COPYCATS! Die Hard (1988) vs. Hard to Die (1990)
Die Hard (1988) takes on its COPYCAT! knock-off Hard to Die (1990)!
We have ourselves another ultimate showdown between the original John McClane caper Die Hard (1988) versus its B-movie rip-off Hard to Die (1990) in this edition of COPYCATS! Check out past episodes on Lethal Weapon vs LA Vice, The Fugitive vs. Fugitive X and RoboCop vs. RoboVampire.)
Copycats is a bimonthly column about popular action movies and the low-budget films they inspire. Each column, we take a popular action movie and find its cinematic doppelganger, revel in their similarities and dissect their differences. Some of these copycats are good enough (or strange enough) to earn their place in action movie history, but most are being chronicled here to preserve their existence – for better or for worse.
Die Hard versus Hard to Die
Synopsis of both films: A Los Angeles high rise building becomes a warzone during an after-hours invasion.
It’s Christmas Eve and street-wise New York cop John McClane (Willis) arrives in California in need of a smoke and a nap. He’s heading to the Nakatomi Plaza in Los Angeles to be reunited with his estranged wife. She’s promised a weekend of laughs by the coast, but little does she know the building is about to be invaded by terrorists led by the evil maniacal Hans Gruber (Rickman)! As the terrorists take a Christmas party hostage, a shoeless McClane evades capture and starts picking off the bad guys one by one. Released in theaters in July 1988, Die Hard became an instant action classic, playing in theaters until October and making Bruce Willis one of the most bankable action stars ever! Die Hard became such an influence on other action films, the term “Die Hard on a …” became commonplace. For example:
- Die Hard on a bus (Speed (1994)
- Die Hard on a submarine (Under Siege (1992)
- Die Hard on a train (Under Siege 2: Dark Territory (1995)
- Die Hard on a plane (Passenger 57 (1992)
- Die Hard at a hockey game (Sudden Death (1995)
- Die Hard at a wealthy suburban house in Illinois over Christmas vacation (Home Alone (1990)
Of course, Hard to Die had an equal if not greater influence on movies. No, wait, I’m sorry. I think I must be having a stroke. Hard to Die features five women working the night shift in a Los Angeles high rise that for some reason houses a lingerie shop on one of the upper levels who are basically held captive by a maniac and must fight to survive. Yup.
Hard to Die is one of those movies you remember seeing the trailer for once late, late at night – on the pay-per-view preview channel (or one of the cheaper pay channels) or right before a rented video (not the video you wanted to rent, the one that was available that kind of reminded you of the one you really wanted to rent). It looks bad, really bad, but it does have women in lingerie firing machine guns, so it can’t be that bad, right?
Well, while the trailer is made to look like an action movie, it really isn’t. It’s not really a horror movie, either. It’s not a comedy, it’s not a dramedy, it’s not a thriller, it’s not an erotic thriller, it’s not a mystery, so what is it? It’s 70 minutes of women in skimpy clothes, 20 minutes of them being chased by a very slow-moving, flannel-wearing serial killer who may or may not be possessed, 10 minutes of gunfire and/or hand-to-hand combat (they don’t even find working guns until the 68-minute mark), 5-10 minutes of subplots that make no sense and might be from a completely different movie, and nearly 10 minutes of credits to make it the normal length or a film.
Which is Better?
Which is better? Die Hard, no question about it. Die Hard is one of my favorite action movies and I consider it to be the greatest Christmas movie ever made. Director Jim Wynorski, famous for making fast and cheap exploitation movies, doesn’t give you much with Hard to Die. It’s 77 minutes of lingerie-clad women who are sometimes firing machine guns, but even that has its limits. At the end of the day, Hard to Die is incredibly Hard to Watch.
Other notes: Now, if you actively search out the movie, you’ll quickly learn that it’s a sequel to Sorority House Massacre 2 (also from 1990). Sorority House Massacre 2 has no relation to Sorority House Massacre (1985) and features scenes from Slumber Party Massacre (1982) which, if you’re paying attention at home, is a completely different movie! And, while Hard to Die features scenes from Sorority House Massacre 2 (and some of the same actresses including Melissa Moore from Samurai Cop!), Hard to Die really has nothing to do with that movie either. Confused? Me too.
Article by Eric LaRose – a Wisconsin-based connoisseur of action, horror and sci-fi movies from the ‘80s and ‘90s. A former journalist and podcaster, Eric wrote the ending to the Toxic Avenger Part 4, but the only person who will back up that claim is his wife.
Who do you think wins this edition of COPYCATS! – Die Hard or Hard to Die? Let us know in the comments or on our Facebook page!