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John McClane is a fictional character and the protagonist in the Die Hard series of films. He is portrayed by actor Bruce Willis. Empire ranked him as number 12 of the 100 Greatest Movie Characters of All Time list. In addition to appearing in the four Die Hard films, McClane also has an uncredited cameo appearance in Loaded Weapon 1. A famous catchphrase of the character is "Yippee ki-yay, motherfucker!", which he consistently says before and after killing the head terrorist of the film.

Development and description

John McClane was originally based on the fictional character Detective Joe Leland from Roderick Thorp's novel, Nothing Lasts Forever, along with another character, Frank Malone from Walter Wager's novel 58 Minutes (later adapted as Die Hard 2) and is somewhat based on and inspired by Dirty Harry. Die Hard villain Hans Gruber describes him as an "American Cowboy" and as a John Wayne.

McClane's marriage is in a constant state of crisis, his vigilantism and disregard for authority have put him in danger of losing his job more than once, and he is a chain-smoker who is described as "two steps away from becoming a full blown alcoholic," which McClane jokingly upgrades to only "one step".

The trailer for the first Die Hard film states, "The last thing McClane wants is to be a hero, but he doesn't have a choice." In the fourth film, he says he gets involved in dangerous situations "because there is nobody else to do it."


In Die Hard (1988), John McClane is a detective with the New York City Police Department and has been an officer for 11 years. At the beginning of the first film, he is separated from his wife, Holly Gennaro (Bonnie Bedelia), who is using her maiden name. Holly moved to Los Angelesmarker several months earlier to pursue a career, leading to their separation. They have two children, Lucy and John, Jr.

On Christmas Eve, McClane visits his wife at her workplace at the Nakatomi Plazamarker. Simultaneously, Hans Gruber initiates his plan to steal $640 million in bearer bonds and takes the Nakatomi Company employees, including Holly, hostage. McClane escapes during the initial round-up of the hostages and eventually defeats the criminals.

After the events of Die Hard, McClane moves to Los Angeles, is promoted to lieutenant and is transferred to the Los Angeles Police Department. During this time, McClane appears to have become a national hero. Dialogue in the second film reveals that he was featured in People Magazine, did a spot on Nightline, and was referred to (by Colonel Stuart) as "the policeman hero who saved the Nakatomi hostages" along with a local news crew. In Die Hard 2 (1990), which takes place on Christmas Eve, McClane discovers that mercenaries have seized control of Washington Dulles International Airportmarker in Washington, D.C.marker. They take control of the airport's communications and threaten to cause plane crashes unless their demands are met. Holly is traveling on one of the planes and is stranded as her plane circles overhead. McClane foils the scheme.

Bruce Willis makes a brief, uncredited celebrity cameo as McClane in the comedy National Lampoon's Loaded Weapon 1. In it a helicopter launches an attack upon a beach house in California. From the rubble McClane staggers out and tells him it's the wrong address. The film starred Samuel L. Jackson who would star next to Willis again in Die Hard with a Vengeance, and several other projects.

By the events of the third film, Die Hard with a Vengeance (1995), Holly and John have separated and McClane has moved back to New York City. McClane mentions this strife as he and Zeus Carver foil Simon Gruber's plot to steal the Federal Reserve's gold bullion.

In Live Free or Die Hard (2007), which takes place on Independence Day, McClane is assigned to take hacker Matt Farrell (Justin Long) into FBI custody (McClane is mentioned as having been on the force for 30 years at the time of this film). However, they soon discover that a group of terrorists are conducting a fire sale and are systematically taking out the nation's infrastructure (including power plants, traffic lights, transportation, and financial markets). McClane and his wife are divorced and McClane is not on speaking terms with his daughter, Lucy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). During the course of the film Lucy is kidnapped by the terrorists as leverage against McClane. McClane's previous actions seem mostly forgotten, as Farrell was unaware of his past and McClane's is somewhat cynical about what he did. With help from Farrell, McClane manages to yet again thwart a disaster.


Holly Gennaro

Holly Gennaro (formerly Holly Gennaro McClane) is the wife of John McClane. Over the course of the series their relationship becomes more and more strained and by the fourth film, they are divorced. They have two children together, John Jr. and Lucy. Holly is portrayed in the first two films by actress Bonnie Bedelia.

When Holly is first introduced in Die Hard, she works at Nakatomi Plazamarker, a skyscraper in Los Angelesmarker, which is home to a Japanesemarker corporation. Her marriage to John has been estranged ever since she took up her new job and he refused to relocate with her from New Yorkmarker. Holly lives in L.A. with their children. They quickly get into an argument over why Holly chooses to use her maiden name (Gennaro) at work, and are separated for most of the film while John fights the terrorists.

Holly does not return for the third film in the series, Die Hard with a Vengeance. She is mentioned in conversation and McClane makes an attempt to telephone her. She still resides in Los Angeles and is still married to McClane.

In Live Free or Die Hard, cyber-terrorist Thomas Gabriel pulls up a picture of her driver's license in one scene. He also notes that Holly and McClane are divorced.

Lucy Gennaro-McClane

Born in 1982, Lucy McClane is John's daughter. She is played by Taylor Fry in Die Hard and Mary Elizabeth Winstead in Live Free or Die Hard. Her first appearance is in Die Hard talking to her mother on the phone.

In Live Free or Die Hard, she tells her boyfriend that McClane is dead and goes by her mother's maiden name, styling herself as Lucy Gennaro. Villain Thomas Gabriel kidnaps her and uses her as leverage against John McClane as McClane closes in on Gabriel. During the climactic scene, she grabs a gun and shoots the person who is holding her and attempts to slide a gun to her father, but is foiled.

Before Mary Elizabeth Winstead was chosen as Lucy McClane, there were other rumors as to who would play the role of McClane's daughter. It was speculated that Bruce Willis' real life daughter Rumer, who was born the same year that the original Die Hard was released, was a prime candidate for the part of Lucy McClane. Jessica Simpson, Britney Spears, and Taylor Fry, who played Lucy in the original Die Hard movie in 1988, had all previously auditioned for the role.

Prior to Live Free, Lucy was featured in the 2002 video game Die Hard: Vendetta, where she is a member of the Los Angeles Police Department.

John McClane Jr.

Born in 1984, McClane's son appears briefly in the first film as a young child. He was portrayed by Noah Land. In Live Free or Die Hard, Thomas Gabriel refers to him by the name "Jack". In early drafts of the script of Live Free or Die Hard, John Jr. was set to be in the film.


John McClane was ranked sixth in Entertainment Weekly's list of the top twenty "All-Time Coolest Heroes in Pop Culture" in April 2009. The magazine said "Bruce Willis' wisecracking, terrorist-foiling New York cop established himself as the anti-Bond" throughout the four Die Hard films. Entertainment Weekly listed the characters portrayed by Keanu Reeves in Speed, Wesley Snipes in Passenger 57, and Jean-Claude Van Damme in Sudden Death as "copycat descendants" of John McClane.


  1. In Die Hard: With a Vengeance: Inspector Walter Cobb: "I can appreciate your feelings for McClane. But believe me, the jerk isn't worth it. He's stepped on so many toes in this department, by next month he's going to be a security guard. His own wife wants nothing to do with him, and he's about two steps shy of becoming a full-blown alcoholic."(McClane revises this statement to being 1 step)
  2. In Live Free or Die Hard: "Do you know what you get for being a hero? Nothing! You get shot at. Pat on the back, blah blah blah. That a boy! You get divorced... Your wife can't remember your last name, kids don't want to talk to you... You get to eat a lot of meals by yourself. Trust me kid, nobody wants to be that guy. [I do this] because there is nobody else to do it right now. Believe me if there was somebody else to do it, I would let them do it. There's not, so [I'm] doing it. That's what makes you that guy." In Die Hard, Die Hard 2 and Die Hard with a Vengeance, his gun is a Beretta 92FS. In Live Free or Die Hard he uses a Sig-Sauer P220R.
  3. During the montage of presidents, they collectively say, have a nice independence day
  4. "The Top 20 All-Time Coolest Heroes in Pop Culture," Entertainment Weekly 1041 (April 3, 2009).

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