McClane is attempting to stop cyber terrorists who hack into government and commercial computers across the United States with the goal to start a "fire sale" of financial assets. The film was based on the 1997 article "A Farewell to Arms" written for Wired magazine by John Carlin. The film was released in the United States on June 27, 2007.
The project was initially stalled due to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and when production eventually began, the film's title was changed several times. A variety of visual effects were used for action sequences, even though Wiseman and Willis stated that they wanted to limit the amount of CGI in the film. In separate incidents during filming, both Willis and his stunt double were injured.
Unlike the prior three films in the series, the U.S. rating was PG-13 rather than R. An unrated version contained more strong profanity and violence not shown in the theatrical version, and was included in the DVD release.
Reviews were positive with an 82% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a 69/100 score from Metacritic. The film earned total international box office gross receipts of $383.4 million, making it the highest-grossing film in the Die Hard series. It debuted at #2 at the U.S. box office.
For the DVD release, 20th Century Fox pioneered a new kind of DRM, Digital Copy protection that tries to weaken the incentives for consumers to learn how to rip discs by offering them a downloadable version with studio-imposed restrictions. The score for the film was released on July 2, 2007. The fifth film in the series, titled A Good Day to Die Hard, was released on February 14, 2013.
The FBI responds to a brief computer outage at its Cyber-Security Division by tracking down top computer hackers who had been on a watch list, finding several of them have been killed. The FBI asks New York City Police Department detective John McClane to bring in Matthew "Matt" Farrell, one of the targeted hackers who had been put on the watch list. McClane arrives just in time to save Farrell from assassins working for Mai Linh, who works for her boss and love interest, Thomas Gabriel.
En route to Washington, D.C., with McClane, Farrell reveals that he had been contacted by Mai, under the guise that she was working for corporate security, and that she had paid him a large sum of money to write an algorithm that could crack a specific security system for white hat purposes. Meanwhile, Gabriel orders his own crew of hackers to take control of the transportation grids and stock market, while nationally broadcasting a message threatening the United States. Farrell recognizes this as the start of a "fire sale", an attack designed to target the nation's infrastructure that is reliant on computerized systems. McClane and Farrell are driven to the FBI headquarters, but Mai poses as a dispatcher and reroutes the convoy into the path of an assault helicopter. McClane manages to fend off the attackers and destroy the helicopter.
Gabriel initiates a second broadcast by showing a simulated explosion of the U.S. Capitol building, causing a public panic. Farrell guesses that his next target is likely the power grid, and the two drive to a utility superstation in West Virginia. They find a team led by Mai taking over the station. McClane manages to kill all of them, including Mai. He obtains video footage of Gabriel which he relays to the FBI. Enraged over Mai's death, Gabriel seizes control of the natural gas distribution system and redirects all of the gas into the station. McClane and Farrell escape before the station explodes, leaving much of the eastern seaboard of the United States and Canada without power.
Farrell takes McClane to fellow hacker Frederick "Warlock" Kaludis. Running several generators to keep his computer systems online, Warlock identifies the piece of code Farrell wrote as a means to access data at a master Social Security Administration building at Woodlawn, Maryland. They realize the building is actually a NSA facility intended to backup the nation's entire personal and financial records in the event of a cyber attack, designed by Gabriel himself when he worked for the NSA. Warlock tells McClane and Matt that Gabriel is an extremely talented programmer and top security expert for the U.S. Department of Defense. Gabriel tried to alert the political and military leadership to critical weaknesses that made America's network infrastructure vulnerable to cyberwarfare, but his unorthodox methods led to his dismissal. Warlock runs a traceroute and manages to identify Gabriel's location, but Gabriel detects the intrusion.
Gabriel taps into their connection and reveals that he has located McClane's estranged daughter, Lucy, and intends to kidnap her. McClane and Farrell race to the Woodlawn facility, where Farrell discovers that Gabriel's men are downloading all the information. He manages to encrypt the data just in time before he is captured. Gabriel kidnaps Farrell and takes him as well as Lucy, who had been kidnapped earlier, with him as his team flees from Woodlawn. McClane pursues Gabriel, hijacking his semi and enlisting Warlock to trace Gabriel's vehicle. Gabriel accesses the communication system of a U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II and, impersonating an air traffic controller, orders the pilot to attack the truck McClane is driving. McClane barely escapes, then makes his way to a nearby warehouse where Warlock has tracked Gabriel. There, Gabriel is installing the remaining files and holding Lucy and Farrell. Although McClane kills most of Gabriel's remaining henchmen, Emerson shoots him in the right shoulder.
While Gabriel holds McClane at gunpoint from behind, McClane manages to shoot Gabriel's weapon through his own shoulder and kill Gabriel. Farrell then kills Emerson. An FBI tactical response team arrives and secures the scene. Afterwards, McClane tries to discourage the romantic feelings developing between Farrell and Lucy.Bruce Willis as Detective John McClane
Justin Long as Matthew "Matt" Farrell, a computer hacker from Camden, New Jersey
Timothy Olyphant as Thomas Gabriel, a former U.S. Defense Department analyst who leads a group of cyber-terrorists systematically shutting down the entire U.S. infrastructure. Olyphant filmed his role within three weeks.
Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Lucy Gennero-McClane, McClane's estranged daughter. The inclusion of McClane's daughter was previously considered for the third film, and she was in the video game Die Hard: Vendetta. It was speculated that Willis' real life daughter Rumer, who was born the same year that Die Hard was released, was a prime candidate for the part of McClane's daughter. Jessica Simpson, Britney Spears, and Taylor Fry, who played McClane's daughter in Die Hard, had all previously auditioned for the role.
Maggie Q as Mai Linh, Gabriel's primary accomplice and love interest
Kevin Smith as Frederick "Warlock" Kaludis, Farrell's hacker friend. Smith, a noted screenwriter and film director, made uncredited rewrites to the scenes in which he appears, as Willis and Wiseman thought the dialogue and exposition "didn't make sense".
Cliff Curtis as Miguel Bowman, Deputy Director of the FBI's Cyber Crime Division
Jonathan Sadowski as Trey, Gabriel's main hacker
Edoardo Costa as Emerson, Gabriel's main henchman
Cyril Raffaelli as Rand, Gabriel's henchman
Yorgo Constantine as Russo, Gabriel's henchman
Chris Palermo as Del, Gabriel's henchman
Andrew Friedman as Casper, a computer hacker who is working with Gabriel
Željko Ivanek as Agent Molina, Bowman's assistant
Christina Chang as Taylor, an FBI agent working for Bowman
Sung Kang as Raj, an FBI agent
Allen Maldonado as Goatee
Tim Russ as Agent Summer
Matt McColm as Gabriel's henchman (uncredited)
The film's plot is based on an earlier script entitled WW3.com by David Marconi, screenwriter of the 1998 film Enemy of the State. Using John Carlin's Wired magazine article entitled "A Farewell to Arms", Marconi crafted a screenplay about a cyber-terrorist attack on the United States. The attack procedure is known as a "fire sale", depicting a three-stage coordinated attack on a country's transportation, telecommunications, financial, and utilities infrastructure systems. After the September 11, 2001 attacks, the project was stalled, only to be resurrected several years later and rewritten into Live Free or Die Hard by Doug Richardson and eventually by Mark Bomback.
Willis said in 2005 that the film would be called Die Hard 4.0, as it revolves around computers and cyber-terrorism. IGN later reported the film was to be called Die Hard: Reset instead. 20th Century Fox later announced the title as Live Free or Die Hard and set a release date of June 29, 2007 with filming to begin in September 2006. The title is based on New Hampshire's state motto, "Live Free or Die", which is attributed to a quote from General John Stark. International trailers use the Die Hard 4.0 title, as the film was released outside North America with that title. Early into the film's DVD commentary, both Wiseman and Willis note a preference for the title Die Hard 4.0.
For the visual effects used throughout the film, actor Bruce Willis and director Len Wiseman stated that they wanted to use a limited amount of CGI. One VFX producer said that "Len was insisting on the fact that, because we’ve got Transformers and other big CG movies coming out, this one has to feel more real. It has to be embedded in some kind of practical reality in order to give it that edge of being a Die Hard." Companies such as Digital Dimension, The Orphanage, R!ot, Pixel Magic, and Amalgamated Pixels assisted in the film's visual effects.
Digital Dimension worked on 200 visual effects shots in the film, including the sequence that shows characters John McClane and Matt Farrell crouching between two cars as another car lands on top of the other cars. To achieve this effect, a crane yanked the car and threw it in the air onto the two cars that were also being pulled by cables. The shot was completed when the two characters were integrated into the footage of the car stunt after the lighting was adjusted and CGI glass and debris were added. In the same sequence, John McClane destroys a helicopter that several of Gabriel's henchman are riding in by ramming it with a car. This was accomplished by first filming one take where one of Gabriel's henchman, Rand, jumps from the helicopter, and in the next take the car is propelled into the stationary helicopter as it is hoisted by wires. The final view of the shot overlays the two takes, with added CGI for the debris and moving rotor blades. The company also assisted in adding cars for traffic collisions and masses of people for evacuations from several government buildings.
The Orphanage developed a multi-level freeway interchange for use in one of the film's final scenes by creating a digital environment and a 1,000-foot (300 m) long spiral ramp that was built in front of a bluescreen. When a F-35 jet is chasing McClane on the freeway, a miniature model and a full-size prop were both built to assist in digitally adding the jet into the scene. The nine-foot model was constructed from November 2006 through February 2007. When the jet is shown hovering near the freeway, editors used the software 3D graphics program Maya to blur the background and create a heat ripple effect.
Filming for Live Free or Die Hard started in downtown Baltimore, Maryland on September 23, 2006. Eight different sets were built on a large soundstage for filming many scenes throughout the film. When recording the sound for the semi trailer used in one of the film's final scenes, 18 microphones were used to record the engine, tires, and damage to the vehicle. Post-production for the film only took 16 weeks, when it was more common for similar films to use 26 weeks.
In order to prevent possible injuries and be in peak condition for the film, Willis worked out almost daily for several months prior to filming. Willis was injured on January 24, 2007 during a fight scene, when he was kicked above his right eye by a stunt double for actress Maggie Q who was wearing stiletto heels. Willis described the event as "no big deal" but when Len Wiseman inspected his injury, he noticed that the situation was much more serious than previously thought—in the DVD commentary, Wiseman indicates in inspecting the wound that he could see bone. Willis was hospitalized and received seven stitches which ran through his right eyebrow and down into the corner of his eye. Due to the film's non-linear production schedule, these stitches can accidentally be seen in the scene where McClane first delivers Farrell to Bowman.
Throughout filming, between 200 and 250 stunt people were used. Bruce Willis' stunt double, Larry Rippenkroeger, was knocked unconscious when he fell 25 feet (7.6 m) from a fire escape to the pavement. Rippenkroeger suffered broken bones in his face, several broken ribs, a punctured lung, and fractures in both wrists. Due to his injuries, production was temporarily shut down. Willis personally paid the hotel bills for Rippenkroeger's parents and visited him a number of times at the hospital.
Kevin Smith recalls rewriting scenes on the set of Live Free or Die Hard in his spoken word film Sold Out: A Threevening with Kevin Smith.
In the United States, the first three films in the Die Hard series were rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America. Live Free or Die Hard, however, was edited to obtain a PG-13 rating. In some cases, alternate profanity-free dialogue was shot and used or swearing was cut out in post-production to reduce profanity. Director Len Wiseman commented on the rating, saying "It was about three months into it [production], and I hadn't even heard that it was PG-13... But in the end, it was just trying to make the best Die Hard movie, not really thinking so much about what the rating would be." Bruce Willis was upset with the studio's decision, stating, "I really wanted this one to live up to the promise of the first one, which I always thought was the only really good one. That's a studio decision that is becoming more and more common, because they’re trying to reach a broader audience. It seems almost a courageous move to give a picture an R rating these days. But we still made a pretty hardcore, smashmouth film." Willis said he thought that viewers unaware that it was not an R-rated film would not suspect so due to the level and intensity of the action as well as the usage of some profanity, although he admitted these elements were less intense than in the previous films. He also said that this film was the best of the four: "It's unbelievable. I just saw it last week. I personally think, it's better than the first one."
In the United Kingdom, the British Board of Film Classification awarded the film a 15 rating (including the unrated version, released later), the same as Die Hard with a Vengeance and Die Hard 2, albeit both were cut for both theatrical and video release, (the first film in the series originally received an 18 certificate). All films have been re-rated 15 uncut. Die Hard 4.0 was released with no cuts made and the cinema version (i.e. US PG-13 version) consumer advice read that it "contains frequent action violence and one use of strong language". The unrated version was released on DVD as the "Ultimate Action Edition" with the consumer advice "contains strong language and violence".
In Australia, Die Hard 4.0 was released with the PG-13 cut with an M rating, the same as the others in the series (The Australian Classification Board is less strict with regards to language and to a lesser extent, violence). The unrated version was later released on DVD and Blu-ray also with an M rating. The film notably was never released in home media with its theatrical cut, and has only been released in Australia as the extended edition.
Live Free or Die Hard debuted at #2 at the box office and made $9.1 million in its first day of release in 3,172 theaters, the best opening day take of any film in the Die Hard series (not taking inflation into account). On its opening weekend Live Free or Die Hard made $33.3 million ($48.3 million counting Wednesday and Thursday). The film made $134.5 million domestically, and $249.0 million overseas for a total of $383.5 million, making it the twelfth highest-grossing film of 2007. To date, it is the most successful film in the series.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 82% based on 206 reviews, and an average rating of 6.8/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Live Free or Die Hard may be preposterous, but it's an efficient, action-packed summer popcorn flick with thrilling stunts and a commanding performance by Bruce Willis. Fans of the previous Die Hard films will not be disappointed". On Metacritic, the film has a score of 69 out of 100, based on 34 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A–" on an A+ to F scale.
IGN stated "Like the recent Rocky Balboa, this new Die Hard works as both its own story about an over-the-hill but still vital hero and as a nostalgia trip for those who grew up with the original films." On the television show Ebert & Roeper, film critic Richard Roeper and guest critic Katherine Tulich both gave the film "two thumbs up", with Roeper stating that the film is "not the best or most exciting Die Hard, but it is a lot of fun" and that it is his favorite among the Die Hard sequels. Roeper also remarked, "Willis is in top form in his career-defining role." Michael Medved gave the film three and a half out of four stars, opining, "a smart script and spectacular special effects make this the best Die Hard of 'em all."
Conversely, Lawrence Toppman of The Charlotte Observer stated: "I can safely say I've never seen anything as ridiculous as Live Free or Die Hard." Toppman also wrote that the film had a lack of memorable villains and referred to John McClane as "just a bald Terminator with better one-liners".
The score for Live Free or Die Hard, written by Marco Beltrami, was released on July 2, 2007 by Varèse Sarabande (which also released the soundtracks for the first two Die Hard films), several days after the United States release of the film. This was the first film not to be scored by Michael Kamen, due to his death in 2003; Beltrami incorporates Kamen's thematic material into his score, but Kamen is not credited on the film or the album. Other songs in the film include "Rock & Roll Queen" by The Subways, "Fortunate Son" by Creedence Clearwater Revival and "I'm So Sick" by Flyleaf. Eric Lichtenfeld, reviewing from Soundtrack.net, said of the score's action cues "the entire orchestra seems percussive, flow well together."
- "Out of Bullets" (1:08)
- "Shootout" (3:41)
- "Leaving the Apartment" (2:08)
- "Dead Hackers" (1:31)
- "Traffic Jam" (4:13)
- "It's a Fire Sale" (2:57)
- "The Break-In" (2:28)
- "Farrell to D.C." (4:36)
- "Copter Chase" (4:41)
- "Blackout" (2:03)
- "Illegal Broadcast" (3:48)
- "Hurry Up!" (1:23)
- "The Power Plant" (2:01)
- "Landing" (2:28)
- "Cold Cuts" (2:00)
- "Break a Neck" (2:47)
- "Farrell Is In" (4:22)
- "The F-35" (4:13)
- "Aftermath" (3:12)
- "Live Free or Die Hard" (2:56)
The Blu-ray and DVD were released on October 29, 2007, in the United Kingdom, on October 31 in Hungary, November 20 in the United States, and December 12 in Australia. The DVD topped rental and sales charts in its opening week of release in the U.S. and Canada. There is an unrated version, which retains much of the original 'R-rated' dialogue, and a theatrical version of the film. However, the unrated version has a branching error resulted in one of the unrated changes to be omitted. The film briefly switches to the PG-13 version in the airbag scene; McClane's strong language is missing from this sequence (although international DVD releases of the unrated version are unaffected). The Blu-ray release features the PG-13 theatrical cut which runs at 128 minutes, while the Collector's Edition DVD includes both the unrated and theatrical versions. Time magazine's Richard Corliss named it one of the Top 10 DVDs of 2007, ranking it at #10. The German Blu-ray release of the "Die Hard Legacy Collection" features the unrated version for the first time in HD, and the disc is region-free.
The DVD for the film was the first to include a Digital Copy of the film which could be played on a PC or Mac computer and could also be imported into several models of portable video players. Mike Dunn, a president for 20th Century Fox, stated "The industry has sold nearly 12 billion DVDs to date, and the release of Live Free or Die Hard is the first one that allows consumers to move their content to other devices."