Incredible as it might sound twenty-five years later, neither this film nor its smirking star were considered a slam-dunk in the summer of 1988. If you were the kind of viewer who looked for art in unexpected places, “Die Hard” was a godsend—the kind of moviegoing experience that colonized a part of your imagination and turned you into a bit of a zealot.
I saw the film on opening day, fell instantly in love with it, and ran out to the theater lobby afterward to phone my younger brother. “Put your shoes on,” I said. “I’ll be out front in ten minutes. I’m going to see ‘Die Hard’ again immediately, and you’re coming with me.” I saw it 15 times that summer.
When I admitted this to art house-minded friends who assumed it was just Rambo in a building, they looked at me like I was crazy. But the ones I managed to drag to the theater understood instantly that this was no mere time-waster, that there was indeed something special about it: a joyous quality and an astonishing sense of craft.