Bruce Willis is one of the most popular actors on the planet but sadly, he was recently forced into retirement because of a health problem that will affect his future ability to communicate and continue acting. This is awful news for both him and his family and it’s bad news for his fans too, who have enjoyed the many great movies he has made throughout his career.
But let’s not dwell on Bruce’s forced retirement. While it’s right to feel sad for the unfortunate actor, we should also take time out to celebrate his career with a look back at those movies that deserve to live on forever.
Thanks to the cinematic gems that are listed below, Bruce Willis will never really be gone from our screens, so let out a Yippee-Ki-Yay, and celebrate the acting legend with these top picks.
Sin City (2005)
Willis returned to comic book movies with this adaptation of Frank Miller’s graphic novel, a film that is far removed from the overblown superheroics we have come to expect from the MCU or DCEU.
It’s a multi-stranded story about four individuals who cross paths within the crime-heavy town of Basin City and it’s something of a visual masterpiece with a largely black and white palette punctuated by the occasional punch of colour.
Despite its powerful aesthetics, the movie would be nothing without some amazing performances so it’s thanks to Willis, Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba et al that make this noirish crime thriller something special.
Pulp Fiction (1994)
Bruce made a lot of movies after Die Hard but not all of them were worthy of his talents.
Some of those movies, including The Bonfire Of The Vanities and Hudson Hawk, were box office bombs so his career was in danger of ending before the decade was out. Thankfully, Quentin Tarantino came along to not only resurrect his career from Hollywood obscurity but to save John Travolta’s flatlining career too.
Pulp Fiction is an ensemble piece so Bruce isn’t the only great actor given the spotlight here. But as Butch Coolidge, a boxer with a fading career, he made a very big impact on audiences, despite only being in the movie for around 30 minutes.
He very nearly starred in another Tarantino film – he was the director’s second choice for Bill in Kill Bill – but even though he didn’t get the opportunity, at least he had the chance to appear in this modern crime classic.
Twelve Monkeys (1995)
Brad Pitt may have snagged an Oscar nomination for his role in Terry Gilliam’s futuristic time-bender but Bruce Willis still gave a performance that is worthy of a mention.
As James Cole, the prisoner who is sent back in time to gather information about a deadly man-made virus, he gave the film extra gravitas in a grounded role that didn’t depend on his movie star persona. He was the perfect contrast to Pitt, giving a quiet and sombre performance that contrasted nicely with the manic behaviour of his co-star.
The Fifth Element (1997)
Bruce Willis returned to the world of sci-fi with the leading role in Luc Besson’s mind-boggling movie but this was a much more jolly and light-hearted affair than the serious-minded and dark Twelve Monkeys.
Acting in a movie with so many special effects must have been difficult for the actor as Besson seemed to favour style over substance in this one but Willis didn’t let the director’s bright and colourful vision of the future overshadow his performance.
This isn’t one of the greatest science-fiction movies ever made but at a time when directors of the genre favoured seriousness over fun – Dark City, The Postman, Sphere – this was a welcome antidote.
Armageddon came out in the same year as the similarly-themed Deep Impact and while I prefer the latter, there’s no denying the impact this movie had on the box office. It was a massive success, despite garnering a few negative reviews, and it’s still a movie that holds up to repeated viewing today.
It’s all a bit silly, of course, as I can’t imagine the current President sending a group of deep-core drillers into space to dismantle an asteroid. But it’s Bruce’s grizzled performance that makes this movie stand out as well as the sacrifice that his character makes to save the world. It’s enough to make grown men cry!
The Sixth Sense (1999)
When talking about The Sixth Sense, people often focus on the twist ending (which is easy to guess on a second viewing) but it’s actually Willis’s performance that deserves more recognition. Without him, that final twist wouldn’t have had quite the same impact as his tender performance as Malcolm Crowe draws us into his character and makes the movie all the more heartbreaking.
Of course, Haley Joel Osment, as the kid who can see dead people, also deserves a lot of credit. But it’s Willis that had the most to prove at this point as he needed to define himself as a serious actor again after the blockbuster excesses of The Fifth Element and Armageddon.
After his first successful pairing with M. Night Shyamalan, Willis teamed up with him again for this unconventional comic book flick. It’s arguably not as good as their previous movie but it’s still worth watching, not least for Willis’s quiet performance as David Dunn, the former football star turned invincible superhero.
Willis doesn’t wear a red cape or brightly coloured spandex, of course, as Dunn is a much more grounded hero than we have come to expect. And Samuel L. Jackson’s Elijah Price isn’t your usual type of supervillain either as this is a movie that strives to be realistic, despite having an unbreakable man at its core.
But it was still one of the best comic book movies made at the time – despite not being adapted from an actual comic book – and it was the opportunity for Willis to portray a hero that was almost the antithesis of John McClane.
Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
Bruce Willis in a Wes Anderson movie? It’s not something many people expected but here he is, in a supporting role that is among the finest in his career.
The movie tells a coming of age story that is as funny and as quirky as you would expect from Anderson but while the younger members of the cast take centre stage, Willis still engages as the New England Police Captain who leads the search for two lovestruck runaways.
It’s a great movie with a wonderful ensemble cast and is infinitely better than Anderson’s most recent picture, The French Dispatch, which didn’t have the heart that this oddball little masterpiece did.
Die Hard (1988)
After a few small movie roles, Bruce Willis had his big break in Hollywood with the underwhelming Blind Date in 1987, a comedy co-starring Kim Basinger that didn’t do much to ignite his acting career.
Thankfully, he made this action masterpiece a year later and received the boost he needed to secure his Hollywood stardom. As he clambered around Nakatomi Tower taking down bad guys, it was clear that a new action star had been born and somebody who was much more relatable than the muscle-bound Stallone and Schwarzzenger who were the big box office draws of the time.
After the first couple of sequels, the Die Hard franchise went into decline but this first entry will always be remembered as one of the greatest action movies of all time. The character of John McClane will also be the role that Bruce Willis will be most fondly remembered.
If you’re going to watch Bruce Willis movies on a loop it makes sense to include this one on your list.
We’re back in sci-fi territory – a genre that Willis has returned to multiple times over the years (culminating in the woeful Cosmic Sin) – but this is one of the smartest, telling the story of a hitman (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who is ordered to ‘close the loop’ and assassinate his older self (Bruce Willis).
This was probably the movie that earned director Rian Johnson the opportunity to make a Star Wars flick as it was one of the finest sci-fi action films of the decade. But as good as his direction was, it’s still Willis that commands the most attention as a man who has to save himself from assassination.
And there we have it, our list of our 10 favourite Bruce Willis movies! What do you think of our list? Have we included your favourites? Or have we missed any must-watch movies? We love to hear from you so do feel free to let us know in the comments below!