- Directors: Renny Harlin
- Producers: Charles Gordon, Lawrence Gordon, Joel Silver
- Writers: Walter Wager, Steven E De Souza, Doug Richardson
- Genres: Action, Crime, Thriller
- Actors: Bruce Willis, Bonnie Bedelia, William Sadler, Reginald VelJohnson, John Leguizamo
John McClane, while waiting on Christmas Eve at Washington Dulles International Airport for his wife Holly to arrive from Los Angeles, spots a group of men dressed in army fatigues and passing a package between them. Following two of them into the baggage area, McClane ends up in a fight, killing one of them, but the other one escapes. McClane, believing that some scheme is about to happen, reports the incident to airport security, lead by Captain Carmine Lorenzo, but his concerns are ignored. McClane contacts his friend, LAPD Officer Al Powell, who helps him to identify the corpse as a professional elite soldier previously reported dead, confirming McClane’s suspicions.
Meanwhile, U.S. Army Colonel Stuart and his men have secured a small church near the airport, and sets up a base of operations. They are able to take over control of the airport’s air traffic control, preventing the tower from communicating with incoming planes. Stuart demands that they be allowed to rescue Ramon Esperanza, a drug lord and dictator of a South American country named Val Verde, being flown in to the United States for trial, as well as having a Boeing 747 prepared for Ramon, Stuart, and his men to leave the country. Stuart insists that any unauthorized attempt to communicate with the planes would be met with dire consequences. In the control tower, Leslie Barnes, communications director for the airport, comes up with the idea of using a radio in the unfinished airport annex; Barnes along with a SWAT team move towards the annex. McClane overhears this, and with the help of Marvin the janitor, tries to get to the annex before Barnes, expecting there to be a trap. McClane’s intuition proves correct as the SWAT team is killed in a gunfight, but McClane is able to arrive in time to save Barnes’ life. Before Barnes can get to the radio tower, Stuart blows it up and then fulfills his promise by altering the altitude reading on one of the arriving plane’s Instrument Landing System, taking the guise of the Dulles’ control tower to give the plane permission to land. Despite McClane’s efforts to warn off the plane on the ground, the plane, unable to see the ground due to poor visibility, crashes into the runway, killing all on board.
Lorenzo decides to drive McClane to the plane to stop the mercenaries and Esperanza from escaping, but the panicking crowds along with traffic prompts McClane to go on his own. Soon however, McClane comes across a local news team reporting the story that was willing to get him to the plane aboard their helicopter. McClane is able to get onto the wing of Stuart’s plane with their help, and attempts to prevent it from taking off by wedging open the flaps. Stuart and Major Grant go onto the wing to remove the blockage. However, McClane fights with Grant, getting him sucked into one of the plane’s engines and killed, but Stuart easily thrashes McClane. But before being thrown off the wing, McClane manages to open the fuel tanks on the wing, spilling a trail of jet fuel along the runway. Just as the plane takes off, McClane ignites the fuel trail with his cigarette lighter, causing the plane to explode, killing everyone on board. The planes overhead, including Holly’s, use the flaming trail as their landing lights, and all the planes are able to land safely. McClane reunites with Holly, Thornburg, for his beyond extreme selfishness and not caring about the lives he put at risk, is fired (off-screen), and John and Holly are driven off together by Marvin.