"Olympus Has Fallen" hits theaters this weekend and if you've seen the trailers, well, it might look just a little familiar to you. Gerard Butler plays a disgraced Secret Service agent who finds himself trapped inside the White House when it's overrun by terrorists. Armed only with courage and, well, a gun, he wages a one-man war to save the President — and America itself.
In other words, it's "Die Hard" in the White House.
Not that we're bagging on "Olympus Has Fallen." Since "Die Hard" hit theaters more than a quarter century ago, dozens of films have completely ripped off its formula of one man, trapped inside ... something, facing down an overwhelming force in order to save ... someone. And since many of those ripoffs were actually totally cool action movies, we thought the release of "Olympus Has Fallen" would be the perfect time to take a look at some of the other films that totally jacked "Die Hard"'s mojo.
'Air Force One' (1997): 'Die Hard' on a Plane
"On a plane" has probably the most popular version of the "Die Hard" formula. There have been several films that have upped the stakes by putting everyone in the air, from "Passenger 57" to "Con Air" to "Snakes on a Plane," but our favorite has to be "Air Force One," which is basically "Die Hard" except the guy kicking ass is, in fact, the President himself! You can't up the stakes any higher than that.
'Speed' (1994): 'Die Hard' on a Bus
One of the first films to really grasp the possibilities behind repackaging the "Die Hard" formula, "Speed" was basically marketed as "Die Hard" on a bus. Because, well, that's exactly what it is: Keanu Reeves is a young cop stuck on a bus that's rigged to explode if it drops below 50 miles per hour, while Sandra Bullock becomes an A-list star as the plucky bus driver. And you thought trips on Greyhound were rough!
'Toy Soldiers' (1991): 'Die Hard' with Kids
When an elite boarding school is taken over by terrorists, the authorities are helpless. Luckily, they have someone on the inside: a group of determined and plucky students who risk everything to save the school — and themselves. Yes, it's "Toy Soldiers," which boasts the likes of Sean Astin and Wil Wheaton as the butt-kicking kids. It's kind of like the Siege of Hogwarts, only with less magic and more Lou Gossett, Jr.
'Cliffhanger' (1993): 'Die Hard' on a Mountain
Sylvester Stallone was one of the biggest action stars of the '70s and '80s, but by the early '90s his career was flagging. So he came up with a brilliant solution: Make a "Die Hard" ripoff! The result was "Cliffhanger," which stars Stallone as a disgraced mountain guide trying to recover from the psychological wounds caused by the death of one of his climbers. When a plane full of stolen money crashes on his mountain, though, Stallone has to battle both John Lithgow and his own demons. As one does.
'Sudden Death' (1995): 'Die Hard' at a Hockey Game
When most people think of hockey, one thing immediately comes to mind: Jean-Claude Van Damme. No? Well, it will once you've had a chance to watch the 1995 cheesefest "Sudden Death," which stars JCVD as a disgraced ex-fireman who happens to be at Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals when terrorists show up and capture the entire building — including the visiting Vice President of the United States. Jean-Claude only has until the end of the game to save everyone, but considering some NHL playoff games have been known to go three, four or even five overtimes, that's actually ... quite a lot of time.
'Under Siege' (1992): 'Die Hard' on a Boat
"Under Siege" isn't the only movie to take the "Die Hard" formula and put it on a boat — "Speed 2: Cruise Control" did the same thing. But "Under Siege" has it all over "Speed 2" for one simple reason: Steven Seagal. Seagal plays a disgraced (naturally) former SEAL demoted to cook just in time for the last voyage of the Battleship Missouri. But when terrorists take over the vessel, Seagal sets down his spatula and embarks on a mission to rescue a Playboy bunny from her ex-CIA captors (no, seriously). It's just as awesome as it sounds.
'The Rock' (1996): 'Die Hard' on Alcatraz
The slam-bang action flick "The Rock" teamed up two of the biggest names in cinema, Nic Cage and Sean Connery, in one of the silliest "Die Hard" iterations yet, as this group of terrorists end up taking over ... Alcatraz! And if you thought it was hard to get out of Alcatraz, wait until you see how hard it is to get in! Cage and Connery play a mismatched pair — one's an FBI scientist, the other is a disgraced former British spy — who have to stop Ed Harris from plastering San Francisco with rubber balls of acidic goo. Because, why not.
'Under Siege 2: Dark Territory' (1995): 'Die Hard' on a Train
There's nothing quite as relaxing as traveling by train ... unless, of course, that train is the one in "Under Siege 2: Dark Territory." Naturally, it gets hijacked by terrorists, but luckily for everyone on board (well, except the terrorists), one of the passengers happens to be Steven Seagal's no-longer-disgraced-but-now-retired Navy SEAL. Sadly, there's no Playboy bunny this time around, but a young Katherine Heigl does play a key role as Seagal's niece.
'Paul Blart: Mall Cop' (2009): 'Die Hard' in a Mall
Finally, special props have to be given to "Paul Blart: Mall Cop," which may be the first time anyone has given that movie props. But Kevin James proves once and for all just how durable and adaptable the "Die Hard" formula is by turning it into a broad farce. He plays a goofy mall cop who ends up being stuck on the inside when the mall is taken over by bank robbers ... who also happen to be extreme sports enthusiasts! Luckily, they solve their differences through violence rather than X Games competitions, and James manages to save the day, get the girl and become a real cop — all without ever being disgraced. Even Bruce Willis would be proud of that.
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