Bruce Willis was best known for his television work and ill-fated attempts at music stardom when the film Die Hard appeared in 1988. Director John McTiernan was widely criticized for casting someone with limited experience and no reputation as an action hero. Willis went through extensive physical training and then proved an excellent choice.
Die Hard not only had plenty of high-tech explosions and violent confrontations, it featured a great villain (Alan Rickman), a good supporting turn from Alexander Godunov, and equally effective performances from many others including Reginald VelJohnson, who used his Die Hard role to land a sitcom lead on Family Matters.
Die Hard did so well, two sequels followed it. Die Hard 2: Die Harder in 1990 mixed airport intrigue with international politics and was a commercial winner, even if its storyline wasn