#2. Stay in One Location
The first Die Hard takes place entirely in a building, and it rules. Die Hard 2, for all its flaws, also managed to keep to mostly one location, an airport. By the time Vengeance rolled around, they decided to cover an entire city, and by Live Free, several states.
And, uh ... here.
That was a mistake. One of the coolest aspects of Die Hard was the consistency of the location. McClane, the terrorists, and the hostages were all trapped together for a few hours. The stakes were clear. There was no way out. There was a time factor. You had McClane on one floor and the terrorists on another, and you knew they'd eventually have to meet up, and that it would be awesome. It's important in a Die Hard that the game is John McClane vs. the Bad Guys. Die Hard wouldn't have had any tension if you thought even for a second that the police or the army could come rushing in and take out the terrorists.
While every subsequent Die Hard has maintained the "McClane vs. Bad Guys" rule, they've had to come up with increasingly more convoluted reasons to keep McClane on his own. In Die Hard 2, McClane flew solo because the airport cops were cartoonishly obtuse and uncooperative; in Vengeance, he was mostly alone because Simon Gruber sent the NYPD on a wild goose chase and "Something something something, if you guys use your radios, a bomb will explode because of movie science." In Live Free or Die Hard, we had to believe that the level of hacking Thomas Gabriel did was so advanced that every cellphone and radio was out of commission, and also the hacking was so good that none of the other cops thought it would be worth their time to follow McClane around, even though he's literally the best weapon America has when it comes to dealing with terrorists.
A Good Day to Die Hard is set in Russia, and it looks like they'll be traveling all over some city, if not the entire country. I'd say that's a bad sign, but what do I know, I didn't write the book on Die Hard movies.
Though I will. If anyone -- anyone -- asks me to, I will.
#1. Put Black People in It
I don't want to tiptoe around this. In the best Die Hard, John McClane had two funny black sidekicks:
The second best Die Hard was a buddy movie with a black partner who received just as much screen time as McClane:
In Die Hard 2, we only get like two minutes with Reginald VelJohnson, and in the fourth film, McClane doesn't have any black accomplices.
I have no theories. I have no idea what this says about race, and I'm too dumb to figure out what it means, in a big, grand sort of way. I just know that there is an inarguable relationship between how many black friends John McClane has and how good a Die Hard movie is. Do the right thing, Die Hard 5. There's still time to recast John McClane's son with Donald Glover.