Total Recall: Bruce Willis' Best Movies

We count down the best-reviewed work of the Looper star.

Bruce Willis

He's been a television star, recording artist, wine cooler pitchman, and Idaho real estate tycoon, but Bruce Willis is best known for his films -- and his latest, this weekend's Looper, looks to be one of the most critically renowned of the year. Not too shabby for a guy who's been cranking out movies for 25 years -- and whose filmography includes some of the most beloved hits of the last quarter century. In honor of this latest achievement, we decided now would be the perfect time to take another fond look back at some of Mr. Willis' brightest critical highlights, and you know what that means... yippee-ki-yay, it's time for Total Recall!


75%

10. Over the Hedge

Willis might be most famous for his smirk, but he's made pretty good use of his voice, too -- scoring a Top Five hit single with "Respect Yourself," lending his pipes to the Look Who's Talking Movies, and entering the vocal booth for projects as varied as the Apocalypse video game and the Bruno the Kid cartoon series. Oh, and there's also Over the Hedge, 2006's star-studded adaptation of the syndicated comic strip about a crafty raccoon (Willis) who helps a group of woodland critters (voiced by Garry Shandling, Steve Carell, Wanda Sykes, William Shatner, among others) cope with their habitat being encroached upon by a suburban neighborhood. "Over the Hedge may be 'just' a cartoon," admitted Roger Moore for the Orlando Sentinel. "But it's also a biting and funny jab at SUV-MSG Nation."

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70%

9. In Country

Willis' first few films offered viewers variations on David Addison, the fast-talking P.I. he played on Moonlighting, but in 1989, director Norman Jewison offered him his first major shot at a solidly dramatic role -- and he delivered, disappearing behind mammoth facial hair to play a haunted Vietnam vet whose young niece (Emily Lloyd) tries to draw him out of his shell in order to learn more about the father she lost in the war. "The movie is like a time bomb," argued Roger Ebert. "You sit there, interested, absorbed, sometimes amused, sometimes moved, but wondering in the back of your mind what all of this is going to add up to. Then you find out."

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78%

8. Sin City

A blackly cartoonish noir whose garish violence seeps into every millimeter of the frame, Sin City united a stellar ensemble cast (including Willis, Mickey Rourke, Elijah Wood, Clive Owen, and Benicio del Toro) on a journey into blight, corruption, betrayal, and death. Not exactly cheerful stuff, in other words, and plenty of viewers took issue with what they saw as the movie's misogynistic overtones -- but for fans of the genre, Sin City provided one of the most hard-hitting and skillfully crafted entries in years. "It's a hard, viciously funny little movie, one with all the subtlety of a billy club," admitted Salon's Stephanie Zacharek. "But there's artistry here, too."


81%

7. Live Free or Die Hard

For awhile, it looked like 1995's Die Hard with a Vengeance would be the last time audiences got to see Willis saving the day as Detective John McClane -- but the lure of the beloved franchise (and its attendant paycheck) eventually proved too strong to resist, and in 2007, he finally returned with Live Free or Die Hard. Swapping out the earlier films' Everyman conceit for a tongue-in-cheek humor that wholeheartedly embraced the silliness inherent in the series, Live Free amped up the action to such a ridiculous extent that it might as well have been a non-Die Hard movie -- but the result was still entertaining enough to satisfy critics like Jonathan F. Richards of Film.com, who wrote, "Movie characters like McClane are the Paul Bunyans and John Henrys and Pecos Bills of our age, the stuff of tall tales spun with the technology of an age whose campfires are found in multiplexes with stadium seating."

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85%

6. The Sixth Sense

As the 1990s wore on, Willis tended to gravitate toward quiet dramatic roles that sublimated his famous smirking charisma -- a trend that reached its commercial apex with The Sixth Sense, the supernatural thriller that introduced writer/director M. Night Shyamalan to the world, turned Donnie Wahlberg into a character actor, and doomed Haley Joel Osment to a life of hearing people whisper "I see dead people" whenever he walked into a room. Some of its luster has been lost thanks to Shyamalan's downward career spiral, but Sense was one of the biggest movies of 1999, and for some very good reasons -- not the least of which was a Willis performance that helped inspired the San Jose Mercury News' Charlie McCollum to call the film "An intense, haunting, often beautifully crafted character study and meditation on the nature of death and life after death."

Comments

Timothy Figueroa

Timothy Figueroa

He was terrific in Moonrise Kingdom! Proof that he doesn't need to be in an action movie to be great

Sep 26 - 04:36 PM

CFM

'schak Attack

I'd also include Sixth Sense and Unbreakable as his non-action greats.

Sep 27 - 08:38 AM

Dave J

Dave J

Still need to see "Moonrise Kingdom" which may be one of few I haven't seen yet, and "North" which I heard was dreadfully terrible!

Sep 26 - 05:41 PM

detroit666

Dawn HAvard

North was terrible and a waste of actors. If you want to see a decent movie with Bruce and a Kid, then I recommend The Kid, which was made around the same time.

Sep 27 - 08:34 AM

Ron Schuckert

Ron Schuckert

If you consider nearly 7 years apart "around the same time".

Sep 28 - 05:17 PM

Brad H.

Brad Hadfield

Ebert's review of North, if you've never seen it, is classic.

"I hated this movie. Hated, hated, hated, hated, hated this movie. Hated it. Hated every simpering stupid vacant audience-insulting moment of it. Hated the sensibility that thought anyone would like it. Hated the implied insult to the audience by its belief that anyone would be entertained by it."

Sep 27 - 09:08 AM

Janson Jinnistan

Janson Jinnistan

I guess his role in "Grindhouse" wasn't big enough to qualify? I understand excepting "The Player", but...

Despite their scores, I thought Willis was very funny in "Death Becomes Her", "Four Rooms" and "Breakfast of Champions". I will always defend those last two as masterpieces of unloved comedy.

Sep 26 - 05:41 PM

G_man

Galen Mountfort

As of this moment Looper is his #4 film.

Sep 26 - 05:55 PM

Gavin Miller

Gavin Miller

IMO, The Sixth Sense was his finest film.

Sep 26 - 05:57 PM

Zane B

Chum Chum

huh?????

Sep 26 - 08:46 PM

Cloud

Neil Charles Kevin Sanchez

No, it's not. It's kinda overrated, actually. No offense.

Sep 30 - 12:46 AM

SecondBest

This Guy

MY Favorite Bruce Willis movie is Die Hard with a Vengeance. I just really like the chemistry between him and Samuel L Jackson in that film.

Sep 26 - 06:09 PM

Bobby McDowell

Bobby McDowell

I agree. Die Hard With A Vengeance was actually the first Die Hard movie I ever saw. I loved it. My personal favorite but the first 2 our great also and the last one was a bit over the top but still entertaining.

Sep 29 - 12:19 PM

The Fox

What Does Da Foe Say?

Die Hard is a classic action movie, if not a classic film in general. I personally thought it was better than Pulp Fiction, but I own them both. I don't care about all the people who think Willis is a bland and flat actor; he demonstrated an incredible amount of range in The Sixth Sense and Die Hard, and I think history will vindicate him as a great actor.

Sep 26 - 06:17 PM

Kyle Cox

Kyle Cox

Uh, did anyone watch that Seagram's Wine Coolers bit. Fan-fucking-tastic.

Sep 26 - 07:08 PM

Nick Rolf

Nick Rolf

yesssss

Sep 27 - 07:29 AM

Travis Maruska

Travis Maruska

Am I the only one who loved Die Hard 2? I must be.

Sep 26 - 07:09 PM

JC Martel

JC Martel

Nah, I love the first 3 Die Hards.

Sep 27 - 11:13 AM

Jeffrey Handshaw

Jeffrey Handshaw

No, I thought DH2 was as good or better than DH1...I've probably seen DH2 more times than just about any other movie...also loved him in Armageddon and The 5th Element.

Sep 28 - 05:45 AM

Cloud

Neil Charles Kevin Sanchez

No, you're not. I also thought Die Hard 2 is better than the first one, but that's me. The first two were classics and pretty much hard to compare. The Fifth Element at first for me was a good film. Actually, that was the first Milla Jovovich film I'd seen, and they both did a fantastic job. But that stupid script ruined just about everything. I just noticed that the last time I've seen it out of miss.

Sep 30 - 12:53 AM

Anton Sharapov

Anton Sharapov

Why isn't The Fifth Element on this list. That was an amazing movie.

Sep 26 - 07:37 PM

Thammachart Chantapalaboon

Thammachart Chantapalaboon

Zed's dead, baby. Zed's dead.

Sep 26 - 07:50 PM

Valmordas

Val Mordas

12 Monkeys and The Fifth Element are my two favorites.

Sep 26 - 07:51 PM

Doug S.

Doug Shupe

What about Tears of the Sun? I thought that was one of his best. Very underrated.

Sep 26 - 08:17 PM

Zane B

Chum Chum

huh?????

Sep 26 - 08:46 PM

Patrick Fowler

Patrick Fowler

Agreed, Pulp Fiction

Sep 26 - 09:18 PM

Andy Gates

Andy Gates

Die Hard should be #1 hands down! It is the greatest action movie of all time for crying out loud. The movie that they missed is Unbreakable. Great Movie.

Sep 26 - 10:17 PM

Cloud

Neil Charles Kevin Sanchez

Go see Pulp Fiction, then you'd know why it's #1 on this list. Die Hard is indeed one of the best action films of all time, but the complete artistry of Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction was top-notched.

Sep 30 - 01:01 AM

Joel Otero

Joel Otero

What about the fifth element?

Sep 26 - 10:53 PM

G_man

Galen Mountfort

It's on 73% so it doesn't quite make the cut. That's how they do these lists.

Sep 26 - 11:18 PM

Frisby2007

Frisby 2007

Of all the movies I've seen with him, all of them were great.

Sep 26 - 10:58 PM

Ethan Sam

Ethan Sam

That Seagram's commercial is epic

Sep 26 - 10:59 PM

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