Although he technically got his start as a TV actor in the dramedy series Moonlighting, it was the role of ass-kicking everyman John McClane that made Bruce Willis an internationally recognized superstar. He has since gone on to battle his past self, almost get himself killed by a crime lord over a gold watch, and save the Earth from being destroyed by an asteroid hurtling towards it. In recent years, it’s been a shame to see Willis phone in so many performances, because it means that a lot of fans are forgetting the actor’s glory days. To remind us, here are Bruce Willis’ 10 Best Movies, According To Rotten Tomatoes.
10 Live Free or Die Hard (82%)
The Die Hard franchise was going so well until its fifth installment. It was a rare action franchise that didn’t have a bad sequel until the abysmal, nonsensical, tiresome A Good Day to Die Hard came along to ruin everything with its direct-to-DVD quality. Let’s just pretend the series ended with the fourth movie, Live Free or Die Hard. It was a classic John McClane adventure. He wasn’t expecting to be flung into action at the inciting incident, he had plenty of opportunities to sarcastically talk to himself, and most importantly, he used his wits, brawn, and old-fashioned tricks to bring down the bad guys.
9 The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part (85%)
In order to live up to the vibrancy and freshness of the original, The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part had to really push the boat out in terms of imagination. That included having Chris Pratt’s character, Emmet, encounter a future version of himself that parodied Pratt’s other famous roles (Rex Dangervest is like Star-Lord, Owen Grady, and Joshua Faraday from that forgettable The Magnificent Seven remake rolled into one) and introducing a shapeshifting alien monarch and Abraham Lincoln as characters. There was also a LEGO minifigure version of Bruce Willis, voiced by the actor himself, with plenty of Die Hard references for good measure.
8 The Sixth Sense (86%)
This is more than just the movie that made M. Night Shyamalan’s career; it’s also the one that necessitated him to end every movie he would ever make with a huge plot twist. And looking back on it, that twist really doesn’t make any sense. Bruce Willis would’ve known he was ghost long before Haley Joel Osment pointed it out to him, because by that point, he hadn’t opened a door or been to the bathroom in months.
Surely that was a red flag. And if he was dead, how did Toni Collette hire him? Still, if you can ignore that, then The Sixth Sense is a creepy, suspenseful, brilliantly made horror-thriller.
7 12 Monkeys (89%)
As with most of Monty Python alum Terry Gilliam’s movies, Twelve Monkeys was far too surreal to be digested by a wide mainstream audience. It did help that A-listers Bruce Willis and Brad Pitt were in the lead roles, and that the plot was easier to follow than the needlessly complex dystopian satire Brazil, but it still failed to become a huge blockbuster. Based on the seminal French short film La Jetée (which is to say, Twelve Monkeys steals its twist), Twelve Monkeys is a grab-bag of science fiction tropes: time travel, a dystopian future, a viral outbreak, a cultish uprising.
6 Nobody’s Fool (91%)
Bruce Willis only has a supporting role in Nobody’s Fool, and the mid-‘90s comedy-drama is really a starring vehicle and acting showcase for an aging Paul Newman, but Willis contributes to its overall feel as a snapshot of life in a small New York town, being stuck in a dysfunctional family. Willis reportedly wanted to star alongside Newman in Nobody’s Fool so badly that he was willing to take a pay cut down to the union-specified scale of $1,400 a week. At this point, he’d been making $15 million a movie — he probably wouldn’t do that today. The movie is also notable for featuring an early-career turn by Philip Seymour Hoffman.
5 Pulp Fiction (92%)
Reservoir Dogs proved that Quentin Tarantino was a filmmaker to be a reckoned with, but Pulp Fiction proved he wasn’t a one-trick pony. With his signature nonlinear storytelling, literature-inspired structure, graphic grindhouse-influenced violence, excessive use of profanity, and abundance of pop culture references through the prism of genre characters, Pulp Fiction is the quintessential Tarantino movie. From Christopher Walken’s monologue about Bruce Willis’ father’s gold watch to Samuel L. Jackson reciting the Sonny Chiba version of the Bible’s Ezekiel 25:17 verse, the movie is filled with dark comedy, unforgettable moments, instantly recognizable iconography, and timeless performances. It’s a bona fide masterpiece.
4 TIE: Looper (93%)
Before Rian Johnson irreparably divided the Star Wars fan base with The Last Jedi, he was praised as one of the most exciting new voices in Hollywood for his sci-fi actioner Looper. In Looper, Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays a “looper,” whose job is to kill targets that a crime syndicate sends back in time into an empty field. It’s a pretty simple job: the target appears in his timeline, he shoots them dead, he collects the cash. But then, one day, the target is a future version of himself, played by Bruce Willis. That’s when the plot thickens and things get interesting.
3 TIE: Moonrise Kingdom (93%)
Some moviegoers felt that Bruce Willis was miscast in Moonrise Kingdom, Wes Anderson’s sweet, heartfelt coming-of-age dramedy about two kids who fall in love during a Boy Scouts’ retreat where a terrible storm is ominously headed their way. Whatever your feelings about Willis’ casting are, there’s no denying that Anderson’s movie is a delightful one. Rather than being a shallow Hollywood love story, Moonrise Kingdom is actually about love, and its complicated nature. It tells the parallel storylines of two kids who fall in love as the protagonist’s parents are tragically falling out of love. It’s not a mainstream movie, but it is a great one.
2 TIE: Die Hard (93%)
Of course this one is on here. This is the movie that made Bruce Willis a movie star, and he only got it because every other actor in Hollywood turned it down. Willis took John McClane, a character that could’ve been another generic action hero, and made him one of the most relatable everymen ever to hit the silver screen.
He’s a guy who gets athlete’s foot and wears a grubby undershirt and complains about his in-laws while he crawls through air vents — everybody is able to see themselves in McClane. Die Hard is a classic action movie, a classic Christmas movie, and just a classic all-round blockbuster. It’s practically flawless.
1 The Player (98%)
Perhaps the best movie about movies ever made, Robert Altman’s The Player is a searing satire of the inner workings of Hollywood. Like Get Shorty, it equates the criminal underworld with the glitzy studio offices of Los Angeles. Tim Robbins is the star of the movie, playing a producer who incidentally finds himself wrapped up in a criminal conspiracy. As with most Hollywood satires, particularly the ones helmed by a director that most actors would kill to work with, The Player features a ton of cameo appearances (reportedly 65 cameos, to be exact) by a litany of movie stars, including Bruce Willis.