This is another of those films (admittedly, alongside Richard Donner's Lethal Weapon film of the year before) that helped to change the landscape for film-makers and cinemagoers alike. It created (or maybe a more timely word would be 'rebooted') an entire sub-genre, that being the hard-boiled, high-octane, high concept thriller/action film. Without Die Hard actors like john Claude Van Damme, Dolph Lundgren, Jason Statham and Steven Segal probably wouldn't have careers. It allowed actors who (let's face it didn't have the 'acting chops' of Lawrence Olivier - but did have big muscles and could heft a machine gun around a set all day long), the chance to headline some large budget productions. Without Die Hard, we certainly wouldn't have had Under Siege, Passenger 57, or Speed.
That's not to say Bruce Willis is a bad actor. Quite the contrary, he's a really good actor, in my opinion and his wide and varied filmography will back that up. Indeed, it's what he brings to the role of John McClane that raises this film head and shoulders above all of its contemporaries.
What Die Hard additionally brings to the table though, is a half decent plot; the best pantomime villain seen in the movies in lo' many a long year, in Alan Rickman's Hans Gruber and some geeat comedy to go along with the action. Johnson & Johnson (the choice of surname is probably no coincidence for the two gung-ho FBI agents), the LAPDs inept SWAT team that bites the dust so early on and William Atherton's completely amoral news reporter Dick (there's definitely a theme, isn't there) Thornburg to name but three.
All in all, still a film without peer. Die Hard with a Vengeance comes pretty close with it's continuation of the Gruber storyline (Jeremy Irons plays Hans' brother Peter out for vengeance and a few billion dollars along the way) and the introduction of Samuel L. Jackson's Zeus "I'll shove a lightning bolt up your ass" Carver.