It was recently announced that Bruce Willis will retire due to health issues – there will be a flurry of films coming out in the next year or two, but barring any surprises, their quality is likely to not be the very best. Therefore, in order to honour Willis’ remarkable career, I made a top 10 of some of his most noteworthy films over the years. Yes, I did not include Armageddon on the list – just wanted to point that out.
1. Moonlighting (1985 – 1989)
Funnily enough, the first item on this ‘film’ list is actually a TV series. However, it was Moonlighting that initially established Willis as an actor. Here, he plays the role of a detective hired by former model turned detective agency head Maddie, as they investigate a variety of cases across town. It’s fun, quirky and very 80s style – a very relaxing and entertaining watch.
2. Die Hard (1988)
I don’t think I have to say much about John McClane’s adventures, as he tries to foil terrorist plots and kills lots of bad guys. In this one, he deals with German terrorists that orchestrate a hostage situation during a Christmas event in LA – and while I actually find the second Die Hard better, this is where it all started.
3. Pulp Fiction (1994)
I recently included Pulp Fiction on a list of films that should have won Best Picture Oscars, and Pulp Fiction’s success is in no small part thanks to Bruce Willis’ quirky character, and his unforgettable run-ins with Marcellus Wallace, as well as a rather memorable scene involving him and John Travolta. Although he’s not the main character (nobody really is the main character in Pulp Fiction), I think it’s the best film on this list.
4. Twelve Monkeys (1995)
Twelve Monkeys is definitely one of the best sci-fi films made in the 1990s, and remains a reference point when it comes to getting time travel right. Terry Gilliam’s film stars Bruce Willis and Brad Pitt, and while the latter got nominated for an Oscar for his performance, it’s Bruce Willis who really stands out in retrospect.
5. The Jackal (1997)
Here, Bruce Willis plays The Jackal – a mysterious character wanted by the FBI and Russian MVD, although nobody knows how he looks like or if he really exists. It’s one of his only villain roles, and he stars alongside Richard Gere and Sidney Poitier. The film is rather underappreciated, but delivers a healthy dose of thrilling action.
6. Mercury Rising (1998)
In this one, Bruce Willis plays a former FBI agent who tasks himself with protecting a 9-year-old autistic boy, who has become a target for various assassins after managing to crack a secret government code. It’s definitely not the finest filmmaking on this list, but it remains a pretty decent movie that builds upon Willis’ talents.
7. The Sixth Sense (1999)
The Sixth Sense tops many lists that feature the very best plot twists in the history of filmmaking, and rightfully so. M. Night Shyamalan’s magnus opus is a cult classic, which despite not having won any of its 6 Academy Awards nominations, is one of the top-rated films on IMDb. Here, Willis plays the role of a child psychologist who seeks to council an idiosyncratic young boy who claims to be able to communicate with spirits.
8. Unbreakable (2000)
Just one year after The Sixth Sense, M. Night Shyamalan and Bruce Willis teamed up for a second project. Although not as good as the above entry, it’s still a great watch. In here, Bruce Willis’ character takes a train back from New York to his home in Philadelphia after a botched job interview, only to experience a strange accident during this journey.
9. Sin City (2005)
Ah yes, the iconic noir film written and directed by Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez – like it or hate it, it has remained quite a reference point within its stylistic approach. It centres around three characters from Basin City – a gloomy place rife with corruption and crime – out of which Bruce Willis plays one of them.
10. The Expendables 2 (2012)
Bruce Willis does also star in the first Expendables movie two years prior to the sequel, but it is the second entry in the series that I found to be the best one. Here, he stars alongside Sylvester Stallone, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Chuck Norris, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dolph Lundgren, Liam Hemsworth, Randy Couture and others, in probably one of the most action-packed films ever made. The plot… is not exactly important here, but it’s very, very good fun.