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Die Hardest: Which film/score from the series is the best?


crocodile
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The best of Die Hard series  

15 members have voted

  1. 1. Which film do you like the most?

    • Die Hard (1988)
    • Die Hard 2: Die Harder (1990)
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    • Die Hard With A Vengeance (1995)
    • Live Free Or Die Hard vel Die Hard 4.0 (2007)
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    • A Good Day To Die Hard (2013)
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  2. 2. Which score do you like the most?

    • Die Hard by Michael Kamen
    • Die Hard 2: Die Harder by Michael Kamen
    • Die Hard With A Vengeance by Michael Kamen
    • Live Free Or Die Hard vel Die Hard 4.0 by Marco Beltrami
    • A Good Day To Die Hard by Marco Beltrami
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I haven't watched a Die Hard film until a few years back, nor have I really heard a score all that much until recent superb re-issues. But when I did I immediately fell in love with the first film and all the scores, especially the first three Michael Kamen's outings. What I love them is how John McClane is treated with this quite simple thematic material, whereas the villains get all the self-important classical material. The first of the two motifs is the slightly melancholic and anxious theme and the second is a one note played staccato followed by the resolving one note half step higher (not unlike Williams' Jaws theme). It is a brilliant simple idea that creates a lot of tension and also encapsulates the main character perfectly - he's an underdog and a insignificant small thorn that will ultimately overcome big guys.

The first score has a very distinctive 80's and a Christmas holiday vibe to it. Not so much an action music, but more of a suspense piece with a few fireworks sprinkled throughout. A clever use of Ode to Joy, Singin in the Rain and Winter in Wonderland to illustrate the bad guys gives the whole thing a sense of mischief. The sleigh percussion, pkucking strings only enhance that.

The second takes the whole wintery sound of the first score and expands upon it. This time we're dealing with an action film, where the whole suspense of the first half builds towards this extended 30 minute action climax of the film. When the tension reaches its climax we're treated with a finale with Sibelius' Finlandia with some Die Hard elements worked into it. The classical piece is hinted a couple of times, but not as strongly as in the previous film. For me, this work plays best on album.

Die Hard With A Vengeance is a slightly a different beast. It comes back to the original idea of quoting several iconic pieces of music, but this time the action takes place in the middle of summer, so the sleigh bells is absent (apart from one cue). Ode to Joy comes back with, as the title suggests, a vengeance. Johnny Comes Marching Home is the new idea associated with Simon Gruber. Apparently all the references in the first and third score are nods to Stanley Kubrick so we're treated to a snippet of Daisy Daisy song as well. The only downside is that, as the score progresses towards its climax there's more and more music reprised almost verbatim from the other Die Hard films, with the final action sequence being a re-recording of the climax from the second film (which in itself was a re-recording of the piece from Kamen's Amazing Stories episode). Nevertheless it remains a very impressive work.

Flashforward to XXI century and we get two more movies in the series. What's really surprising is that the creators decide to keep the general sound of the series intact. Not that obvious if you consider John McClane's theme is not exactly a Superman march or anything of that stature. Marco Beltrami takes all the stylistics from Kamen and creates a modern action pieces which honour the sound of old, especially in the most recent film where the whole score is literally flooded with Kamenisms. It may not be on the level of the late composer, but is endearing anyway.

What about you? Feel free to elaborate. In fact, I insist. :)

Karol

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The first will always be the best—both the movie and the score. The sleigh bells over the deep bass boom as the main title hits the screen still gives me goosebumps. I never cared much for Die Hard 2—not really sure why. I thought the third movie made a good comeback for the series.

And I have to admit . . . I haven't seen (or heard) either of the last two. Seems strange, as a huge John McClane fan (again, mostly because of the first outing), but I just haven't gotten around to it yet.

- Uni

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I can tell you right away the fourth film is quite entertaining (more than a corresponding Indiana Jones film released at the same time), while the latest is a total garbage.

Karol

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I would say:

Movie: Die Hard > Die Hard With A Vengeance > Die Hard 2 > Live Free or Die Hard

Score: Die Hard With A Vengeance > Die Hard > Die Hard 2 > Live Free or Die Hard

I can tell you right away the fourth film is quite entertaining (more than a corresponding Indiana Jones film released at the same time), while the latest is a total garbage.

Karol

Actually I thought the fourth was garbage. So I better don't watch the latest installment, huh? lol



Are you familiar with Marco Beltrami's works, Jason?

Karol

IMO, the best work he did was SCREAM. And it was all downhill from there...

Disappointing, but true.

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Die Hard > Die Hard 3 > Die Hard 2

I like all three, but it's not a classic trilogy in my mind, with only the original being a true favourite I revel in returning to when the mood takes me. Hans, BOOBY! I'm your white knight!

The other two movies don't exist.

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Actually, for me, the movies Die Hard and Vengeance might be on the same level.

I remember being very impressed with Vengeance. Willis and Jackson teaming up... and the result blew me away. Very original, I thought, not to mention hilarious at times, and always on-the-edge-of-your-seat thrilling! Some scenes (like the one with Willis in Harlem with the sandwich board) are classics!

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What about the scores, Quint? Are you a fan their rusted swagger? To me they feelalmost like Bond after cigars and booze overdose.

Karol

I enjoy the first score a lot during the movie, but I've never owned it. I like Kamen, but it's never struck me as being a score of interest as music in its own right. Am I wrong, then?

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I think in terms of action/thriller genres this is pure gold. A wealth of style, humour and wit. A perfect fusion of badass and tongue-in-cheek. Not necessarily in terms of album listenability (which it might be a problem for some), but rather as the whole concept. I myself love all 5 (each for different things).

Karol

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I've seen a bunch of films that he's scored, but never been compelled to listen to any of his scores on their own

My personal favourite Beltrami -

3:10 to Yuma

Mimic

Knowing

Hellboy

I, Robot (a last-minute replacement for Trevor Jones)

Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark

Underworld Evolution has some fantastic cues but the album is bloated. His Die Hard scores are fun but a little generic.

To bring this back on topic, my favourite Die Hard score is the second, although all three are so derivative of each other that you could treat them as one mammoth work.

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Paul Thomas Anderson on Die Hard: "Well, I would never want to do something like [Die Hard 6] but if I had had a chance to direct the first Die Hard? Yes. I don’t know that I could have done it that well, like John McTiernan did. But that’s one of my favourite films. I must have seen it 10 to 15 times in the movie theatre. And I would love to do something like that. Action films take a lot of time and they’re really fun to watch and to edit together, but they’re not that much fun to make. I mean, and I only say that from the experience that I’ve had doing anything that is remotely kinda action oriented, like the frog scene in Magnolia or some of the bits in There Will be Blood, that it’s so time consuming, waiting for somebody to blow up a window. I don’t know, it doesn’t float my boat as much as the of the other stuff."

Alex

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Oh no BB if you want to appreciate the score I'm afraid you need to listen to the album. I reckon it might be an underrated cool action score that nobody will listen to just because of the abysmal film.

But, to be fair, the first and the third scores in the series are also more impressive on disc than they are in the film.

Karol

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Die Hard for both film and score.

Even though the expanded version of DH 2 was an eye opener it still recycles quite a bit from the first film.

Kamen's score to 3 is ok but nothing really new and Beltrami's score to 4 is suprisingly good.

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For films, it's hard to beat the first one. A contemporary action classic.

As far as the scores are concerned, I've actually never cared for any of them. Not my cuppa tea.

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