These movies, particularly the first one, are the quintessential "naughty" Christmas movies. Bruce Willis as a NYPD cop coming to see his estranged wife, Holly (Bonnie Bedelia) who has gotten a good job working in the Nakatomi building. However, at their Christmas party, Hans Gruber (the indomitable Alan Rickman) takes them all hostage and starts to figure out how to gain access to a whole bunch of money (bonds of some sort). Just as the shit hits the fan (pardon my language, I've been watching a lot of Die Hard), John McClane (Willis) arrives by limo to see his wife. Thanks to his cop skills, he gets away and starts to plan how to take them down and save his wife. He shoots guns, swings out windows, jumps off roofs, walks through glass and bleeds for ages. He has a partner on the outside in Sgt. Al Powell (Reginald VelJohnson), a LAPD officer who actually believes something is going on (even when the FBI get in on the game). McClane is particularly badass throughout the film, pissing off the terrorists and almost get himself killed a bunch of times.
Rewatching this recently, the fact I was most shocked by was when they paused on a gas station and the price of gas was 74 cents/gallon. Took me several minutes to gather myself after that. And of course, Alan Rickman's performance as the ultimate bad guy. The voice, the attitude, the lines - perfect!
I'm among those who will be strung up for liking the sequel even more than the original. The self-referential humor kills me ("How can the same shit happen to the same guy twice"). I think the second movie attempts to be funnier, knowing that it can't actually live up to the action and thrilling aspect of the first one. Die Hard 2 (often called Die Harder) takes place at Dulles International Airport where John McClane has arrive to pick up his wife flying in for Christmas from LA. Just as he arrives, a former US Colonel has taken over the tower on a snowy night and now controls all the air traffic - more hostages = sequel. He's trying to free a arriving dictator and is keeping them on their toes. Both movies could take place almost any time, but the fact that they're both at Christmas gives it a sense of urgency and a design that is red, green and snowy (or however they fake it in LA). It's also used to explain why no one else is in the Nakatomi building when Hans takes over.