The Brutal Die Hard With A Vengeance Ending We Didn't See

"Die Hard with a Vengeance" is easily the best sequel in the entire "Die Hard" franchise, but it took a little while to get there. Just as the original "Die Hard" and "Die Hard 2" were based on pre-existing material that was repurposed into action blockbusters, "Die Hard with a Vengeance" originated in a stand-alone project called "Simon Says." Brandon Lee ("The Crow") was once slated to star in "Simon Says" early in its original iteration. When that didn't work out, Warner Bros. picked up the script and tried to turn it into a "Lethal Weapon" sequel. And finally, Fox snagged it and turned it into "Die Hard with a Vengeance." But there's one element of the script that didn't make it into the final cut: a much more brutal ending where John McClane takes vengeance a little too far.

The Movie We Know

In "Die Hard with a Vengeance," a hungover and downtrodden John McClane is pulled back into action in New York when his presence is requested by a terrorist who has just detonated a bomb downtown. The terrorist calls himself "Simon," and he sends McClane and a begrudging sidekick named Zeus (Samuel L. Jackson) on a game of "Simon Says," where a series of riddles and games are scattered around the city with bombs attached to them. But there's one major bomb at an unknown school in the city that lingers throughout the entire day, and all of New York's cops are trying to figure out where it is.

During this game that "Simon" has created, McClane learns that the identity of the terrorist is actually Simon Peter Gruber (Jeremy Irons), the brother of Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) who was killed by the detective in the original "Die Hard." Simon's plan isn't to actually blow up a school, but to steal literal truckloads of gold from the Federal Reserve while they're out looking for the school bomb. Simon's game with McClane is just a little fun to get back at the cop who killed his brother.

After McClane and Zeus figure out Simon's real plan, they find him and his crew on the cargo ship that is hauling all the gold. Unfortunately, they're unable to stop him, and they're left on a tanker vessel and tied to a bomb in the cargo hold. Simon then broadcasts a message proclaiming his plan to blow up the tanker and scatter all the stolen gold across the bottom of the ocean in order to destabilize the Western world economy. Simon escapes, but McClane and Zeus also make it out alive before the bomb detonates. McClane also knows that Simon didn't actually blow up the ship to spread the gold on the ocean floor. Simon just wanted everyone to think that he did as one last trick.

With no idea where Simon has gone, it seems the terrorist has gotten the best of McClane. But that's when McClane's depressed state becomes an asset. He's been nursing a hangover all day, and just before Simon left him to die on the tanker with Zeus, McClane jokingly asked for some aspirin. Simon laughs at the idea and tosses him a small bottle of pills. McClane actually holds onto the bottle after escaping the tanker vessel, and after it seems Simon has gotten away, he notices that the bottle says "Nord Des Lignes," which just so happens to be Quebec's Largest Truckstop.

The police surround a nearby warehouse in Canada where they find Simon and his crew, and after a shootout with police, the terrorist tries to make a getaway in a helicopter. As they're attempting to fly off, McClane shoots an overhead power line that falls onto the helicopter's blades, causing it to crash and explode. Game over.

So how much different was the original "Die Hard with a Vengeance" ending that we didn't see?

Die Hard with a Vengeance Alternate Ending

In the alternate ending for "Die Hard with a Vengeance," which was actually shot and included on a special edition release of the film on DVD, Simon still makes his getaway. But rather than McClane realizing that he's in Quebec, the cop actually tracks him down to Hungary. He reveals to Simon that he figured out the gold wasn't actually sunk in the ocean. Instead, Simon kept the gold, smuggling it across the globe by melting it into statues of the Empire State Building.

Though it seems like the movie was called "Die Hard with a Vengeance" because of Simon being Hans Gruber's brother, this different ending actually gives McClane his own brand of revenge. The ensuing confusion over Simon's heist caused McClane to lose his job and pension all over again, and the police and FBI actually suspect that McClane was part of the heist all along. So McClane is pissed, and he's out for blood.

By the time he's found Simon, McClane has already dispatched with the rest of Simon's gang, and now he wants to play a game of his own. It's called "McClane Says," and Simon has to answer a series of riddles himself or else he'll be blasted to hell by a Chinese rocket launcher that McClane forces Simon to spin in a sort of Russian roullette scenario. The sight and aiming markers have been removed so there's no way of knowing which end the rocket will shoot. That puts McClane in danger too, but since he's got nothing to lose, it doesn't matter. In the end, McClane forces Simon to push the rocket's trigger after he gets a riddle wrong, and the terrorist gets blasted through the torso. 

You might think that the ending was changed because it had John McClane take a little too dark of a turn. After all, vengeance isn't exactly McClane's style, especially something so cold and calculated. It probably worked better in the framework of the original script with a different main character, but it just doesn't mesh with John McClane. Even the way the scene was shot doesn't feel like it fits with the rest of the movie, with the back and forth between Simon and McClane shot almost entirely at a Dutch angle. But that's just part of the equation. 

As indicated in the DVD commentary for "Die Hard with a Vengeance," this original ending was changed because it was also too anticlimactic. The scene is basically a quiet, menacing conversation before a rocket is sent through Simon's torso, and it's not really on par with what you expect from the "Die Hard" franchise. The ending that made it into the final cut delivers an action-packed conclusion where McClane still kills Simon, but only in response to Simon trying to kill him when the police arrive. Plus, the traditional "yippe-ki-yay, motherf***er line" feels rather forced in the original ending, but it comes off much more naturally in the ending they settled on.

So that's the story of the alternate "Die Hard with a Vengeance" ending that might have resulted in the sequel being a little worse. But even with that alternate ending, "Die Hard with a Vengeance" is still leaps and bounds better than the rest of the sequels.