Hans Gruber’s Plan: The Best Villainous Plan in Movies

It’s Debate Day! This week: the best villainous movie plan! Which bad guy came up with the most devious, conniving, and intricate master plan in a movie? To read Aaron’s slapdash and haphazard malarkey, click here: Magneto’s Plan: The Best Villainous Plan in Movies. To see a truly inspired and calculated opinion, read on! 

No one likes a mustache-twirler. The best movie villains are the ones that draw us in with their charisma and intellect, only to shock us by their ruthless brutality. They slowly unveil their carefully-crafted master plan, a thing of terrible elegance, which would succeed if not for the efforts of a selfless (and usually lucky) hero. These guys aren’t evil for evil’s sake. They just do bad things to get what they want, and they do them really well.

Aaron suggested “best villainous plan” as the topic this week, and I asked him who he had in mind. He said Magneto and Hans Gruber, but said he was leaning towards Magneto. I thought about it for a while, but eventually had to admit that Hans was truly the best planner in movie history. In fact, I’m surprised that chump Aaron didn’t pick the Grubermeister himself, but he’s, like, pathologically incapable of making a sensible argument. I think it’s a medical condition.

Anyway. Point is this: Hans Gruber is the awesomest and most meticulous planner in all of film.

Spoilers for Die Hard ahoy! But seriously, who hasn’t seen Die Hard?

Everyone be cool. I’ve got a plan.

To start off, let’s just go over the bullet points of Hans Gruber’s plan:

  • Infiltrate Nakatomi Tower with his goons and take the Christmas party-goers hostage.
  • Get the vault password from Takagi (or kill him, doesn’t really matter).
  • Have Theo hack most of the vault locks.
  • Call the police and pretend to be terrorists.
  • Annihilate the SWAT team with rocket launchers.
  • Wait until FBI shows up and cuts the power to the building, thus unlocking the last lock.
  • Steal $640 million in bearer bonds.
  • Blow up all the hostages on the roof with C4 when the FBI gunship shows up and escape in the confusion.

Brilliant, isn’t it? Hans has planned for every eventuality. He knows Takagi probably won’t give up the password, but it doesn’t matter because Theo can hack through it. He knows how the police and FBI will respond to a terrorist attack, and baits them into a perfect trap. Movie police are always stupid, and Hans knows exactly how to use them to his advantage.

My favorite thing about Gruber’s plan is the whole pretending-to-be-terrorists thing. It’s brilliant because it scares the hostages into being submissive (after all, terrorists are crazy right? Who knows what they’ll do). Killing Takagi was probably part of Hans’ plan all along, because he can show the hostages he means business by executing their boss.

Sayonara, Takagi-san.

The police are also forced to stick to the script. If Hans and his buddies are just a bunch of low-life thieves (which in reality they are), the police can treat them with contempt. If they’re terrorists, then the FBI has to get involved and do dumb things like cut the power on a building with an electromagnetic lock that opens when the power’s cut (Hans doesn’t make the baffling rules, he just exploits them).

I also gotta admire the simplicity of Hans’ goals. He pretends to be a socially-conscious anarchist concerned with economic exploitation in third world countries, but the truth is that he’s just looking for a payday. He and all his hardened German murderers (plus Theo) are just incredibly well-armed burglars. It’s the oldest motivation in the book, and the zest with which they pursue that cold, hard cash is almost admirable.

This is what $640 million looks like.
This is what $640 million looks like.

Plans don’t count for much without supplies and preparation, but fortunately Hans has got that covered too. He and his buddies come bearing machine guns, rocket launchers, and high-yield explosives, not to mention sophisticated electronic equipment for hacking into the building’s mainframe. They’re basically ready to start a small war.

The only monkey wrench in Gruber’s perfect plan is one-man supercop John McClane. Unstoppable force, meet… err… more unstoppable force. But even John can’t alter Hans’ plans that much. John tells the police about the hostage situation? Big deal, Hans wanted them there anyway. John kills some of Hans’ henchmen? Whoopty-doo, more money for Hans. It’s only when John gets ahold of Hans’ detonators that things really start to go pear-shaped for the German. But Hans is an expert improviser, and even goes undercover as an American hostage to get the edge on McClane. Hans manages to get in the vault, get the money, and damn near get away with the whole thing, but in the end John saves the hostages and drops Hans off the building.

Can't win 'em all, I guess.
Can’t win ’em all, I guess.

So his plan doesn’t go off without a hitch, but it’s not really his fault. I mean, what can you do when John McClane shows up to crash your party? Honestly, the intricacy and beauty of Hans’ plan just makes John McClane look more awesome by comparison. When the Nakatomi execs, the cops, the FBI, the media, and Ellis all had their thumbs up their asses, John was the only one capable of unraveling Hans’ cunning stratagem. And unravel it he did — with a machine gun.

Magneto is a pretty cool bad guy, but his plan is insane. Seriously, turning all the world leaders into mutants? It’s audacious, but probably more likely to piss people off than make mutants seem warm and cuddly. Only Hans Gruber has the finesse and panache to take the taco on this one. Some baddies, like his brother Simon, go for sheer scale and spectacle, but a plan isn’t about the size. It’s about how every piece works together like a finely-tuned watch, and Hans is the finest clockmaker around. That’s what makes him the best villainous mastermind of all time.

So who’s got the right of it, me or Aaron? Is Hans the best planner ever, or is it Magneto? Or someone completely different? Let us know in the poll!

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