Die Hard Wiki
Die-hard-with-a-vengeance movie-poster-01
Die Hard with a Vengeance theatrical poster
Written by Roderick Thorp (characters)
Jonathan Hensleigh
Directed by John McTiernan
Produced by John McTiernan
Michael Tadross
Starring Bruce Willis
Jeremy Irons
Samuel L. Jackson
Larry Bryggman
Graham Greene
Colleen Camp
Music by Michael Kamen
Cinematography by Peter Menzies Jr.
Editing by John Wright
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Buena Vista Pictures
Release Date May 19, 1995
Budget $90,000,000 US
Preceded by Die Hard 2
Followed by Live Free or Die Hard

Die Hard with a Vengeance is the third film in the Die Hard series starring Bruce Willis as police officer John McClane, released in 1995. Vengeance introduces Samuel L. Jackson as Zeus Carver, Willis' reluctant partner. Jeremy Irons plays the main villain, Simon Gruber. It was directed by John McTiernan and written by Jonathan Hensleigh. It was followed by Live Free or Die Hard in 2007 and A Good Day to Die Hard in 2013.


Main article: In-depth synopsis of Die Hard with a Vengeance

In the summer of 1995, New York City, a bomb detonates and destroys the Bonwit-Teller department store. A man calling himself "Simon" phones Major Case Unit Inspector Walter Cobb of the New York City Police Department, claiming responsibility for the bomb. He demands that suspended police officer Lt. John McClane be dropped in Harlem wearing a sign. Harlem shop owner Zeus Carver spots McClane and tries to get him off the street before he is killed, but a group of offended black men attack the pair, who barely escape. Returning to the station, they learn that Simon is believed to have stolen several thousand gallons of an explosive compound. Simon calls again, demanding McClane and Carver put themselves through a series of "games" to prevent more explosions.


Zeus and John listening to Simon on the pay phone.

McClane and Carver are instructed by Simon to travel to Wall Street Station 90 blocks south, within 30 minutes to stop a bomb planted on a Brooklyn-bound Number 3 train. McClane succeeds in locating and throwing the bomb off the train but it detonates, causing the rear car of the train to derail, demolishing many of the station's support columns. U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation agents tell McClane that Simon is Simon Gruber, brother of Hans Gruber, whom McClane killed in the Nakatomi Plaza takeover a few years ago. During the debriefing, Simon calls again claiming that another bomb is planted in one of the city schools, and is sensitive to police radio signals. As McClane and Carver are forced to complete more riddles to identify the school, the police organize a citywide search of schools, and shut down the police radio band.

After overhearing a chance remark by a passerby, McClane realizes that he and Carver are being distracted to keep them away from Wall Street; Simon is planning a heist. Returning downtown, he finds Simon's men − disguised as cops, businessmen, construction workers, and guards − have raided the Federal Reserve Bank of New York via the damaged subway station and made off with $140 billion of gold bullion in 14 stolen dump trucks.

After killing Simon's henchmen at the bank, McClane trails the dump trucks to an aqueduct in the New York City Water Tunnel No. 3 and captures one of the trucks. Simon destroys a cofferdam, flooding the tunnel; McClane is thrown clear through a vertical air shaft, and he regroups with Carver. They continue to follow the dump trucks to a tanker, but are captured attempting to board. The police locate and attempt to evacuate the school they think the bomb is in. As the timer reaches zero, the police discover that the bomb is a decoy. McClane and Carver find that Simon has used the remaining explosive to rig the tanker to explode, which would send the gold to the bottom of the sea. Simon leaves the tanker, leaving McClane and Carver tied up next to the bomb, but they escape from the ship before it detonates.

As they regroup with the police and have their wounds treated, McClane theorizes that there was no gold on the ship, which ultimately proves correct as it was replaced with scrap metal, and Simon has escaped with the gold. While phoning to make amends with his estranged wife Holly, McClane realizes an aspirin bottle given to him earlier by Simon gives an address in a border town of Quebec. McClane and Carver alongside the Royal Canadian Mounted Police raid the warehouse where Simon and his men are preparing to distribute the gold. Simon escapes in a helicopter, attempting to shoot McClane from the air, but McClane shoots a power line which hits the helicopter and destroys it, killing Simon. Carver joins McClane and convinces him to finish his call to his estranged wife Holly at a nearby pay phone.


Law Enforcment[]



Script and setting[]

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Die Hard with a Vengeance teaser poster.

With a Vengeance-Behind the scenes

During production of the film.

This movie is based on a script written by Jonathan Hensleigh originally titled Simon Says, which was originally conceived as a Brandon Lee action film, then later considered for use as the fourth installment of the Lethal Weapon series. The first half of Die Hard with a Vengeance is almost identical to Simon Says; the robbery was added to bring the story in line with other Die Hard films. The original plan was to have the villains burgle the Metropolitan Museum of Art, an idea not used here, but which appears in John McTiernan's film The Thomas Crown Affair.

Alternative ending[]

In the original ending, found on the special edition DVD, it is presumed that the robbery succeeds, and McClane was used as the scapegoat for everything that went wrong and has been fired from the NYPD after more than 20 years on the force. McClane tells Simon that the FBI has even taken away his pension as a result. In this version, Simon has dumped or double-crossed most of his accomplices, driven the gold north to Nova Scotia and had the gold turned into statuettes of the Empire State Building in order to smuggle it out of the country. But McClane still manages to track him down to his foreign hideaway. This is reminiscent of Alec Guiness' situation in the British heist movie The Lavender Hill Mob, made some 45 years earlier.

McClane has tracked him using the batch number on the bottle of aspirins (this original ending may take place in Germany, because McClane mentions that he has traced the batch number on the bottle of aspirin to "a German pharmacy"). McClane is keen to take it out on Simon whom he invites to play a game called "McClane Says". This involves a form of Russian Roulette with a small Chinese rocket launcher with the sights removed, meaning it cannot be determined which end is which. McClane then asks Simon some riddles similar to the ones he played in New York. When Simon gets a riddle wrong, McClane forces him at gunpoint to fire the launcher, which fires the rocket through Simon, killing him. At the very end of the sequence, it's revealed that McClane was wearing a flak jacket the entire time, and could not have been killed by the rocket launcher.

In the DVD audio commentary, screenwriter Jonathan Hensleigh claims that this version was dropped because the studio thought it showed a more cruel and menacing side to McClane, a man who killed for revenge rather than in self-defense. Hensleigh's intention was to show that the events in New York and the subsequent repercussions had tilted him psychologically.

According to the DVD audio commentary, a second alternate ending had McClane and Carver floating back to shore on a makeshift raft after the explosion at sea. Carver says it's a shame the bad guys are going to get away; McClane tells him not to be so sure. The scene then shifts to the plane where the terrorists find the briefcase bomb they left in the park and which Carver gave back to them (in this version it was not used to blow up the dam). The movie would end on a darkly comic note as Simon asks if anyone has a 4 gallon jug. This draft of the script was rejected early on, and unlike the rocket-launcher sequence, was never actually filmed.


Box office success[]

Released on May 19, 1995, the movie was a box office success. It debuted at #1, grossing $22,162,245 on its opening weekend, and ended up grossing $100,012,499 in the U.S. market alone. But it proved to be a bigger hit on foreign markets, outgrossing the biggest U.S. summer movie that year, Batman Forever, by grossing $261,200,000, to a $361,212,499 total. Worldwide, Die Hard with a Vengeance became the biggest hit film in 1995, with Disney Pixar's Toy Story coming in at a close second and Apollo 13 coming in third.

Production Notes[]

  • On the DVD commentary, screenwriter Jonathan Hensleigh says the idea for the film's plot came to him when he imagined what would happen if one of his childhood friends, who was injured after Hensleigh threw a rock at him, decided to seek revenge on him as an adult.
  • There was a scene where John McClane describes to Zeus Carver why Simon Gruber wants to kill him. He explains that he killed his little brother by dropping him off the 32nd floor of the Nakatomi Plaza skyscraper. This is incorrect. Hans actually fell from the 30th floor, two floors below, where the Nakatomi Vault was located.
  • The protagonist in Hensleigh's original Simon Says script was a New York cop named Alex Bradshaw, and the character that became Zeus Carver was a woman. The film studio wanted Hensleigh to change Zeus's race from black to either white or Asian.
  • The scene where John McClane (Willis) wears the sandwich board was filmed in Washington Heights in order to avoid any conflict/riot in Harlem. The street signs in Audubon Ave. between 173rd and 177th Streets, along with several store awnings and signs, were replaced to replicate Harlem. Additionally, the sandwich board that Willis wore was blank. The slogan was digitally added to the board during post-production. (For the film's commercial television runs, the slogan read "I Hate Everybody").
  • In the director commentary, director McTiernan states that then-future Vice President Dick Cheney makes an uncredited cameo in the film. However, it was later found out that McTiernan had mistaken a random similar looking civilian as the VP.
  • Much of the film was shot around Charleston, South Carolina, including the subway scenes (which were shot on a set) and the bridge scenes (which were shot on the John P. Grace Memorial Bridge).

External links[]

Die Hard
Films Die Hard -- Die Hard 2 -- Die Hard with a Vengeance -- Live Free or Die Hard -- A Good Day to Die Hard
Games Die Hard -- Die Hard 2 -- Arcade -- Trilogy -- Trilogy 2 -- Nakatomi Plaza -- Vendetta -- Die Hard 5
Comic Die Hard: Year One