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John McClane Near-Deaths in the 'Die Hard' Movies: A Complete History

Bruce Willis and Jai Courtney in "A Good Day to Die Hard" Fox

At one point in "Groundhog Day," Phil Connors (Bill Murray) claims to his co-worker Rita (Andie MacDowell) that he is a god. (Not the god, he doesn't think.) To prove it, he recalls that he's been "stabbed, shot, frozen, poisoned, hung, electrocuted, and burned."

John McClane laughs at you, Phil Connors. John McClane is the god.

Over the course of the first four films in the "Die Hard" franchise, John McClane (Bruce Willis) almost died 68 total times. And we're not talking "almost died" in normal terms, like "someone is pointing a gun at me" almost died, we're talking "He just got chucked off of that moving 747 - how is he still alive?" almost died. John McClane can not be killed.

A comprehensive breakdown, by film, and method:

"Die Hard" (1988)

By Gunfire: 8 times (:43 minute mark, :45, :50, 1:32, 1:34, 1:48, 1:51, 1:57)
Notes:

  • Each time, the weapon used was an automatic machine gun.

  • McClane would have been killed at the :50 minute mark, but the terrorist who had him cornered in an air vent was called away in German for no reason by his terrorist buddy.

  • The gunshots from the 1:51 mark are from an FBI helicopter; it's unclear how the helicopter missed.

By Fall: 3 times (:48, :49, 1:53)
Notes:

  • McClane has underrated upper body strength, as he's amazingly able to save himself from falling down an elevator shaft by catching the opening of another air vent after a 30-ish foot drop.

By Explosion: 2 times (1:13, 1:52)
Notes:

  • One of the explosions was by his own doing.

  • He really should have suffered at least second degree burns from the explosion at the 1:52 mark.

Total: 13 times

20th Century Fox 20th Century Fox

"Die Hard 2" (1990)

By Gunfire: 5 times (:13, :14, :44, 1:13, 1:28)
Notes:

  • At one point, McClane rides a snowmobile directly into the line of fire of the main bad guy's automatic weapon; he never hits McClane, but damages the snowmobile badly enough to make it suddenly explode. McClane is unharmed.

  • The guns used at the :13 and :14 minute marks were pistols, as if they ever had a chance.

By Fall: 2 times (1:41, 1:44)
Notes:

  • McClane (as alluded to in the intro) is kicked off of the wing of a moving plane on a runway, landing on his back and neck and rolling several times. He's fine.

  • He jumps from a news helicopter to said wing of moving plane effortlessly.

By Fisticuffs: 2 times (1:43, 1:44)
Notes: 

  • Normally McClane's life wouldn't be threatened by a fist fight, however both of these fights (with two separate terrorists) took place on the aforementioned wing of the moving plane. That said, and as previously noted, he was eventually knocked off the wing and was fine.

By Stabbing: Once (1:23)
Notes:

  • A terrorist attempts to stab McClane in the face. He fails. McClane attempts to stab the terrorist in the eye with an icepick. He succeeds.

By Explosion: Once (1:15)
Notes:

  • McClane traps himself in the cockpit of a docked plane; terrorists throw ten grenades into the cockpit. Naturally, he escapes at the last possible moment by getting into the pilot's chair and pulling the eject. Though he seems a sitting duck parachuting down to the ground, the terrorists lose interest and speed away.

By Getting Hit by a Plane: Once (1:12)
Notes: 

  • A plane is landing as McClane is trying to get onto the runway through the sewers. The front wheel misses his face by inches.

Total: 12 times

"Die Hard: With a Vengeance" (1995)

By Gunfire: 5 times (1:06, 1:24, 1:26, 1:53, 1:54)
Notes:

  • Interesting that McClane wasn't threatened by guns until well past the hour mark.

  • The first instance involves an elevator and five terrorists with guns (he is not officially shot at).

  • At the 1:53 and 1:54 mark, helicopters continue the longstanding McClane tradition of not being able to touch him with their machine guns.

By Explosion: 3 times (:37, :59, 1:47)
Notes:

  • No normal person survives the train explosion that McClane survived at the :37 minute mark. Thank goodness he's John McClane.

  • The :59 minute mark explosion never actually happened; it was six seconds from happening before McClane said "aw hellz naw" or something similar.

  • The explosion at the 1:47 mark was your run-of-the-mill "McClane jumps from explosion at final second" explosion.

By Traffic Accident: 3 times (:11, :27-31, 1:27)
Notes: 

  • McClane could have perished any number of times between the :27 minute mark and the :31 minute mark, as he was driving a cab through red lights and through Central Park, but he and all pedestrians were unharmed.

By Train Accident: 2 times (:31, :32)
Notes: 

  • McClane jumps onto a moving subway train, and then is almost killed by the stoplight along the side of the track. He's unharmed in each instance.

By Fisticuffs: 2 times (:10, 1:36)
Notes:

  • Both of these circumstances were unfair: McClane was outnumbered at the :10 minute mark, and already pretty hurt upon starting his fight with the Lundgren-esque 250-pound terrorist at the 1:36 mark. He walked away from the first, and destroyed the second.

By Drowning: Once (1:23)
Notes: 

  • The terrorists are in control of a dam and unleash the entire thing on McClane. He gets out.

By Fall: Once (1:31)

  • He falls after the rope he was scaling from a bridge to a scaffolding on a ship failed. He literally bounced right back up.

Total: 17 times

Bruce Willis in Live Free or Die Hard 20th Century Fox

"Live Free or Die Hard" (2007)

By Gunfire: 9 times (:12, :13, :39, :44, 1:05, 1:47, 1:59, 2:00, 2:01)
Notes:

  • McClane's instances of almost dying in "Live Free or Die Hard" were in general more severe than in any other film in the series. 

  • He evades gunfire by pistol, machine gun, helicopter machine gun, and even fighter jet (which we'll get to).

  • Helicopter machine guns still really have a tough time with him, clearly.

  • He voluntarily shoots himself in the shoulder at one point. He grimaces but he's fine. Everyone's shocked face:    :oI

By Fighter Jet: 7 times (1:53, 1:53, 1:54, 1:54, 1:54, 1:55, 1:56)
Notes: 

  • A fighter jet tries to take him out while he drives an 18-wheeler. In order, he is almost killed by a missile, the collapsing roadway because of the missile, machine guns, a second missile, a second round of machine guns (destroying his 18-wheeler), another collapse of the roadway (causing him to fall from the truck onto the fighter jet), and a fall from the fighter jet onto the collapsed roadway, with the ensuing explosion from the fighter jet just missing torching him.

  • Had the film's main antagonist (Timothy Olyphant) seen this with his own eyes, he would have surrendered there, for John McClane simply can't be killed.

By Fall: 5 times (1:08, 1:10, 1:11, 1:12, 1:46)
Notes:

  • The first four times are during one fight with Mai (Maggie Q). She initially kicks him out of a window and he falls three stories, but he's fine.

  • 1:10, 1:11, and 1:12 revolve around a dangling SUV in an elevator shaft. It doesn't end well for Mai.

  • The last instance has McClane fighting a terrorist on a bridge over a random giant set of razor blades. The terrorist loses.

By Traffic Accident: 2 times (:43, :43)
Notes: 

  • A car is flung at McClane and his cohort (Justin Long), and they are going to be killed. Except that they aren't, because two other cars at the last moment deflect the third car over their heads. There's really nothing to say.

  • Less than 20 seconds later, an out-of-control 18-wheeler almost kills them both again. They duck for cover behind a concrete wall at the last moment.

By Explosion: 2 times (:15, 1:17)
Notes:

  • While the first instance merely involves Justin Long's computer room exploding for no real reason (they were in an adjacent room at the time), the second instance has the pair narrowly avoiding a massive gas explosion that was sent to them by the terrorists. It was basically impossible to evade, and yet this would be like the sixth story McClane would tell if he was recapping his day later to a friend.

By Strangulation: Once (:17)
Notes:

  • A hapless terrorist holds onto the car McClane is driving by attempting to strangle him. His life quickly ends.

Total: 26 times

Grand Total: 68 times

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