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"When you steal $600, you can just disappear. When you steal $600 million, they will find you unless they think you're already dead."
―Hans Gruber to John McClane [src]
"I am an exceptional thief, Ms. McClane, and since I'm moving up to kidnapping, you should be more polite."
―Hans to Holly [src]
"Due to the Nakatomi corporation's legacy of greed around the globe, they're about to be taught a lesson in the real use of power...you will be witnesses."
―Hans Gruber maintaining his façade of a freedom fighter. [src]

Hans Gruber was an East German terrorist planning to kill almost 30 hostages. He is the main antagonist of Die Hard and a posthumous antagonist in Die Hard with a Vengeance. He was also Simon Gruber's younger brother.

Early Life


Gruber during his time with the West German Volksfrei movement.

Not much is known about Hans Gruber's early life except that he enjoyed making models in his youth. He also claimed to have received a classical education; that claim being bolstered by an intellectual remark about Alexander the Great. Although it's not stated, it's possible that him and his brother, Simon, being both bad guys, may have had bad childhoods. At some point in his adult life, he fell in with the Volksfrei, a radical West German terrorist organization, but was later expelled from the movement, presumably for his overly-violent and extreme methods of getting things done. Another possibility that could have led to the group cutting their ties with Gruber is that he may have been engaging in robberies not to finance the group, but for personal gain. Yet another possibility behind his banishment is that he was defalcating terrorist funds.

Two years after his expulsion, Gruber used his past affiliation with the Volksfrei as a means to further fuel his ruse of terrorist activities. Besides his reputation, he used his terrorist background to command his underlings to anticipate and repel the forthcoming counterattacks. Only when the Volksfrei leaders issued a statement to the U.S. government denying any complicity in the Nakatomi Plaza attack since Hans had been kicked out of the organization years ago did it start to become clear that another motive may be at work. Gruber was likely a sell-out to his own views, trading some of his extremist beliefs in order to retire in style from the ill-gotten gains of the bearer bonds.

Die Hard

Arrival at Nakatomi Plaza


Hans Gruber and his henchmen exiting the truck and entering Nakatomi Plaza.

As mentioned before, Hans was originally a member of the German terrorist organization the Volksfrei movement, until he was expelled. Now only concerned with personal gain, he concocted an elaborate robbery scheme using a terrorist pretense as a cover to manipulate the authorities with his plan. He led his gang of 13 thieves to Los Angeles, California on Christmas Eve where a party of employees was being held to take control of the Nakatomi Plaza. Although protected by several code based lock mechanisms, Hans and his team were after the $640 million in negotiable Bearer Bonds that were being held in a high-security vault. In addition to the first six locks, the vault was protected by one last lock which was electromagnetically sealed, and could only be opened by a complete loss of power to the building, which Hans had also planned for. The prior is the main reason Hans had made the situation look like a terrorist plot rather than a straight robbery. If the authorities had known the team were after the contents of the vault, the power wouldn't have been cut, and the vault never would have been opened.


Hans arrives on the 30th floor with his henchmen.

Most of the team arrived in a Pacific Courier truck, while Karl Vreski and Theo took out the guards manning the main lobby. Theo then shut down all elevator motion from the 29th floor and down down using the security system as Hans locked the main entrance. Karl and his brother Tony then proceeded to cut all phone lines in the building while Hans and the rest of the group arrived at the party on the elevator. Making their presence known through gunfire, the team gathered everyone up and took them as hostages, and Hans began his trickery, posing as a radical freedom-fighter by making a short speech about "the Nakatomi Corporation's legacy of greed and deceit", which added to the belief the attack was terrorist-related. Hans then used his knowledge of the president of Nakatomi trading, Joseph Takagi, in order to draw him out. Once he had Takagi, he led the businessman to a board room where he then made his true intentions known.

The Vault

"...I'm telling you, you're just going to have to kill me."
―Hans' response to Takagi as he casually blows his brains across the board room [src]
PDVD 087

Hans stares down the barrel of John's MP5. Sub Hans

Still believing him to be a terrorist, Takagi continued to make assumptions about the purpose of the takeover to which Hans impatiently told him to sit down. He then continued to question Takagi over the code. After repeatedly denying that he knew the code, Takagi bravely asserted that they were just going to have to kill him. Unfortunately, Hans agreed, and killed Takagi by a single shot to the head from his weapon of choice, a Heckler & Koch P7M13 semi-automatic pistol. After that, he ordered Theo to break through the locks on the vault. Theo reminded Hans that the final lock is powered by circuits that cannot be cut locally. Gruber promised to handle the last lock.

Hans was unaware, however, that observing them through the glass door from the outside was John McClane, who had slipped through the hands of the terrorists. McClane had stopped over at the tower to pick up his wife, Holly Gennero. After McClane kills Tony, Karl screams in anger and tosses the office desk down, causing Hans to push him into the wall and tells him not to alter their plan. McClane used Tony's walkie-talkie to radio for help. This resulted in a cop car being sent over. The officer, Al Powell, did a quick check over, and left. McClane saw this after having dispatched Heinrich and Marco, and threw the latter's body onto Powell's car. These were the first omens of the trouble to come.

Master Plan

"Mrs. McClane. How nice to make your acquaintance."
―Hans discovers Holly's relation to John McClane. [src]

While acquiring a two-way radio, C4 explosives, and detonators from the body of one terrorist, McClane explained the situation via the two-way radio as the police, led by Deputy Police Chief Dwayne T. Robinson, arrived. The police sent in a SWAT team and an armored vehicle. McClane and Powell are unable to prevent the SWAT team from being ambushed, but McClane managed to kill the terrorists attacking the SWAT team. One of Holly's coworkers, Harry Ellis, tried to negotiate with Hans and McClane for the return of the detonators. McClane helplessly tells Ellis that Hans would kill him, which Hans proves when Ellis fails. Hans then talks to the police over the radio, demanding the release of several comrades-in-arms imprisoned around the world: seven members of the New Provo front, five leaders of the Liberte de Quebec, and nine members of the Asian Dawn movement. The FBI arrived, and took control from the police. They ordered the power to the building shut down, which deactivates the vault's final lock as Gruber had intended. Theo ransacks the now-open vault, loading the bearer bonds into an ambulance to be used as their getaway vehicle.


Hans intimidates Holly.

McClane continued to sneak through the building to kill the terrorists. When he found Gruber working at the explosives planted on the roof, Gruber passed himself off as an escaped hostage. McClane appeared to let down his guard, and gave Gruber a gun; when Gruber attempted to fire the weapon, however, it is discovered that there were no bullets in the gun. As this happened, Gruber's men appeared from an elevator and fired at McClane, who was forced to flee, leaving behind the detonators. The roof was rigged to explode with the detonators, and Gruber lured the FBI into the trap by asking for helicopter transport for him and his men to Los Angeles International Airport in exchange for the hostages; Gruber planned to use the roof explosion to make the authorities believe him to be dead and allow him to escape with the bonds. As the helicopters traveled to the scene, Gruber observed a television news story from investigative reporter Richard Thornburg that Lucy mentions that Holly Gennero is McClane's wife and checked out the desk photo of McClane, Holly & their children for confirmation. With the helicopter nearing with Special Agent Johnson and Agent Johnson on board, Gruber ordered the hostages to the roof, taking personal control over Holly.


"Oh yes, what was it you said to me before? Yippee-ki-yay...motherfucker."
―Hans imitating John McClane before he tries to kill him [src]

McClane arrived at the roof, dealt with the terrorists escorting the hostages, and used his Heckler and Koch MP5 to scare the hostages back downstairs before Hans detonated the C4 and the roof exploded saving McClane from Special Agent Johnson who mistook him for one of Han's men and was about to shoot him, which unfortunately engulfed the FBI helicopters killing, Agent Johnson and everyone on the helicopter. Hans' plan continued to fall apart when Argyle stopped Theo from escaping in the getaway ambulance by knocking him unconscious when he rammed the truck with his limousine. After getting back into the skyscraper by shooting through the window, he realized that the remaining two terrorists, Eddie and Hans were holding Holly. He quickly taped his Beretta 92F pistol to his upper back with Christmas gift wrap tape and walked into the vault armed with his empty MP5.


Hans Gruber falls from the 30th floor of the Nakatomi building.

Hans put his pistol to Holly's head and told John to surrender his machine gun, having finally gotten the drop on McClane. John did as he was told, and put his hands behind his back, but used the feint to grab his pistol and shoot Eddie in the forehead and Gruber in the shoulder. The bullet shot through a window, cracking it. Still holding Holly, Hans staggers backwards, wounded badly from the gunshot, and crashes through the broken window. Hans grabs onto Holly's watch and drags her to the floor, hanging on desperately to avoid falling off the building. McClane rushes to help Holly, who is inches away from falling to her death, desperately attempting to unclasp the watch while an infuriated Hans slowly levels his P7 at McClane with the intention of ending his life. Luckily, before Hans can shoot John and take Holly with him, John unclasps the butter hook, and a shocked Hans plummets to his death on the pavement of the plaza, 30 stories down. His reign of terror on McClane, Holly and the hostages was over.


PDVD 050

Hans in Holly's office.


"As far as I'm concerned, I'm not playing 'the villain'. I'm just playing somebody who wants certain things in life; has made certain choices, and goes after them. "
Alan Rickman on Hans Gruber [src]

Hans preferred to switch between a casual persona and an intimidating one in order to surprise people with his next move, as he had many different tricks up his sleeve. This is the main dilemma of the film, as Hans and John are both trying to stay one step ahead of each other in a battle of wits. Hans had a casual attitude to killing as shown when he murdered Takagi and Ellis and intended to murder the staff of Nakatomi which included a pregnant woman whom he was aware of.

As shown when dealing with Holly, he also had a curt attitude to people whom he did not know.


Hans Gruber in Die Hard.

Hans also has a good, but clearly dark sense of humor, and isn't afraid to make light of very dark and serious situations. This is furthered by his apparent jokey nature with Karl and Theo, two people he presumably knew well and liked. Even McClane often shot witty remarks back and forth either face to face or over the radio with Hans. The last thing Hans ever says, in fact, is a repetition of McClane's trademark phrase that he had jokingly coined over the radio earlier in the film.

A highly intelligent man, Hans liked to flaunt his knowledge and boast of his high education, as shown during his conversation with Takagi. Gruber was also knowledgeable about business and finance, and he was also able to determine what kind of high priced suit one was wearing just by looking at it (or perhaps he just had a penchant for John Philips suits in particular).

Hans also seems to enjoy reading magazines, making references to things that he has read in Forbes and Time. While speaking to the LAPD and FBI, Hans diverts their attention by pretending to have ideological aims, as had been presumed (as opposed to the simply self-interested theft which the operation truly is), and demands the release of supposedly imprisoned members of various groups in Canada, Sri Lanka and Northern Ireland, referring to these as "comrades in arms". He has, of course, no concern whatsoever for these people. This leaves Karl perplexed, as it was likely not part of the plan, or it is possible Karl never heard of a terrorist group called the Asian Dawn. Hans calmly remarks to Karl "I read about them in Time magazine".

Due to his blatant disregard for human life, along with the unbelievable things he'd done for the sake of a robbery, John had no problem doing away with Hans. McClane likely feels that Gruber is one of the most disgusting beings he's ever met. Even in the third film, Hans's estranged brother, Simon, concurs with McClane, saying in agreement that his brother was, indeed, an 'asshole'.



Alan Rickman's performance as Hans Gruber made him an iconic actor for years to come.

Due in no small part to Rickman's performance, the character of Hans Gruber has had an enduring popularity and is constantly voted as one of the top villains of all time. Due to this, Hans is often seen as John McClane's one true nemesis and the quintessential Die Hard villain, only seconded by his brother, Simon, in Die Hard with a Vengeance.

Due to his highly acclaimed and recognizable performance, Alan Rickman was often typecast as villains following this film, such as playing the Sheriff of Nottingham in the 1991 film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. In recent years up until his death, Rickman had generally stayed away from playing straight villain roles, instead preferring more complex characters. For example, Severus Snape in the Harry Potter franchise, who at first glance seems villanous, but is later revealed that while unlikable in many ways, is an antihero, or complex heroic figure. This role had also impacted Rickman's career and popularity.

Hans was still mentioned relatively often or at least referenced to in some way, in both Die Hard 2 and Die Hard with a Vengeance. He's even arguably referenced to whenever McClane says his 'yippie ki yay' line, as those words were the last words Hans had the chance to say before his death.

Hans Gruber is often voted as one of Alan Rickman's most popular roles. Other popular roles played by Rickman being the Sherriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood-Prince of Thieves, Severus Snape in Harry Potter, and Judge Turpin in Sweeney Todd.


For Hans Gruber quotes, click here.


  • Hans is the only main villain to ever say John's catchphrase, which was also his last words ever before his death.
  • It is also interesting to point out that unlike the other sequels, the catchphrase is said by the villain and then dies while in the other films John, says his line then finishes off the villain (with the exception of Yuri Komarov).
  • According to Hans Buhringer, the German actor who portrayed Fritz, Alan Rickman did an excellent German accent and meticulously researched German speech. Since English is a second language in Germany, Rickman even got the dialect of German English down. For example, when Hans tells Takagi that he enjoyed making models as a boy, he says: "I always enjoyed to make models when I was a boy." This is the correct German way to say that in English.
  • Similar to Die Hard with a Vengeance, Hans Gruber could be referenced again if Die Hardest is made.
  • Hans Gruber was portrayed by the late Alan Rickman, who died on January 14, 2016.
  • His death is very similar to that of Dick Jones's from RoboCop (which was released the year prior to Die Hard). The only difference is that Dick Jones screams as he falls to his death.
  • He is the only terrorist from Die Hard whose full name was revealed in the movie.
  • Hans is the only main villain whose henchmen are all named.
  • In the German dub of Die Hard, he is called "Jack" Gruber. His nationality is changed to British.


Die Hard Wiki has a collection of images related to Hans Gruber.

Behind the Scenes

Alan Rickman portrayed Hans Gruber in Die Hard.


Die Hard Die Hard 2 Die Hard with a Vengeance Live Free or Die Hard A Good Day to Die Hard

See Also

Die Hard Characters
John McClane - Holly Gennero - Lucy McClane - John McClane, Jr. - Al Powell - Richard Thornburg
Die Hard Hans Gruber - Karl Vreski - Dwayne T. Robinson - Harry Ellis - Joe Takagi - Argyle - Ginny - Theo - Eddie - Heinrich - Alexander - Tony Vreski - Franco - Fritz - Marco - Uli - James - Kristoff - Harvey Johnson - Gail Wallens - Mitchell - Rivers - Special Agent Johnson - Agent Johnson
Die Hard 2 William Stuart - Ramon Esperanza - Major Grant - Carmine Lorenzo - Leslie Barnes - Ed Trudeau - Marvin - Samantha Coleman - Garber - Kahn - Oswald Cochrane - O'Reilly - Baker - Thompson - Burke - Miller - Sheldon - Shockley - Mulkey - Sherman - Albertson - Telford - Vito Lorenzo
Die Hard with a Vengeance Simon Gruber - Zeus Carver - Joe Lambert - Connie Kowalski - Walter Cobb - Ricky Walsh - Mathias Targo - Katya - Charles Weiss - Jane - Fred Schiller - Dexter - Raymond - Jerry Parks - Karl - Otto - Mischa - Nils - Klaus - Rolf
Live Free or Die Hard Matt Farrell - Thomas Gabriel - Mai Linh - Warlock - Miguel Bowman - Emerson - Trey - Russo - Rand - Del - Molina - Taylor - Raj
A Good Day to Die Hard Yuri Komarov - Irina Komarov - Viktor Chagarin - Alik - Mike Collins - Murphy