Nakatomi and Dulles Airport. In the first film, McClane obviously gripped with justifiable mortal fear when Hans Gruber's gang attacks. As such, McClane's first moves are to run, hide and call for help to any authorities who are willing to listen. He seems quite taken aback by the death of Takagi, but eventually steels himself to fight Gruber's gang when all other options are exhausted and the police forces outside are proving next to useless helping him. However, by the end of the series, it is quite common to McClane, who makes a trademark witty retort to his lifeless enemy.

While subtle, McClane's character does change slightly in every film. In the first 'Die Hard' McClane comes off as a little reserved and hard edged, which can be attributed to the marital problems, jet lag and the fact that he's in a situation he feels uncomfortable in. In Die Hard 2, McClane comes off as a lot more light-hearted and jokey. This is probably due to the fact that this is the only time in the series where he's shown happily married with no personal struggles to be found. Five years later we find McClane in Die Hard with a Vengeance has hit rock bottom, having not spoken to Holly in a year and has become an alcoholic. McClane here is closer to how he was in the first film albeit in a more foul mood due to his hangover. In Live Free or Die Hard, McClane is shown to be bitter about his previous heroics, saying they cost him his family.

McClane was a heavy smoker during the first three Die Hard films, lighting up whenever he got a chance to relax. In Die Hard 2, while running to catch Esperanza's plane on the runway, McClane states "[He's] gotta quit smokin' cigarettes". In Die Hard with a Vengeance McClane only lights up once, probably due to the fact that he never got a real chance to relax, especially since he spent a lot of the film running. Towards the end of the film, McClane is seen pulling out a packet of cigarettes, only to throw them away when he realizes that they're soaking wet. He's never seen smoking in either Live Free or Die Hard or A Good Day to Die Hard, possibly because he quite smoking before the events of "Live Free or Die Hard. Bruce Willis was behind this change. A non-smoker himself, he didn't want children to go see McClane glorifying smoking. McClane was also a heavy drinker in Die Hard with a Vengeance and most likely raised Catholic, as he knew how to do the sign of the Cross and told Zeus how to do it properly.



  • Die Hard (1988)
  • Die Hard 2 (1990)
  • Die Hard with a Vengeance (1995)
  • Live Free or Die Hard (2007)
  • A Good Day to Die Hard (2013)
  • McClane (??)

TV & Other

  • Die Hard 2: Chaos on the Conveyor Belt (1990)
  • Twentieth Century Fox: The Blockbuster Years (2000)
  • Sendung ohne Namen (2002-2003, 2 appearances)
  • 20 to 1 (2006-2009, 2 appearances)
  • The Continuing Adventures of John McClane (2007)
  • Live Free or Die Hard Gag Reel (2007)
  • Family Guy (2009)
  • Live Free or Die Hard (Project 12, 8/12) (2011)
  • Family Guy: The Quest for Stuff (2014)
  • The Movies That Made Us (2019)
  • DieHard is Back (2020)


  • Die Hard: Year One (2009-10, 8 appearances)
  • MAD (1989, 90, 91, 95, 4 appearances)
  • Agent X9 (2011, 3 appearances)
  • Cracked (1990, 95, 2000, 3 appearances)


  • Die Hard (1989)
  • Die Hard (1990)
  • Die Hard (1992)
  • Die Hard 2: Die Harder (1991)
  • Die Hard Trilogy (1996)
  • Die Hard Arcade (1997)
  • Die Hard Trilogy 2: Viva Las Vegas (2000)
  • Die Hard: Nakatomi Plaza (2003)
  • Die Hard: Vendetta (2002)


  • Bruce Willis plays John McClane in five films: Die Hard (first appearance), Die Hard 2: Die Harder, Die Hard with a Vengeance, Live Free or Die Hard, and A Good Day to Die Hard.
  • John McClane is based on Detective Joe Leland from the book: "Nothing Lasts Forever."
  • Mel Gibson, Harrison Ford, Nick Nolite, Clint Eastwood, Don Johnson, Harrison Ford, Michael Keaton, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvestor Stallone were considered for the role.

External Links


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See Also
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