Many elements work together to make 1988's "Die Hard" one of the greatest action movies of all time: an impeccable script, a charismatic lead actor, an isolated setting, scene after scene of tense action and a bunch of memorable lines. "Yippee-ki-yay!"
But "Die Hard" didn't change everything just by being really good (although the fact that it takes place during Christmas has made it an unusual holiday tradition for fans). It shook things up by having such an iconic, perfectly executed plot that, as with "48 Hrs.," dozens of movies have tried to duplicate.
What's the "Die Hard" formula? You need an isolated location (and "Die Hard" proves that even a downtown skyscraper can be isolated if you're clever). You need a solitary hero cut off from his friends and allies, with nothing but his own wits and skill to rely on. You need to put that hero through hell. Finally (and here's the part so many "Die Hard" imitators overlook), you need to care about that hero. He needs to be an interesting, complex character.
The bare-bones version — a solitary hero in an isolated setting — is so common it's become a meme. "Die Hard" on ... a plane? A submarine?