Study Guide

Die Hard Violence

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The weird thing about violent action movies is that the characters hardly ever talk about the violence they're experiencing and perpetrating. And yet, in movies like Die Hard, there's violence in practically every scene. It's just a part of the bargain. From the brutal fistfights to the point-blank shootings to the berserk gunfights, Die Hard is chock full of people doing each other physical harm. And it's not just the villains who perpetrate it—it's our hero, too. John McClane single-handedly does away with all of the terrorists except Karl, whether it's through explosions, shooting, or a good old-fashioned fall down the stairs. Dude does not play.

Questions About Violence

  1. Is the violence in Die Hard excessive? Did you ever cringe and avert your eyes? Or do you think it's all good if it's in the service of the story?
  2. What, would you argue, is the most violent scene in the movie? Is it the Karl-McClane fight? The brutal shooting of Takagi? Something else?
  3. What purpose do you think violence serves in Die Hard? Does it have any meaning beyond entertainment and shock value?

Chew on This

The violence in Die Hard is straight-up gratuitous. It serves no purpose other than to shock viewers and satisfy our ever-growing urge for ever-increasing horror.

Die Hard is violent because without the threat of real physical harm—even death—the stakes wouldn't be high enough for us to root for a McClane victory.

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