Sunday, June 4

Bruce Willis Movies – Ranked! | Bruce Willis

This futuristic thriller about “surries” (artificial stuntmen who do their dirty work while their owners stay home) could have been a lot more fun referring to the disparity between the older, graying Willis and his blonde, synthetic doppelganger. Still, it’s nice to see him rage at Rosamund Pike, who plays his glassy wife, and briefly reunite with his Pulp Fiction nemesis, Ving Rhames.

Good performance, bad movie. Willis does a subtle and judicious job as the child psychologist drawn by the confidences of a child (Haley Joel Osment) who can see the dead around him. M Night Shyamalan’s sentimental ghost story sags under the weight of life lessons about emotional closure and a twist that makes the action of the previous 100 minutes ridiculous.

Willis with Haley Joel Osment in The Sixth Sense.
Willis with Haley Joel Osment in The Sixth Sense. Photograph: Buena Vista / Allstar

In his second consecutive film with Shyamalan, Willis returns to producing poignant results from portentous, low-quality material. There are nuances of Christopher Walken in The Dead Zone in his portrayal of a normal Joe taken aback by his extraordinary powers. He reprized the role briefly in Split (2016) and extensively in Glass (2019).

17. The Siege (1998)

Almost three years before 9/11, writer and director Edward Zwick envisioned a terrorist cell launching an attack on American soil. (After 9/11, Zwick was one of the Hollywood figures consulted by the Pentagon on counterterrorism issues.) Rightly criticized for the callous handling of its Arab characters, the film has a certain fruitful tension between Denzel Washington, calling for caution, and Willis, personifying gung-ho military might.

16. The Last Boy Scout (1991)

Misogyny walks through this nasty action flick from Lethal Weapon writer Shane Black and Top Gun director Tony Scott. The charm he has can be attributed solely to Willis, who handled the pranks with poise as a former secret service agent turned private detective, and Damon Wayans as the former NFL star he teams up with.

With Damon Wayans in The Last Boy Scout.
With Damon Wayans in The Last Boy Scout. Photograph: Warner Bros / Allstar

The thrill of seeing Willis working with an exciting young director (Rian Johnson) in this time-loop thriller, in which he and Joseph Gordon-Levitt play the same killer at different ages, was only slightly dampened by the fact that who had ridden that carousel before on 12 Monkeys. At least he seems more at home here than immersed in the whim of Wes Anderson (who cast him at Moonrise Kingdom the same year).

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14. Billy Bathgate (1991)

Robert Benton’s gangster story begins with Willis facing death in a bow tie and a tuxedo. But go the way forward: Dustin Hoffman orders the execution, Steve Buscemi ties him up, Nicole Kidman looks on in horror. Have you heard of “Garbo Laughs!” Prepare for something almost as rare: “Willis cries!”

13. Deadly Thoughts (1991)

In the same year, Willis was once again swiftly assassinated by a quality filmmaker, this time Alan Rudolph (who later directed him in a messy 1999 adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Champions). Other roles in bad boy movies followed, but Deadly Thoughts came first: He plays a jerk whose wife (Glenne Headly) is plotting his disappearance. Willis’s then-wife, Demi Moore, is his best friend.

12. Fast Food Nation (2006)

In Richard Linklater’s film about Eric Schlosser’s McIndustry exhibition, Willis has a cameo as vice president of the fictional hamburger chain Mickey’s, who shrugs off the discovery that his restaurant’s burgers contain fecal matter. “We all have to eat a little shit from time to time,” says the owner of the best shit-eating smile in modern cinema.

Like John McClane in Die Hard With a Vengeance.
Like John McClane in Die Hard With a Vengeance. Photograph: 20th Century Fox / Allstar

11. Die Hard with a Vengeance (1995)

This three-school is the wildest of John McClane’s four subsequent adventures, thanks to a 40-minute opener in which he is sent zigzagging through New York on a series of dangerous errands. Jeremy Irons, as the mocking brother of the original film villain, pulls the strings; Samuel L Jackson comes to the rescue.

Bruce plays Bruce in this pair of Tinseltown comedies. In Robert Altman’s return to Hollywood, Willis’ death row rescue from Julia Roberts (“Traffic was a bitch”) at the end of the movie within a movie indicates the ultimate commitment. Meanwhile, in Barry Levinson’s adaptation of Art Linson’s memoir, Willis throws a tantrum when producer Robert De Niro asks him to shed his carefully grown beard, a scene based on Linson’s real-life confrontation with Linson. Alec Baldwin.

9. 16 blocks (2006)

Willis sports a bristling cross-out and additional lines of concern as Jack Mosley, the sad cop who accompanies a murder witness to court. If only he had seen Clint Eastwood in The Gauntlet, Jack would realize this is not child’s play: hunched over cops with itchy trigger fingers are out to ruin his day. The lively relationship between Willis and Yasiin Bey (formerly Mos Def) makes this more fun for us than it is for the characters.

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With Alexandra Powers in Last Man Standing.
With Alexandra Powers in Last Man Standing. Photograph: Pm Entertainment Group Inc / Allstar

8. The Last Man Standing (1996)

Walter Hill’s remake of Yojimbo casts Willis in the role of Toshiro Mifune as the bodyguard-mercenary caught between two warring gangs. It’s interesting to see him taking on Christopher Walken: Not only are the two men diametrically opposed in acting style (Walken’s quirky glitz meets Willis’s resignation with a shrug) and appearance (sharp angles versus doughy smoothness), but also They had recently played father and son in Pulp Fiction, though without appearing on screen together.

7. Bandits (2001)

Willis is the robbery dealer who will fool himself even when he is stealing your car (“Ma’am? Don’t forget your purse!”). He and his partner in crime Billy Bob Thornton, nicknamed the Slumber Party Bandits for their habit of moving in with the bank manager the night before a robbery, acquire a third wheel in the shape of Cate Blanchett. Highlights include that she and Willis bonded over their mutual love for Total Eclipse of the Heart.

6. In the country (1989)

Rising British star of the 1980s Emily Lloyd is the fatherless teenager who lives with her uncle Emmett (Willis), a drooping mustached Vietnam veteran prone to battlefield flashbacks. “Some think it’s going to break,” say the townspeople, and Willis does well early in his career to suggest unreachable corners of a damaged psyche. “Something is missing and I can’t get it back,” he confesses movingly as his niece cradles him in the woods.

With Emily Lloyd in In Country.
With Emily Lloyd in In Country. Photograph: Warner Bros / Allstar

5. Pulp Fiction (1994)

As the twisted slugger who’s too proud to fight, Willis has never been sexier than when he purrs sweet nonsense with his “lemon pie” (Maria de Medeiros) while hiding in a hotel room. It has also been no more intimidating than when her mood changes a few moments later. Quentin Tarantino compared Willis to Sterling Hayden and Robert Mitchum, calling him “the only contemporary actor to suggest the 1950s.”

4. 12 monkeys (1995)

Terry Gilliam refused to allow Willis’s entourage to be on the set of this La Jetée-inspired brain scrambler, forbidding him to use his usual repertoire of satisfied smiles. The result was an impressively destabilized performance by a man who tends not to be vulnerable. He plays a time traveler who escapes from a future in which 99% of civilization has been wiped out. Gilliam later said that Willis wanted to “prove he was a real actor.” Mission accomplished.

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With Madeleine Stowe on 12 Monkeys.
With Madeleine Stowe on 12 Monkeys. Photograph: Universal / Allstar

3. Nobody is a fool (1994)

Willis is sublime as part of the impeccable cast of Robert Benton’s widely watched small town comedy. He plays Carl Roebuck, an unfaithful construction boss and womanizer involved in a war of attrition with his occasional employee (Paul Newman), who wants compensation for a workplace injury. Willis ups his game to match Newman, Melanie Griffith, Jessica Tandy and a young Philip Seymour Hoffman while still oozing effortlessly. Do you try hard? It is not noticeable.

2. The Fifth Element (1997)

Breezy abandon with a high note of irascibility has long been Willis’s trademark. Still, he has rarely been so visibly amused, or had such a transformative effect on the rest of a movie, as he does in Luc Besson’s crazy sci-fi adventure. Like a common man driving a taxi, his muddy platinum dye job and tangerine Gaultier vest show him in his most swoon-worthy moment. His chemistry with Chris Tucker (replacing Prince as the squeaky sidekick) is a special delight.

Die hard.
Die hard. Photograph: 20th Century Fox / Allstar

1. Die Hard (1988)

If Moonlighting, the romantic television comedy in which Willis took on Cybill Shepherd, represented the foundation on which her personality was built, then the first and best Die Hard movie was the skyscraper that took her to the celestial realm. In the role of John McClane, the eye-rolling NYPD in Los Angeles, the airy fairy would have had an appetizing slowness on Sunday mornings in any context. Put it in a tall building, being held hostage for the holiday season, and it will give the shooter genre a comical new shine.

The evil Hans Gruber (a delightful Alan Rickman) mistakes McClane for a Rambo figure, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Unlike the brute Stallone, McClane is not happy to provoke a carnage; I’d rather have a beer in front of the TV. But if really must Take down a team of top-notch terrorists single-handedly, he’ll give it his all.

By 15 minutes into the opening credits, Willis is already wearing his shirt, squinting and a lopsided grin, the equivalent of Chaplin’s bowler hat, cane and mustache. Once the vest is covered in grime and blood, he is bare-chested, Daddy’s body glistening with sweat, the head of the bed receding giving new hope to bums and bald men alike. Yippee-kai-yay!

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