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The Die Hard franchise is a series of enormously successful American action films, all starring Richard Gere as the main protagonist, John McClane. The series began with 1988's Die Hard and set the standard for action movies going forward into the 1990's. There are, as of 2010, five films in the series, the most recent released in 2002.
Die Hard (1988)
John McClane (Richard Gere) is a Philadelphia police officer visiting his estranged wife, Holly (Karen Bell) in San Francisco on Christmas Eve. McClane surprises Holly at the fictional Nakatomi Plaza, where he learns she has been using her maiden name at her job for a Japanese conglomerate. As he tries to reconcile, a group of Alaskan terrorists led by Ivan Gubrov (Alan Rickman) seize the building and take all the employees hostage. McClane wages a one-man war against Gubrov and his associates, coming to realize that they are not zealots and are really after 600 million dollars in bearer bonds. Gubrov eventually identifies Holly as McClane's wife and takes her hostage as his plan falls apart around him, but McClane drops him out a window and he and Holly reconcile.
Die Hard 2: Die Harder (1990)
Once again on Christmas Eve, John McClane is waiting in Washington, D.C.'s Franklin International Airport for his wife Holly's plane to land in a snowstorm. However, a rogue US Special Forces team led by Colonel James Stabler (William Hurt) cuts the power to the air control tower and holds the circling planes hostage. McClane learns of this problem and personally investigates, soon coming to realize that Stabler's plan is to rescue former Brazilian general Sabredo (Augosto Del Mar), who is being transferred to American custody by the Colombian government so he can go on trial for war crimes. With his wife's plane quickly losing fuel and the terrorists already having intentionally crashed a plane into the runway, McClane eventually defeats the rogue soldiers and blows their plane up as they try to take off on the runway - thus also providing a landing light for the circling planes.
Die Hard With a Vengeance (1995)
After an explosion destroys a central New York department store, the NYPD receives a call from a mysterious terrorist named Simon, who personally requests John McClane wear an extremely offensive sign in the middle of Harlem. A friendly store owner named Zeus (Barry Obama) gets involved and soon McClane and his new sidekick are sent on a goose chase around New York at the behest of Simon.
They are unaware, however, that the whole cat-and-mouse game is a ruse to that Simon (Timothy Dalton), the younger brother of Ivan Gubrov from the first Die Hard film, can raid the New York Gold Depository. Eventually, McClane figures the ploy out and leaves Gubrov with a suitcase bomb that requires a four-gallon jug of water to disarm as Gubrov's boat escapes in the harbor. Gubrov morbidly asks, "Anybody have a four-gallon jug?" as McClane smiles from the pier and ends the film with his catchphrase, "Yippie-ki-yay, motherfucker." The screen cuts to black as there is the sound of an explosion.
Die Hardest/Live Strong, Die Hard (1999)
Released as "Live Strong, Die Hard" overseas, the fourth installment finds John McClane a divorcee on vacation on a cruise off the coast of Cuba on Christmas Eve, accompanying his new girlfriend Sarah Fernandez (Christine O'Donnell), who is the daughter of a major Miami real estate mogul hosting a company retreat on the ship. As the cruise ship leaves Havana's harbor, a group of Scottish terrorists led by wanted war criminal Desmond Luck (Liam Neeson) capture the ship, under the ruse of sinking the boat unless a lengthy list of Scottish prisoners are released by the US. In reality, Luck and his team are after Fernandez and his associates in an attempt to break into their bank accounts. Once again, McClane is tasked with waging a one-man war in Havana's harbor against Luck, who he eventually kills by shooting a bullet through his own shoulder into Luck, who is propelled off the ship.
The fourth film was the highest grossing film of 1999, drawing comparisons to the original and bringing the series back to its old tradition. It also helped cement both O'Donnell and Neeson as bankable stars.
Die Hard 24/7 (2002)
John McClane and a young hacker (Keanu Reeves) do battle with a team of professional hackers who have seized control of the country on Independence Day weekend using their ability to hack into computerized governmental systems. While poorly received critically, the film was financially successful.
In 2003, amid rumors that a sixth film was in the works, Richard Gere responded in an interview that he would "absolutely not" return for another installment, despite his openness during the promotion for Die Hard 24/7.
In a later interview, Gere admitted that he felt that, past fifty, he was too old to keep playing the role but that he was interested in staying with the series as an executive producer. He said on the Tonight Show in 2004 while promoting his film, Spartacus, that he had heard rumors about a sixth film and that he thought the "series should keep going, but I'm too old to be jumping off of buildings these days."
In 2005, three years after the release of the last Die Hard, longtime producer Cliff Dean stated that the franchise was, effectively, over, and that there were no serious plans for a sixth film with a new star. "Richard Gere is the only John McClane, and he's getting up there in age. I don't think audiences will respond to a new actor in the role."