Only Bruce Willis can
and still have 10 movies coming out this year. The man is retire from acting more than stubborn. He’s relentless, indomitable. You could even say his spirit is difficult to kill, improbable to terminate, or better yet, built to die hard.
Even in the face of aphasia, a crippling neurological condition that affects language cognition, Willis has been putting up more numbers lately than he has in his entire career. Sure, he was dabbling in the
, with VOD projects that underwhelmed audiences. But who cares? Dozens of mediocre films may lower Bruce’s batting average, but they can never take away from the majesty of a rarefied screen legend and the classics he starred in. Nic Cage school of acting
And few movie stars made as many classics as Bruce Willis.
Despite Willis rounding out his career with 144 film credits, narrowing down his best roles wasn’t hard. Because when you’re in some of the
, they stand out from the pack. Now before we get all misty-eyed, we just wanna say thanks for all the action over the years, Bruce. You were one of the greats and you will be missed. best movies ever made
Without further ado, we give you the best of Bruce Willis.
Cover Photo: Universal Pictures
Bruce Willis Best Movies
10. 'Look Who's Talking' - 1989
Was this a good movie when it came out? Yes. Does it still hold up? Kinda. Is Bruce Willis even in the movie? Not really. But as the voice of the articulate baby, Mikey, he narrates the entire film which boasts one of the best microscopic sperm sequences in cinema. Giddyup.
9. 'Death Becomes Her' - 1992
Bruce Willis almost never plays a craven man. And that's a shame because his comedy chops as a weasel are superb. Just look at the star-studded murder comedy
Death Becomes Her. As the cowardly womanizer who leaves whatever committed relationship he's in the moment another woman flirts with him, his actions should make him unredeemable. And yet he ends up being the reluctant hero we root for. It's a strange movie filled with selfish villains that has no business being as memorable as it is.
8. 'Looper' - 2012
Looper isn't a great film. Twenty minutes in, the premise feels thin, the production design isn't landing, and everyone's wondering what's up with Joseph Gordon-Levitt's nose. But then Bruce shows up and everything clicks. Playing an older version of Gordon-Levitt's protagonist, his presence suddenly buoys the movie and makes the whole emotional journey of time-traveling assassins plausible. Like Arnold Schwarzenegger turning up at a slap-fighting contest, suddenly the wobbly undertaking feels legitimate. That's screen power.
7. 'The Fifth Element' - 1997
Bruce likes numbers. His entire filmography can almost be summed up sequentially.
Die Hard one through three. Four Rooms. The Fifth Element. The Sixth Sense. You get the picture. But of all his numbered movies, his biggest cult classic is the French space opera. And in characteristic style, Bruce fell into the most expensive French-financed film ever made on a whim. Director Luc Besson couldn't get any Hollywood leading men to look at his outrageous script, when during a lunch with Willis' wife at the time, Bruce stumbled in for dessert. After hearing the quandary, he simply blurted out "Hey my man, what about me?" An elegant solution to a visually orgasmic film that only gets better with age.
6. 'Sin City' - 2005
Today, comic book movies rule the box office. The MCU alone has earned $25 billion (and counting). And while
Batman Begins is largely credited with the shift in fortune for men-in-tights movies, Sin City is the match that lit the fuse. Based on a graphic novel by the incomparable Frank Miller (the same author of the Dark Knight saga) Sin City brought a degenerate wickedness to the genre that had never been seen. The gloomy, graphically violent, villainous neo-noir transformed comic book movies into adult-only material. It was a turning point for the industry and Willis was there delivering his Grade-A brand of earnest grit.
5. 'The Sixth Sense' - 1999
When movies touch a nerve and become a cultural phenomenon, they get made fun of forever. Despite
The Sixth Sense landing squarely in this category (especially considering where M. Night Shyamalan's filmography went), it also remains a chilling masterpiece in slow-burn horror. Willis plays his part to perfection, with an eerie absence of lifeforce anathema to his whole persona. It's another of his great magic tricks: A performance that works as a foggy window into the soul by getting out of the way and letting the audience see through him with ever-increasing clarity. The result is a deeply disturbing revelation that we now joke about to avoid dealing with our own mortality. Yippee ki-yay motherfuckers.
4. 'Die Hard' - 1988
What can we say that you don't already know?
Die Hard is a perfect action movie. Great villain, solid premise. But the real magic is in Bruce's star-turn as the husband trying to redeem his good standing with his wife while having to battle a cadre of terrorists in order to do so. In the age of Arnold, Bruce made being a hero feel doable. And that's why we love him.
3. '12 Monkeys' - 1995
Before filming began on this dystopian sci-fi mindwarp, director Terry Gilliam laid some ground rules for Bruce. At the top of his list: No movie star bullshit. Bruce agreed, and the result is a singular performance in the Willis oeuvre. Playing James Cole a worker bee time-traveler sent from the future to pinpoint the exact moment a deadly virus wipes out humanity, Bruce sheds all his streetwise bravado to embody a damaged innocent with no discernible skills. His childlike vision of arrested development slowly gives way to hope in a hopeless world. It's a deluded and heartbreaking performance that splats into the cold concrete reality of the prescient vision Gilliam so carefully laid out. And some might say, a foreshadowing of the growing pains in store for all of civilization.
2. 'Pulp Fiction' - 1994
Pulp Fiction is one of the greatest movies of all time. But it wouldn't be without Bruce Willis. Playing a rinsed-out boxer paid to throw his last fight, Willis brings a quiet nobility and underdog spirit that lends the film heart. Without him, Pulp Fiction is just a bunch of heartless (albeit enthralling) people dancing around epiphanies that never come; a McGuffin with glorious banter. Luckily, Bruce is at the height of his powers and the depths of his innate magnetism as the deeply flawed everyman who does the right thing when the chips are down. And that little extra boost from Bruce pushes the film over the line into the realm of masterpiece.
1. 'Armageddon' - 1998
Armageddon isn't on this list for being a good movie. While it does have the honor of being one of two Michael Bay films included in the Criterion Collection, it's mostly an overblown pile of dogshit. Which makes Bruce Willis' performance even more startling. Who would have ever thought a soulless summer popcorn flick could showcase the full range of Willis? And yet somehow his climactic bait-and-switch is the best part of the entire slog. The way he swaps the end of the world with the end of his world as the climax of a $140 million tentpole and sells it without losing any magnitude is a masterful sleight of hand. This is the scene we'll replay in our heads every time we think about the man retiring from acting. We are Liv Tyler in Armageddon. Farewell, Bruce.