Die Hard's Most Iconic Line Gets a Philly Twist

Die Hard's Most Iconic Line Gets a Philly Twist
Image credit: Legion-Media

Holiday season is upon us, which means the yearly debate of whether or not Die Hard is a Christmas movie is back in full swing.

The 1988 film was an instant classic – featuring grizzled New York cop John McClane singlehandedly taking down terrorists at Nakatomi Plaza while attending his wife's holiday work party. It was nominated for four Oscars, made five times its budget, and turned Bruce Willis from "that guy from Moonlighting" to one of the most bankable stars in Hollywood.

It also popularized the ridiculous phrase, "Yippee-ki-yay, motherf***er," which apparently has roots from Willis' childhood.

Die Hard was written by Steven de Souza, who also wrote The Running Man the year before. De Souza spoke to Matt Gourley on the podcast "I Was There Too" about his experience working on the film.

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He said the film was subject to constant changes, working through dialogue on the spot. He believed that the film benefited from this style, especially because it gave the film its most quotable line.

He said that "Yippee-ki-yay, mother***er" came about as he and Willis were discussing their childhood. They both grew up in Philadelphia, playing in the same spots and watching the same local television shows. They were discussing shows they'd watched as kids, and eventually The Roy Rogers Show came up.

The Roy Rogers Show's tagline was "Yippee-ki-yay, kids!" De Souza and Willis took that line, added a little adult-themed flavor, and stuck it in the movie. It's since been hailed as one of cinema's most iconic lines, with Slate calling it the greatest one-liner in history.

That line is the epitome of why people love Die Hard: It's so absurd, but so fun. This is a movie where one man, completely by himself, uses his wit and will to save the day. That's the daydream of every teenage boy, and Willis and de Souza put that dream on screen.

His role as McClane completely changed the trajectory of Willis' career. His first "big break" was as a snarky detective on the comedy Moonlighting, a fondly remembered but ultimately unenduring show. After Die Hard, he later starred in Pulp Fiction, the Sixth Sense, and literally 22 action films since 2020.

While de Souza never made another huge hit (other than Die Hard's first 1990 sequel), with one line, he was able to insert himself into Hollywood icon status. What else can you say to that but "Yippee-ki-yay, mother***er"?