Since the tail end of the 1980s, John McClane has been booking bad guys and tearing up the big screen via the enduring action series, Die Hard. And what began as one movie has since spawned a franchise, which includes sequels, comics, computer games and even a Christmas themed storybook.

Today I’m going to take a look at the Die Hard movie series, to present a guide to the viewing order. I’ll also be pointing out some (sort of) related material to help cover the series as a whole.

Speaking of which…

The anomaly

Image: ©20th Century Fox

OK, before I run through the correct viewing order for the Die Hard movies, I feel it best to do a spot of housekeeping. This housekeeping involves dealing with a Die Hard anomaly, via author Roderick Thorp.

In 1966, Thorp published a novel called The Detective. Two years later, the book – about a private detective called Joe Leland – was turned into a movie starring Frank Sinatra (also called The Detective).

Thorp then wrote a sequel to The Detective. The sequel was the 1979 tale, Nothing Lasts Forever.

So, what does this have to do with Die Hard?

A decade after it was published, Nothing Lasts Forever was adapted for the big screen. That adaptation was Die Hard

Yep, Die Hard is based on a book and that book was actually a sequel!

So are The Detective and Die Hard movies connected? 

No. In making the transition from book to screen, the characters from Nothing Lasts Forever were either renamed or reworked, including central character, Joe Leland (who became John McClane). There are no references to The Detective in Die Hard, and Die Hard is entirely its own thing.

Putting aside their literary origins, the two movies are not linked. However, it’s worth knowing Die Hard‘s origins.

________________________________

The John McClane order 

Image: ©20th Century Fox

Right, onto the actual Die Hard movies now, but before I talk films, I should say that almost all of the Die Hard films are based on pre-existing stories. Die Harder is based on the novel, 58 Minutes; Die Hard with a Vengeance was based on a script called Simon Says; and A Good Day to Die Hard was based on a story called A Farewell to Arms.

And you thought Hollywood had some original ideas. Ha – as if!

OK, so let’s talk movies.

The first Die Hard movie was released in 1988, with the first sequel following two years later. A third entry arrived in 1995, followed by a fourth in 2007 and a fifth in 2013.

The Die Hard series is told in chronological order, with each entry set a few years apart. John McClane appears in every movie, while his estranged family members Holly, Lucy and Jack, appear at different points in the series.

Each movie follows on from the previous one, but they are mostly standalone tales. Bruce Willis is the lead actor in each film. 

So that’s a brief rundown of the series, but what is the best way to watch the Die Hard films?

The viewing order for the Die Hard movie series is as follows:

  • Die Hard (1988)
  • Die Hard 2: Die Harder (1990)
  • Die Hard with a Vengeance (1995)
  • A Good Day to Die Hard (2007)*
  • Live Free or Die Hard (2013)

*Please note, if you live outside the US, you will know A Good Day to Die Hard as Die Hard 4.0.

________________________________

The comedy connection 

Image: ©New Line Cinema

In addition to the Die Hard film series, in 1993 Bruce Willis appeared in a brief cameo role in the big screen comedy, National Lampoon’s Loaded Weapon 1 (1993). The cameo was a riff on Willis’ Die Hard character, although he was not name checked on screen. 

Now I know what you’re thinking: ‘Is Loaded Weapon 1 set in some kind of shared universe with Die Hard?’

No! The cameo is purely included as a joke – nothing more.

________________________________

Should you want to dive further into/revisit the world of Die Hard, then a boxset is available containing all five movies. The regular five-disc Blu-ray collection is available from Amazon UK, or a special six-disc Nakatomi Plaza edition is available from Amazon US.

The Die Hard Nakatomi Plaza edition includes all five films, plus a bonus disc. Yippee Ki-yay!

So, what is your favourite entry in the Die Hard movie series? Do you adore the first film or do you prefer one of the sequels? Whatever your thoughts, let me know in the comments section below.

Read more:

Disclaimer: I earn a commission for products purchased through some links in this article.