White House Down, Roland Emmerich’s latest piece of cinematic destruction, features a good-hearted, gun-toting guy trapped in a building with terrorists, and he alone can take them all down, one by one. This has led some to call it “Die Hard in the White House,” a shorthand that is insultingly reductive. These movies are nothing alike! It’s apples and oranges, Deep Impact and Armageddon, Due Date and Planes, Trains, and Automobiles! Witness the disparate evidence. (Spoilers ahead for those who haven’t seen the film yet.)
1. In Die Hard, Bruce Willis plays John McClane, while in WHD, Channing Tatum plays John Cale. Other than the eight letters they have in common (only four of which are in a row), these are totally different names.
2. While they both wear dark grey khakis and blood-stained white tank tops, the two men showcase entirely different belt buckles: McClane’s is silver while Cale’s is gold.
3. Willis’s off-duty law-enforcement officer, who is caught in the wrong place when things start to go sideways, is from New York. Tatum’s off-duty law-enforcement officer, who is caught in the wrong place when things start to go sideways, is from D.C. These cities are over a three-hour car trip from each other.
4. Yes, both films feature protagonists trying to rescue a loved one entrapped in a hostage situation, but Cale is trying to rescue his daughter, while McClane is trying to rescue his wife.
5. McClane is in the bathroom when a hostage crisis erupts, allowing him to hide. Cale’s daughter is in the bathroom when a hostage crisis erupts, allowing her to hide. One is the men’s room, the other is the ladies’ room. The absence of urinals in the latter make any comparison a non-starter.
6. In Die Hard, McClane loses two shoes. In White House Down, Jamie Foxx’s president only loses one.
7. McClane and Cale are both in contact with a member of law enforcement on the outside who butts heads with their superiors in order to aid the protagonist. But in WHD it’s someone Tatum knew from college (Maggie Gyllenhaal) and is alluded to potentially have had a relationship with; in Die Hard it’s a cop (Reginald VelJohnson) who McClane just met and has no known sexual history with.
8. Bad guys entering the Nakatomi Plaza nonchalantly shoot the front desk security guard with a silenced pistol. Bad guys entering the White House nonchalantly shoot the front desk security guard with a silenced pistol … plus like eight other security guards after that.
9. While both films have scenes where the protagonist hides on top of an elevator while the bad guys are in it and overhears their plan, in WHD the elevator goes down afterwards, while in Die Hard it goes up.
10. Hans Gruber’s smug hacker sits in the basement breaking into an encrypted vault, while WHD’s smug hacker in the basement breaks into the encrypted missile command.
11. In Die Hard the villains initially pose as terrorists but are actually robbers who just want money, while in WHD the villains initially pose as robbers who just want money but are in fact terrorists who just want to blow up Iran.
12. McClane performs amateur surgery by removing glass from his own wound. Cale performs amateur surgery by taking glass out of the President’s wound.
13. Sleazy journalists reveal McClane’s name while he’s hiding in Die Hard. In WHD, sleazy journalists reveal the name of Tatum’s daughter while she’s hiding in the White House.
14. Both Tatum and Willis talk to themselves at certain points in the movie and call themselves “stupid,” but in WHD Tatum also talks to a squirrel, suggesting a more deep-seated mental illness.
15. In Die Hard, the FBI takes over the operation and wants to call in an airstrike to take out the terrorists, despite that it will potentially kill hostages. This is wholly different from WHD where it’s the Speaker of the House–cum–acting President who wants to call in an airstrike to take out the terrorists despite the fact that it will definitely kill hostages.
16. The henchmen in Die Hard are beefed-up white dudes with long blond hair, but in WHD the terrorists are made up of almost entirely beefed up white dudes with short brown hair.
17. While the lead henchmen of both movies’ villains are seemingly dispatched by choking, in Die Hard the bad guy isn’t really dead and poses a problem at the end. In order to avoid such a problem in WHD, Tatum chokes him out and then detonates several grenades to blow up his head.
18. Toward the end of Die Hard, John McClane has only two bullets left, something that majorly raises the stakes. In WHD John Cale announces he only has three bullets left, which raises the stakes — for about five seconds before he immediately finds another gun.
19. In Die Hard, Bruce Willis takes a bad guy’s walkie-talkie after killing him, setting up some witty repartee with Alan Rickman. In WHD, Channing Tatum takes a bad guy’s walkie-talkie after killing him, setting up his barely using it for anything ever.
20. In Die Hard, Hans Gruber cowers in fear and pretends to be a hostage in order to not be shot, despite the fact he’s actually the villain. In WHD, John Cale cowers in fear and pretends to be a hostage in order to not be shot, despite the fact he’s actually the hero.
Other movies that White House Down is not like:
Air Force One
Olympus Has Fallen
Die Hard 2
Die Hard With a Vengeance