On March 30, Bruce Willis’ family revealed that the Hollywood actor was “moving away” from his career due to a diagnosis of aphasia, a condition that affects his ability to communicate. Willis’s retirement comes after decades of iconic roles throughout virtually every genre. Few actors can boast of award-winning filmmaking like Willis, and many of us grew up obsessed with his films. But what are the best movies of Bruce Willis?
See also: The best action movie in Hulu
Below, we’ve compiled a list of 12 films that showcase his range, talent, and just his star power. Since appearing on the ABC series Moonlighting in the 80’s, Willis has been heading studio outings from Die Hard to Pulp Fiction to Armageddon and more. Willis is perhaps the most high-profile actor to ever be nominated for an Oscar – a worse reflection in the academy than Willis.
So, read on for the best Bruce Willis movies and where to watch them.
Bruce Willis’s best movie
Ryan Johnson’s Looper is one of the best science-fiction films of the 21st century, and one of the best Bruce Willis films of the actor’s next career. In the near future, a mob enforcer will be part of a team with a weird job. He hits on future people, is sent back in time to help cover up the evidence. He has hit a snag with his latest sign: his future self. With Willis starring in an older version of the character, Looper confronts the notion of fate and free will as a head action without sticking to his own myth, and Willis flares up as a brutal old murderer with no time to lose.
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Michael Bay’s Armageddon is certainly one of the biggest blockbusters of the 1990s. When an asteroid rushes to Earth, NASA has to rely on a team of blue-collar deep-core drillers to go into space and take care of it. Willis shines in a role that taps into his rough-and-tumble action star appeal. He owns a drilling company who knows that the best way to ensure a job is done properly is to do it yourself. While the role could easily have been reduced to a caricature, Willis brings depth and heart to it, helping to elevate the film beyond some of its more irrational plot points.
Amazon Prime Video
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The Sixth Sense (1999)
With one of the most famous twist endings in film history, The Sixth Sense became a slipper hit in 1999. It features one of Bruce Willis’s best movies and his best performances with a new patient as a child psychologist. Nine-year-old Cole Searle finds the dead man. As Willis tries to help Dr. Malcolm Crow Cole process his disturbing fantasies, he realizes that the barrier between the living and the dead can be much more accessible than he believes.
Exactly one year after the audience was blown away by The Sixth Sense, Willis reunited with Shyamlon for a similarly thriller. In Unbreakable, Willis plays a humble security guard who realizes he is almost indomitable. Leaning on Willis’ ability to draw on comic book lore and play subtly on his action star adventures in times of need, Unbreakable is a powerful legend about good and evil. Nearly two decades later, Shyamlon returned to film with two sequels, Split and Glass. Willis appears in both.
One of the best movies of Bruce Willis and the one for which he is best known, Die Hard is as good as its reputation. And Willis’s performance is a big part of it. John McClain of Willis sweats, bleeds and cries as he tries to save his estranged wife when terrorists attack his workplace the day before Christmas. The only person who can intervene is McClean, who has to think fast about this strip-down action classic. Willis offers a very humane screenplay of heroism and one that has influenced the genre for decades.
Death Becomes Her (1992)
Some of Bruce Willis’ best roles are funny. In the black comedy Death Becomes Her, she plays the helpless plastic surgeon Ernest Manville, who leaves his aspiring writer fiance Helen to his longtime rival, Broadway star Madeleine Ashton. After the depression, Helen returns to their lives, looking as young and beautiful as ever, and drives Madeleine to a new rejuvenating treatment, which eventually leads her to the magic potion of immortality. Things keep growing fast, as Helen has a secret of her own and the two women find themselves in a deadly fight against Ernest, who gave up on her head.
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Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
Bruce Willis became one of the best performances of his career in the Moonrise Kingdom. Wes Anderson’s whimsical come-of-age comedy tells the story of a 12-year-old orphan who escapes from a scouting camp and stays with a girl he fell in love with on a small island in New England. Willis plays the island’s police chief who is looking for the boy. He brings the character to a level of tenderness that is quite touching, as we see him express genuine affection for the lost child, somewhat detached from the film’s ridiculous sense of stylized isolation.
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Fifth Element (1997)
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The fifth element is Bruce Willis’ best film and one of the best science-fiction films of all time. Acting in his action-star faith, Willis Corben plays Dallas, a caricature of past heroes who live in the future where he doesn’t fit. Dallas is a former Special Forces chief who drove a flying taxicab in 23rd-century New York. When a mysterious young woman, Lilu, lands in her cab, she suddenly has a mission worthy of a hero. Lilu is the embodiment of the fifth element, and he must reunite with the other four to save the earth from the invading race of aliens.
Pulp Fiction (1994)
Bruce Willis was the biggest name in Quentin Tarantino’s Ensemble cast of Pulp Fiction. The film will dramatically change American indie cinema and launch (or revive) several careers, but Willis’ role as old boxer Butch Coolidge is one of the film’s most ongoing. Butch escapes from mobster Marcellus. He is playing with fire and hoping to escape with his girlfriend as he grows older from his profession and looks forward to a bleak future. It’s a tragic role, and Willis has proven that he was a much more interesting actor than he was credited for.
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12 Monkeys (1995)
The dark, smart remake of Terry Gilliam from the French experimental film La Jetty has really inspired one of Bruce Willis’ best films and even a series in Sifai. Willis plays a dystopian future underground man until he is given the opportunity to return in time to help prevent a terrorist attack that could lead to the downfall of humanity. Once in the present day, he may realize that it is not so easy to diagnose cause and effect, and he may have a closer relationship with the end of the world than he realizes.
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Hudson Hawke (1991)
Perhaps the least celebrated film of Willis, Hudson Hawk is nevertheless a fun, campy, and less appreciated one. Hudson Hawke is a master cat thief who has just been released from prison. Looking for a quiet life – and a celebratory cappuccino – Hawk is trapped in a series of ambitious art hists. With surreal comedy, instant musical numbers and cartoonish effects, Hudson Hawk features a bizarre outing, the light, funny side of Willis.
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Sin City (2005)
In this stylish crime thriller by director Robert Rodriguez, based on Frank Miller’s comics, Bruce Willis has risen to the top of one of four neo-nay stories. In his section, Willis plays the role of Grizzly cop John Hartigan. Hartigan is on his way to a child killer. He hopes to close the infamous case before finally giving up his heart. Willis brings this role with a kind of old Hollywood charisma that fits perfectly with the theme and aesthetics of the film.
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