The Top Ten Bruce Willis Movies

BT-Top-10-May-2012With “RED 2” coming out this weekend, I thought it would be a good time to do a Top Ten featuring the movies of Bruce Willis.

Willis has been churning out films for decades now, and he’s wound up starring in some truly great movies over that time, from movies that have cracked the AFI 100 to movies that are pop culture phenomenons.

CollageOf course, he’s had his share of stinkers, too, but that’s a discussion for another time. Today we’ll focus on his best films!

Click through to see which ones made the cut!

10) “Armageddon” – 1998

armageddon_ver4As much as it pains me to say it, “Armageddon” is one of Willis’ most popular films, and one of the films most strongly identified with him. Excluding it from the list simply didn’t seem right. So, in lieu of a handful of flawed action films (including the Die Hard sequels), the super cult “Fifth Element”, and his little seen dramatic work, Michael Bay’s opus about a drill crew trained to be astronauts in order to save the earth from an asteroid takes the tenth spot. Hear it in your heads now folks: “I could stay awake… just to hear you breathing… “ LOL.

9) “RED” – 2010

redTeaming up with John Malkovich, Hellen Mirren and Morgan Freeman, Willis plays a retired (but still extremely dangerous) ex CIA agent named Frank Moses. When the government tries to punch his ticket, Moses fights back, which includes reuniting the old gang, and I do mean the “old” gang. Elderly action comedy ensues. Well received enough to merit this weekend’s forthcoming sequel, “RED” blends humor and action into an amusing, eminently watchable package.

8) “Moonrise Kingdom” – 2012

moonrise_kingdomWes Anderson’s quirky, quiet film about puppy love features Willis as a mild-mannered cop who’s in love with a married woman. Completely against the tough guys we’re used to seeing him play. Anderson creates a strange island of odd characters where the kids seem to have a better handle on things than the adults… a setting perfect for his idiosyncratic stylings. A restrained, quiet turn by Willis and another great outing from everyone’s favorite offbeat director give “Kingdom” enough juice to crack the list.

7) “Sin City” – 2005

sin_city_ver9In this adaptation of Frank Miller’s pulpy, violent graphic novel, Willis plays Hartigan, a burnt out police officer with a bum heart who only wants to protect a young girl. Bleak, brutal and cynical, “Sin City” is a hyper noir tale of the dark underbelly’s dark underbelly. It’s a film that doesn’t shy away from darkness, depravity and disgusting behavior. Shot in black and white with CGI backdrops, “Sin City” replicates the source graphic novel in a way that few comic book adaptations ever have… it truly felt as though the comic came to life on the big screen.

6) “Looper” – 2012

looperWillis returns to sci-fi in this 2012 Rian Johnson film about time travel, mob hit men, and telekinesis. It’s as wild and wonderful as it sounds, plus Willis has the benefit of Joseph Gordon-Levitt playing across from him as a younger version of himself. Tense, exciting and thought-provoking, “Looper” raises moral questions to accompany its time bending narrative. Willis’ older version of Joe is someone you’re not sure whether you want to root for or against, and his performance supports that perfectly. It’s alternately sympathetic and menacing.

5) “12 Monkeys” – 1995

twelve_monkeys_ver2Terry Gilliam’s trippy tale of time travel and terrorism. Willis shines as ___ a man sent back to the past from a dystopian future in order to stop a devastating, world changing virus from being released. Will he stop the plague? Or will his presence unwittingly aid the process? Can he keep his sanity intact, or is he already insane? Co-starring a young, manic Brad Pitt, “12 Monkeys” combines the weird, wonderful sensibilities of Gilliam with the mind bending paradoxes inherent in time travel movies.

4) “Unbreakable” – 2000

unbreakableWillis’ second collaboration with M Night Shyamalan proved just as fruitful as his first. With “Unbreakable”, Willis authored a new superhero character not based on an existing property, but with an entirely new mythos including an origin, super powers, a vulnerability, and a nemesis. Willis’ character struggles to come to grips with his abilities, and to maintain the respect of his son. Once again Shyamalan dupes his audience with an incredible twist as well. “Unbreakable” was an excellent, confident film that doesn’t get enough credit in pop culture for just how excellent it is.

3) “The Sixth Sense” – 1999

sixth_sense_ver3One of Willis’ best roles came in M. Night Shyamalan’s debut film. Playing off of one of the greatest child acting performances of all time (Haley Joel Osment would receive an Academy Award nom at the age of 10), Willis turned in one of his most memorable performances ever as the psychologist who tries to help young Cole Sear. This film also gave us an incredible catchphrase (“I see dead people”) and one of the greatest “twists” in movie history. It ranks 89th on the AFI 100 Years… 100 Movies 10th Anniversary Edition.

2) “Pulp Fiction” – 1994

pulp_fictionComing in at number two simply because Willis isn’t the main character for the entire film, “Pulp Fiction” was a revolutionary film, and has since become a classic. Willis makes the most out of his Tarantino created character. Butch is a boxer who refuses to take a dive for the mob, and instead cleans up betting against the fix. He’s forced to abandon his escape plans, however, when he has to head back into danger to retrieve a very special watch. Things only get crazier from there in this chapter of what’s inarguably one of the greatest movies ever made.

1) “Die Hard” – 1988

Die HardUndeniably Willis’ signature movie. If you were to ask the question, “What one movie do you identify with Bruce Willis?” there really is only one right answer, and that’s this one. Willis plays John McClane, a smart ass cop who plays fly in the ointment to a gang of international thieves. “Die Hard” brought the action movie to new levels when it was released in the late 80s, and it launched Willis into the upper stratosphere of movie stars. 25 years and four sequels later, it still stands tall as an action classic. It’s truly a great movie, and one that’s become synonymous with Bruce Willis!


Well, there you have it folks. The top ten Bruce Willis films!

What do you think? Any I missed? Which ones are too high or too low? I’m prepared for “The Fifth Element” contingent, go ahead let me have it!

Let us hear it!

94 thoughts on “The Top Ten Bruce Willis Movies

  1. Solid list Fogs. 🙂 Honorable mention maybe to Fifth Element, The Jackal, or Striking Distance. Great to see Die Hard atop the list esp. as that’s a breakout role.

    “Yippee-ki-yay…” [you know the rest] 😉
    -Die Hard(1988), John McClane (Willis)

  2. Good job. If Die Hard wasn’t’ the top one I would have just died! And glad to see there are only a few movies on here I haven’t seen yet. Also. Willis was the only reason I saw Armageddon. Can’t stand Ben Affleck. 12 Monkeys is one of my other favorites!

  3. Something something Fifth Element, blah blah The Last Boy Scout. Both are better than Armageddon and Unbreakable. But that’s my personal opinion, and obviously, your mileage varied.

    I still haven’t seen Moonrise Kingdom, or Red. I plan on watching and loving Red this week. I cannot imagine what kind of demon would have to possess me to watch Moonrise Kingdom.

    • Unbreakable is off the table, that’s on you. The Last Boy Scout might have stood a chance of cracking the bottom of the list if I had seen it more recently.

      Not a Wes Anderson fan, huh?

      Meanwhile, “I cannot imagine what kind of demon would have to possess me to watch” the Fifth Element ever again. Twice is enough. I rewatched it for this to make sure I hadn’t misjudged it (if you read through the comments you can see that pretty much everyone here likes it 🙄 ) and it was worse than I remember. UGH. Not. a. fan.

      • lol.

        Unbreakable was a huge pile of lost potential for me. It suffered from poor pacing. It didn’t help that someone told me there was another twist. Not what it was, just that there was one. But when I know for sure there’s a twist, there is very, very little chance of it actually surprising me.

        5th Element is just the right kind of cheese for me. But yeah, I can totally understand anyone not liking it.

        To say I’m not a Wes Anderson fan is an understatement. I’ve given him *way* too many chances. I always get sucked in by someone telling me “Yeah, I know you don’t like his stuff… but this one is real genius.” I even double-tapped Tennenbaums to be sure.

  4. I would have been inclined to include Death Becomes Her, The Last Boy Scout, The Fifth Element, and possibly The Jackal. There would be no place for Armageddon which remains one of the worst films I’ve ever had the displeasure of seeing.

    In fact, thinking about it, my list would be wholly different as I’d also have to consider Lucky Number Slevin, 16 Blocks, Bandits and Die Hard 3.

    • So, a totally different list, then huh?

      I haven’t seen Bandits, but I’m really pretty comfortable leaving the rest of the ones you mentioned off.

      Die Hard 3 and 16 Blocks were in the running for the last few spots, but they didn’t make the cut at the end of the day…

  5. Here’s my top 10 Bruce Willis films:

    1. Die Hard
    2. Pulp Fiction
    3. Moonrise Kingdom
    4. 12 Monkeys
    5. Looper
    6. The Fifth Element
    7. Sin City
    8. Unbreakable
    9. Fast Food Nation
    10. Red

    • I’ve never seen Fast Food Nation. Maybe I should, I didn’t even know he was in it! LOL

      If you haven’t seen in all of the other replies, I’m NOT a big Fifth Element fan. LOL 😉

      • How can you not love “The Fifth Element”? It’s so fucking entertaining! It’s got great action, some cool music, it’s very funny, a great story, and Luc Besson’s direction. Plus, it’s got Chris Tucker screaming like a girl!!!!!

      • Take everything you just said and say the exact opposite and that’s how I feel. LOL

        It’s goofy in all the wrong ways for me, and I hate that I have to hate on Besson for it, because I do have a lot of respect for other films he’s done. Plus, it’s got Chris Tucker screaming like a girl!!!!! 🙄 LOL, which is not a plus for me.

  6. Nice list. I think Willis’ best performance is in Moonrise Kingdom and the greatest movie he was in is by far Pulp Fiction, though Die Hard is the strongest movie where Willis had a lead role.

    • Exactly why I put it at the top of the list. Meanwhile, I don’t know if M.K. was his best performance… maybe just his most subdued. Hard to pick out his best performance though, he hasn’t done a lot of drama…

  7. Hi, Fogs:

    Great choices!

    I always like to see actors play against type. Which is why I enjoy Willis as a portly balding nebbish caught in a sea of catty, pampered estrogen in ‘Death Becomes Her’.

    Also like him in ‘Hudson Hawk’. Just to see him beat up miming David Caruso.

    Securing my Soap Box.
    Carry on.

      • Nor do I, Fogs:

        Those two films are more of a Guilty Pleasure/Honorable Mention than anything else.

        What’s cool about Willis is that he has a better sense of what works for him than anyone else. Hence, so few stinkers. Though ‘The Bonfire of the Vanities’ just should NOT have been made,

        A terrible adaptation of scathing Tom Wolfe cultural satire. The PC police and gutless suits in Hollywood really wrecked it. More’s the pity.

  8. Great list! You got all the ones I loved in there so I’m cool with it! Plus, Die Hard got first spot and to me, that was his best role 🙂 Sixth Sense, Pulp Fiction is definitely out there..but since you mentioned it, maybe I would have snuck in Fifth Element in the 10th spot 😉

    • Yeah, that seems to be the debate. Sorry though, I gave that flick its second chance this past weekend, and I couldn’t stand it.

      I was tempted to put it in just so I didn’t have to deal with 40 comments calling for it, but screw it, I have to stick by my guns.

  9. You lost all credibility when I saw the first entry was “Armageddon.” Who cares if it’s popular? There’s no way you should have left off “The Fifth Element” in lieu of that shitpile.

    • Unless I thought “The Fifth Element” was an even bigger shitpile, which I do.

      I like the Yogi Berra logic inherent in the question “Who cares if its popular?”, I’ll just let that one stand… LOL 🙄

      And I seem to have a credibility event about once a week or so, I don’t even think about them anymore.

  10. Fogs! I am very glad to see Moonrise Kingdom on this list! A great pick. a solid list overall, truly. The only one I haven’t seen is 12 Monkeys. But I’m a little sad to not see The Fifth Element on here as I see others have mentioned. That is such a great and fun film. Although, I’m not sure what I would take off the list to replace it with. Perhaps Looper.

    Great job here man. It’s YOUR list and it’s a great one!

  11. Good list! 🙂 Armageddon is one of my favorite film guilty pleasures, and I thought Red was a fun, lighthearted movie. I’m curious to read your review of the Red sequel!

    • I thought it was great, I really did. 😀 I’ll probably be posting the review tomorrow.

      Thanks for supporting the Armageddon choice, as you can imagine, it drew a lot of heat. Especially with the exclusion of the world’s greatest film, the Fifth Element 🙄

      • Awesome, glad to hear it! 🙂

        I had a blast with Armageddon, it’s actually the only Michael Bay film I own on DVD. It’s cheesy, over-the-top, and fun.

  12. Good list but I mean… Fifth Element… It’s so wrong it’s right… but then I didn’t like Die Hard, so who am I to talk?

    • LOL. Yeah, I guess that’s true. You’re not going to get far proposing to swap out Die Hard in favor of the Fifth Element. LOL

      Not that anyone got far proposing to swap out Armageddon for the Fifth Element, but, you know what I mean… 😉

    • Heh. Sorry buddy I only had time to rewatch one movie I recalled not liking, and that was “The Fifth Element” 🙄

      If that’s your favorite musical, you need to check out some better musicals! LOL Not that its my favorite genre or anything, but… cmon buddy! 😀

  13. Well, just on principle, I’m scratching “Armageddon” from your list. That said, I wasn’t impressed that much with the first “RED”, frankly I forgot I recommended it when I checked my old ratings, but here’s my Top Ten Bruce Willis films (These are films, not performances.)

    1. Pulp Fiction
    2. Moonrise Kingdom
    3. Sin City
    4. 12 Monkeys
    5. The Whold Nine Yards
    6. Die Hard 2
    7. Unbreakable
    8. Die Hard
    9. Looper
    10. The Sixth Sense

    Special Jury Prize: “What Just Happened”

    • Special jury prize to you Dave, for not including “The Fifth %#$&ing Element”, LOL, the film I hate the worst in the world right now! 😀

      You have Die Hard 8th, though? You can’t do that man, that’s THE Bruce Willis movie! I wont get in to Die Hard 2 with you again 😉 Though I will let you know I thought of you when I excluded it from my list. LOL I was like David Baruffi’s gonna be pissed…

      • I’m actually with you, completely, on “The Fifth Element” I think it’s a piece of shit as well, I don’t know what everyone else is thinking. As to “Die Hard” eighth, well, I do love it, but it has issues, and we’ve discussed them, and I stand by them. It might be his franchise, and it might be an important film, and it’s great one, but it’s second in the franchise for me. I wasn’t exactly pissed, nor was I surprised when you excluded “Die Hard 2” though. If I’m promoting any Bruce Willis film today, since I’ve seen so little mention of it here, “The Whole Nine Yards” is pretty damn funny. It’s a classic screwball comedy that’s actually funny and, we don’t get enough of either of those, Willis is great in comedy, he started in “Moonlighting” I want to give that film some love. Amanda Peete’s great, Matthew Perry, his best film, Michael Clarke Duncan, Kevin Pollak, a lot to like in that film, doesn’t get the credit it deserves. Sequel sucked, granted, but first one really does hold up, so I’m pushing “The Whole Nine Yards” here today. 🙂

      • Willis IS pretty funny, there’s no doubt. I didn’t recall liking “The Whole Nine Yards” enough to push it onto the list here though. It was alright, but admittedly, its been several years now.

        Meanwhile, yeah, I don’t get the Fifth Element furor at all, but apparently I underestimated its popularity, cause it received a LOT of support here 🙄

      • I thought about “Fast Food Nation” but he just has a one-scene cameo in it, Not enough of a performance for me to consider really. It is a good film though.

  14. I’m with Spikor, The Fifth Element deserves a spot on the list. Maybe not a high spot, but eking on there, sure. Meanwhile, I still maintain that Sin City, like the comics that spawned it, is only worth watching because of how hysterically bad it is.

    Won’t argue about the top 5 choices, though; those are some solid films.

    • Sorry man, as I’ve told everyone, I just watched the Fifth Element, and I think its terrible. I just can’t bring myself to do it 😦

      Sin City though, I love, so I guess we’re on opposite sides of the coin on these two!

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