The ’80s and ’90s gave us plenty of action heroes. But while the likes of Rambo tend to be more popular among fans than film critics, Die Hard‘s badass cop John McClane has been appreciated by both sides of the often conflicting groups.
Empire Magazine once ranked McClane 7th on their “100 Greatest Movie Characters of All Time” list while Entertainment Weekly ranked him 6th in the “All-Time Coolest Movie Heroes” list. Several other film heroes went on to be modeled in the same manner as John McClane as well. But is he really a really good person or a bad person?
10 Great: He Cares For His Family
McClane’s whole family has hated him at some point due to his daredevilry, alcoholism, and lack of availability but he has always cared deeply for them. He has tried to reconcile with his wife Holly several times and was successful at least once. He also saved her from terrorists twice.
McClane’s relationship with his daughter Lucy hasn’t been an easy one either. But he’s still playing his fatherly duties. In Live Free Or Die, he let Lucy know how disappointed he was with her choice in men when he found her kissing in a car. He later saved her from a cyber-terrorist too. And in A Good Day To Die Hard, he flew all the way to Russia to rescue his son Jack.
9 Bad: He Wasn’t Supportive Of Holly’s Career
When McClane’s wife Holly got a promotion that required her to move to Los Angeles, he didn’t believe she’d succeed in her new job. Holly worked at the Nakatomi Plaza, which is called Fox Plaza in real-life. And despite her husband’s skepticism, she went on to rise up the ranks.
McClane also refused to relocate with her to Los Angeles to be with Holly despite the fact that he could easily get a job at the LAPD. Not believing in Holly eventually cost him his marriage. But he was fine as long as he was saving the world.
8 Great: He Gets Along Well With Strangers
In all the movies in the franchise, McClane normally finds himself saving the world with a likable stranger by his side. He has often found himself with interesting characters such as Sgt. Al Powell, Zeus the shop owner, and the hacker Matt Farell.
With all these characters, he exchanged humorous banter on a regular, saved their lives (as is the norm), and learned a thing or two from them. Everyone who spends a good amount of time with McClane normally ends up liking him. So, it’s a bit hard to understand why his family has problems with them.
7 Bad: He Kills
It can be argued that good guys don’t kill. It can also be argued that McClane’s job leaves him with no choice but to kill when necessary. Well, not really? Batman has a more dangerous job than McClane. He encounters more sophisticated criminals too but he never kills, does he?
Meanwhile, McClane has killed every major antagonist he’s been up against. With some of them, he had the opportunity to just make an arrest but he didn’t. The NYPD cop is the judge, jury, and executioner.
6 Great: He Is Good At His Job
In other professions, you can be lucky enough to still last long if you are a person of questionable morals. However, if you are a cop, questionable morals will make you a dirty cop and dirty cops normally end up losing their jobs, getting arrested, or killed.
Neither of that has happened to McClane during his lengthy career so it’s correct to conclude that he is a clean cop. He earned a promotion at the NYPD too. After doing a good job as Private McClane, he got promoted to Lieutenant McClane.
5 Bad: He Can’t Manage His Addictions
McClane has been portrayed as an alcoholic in the franchise. In the earlier moments of Die Hard With A Vengeance, McClane’s captain says that he is two steps away from becoming an alcoholic. McClane agrees to this and jokes that he’s actually ‘one step’ away.
McClane doesn’t seek help for his addictions either. A good man is always willing to change, right? Even when his alcohol problems almost make him lose his family, McClane sees himself as pretty normal.
4 Great: He Follows Police Procedures
The difference between McClane and other action heroes is that he never goes ahead to immediately diffuse the situation by himself whenever danger pops up. He follows proper procedures first by calling for help. When no one steps up, he goes into “fix it” mode.
In the first movie, he called the police from a radio at the Nakatomi Plaza. And when the cop who showed up surveyed the area and didn’t see a thing, McClane threw a terrorist body down as a way of saying: “Hey dude! There really is a problem up here.” In the second movie, he also alerted the airport police before going Super McClane on the terrorists.
3 Bad: He Is Controlling
The first time McClane and Holly share a scene together in the first film, he argues with her about last names. Kinda weird! McClane is mad that Holly has stopped using his last name despite the fact that they are separated. Come on, lieutenant. What else did you expect?
And why are ‘last names’ so important? It’s clear that McClane wants to still feel like he owns her yet he lost her. His controlling nature is also seen in the fourth movie when he tells his now-adult daughter to stop seeing a guy she likes.
2 Great: He Enjoys Taunting Criminals Because He Hates Crime
From the way he punishes and taunts bad guys, McClane’s hatred for those who break the law is clear. He is almost like a grown-up version of Home Alone‘s Kevin.
In the first movie, for example, he kills Tony before dressing his body in a Santa Claus hat and a shirt that reads, “Now I have a machine gun. Ho-ho-ho.” He then sends his body down an elevator as a message to the other terrorists. He also describes himself to the terrorists as a “fly in your ointment” and makes sure to sign off each kill with the iconic “Yippy-ki-yay motherf***r”.
1 Bad: Selfishness Is One Of His Major Traits
When McClane and Matt take a short break from being chased around and shot at in the fourth installment, the super cop finally admits that he has one big flaw. He tells Matt that he has always been selfish and this made him lose a lot.
He opens up on how he allowed his family and the woman he deeply loved to always come second to his own personal agendas. He wishes he had done better but all that is too late now. By the fifth film, we see an improving McClane but his wife is nowhere to be seen… so yeah, it’s too late.
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