Bruce Willis’ Biggest Hit Movie Isn’t What Fans Think It Is

Fans of TV’s Moonlighting could tell from the off that Bruce Willis was capable of great things. The actor brought such chemistry to that 1985-1989 series that no one should have been surprised when Willis crossed over into movies. For decades, Willis was one of Hollywood’s most bankable stars. And despite all the actor’s hits, his biggest hit probably isn’t what so many fans assume it is.

Bruce Willis wears a dark hat and smiles
Bruce Willis | Theo Wargo

Bruce Willis is best known for the ‘Die Hard’ franchise

Willis had only appeared in a handful of movies by the time his movie career exploded. 1988’s Die Hard leveraged not only his comic timing but also gave the actor an everyman quality that turned the movie into a phenomenon. Willis, of course, plays John McClane — a New York cop who gets caught up in a terrorist attack on a Los Angeles skyscraper. And in the process, Willis and director John McTiernan invented the modern action movie.

Die Hard became such a cultural force that Willis reprised the role in four sequels. And for the most part, fans continued to come out to root for his iconic character. Willis appeared in numerous other hit movies as well. But the Die Hard franchise is easily what he’s most identified with. So some fans might be shocked to learn Willis doesn’t play McClane in his highest-grossing movie.

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But the actor’s biggest hit doesn’t feature John McClane

According to, the highest-grossing Die Hard movie is actually 2007’s Live Free or Die Hard. That film earned $382 million at the worldwide box office. That puts it ahead of other Willis hits like G.I. Joe: Retaliation, Die Hard: With a Vengeance, Over the Hedge, and The Expendables 2. But even so, Live Free or Die Hard only ranks third in Willis’ top-performing movies.

Topping the list is 1999’s The Sixth Sense, with $673 million worldwide. The movie was the first of several collaborations between Willis and writer-director M. Night Shyamalan (Unbreakable, Glass). And it too spawned a pop cultural phenomenon that propelled it to widespread success. It even topped Willis’ 1998 hit Armageddon — the highest-grossing movie of 1998 — which brought in $555 million worldwide.

Bruce Willis recently announced he’s retired from acting

Over the past decade or so, rumors about Willis’ personal life have circulated. And his prominence in Hollywood has diminished greatly, with the actor mostly appearing in direct-to-video and on-demand releases. Now fans know the tragic reason why Willis’ career has changed so significantly.

Willis’ family announced in 2022 that the actor had been “recently been diagnosed with aphasia, which is impacting his cognitive abilities.” As such, he’s stepping away from acting to focus on his health issues. Certainly, Willis’ fans wish him all the best. And there’s no better time to revisit the countless hit movies he’s made over the years.

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