There’s a nursery rhyme about a little girl who “when she was good she was very, very good and when she was bad she was horrid.” Well the same might be said of Bruce Willis. Rarely has an actor racked up so many hits and so many bombs with equal ease. So here’s a list of ten Bruce Willis films taking us from the best to the worst (but there was a lot of jockeying for that bottom slot).
© 20th Century Fox
Bruce Willis created the iconic action hero John McClane with this first Die Hard
film. McClane is a tough New York cop who won’t take crap from the crooks or his superiors. Willis’ smart-ass attitude was put to perfect use here. He successfully went on to three sequels with a fourth in the works for 2012. Even when the sequels were flawed, Willis still kicked ass and delivered the memorable one-liner. Foolishly, though, the studio went for a PG-13 on Live Free and Die Hard
so Willis couldn’t even deliver his signature line, “Yippekayay mother...”
© Dimension Films
adapted Frank Miller’s graphic novel to the screen with stylish flair. Willis plays a cop named Hartigan who risks everything to save a young girl from a crazed pedophile. Willis was part of a perfect ensemble here, and he conjured up a character that smacked of old school noir.
© Miramax Films
Willis was part of another flawless ensemble in this Quentin Tarantino
classic. He plays fighter Butch Coolidge who has a memorable encounter in a basement with Zed and the Gimp.
© Walt Disney Video
M. Night Shyamalan
wrote the role of Malcolm Crowe with Bruce Willis in mind, and it paid off. The film was a sleeper hit at the box office and went on to become one of the top DVD rentals. The film’s line, “I see dead people,” has also entered the pop culture vernacular and has been voted one of the top 100 movie lines in more than one poll. Willis leaves his action hero persona at home and actually does some acting here.
© Universal Studios
Acting was also required of Willis in 12 Monkeys
, Terry Gilliam’s
reimagining of Chris Marker’s short film La jetée
. Willis plays a convict sent back in time to uncover information about a devastating virus with the hopes of rewriting history. Along the way he encounters an insane asylum inmate played by a very animated Brad Pitt
. A bleak, bittersweet sci-fi tale.
© Sony Pictures
And here we come to the turning point in the list, a film that often divides Willis’ and Luc Besson’s fans. The film is an eye-popping, over the top sci-fi fantasy adventure. Some find it maddeningly silly. But it tackles its eccentric material with such gusto that others find it hard to resist. Willis plays a futuristic cabbie who gets caught up in a cosmic battle. Besson reportedly wrote the script while a teenager and it has a youthful exuberance and defiance of convention. Not a great work of art but loads of fun.
© Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Willis has to save not just some people in a high rise or on a plane, oh no. This time he has to save the whole planet. Well all you really need to do is mention Michael Bay’s name and you know another cinematic apocalypse is upon us. But Bay has a knack for making big noisy movies with lots of things blowing up and that prove a draw at the box office. However this film becomes so painful that you start to pray for the asteroid to hit sooner. The film is so bad that it’s oddly compelling - like watching a train wreck.
© Warner Home Video
Bruce Willis is a down and out detective. Damon Wayons is a down and out ex-quarterback. And both could have been down and out ex-actors if they kept making crap like this. Writer Shane Black
regurgitates plot elements from his earlier Lethal Weapon
and then steals a few things from Die Hard
. Amazingly, though, this empty-headed script provoked a bidding war. The film is also noteworthy for delivering more f-bombs than action.
© Sony Pictures
To keep The Last Boy Scout
company at the bottom, Willis also made Hudson Hawk
in 1991. In both films, Willis mentions “reindeer-goat cheese pizza.” Why? I have no clue. But maybe he should ban those words from his screen vocabulary. In Hudson Hawk
he plays a cat burglar coerced into stealing artwork by Leonardo DaVinci as part of a nefarious plan of world domination. Believe it or not the film is even worse than that lame plot sounds.
© Sony Pictures
As if doing Look Who’s Talking
wasn’t bad enough, Willis had to go back and do the baby voice AGAIN! Willis gives baby Mikey a filthy mouth and an uncomfortable obsession for Kirstie Alley’s boobs. Ew! That’s supposed to be his mom! The only good thing is that Willis only lent his voice to the project; no one saw his face in the film.Worst-Of Runners-Up:
Runners-up for the bottom five: Surrogates Bonfire of the Vanities
, The Whole Ten Yards
, Blind Date
, Striking Distance
, and The Story of Us