10 Best Bruce Willis Performances
With the recent tragic news about the actors illness, we countdown the greatest performances of Bruce Willis' career.
Bruce Willis is one of the greatest movie stars in cinema history!
The actor, who is been working professionally for over forty years, began his career in the mid-80s by starring on the groundbreaking TV series 'Moonlighting,' opposite Cybill Shepard. His movie career exploded in 1988 when he starred as John McClane in director John McTiernan's action-classic 'Die Hard.'
Since then, the actor has appeared in Oscar-nominated movies like 'Pulp Fiction,' 'Twelve Monkeys,' 'The Sixth Sense,' and 'Moonrise Kingdom,' as well as blockbuster hits like 'Die Hard with a Vengeance,' 'The Fifth Element,' 'Armageddon,' 'Unbreakable,' 'Sin City,' 'Looper,' 'RED,' and 'Glass.'
It was recently announced by Willis' family that he will retire from acting due to being diagnosed with aphasia, which is a medical condition that leads to the loss of ability to understand or express speech. In honor of the great Bruce Willis, we look back at the ten best performances of his exceptional career.
Twelve Monkeys (1996)
In Terry Gilliam's bleak sci-fi thriller, Willis plays a man who goes back in time in an effort to prevent a massive outbreak that kills most of the earth's population.
And yet, Willis commits fully, in a role that has him involved with suspense set pieces, romantic sequences, and even portraying multiple versions of the same character. Challenging is the right word for this kind of performance. Another word you could use is brilliant.
The Fifth Element (1997)
In 2257, a taxi driver (Willis) is unintentionally given the task of saving a young girl (Milla Jovovich) who is part of the key that will ensure the survival of humanity.
In 'Looper,' Willis played the older version of Joseph Gordon-Levitt's character, a man who, through time travel, meets and antagonizes his younger self. It's a high concept gimmick that could have been a disaster, especially since Gordon-Levitt is saddled with make-up effects to give off the vibe of a younger Willis. But, man, Willis is great.
Virtually silent, he does some very un-Bruce-like things, including but not limited to murdering a child, attempting to murder another child, and basically being a bloodthirsty bad guy. But it's an extended flashback sequence, where we see what happened to Willis' adult wife, that gives the character pathos and pain.
The Last Boy Scout (1991)
When the girl (Halle Berry) that detective Joe Hallenback (Willis) is protecting gets murdered, the former NFL quarterback (Damon Wayans) and boyfriend of the murdered girl attempts to investigate and solve the case. What they discover is that there is deep seated corruption going on between a crooked politician and the owner of a pro football team.
Directed by the late Tony Scott, this was the first successful non-'Die Hard' movie the actor made after becoming a bankable movie star. While he is basically playing another version of "John McClane," it was great to see Willis make a buddy-cop movie with Wayans, which at the time was a very popular genre of film.
The Sixth Sense (1999)
Following an unexpected tragedy, a child psychologist named Malcolm Crowe (Willis) meets a nine year old boy named Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment), who is hiding a dark secret.
M. Night Shyamalan's classic 1999 movie marks the first of four times (if you include 'Split') that the filmmaker has teamed with Willis. The actor gives a quiet performance, which is one of his best, playing opposite Oscar nominee Haley Joel Osment. Willis should have been nominated as well for his performance, especially for his excellent and subtle work during the film's big twist ending.
Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
In 2012, Willis took a chance on a couple of younger, art house directors, and both performances remain the highpoint of this stage of his career. One of those performances was for Wes Anderson in 'Moonrise Kingdom.' As Captain Sharp, the law enforcement on a fictional island, who is tasked with retrieving a pair of kids who go missing, his performance is warm and open-hearted.
Honestly, just thinking about his character and where he ends up, makes me a little choked up. This never should have worked on paper, the terse Willis teaming up with the twee Anderson, but it turned out to be a match made in heaven. Willis was rightfully applauded for his role and earned a Best Supporting Male nomination for his work at the 2013 Independent Spirit Awards.
Perhaps one of Willis' finest performance ever came in M. Night Shyamalan's thoughtful deconstruction of the superhero genre (before the superhero genre was even a thing). Yes, their previous collaboration, 'The Sixth Sense' made more money, but it's “Unbreakable” that is the true classic.
Somber and forlorn, Willis' arc of a man who comes to understand his inner strength (both emotionally and physically) is a profound work by an artist who, at the time, was always willing to challenge himself. Willis is underrated when it comes to subtlety in his performances; this is nothing but that.
Pulp Fiction (1994)
This was another left-field appearance, the world's biggest movie star (at the time) was going to appear in the sophomore feature of a relatively unknown indie director named Quentin Tarantino. Well, 'Pulp Fiction' ended up being the coolest movie ever and Willis' performance as Butch, a down-on-his-luck boxer who ends up throwing a fight the other way, was electric and revitalized his career in a profound way.
Willis' mini-arc is absolutely astounding, he gets to be physical but also incredibly comedic and tragic (the watch!). Few actors can really make Quentin Tarantino's ratatat dialogue sing, but Willis did so handily. Zed's dead, baby, indeed.
Moonlighting: Pilot (1985)
Maddie Hayes (Cybill Shepherd) wakes up to find her staff have quit and all her money has been stolen. One of her few remaining assets is a loss-making investigation agency run by David Addison (Willis). She sacks the staff but David is determined to keep it going.
David Addison is the role that turned Bruce Willis into a star. Playing the charismatic yet comedic character in the groundbreaking 1980's series made the actor a household name and his casting in 'Die Hard' even possible.
The series still holds up to this day, especially it's brilliant two-hour pilot, and you can see why the actor has had such a long career, as his charm is evident in every frame and he has unforgettable chemistry with co-star Cybill Shepard.
Willis received a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Television Series – Comedy or Musical in 1987 for his role as David Addison on 'Moonlighting.'
Die Hard (1988)
When Willis was cast in John McTiernan's 'Die Hard' he was still mostly known as the star of 'Moonlighting' (and his previously big movie was Blake Edwards' comedy, 'Sunset'). People were confused as to what a funnyman was doing anchoring a big budget action spectacular. But watching 'Die Hard' you get the sense that this was the role that Willis was born to play: an everyman thrown into a truly fantastic situation, who uses his wits and his will to get his way out of it.
His physicality is unparalleled, and you can watch how his posture changes not only after his shoeless brush with broken glass, but as he gets more and more exhausted. More than that, the character is soulful and tortured. There's an early scene that's always struck me, when he's at the party and looks across the way to a pretty girl. It speaks volumes to the character's struggle within.