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"No one kills him but me."
―Karl [src]

Karl Vreski was an East German terrorist-thief and Hans Gruber's second-in-command. He was Tony's older brother, and attempted to kill John McClane many times to avenge his brother's life. He is the secondary antagonist in Die Hard.

Die Hard

Nakatomi Plaza takeover

As the Pacific Courier truck carrying the terrorists arrived at the entrance of Nakatomi Plaza, Karl rode with Theo in another car as they pulled into the main lot. As they walked to the entrance, Theo was talking to Karl about basketball to keep the front desk guard from getting suspicious and Karl kills the guard with a silenced pistol. As Theo was sealing off the building, Karl threw a flash grenade at the other guard, blinding him. He then shot that guard with his pistol and killed him. As Hans and Eddie arrived in the lobby, Eddie hands Karl a duffle bag as he gives Hans the building's key card.

Karl cuts phone cords

Karl cuts the phone junction wires with a chainsaw

He went downstairs to the telephone junction boxes and used a chainsaw to disable the phone lines while his younger brother, Tony, barely managed to patch in the phone lines. Tony glares at his brother as Karl walks away, humming to himself. He and Tony arrived in the 30th floor where Hans and their comrades took the entire floor hostage. As Hans was looking for Nakatomi's head executive, Joe Takagi, Karl was looking around the hostages until Takagi stepped forward and Karl takes him to the elevator.

Theo and Karl at computer

Theo and Karl attempt to coax the code from Takagi.

As they went to 31st floor, Karl and Tony escorted Hans and Takagi around. They went to the conference room where Theo was waiting for them at the computer terminal. They needed the code Takagi had to access the vault, holding the $640 million in bearer bonds. After refusing to cooperate, Theo implied to Karl that he knew Takagi wouldn't give up the code. Karl retorted that it wasn't over yet as they were betting on outcome. After Hans killed Takagi, Karl paid up. Hans then ordered him to check on Heinrich's work on the roof access of the building. When they heard a strange noise, Karl and Tony went to investigate and found nothing. Hans again ordered Karl to check on Heinrich's work.

Swearing Vengeance

"AGGHHH!!!!! I want blood!!"
―Karl throws the office desk down in rage as he learns that his brother Tony was killed [src]

After John McClane killed his brother Tony, Fritz calls Karl down and went into Holly's office, which Hans is using for his private headquarters. After Hans tells him that Tony has been killed, he screamed out in anger and tossed the office desk down. Hans pushes him to the wall as Karl screams that he wants vengeance. Hans states to that he'll have it, but to let Heinrich and Theo do their work and tells him not to alter the plan. Karl then coldly asks, "And if he alters it?"

Nobody kills him but me

Karl, Franco and Fritz prepare to pursue McClane on the roof.

Then, when McClane calls out on the radio about the takeover of Nakatomi Plaza, Hans realizes that he's on the roof and sends Karl, along with Franco and Fritz, to get him. As Karl prepares his Steyr AUG rifle, he tells Franco and Fritz that no one but him kills their intruder as they got off the elevator. Then Karl fires at McClane at the helipad. After McClane jumps off the helipad and is pursued by Franco and Fritz, Karl walks towards where McClane is heading and fires at him, but nearly misses him. When McClane gets into the dead-end corner with a large ventilation fan, Karl and the others were fired at by McClane. Karl sends Fritz down to the elevator shift as he and Franco prepared to fire at McClane. Franco and Karl sprang their attack, but find that McClane went through the fan. They quickly went downstairs and met up with Fritz. After finding out their surprise guest is in the elevator shaft, Hans tells him to lock him in there. But Karl, vowing vengeance, doesn't listen despite Hans' warning that the police are probably on there way and shuts off the radio. After opening the elevator shaft door, he and his men find their intruder not there. Karl sees the ventilation shaft cover is open and finds that McClane is in the horizontal vent at the 31st floor from the lit lighter. Karl and the others rushed to the 31st floor and fired at the air ducts, looking for McClane. He then began pressing the ducts with his gun. Then Fritz got a call that a cop car is on site and Karl was forced to stop the pursuit and went with Franco and Fritz to a lower floor where Alexander looked out where the police car parked. Then the body of Marco fell on the police car as Alexander fired at it, but the cop, Sgt. Al Powell, survived and called for backup.

PDVD 071

Karl overhearing Powell contacting McClane

When more police cars showed up, Karl and the others are upset that the police arrived too soon, but Hans calms them down, saying it's only the beginning. Then their intruder calls in and taunts them with their names and the deaths of some of their comrades. Hans sends Karl, Franco and Fritz to investigate. Karl and the others find out that Marco was indeed killed and their intruder also killed Heinrich and his bag had been taken with the detonators. They rushed back downstairs and Karl gives Hans the report of their current situation. Hans knows that Heinrich's bag was carrying the detonators. He was present when McClane gives Powell the situation report on the radio.

Later, after McClane killed James and Alexander by tossing C4 explosives down the elevator shaft, Hans confronts Karl for not listening to him on not neutralizing him in the elevator shaft. Karl bitterly replies to his leader that he wants their intruder dead, not neutralized. Then one of the hostages, Harry Ellis, comes in and sells out McClane's identity to them. He claims that they are friends, despite the reality that they only met tonight. Karl was present when Hans kills Ellis when McClane refused to return the detonators to them. Then Hans calls the police and makes fake demands to have several comrades-in-arms around the world released to him, among them 9 members of the Asian Dawn movement, which Karl questions quietly. Hans replied that he read about them in Time magazine. Karl asked if the US government will really meet their demands, but Hans doesn't care about what he just told the police. Then he orders Karl to hunt McClane down and take the detonators while he checks out the explosives on the 35th floor.

Later, Hans calls Karl to say that he's got McClane in the 33rd floor and tells him to get up there. Then Karl, along with Franco and Fritz, arrived and attacked McClane. Though McClane killed Fritz and Franco, Hans and Karl used the glass around the room since McClane is barefoot in an attempt to pin him. Though McClane got away injured, they found the detonators. But Karl is still furious that they didn't kill McClane. After Hans and Karl returned with the detonators, Karl walks slowly as Hans has Uli finish setting up C4 in the 35th floor. Karl trashed a cooler carrying wine glasses with his machine gun in anger before walking away.

Final Stand and Death

"We're both professionals. This is personal."
―Karl pointing his Steyr AUG rifle at McClane [src]
DH1 - Karl finds McClane

Karl finally catches McClane.

Before McClane could warn Powell about the double-cross on the rooftop, Karl arrives and points his Steyr AUG at McClane's left cheek, forcing him to put down the radio. After he takes McClane's Beretta 92 and smashes the radio, Karl reminds him that they are both professionals, but it is now personal because of the death of his brother. But McClane pushes the rifle away from him and they engaged in a brutal fight on the floor leading to the roof. McClane shouts at him while punching him that he should have heard his brother's "squeal when he broke his fucking neck". Karl gave McClane several kicks on McClane's face and shot McClane in the shoulder with the pistol. However, McClane wrapped a chain around Karl's neck and left him hanging by a chain as the roof exploded and everybody fled.

PDVD 129

Karl attempts to kill John McClane with his Steyr AUG moments before his death.

Following Hans' demise, Karl managed to break free from the chain and went down to the first floor with the hostages. As the people walked out of the building, he disguised himself as a hostage with a blanket and drew his Steyr AUG in a last ditch effort to try to kill John and Holly. However, Sgt. Al Powell finally got the nerve to draw his gun to save John and shot Karl. Even though he kept getting hit by the revolver bullets, Karl was so blind with pure rage that he barely flinched, still aiming his assault rifle at John, only to be stopped by Powell who fired a swift and fatal shot to his heart, finally killing Karl.


Karl was a generally calm, silent and ruthless cold-blooded killer, with a professional attitude to his job and a clear love for his brother, Tony. After Tony was killed by McClane, however, Karl's personality changed. He became increasingly detached from Hans' group and became a reckless and deranged psychopath, obsessed with hunting down McClane in order to avenge his brother's death, thus proving what a true, formidable foe he was and how he cared for Tony to the point of how he continuously pursued McClane. Towards the end of the film, he dressed himself as a hostage and made one last attempt at his brother's killer, which ultimately cost him his own life in the process.


  • Karl is referenced in Die Hard with a Vengeance by Simon Gruber's henchman, Karl from Die Hard with a Vengeance. This was likely done because they were henchmen from separate Gruber brothers in those two movies.
  • Ironically, Karl was the last to die in Hans' group while Karl from Die Hard with a Vengeance was the first to die in Simon's group.
  • The character of Karl was taken right out from the book Nothing Lasts Forever. In the book the protagonist 'Joe Leland' only makes real contact with him at the end, when Powell saves Leland's life with two shots to Karl's head.
  • Karl was the only deceased terrorist member who is not killed by McClane in Die Hard.
  • He is the first and only killed victim of Al Powell.
  • He is the first person to kill someone in the Die Hard series.
  • Three years before in 1985, Alexander Godunov appeared in Witness opposite Harrison Ford. In the movie, he plays an Amish farmer named Daniel Hochleitner, a neighbor of Rachel Lapp (Kelly McGillis) and her son Samuel (Lukas Haas). Unlike Karl, in which he is a cold blooded terrorist and with a bad temper, Hochleiter is good-hearted and helps Ford's character, Detective John Book, help fight off the corrupt officers of the Philadelphia Police Department when they invade the Amish community.
  • Karl has many similarities to Thickset from The Marine 2. Both are mentally unstable and psychotic, both had brothers, both try to kill the main protagonist; in Karls's case it was John McClane, while in Thickset's case it was Joe Linwood, and both were killed by secondary characters just as they were about to finally kill the protagonist; in Thickset's case it was Church, while in Karl's case it was Sgt. Al Powell.
  • Karl is the first terrorist to be killed by someone other than McClane.
  • Karl is the only character in the Die Hard films to kill someone first and is the last one who dies.
  • The final fight involving Karl was partially inspired by the James Bond films. Many of the earlier and a few later film had a final scene where Bond has finally defeated the boss and about to celebrate with the girl, only to be suddenly be attacked by a surviving underling seeking revenge. Producer Albert Broccoli said such scenes were intended to highlight "the neverending struggle" where another terrorist plot or conspiracy will soon rear its ugly head.


Die Hard Wiki has a collection of images related to Karl Vreski.

Behind the Scenes

Alexander Godunov portrayed Karl Vreski in Die Hard.


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

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