Must-See Bruce Willis Films

Few action films can compare with the pop cultural impact of John McTiernan’s Die Hard. That 1988 film not only launched a franchise that continues to this day, but it also made a household name out of then-TV star Bruce Willis. The actor has come a long way from his days opposite Cybill Shepherd on Moonlighting, developing into one of the most versatile and bankable stars of the past few decades. Here are some of his best roles so far. For the record, we’re focusing on one film per franchise.

1. Die Hard (1988)

Bruce Willis in Die Hard

Bruce Willis in Die Hard | Source: Fox

Willis turned John McClane into an archetypal hero that audiences everywhere instantly related to, as he lends his charisma and wry sense of humor to the New York cop in way over his head. The film’s pitch-perfect script and chilling villainous performance from the late Alan Rickman are often considered the film’s greatest assets, but the entire film falls apart without Willis’s unforgettable work. Truly, Die Hard is a star-making cinematic landmark.

2. Pulp Fiction (1994)

Bruce Willis in Pulp Fiction

Bruce Willis in Pulp Fiction | Source: Miramax

Still best known for his action films, Willis took on a key role in Quentin Tarantino’s masterpiece and knocked it out of the park. As disgraced boxer Butch, Willis conveys a sense of rebellion and desperation that’s easy to root for, and the film takes the character into increasingly dark territory, culminating in a moment few moviegoers can forget. The actor took on another major ensemble role for directors Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller’s Sin City, but we have to give Pulp Fiction the undisputed edge.

3. Twelve Monkeys (1995)

Bruce Willis in Twelve Monkeys

Bruce Willis in Twelve Monkeys | Source: Universal Pictures

Brad Pitt may have gotten the Oscar nomination, but Willis is the glue that holds this bizarre Terry Gilliam sci-fi thriller together. James Cole (Willis) travels back in time to prevent an apocalyptic disaster, but the film itself has far more on its mind than that relatively straightforward premise indicates. Twelve Monkeys was a critical and financial smash and even inspired a current TV series on Syfy.

4. The Fifth Element (1997)

Bruce Willis in The Fifth Element

Bruce Willis in The Fifth Element | Source: Sony Pictures

Luc Besson’s quirky sci-fi action film was received warmly by critics and moviegoers, but the film’s initial success pales in comparison to the cult following that it has amassed since its theatrical run. As taxi driver Korben Dallas, Willis brings all the swagger to the role that he does to characters like John McClane, lending a level of gravitas and realism that grounds the otherwise goofy story going on around him.

5. Armageddon (1998)

Bruce Willis in Armageddon

Bruce Willis in Armageddon | Source: Touchstone Pictures

One of Willis’s biggest box office hits, this Michael Bay film might not be universally beloved, but it does deliver enough spectacle and broad humor to serve as an effective piece of mindless entertainment. Willis leads an ensemble cast as Harry Stamper, leader of a team of oil drillers who are recruited by NASA to destroy an asteroid on a collision course with Earth. Moreover, he brings a surprising amount of heart to the film as well.

6. Unbreakable (2000)

Bruce Willis in Unbreakable

Bruce Willis in Unbreakable | Source: Touchstone Pictures

Sure, The Sixth Sense is the more popular first collaboration between M. Night Shyamalan and Willis. However, we’re opting for this follow-up, which still stands as one of the best superhero origin stories ever put to film. When security guard David Dunn (Willis) is approached by an art dealer (Samuel L. Jackson) who believes he is a modern-day hero, Dunn soon realizes that he very could be sitting on some untapped potential. Unbreakable is a beautiful, haunting portrait of what a grounded superhero tale can truly be, and we hope Shyamalan eventually gets around to making his long-rumored sequel.

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