Willis has been churning out films for decades now, and he’s wound up starring in some truly great movies over that time, from movies that have cracked the AFI 100 to movies that are pop culture phenomenons.
Click through to see which ones made the cut!
10) “Armageddon” – 1998
As much as it pains me to say it, “Armageddon” is one of Willis’ most popular films, and one of the films most strongly identified with him. Excluding it from the list simply didn’t seem right. So, in lieu of a handful of flawed action films (including the Die Hard sequels), the super cult “Fifth Element”, and his little seen dramatic work, Michael Bay’s opus about a drill crew trained to be astronauts in order to save the earth from an asteroid takes the tenth spot. Hear it in your heads now folks: “I could stay awake… just to hear you breathing… “ LOL.
9) “RED” – 2010
Teaming up with John Malkovich, Hellen Mirren and Morgan Freeman, Willis plays a retired (but still extremely dangerous) ex CIA agent named Frank Moses. When the government tries to punch his ticket, Moses fights back, which includes reuniting the old gang, and I do mean the “old” gang. Elderly action comedy ensues. Well received enough to merit this weekend’s forthcoming sequel, “RED” blends humor and action into an amusing, eminently watchable package.
8) “Moonrise Kingdom” – 2012
Wes Anderson’s quirky, quiet film about puppy love features Willis as a mild-mannered cop who’s in love with a married woman. Completely against the tough guys we’re used to seeing him play. Anderson creates a strange island of odd characters where the kids seem to have a better handle on things than the adults… a setting perfect for his idiosyncratic stylings. A restrained, quiet turn by Willis and another great outing from everyone’s favorite offbeat director give “Kingdom” enough juice to crack the list.
7) “Sin City” – 2005
In this adaptation of Frank Miller’s pulpy, violent graphic novel, Willis plays Hartigan, a burnt out police officer with a bum heart who only wants to protect a young girl. Bleak, brutal and cynical, “Sin City” is a hyper noir tale of the dark underbelly’s dark underbelly. It’s a film that doesn’t shy away from darkness, depravity and disgusting behavior. Shot in black and white with CGI backdrops, “Sin City” replicates the source graphic novel in a way that few comic book adaptations ever have… it truly felt as though the comic came to life on the big screen.
6) “Looper” – 2012
Willis returns to sci-fi in this 2012 Rian Johnson film about time travel, mob hit men, and telekinesis. It’s as wild and wonderful as it sounds, plus Willis has the benefit of Joseph Gordon-Levitt playing across from him as a younger version of himself. Tense, exciting and thought-provoking, “Looper” raises moral questions to accompany its time bending narrative. Willis’ older version of Joe is someone you’re not sure whether you want to root for or against, and his performance supports that perfectly. It’s alternately sympathetic and menacing.
5) “12 Monkeys” – 1995
Terry Gilliam’s trippy tale of time travel and terrorism. Willis shines as ___ a man sent back to the past from a dystopian future in order to stop a devastating, world changing virus from being released. Will he stop the plague? Or will his presence unwittingly aid the process? Can he keep his sanity intact, or is he already insane? Co-starring a young, manic Brad Pitt, “12 Monkeys” combines the weird, wonderful sensibilities of Gilliam with the mind bending paradoxes inherent in time travel movies.
4) “Unbreakable” – 2000
Willis’ second collaboration with M Night Shyamalan proved just as fruitful as his first. With “Unbreakable”, Willis authored a new superhero character not based on an existing property, but with an entirely new mythos including an origin, super powers, a vulnerability, and a nemesis. Willis’ character struggles to come to grips with his abilities, and to maintain the respect of his son. Once again Shyamalan dupes his audience with an incredible twist as well. “Unbreakable” was an excellent, confident film that doesn’t get enough credit in pop culture for just how excellent it is.
3) “The Sixth Sense” – 1999
One of Willis’ best roles came in M. Night Shyamalan’s debut film. Playing off of one of the greatest child acting performances of all time (Haley Joel Osment would receive an Academy Award nom at the age of 10), Willis turned in one of his most memorable performances ever as the psychologist who tries to help young Cole Sear. This film also gave us an incredible catchphrase (“I see dead people”) and one of the greatest “twists” in movie history. It ranks 89th on the AFI 100 Years… 100 Movies 10th Anniversary Edition.
2) “Pulp Fiction” – 1994
Coming in at number two simply because Willis isn’t the main character for the entire film, “Pulp Fiction” was a revolutionary film, and has since become a classic. Willis makes the most out of his Tarantino created character. Butch is a boxer who refuses to take a dive for the mob, and instead cleans up betting against the fix. He’s forced to abandon his escape plans, however, when he has to head back into danger to retrieve a very special watch. Things only get crazier from there in this chapter of what’s inarguably one of the greatest movies ever made.
1) “Die Hard” – 1988
Undeniably Willis’ signature movie. If you were to ask the question, “What one movie do you identify with Bruce Willis?” there really is only one right answer, and that’s this one. Willis plays John McClane, a smart ass cop who plays fly in the ointment to a gang of international thieves. “Die Hard” brought the action movie to new levels when it was released in the late 80s, and it launched Willis into the upper stratosphere of movie stars. 25 years and four sequels later, it still stands tall as an action classic. It’s truly a great movie, and one that’s become synonymous with Bruce Willis!
Well, there you have it folks. The top ten Bruce Willis films!
What do you think? Any I missed? Which ones are too high or too low? I’m prepared for “The Fifth Element” contingent, go ahead let me have it!
Let us hear it!