Total Recall: Bruce Willis' Best Movies
We count down the best-reviewed work of the Looper star.
Any time director Terry Gilliam manages to wrangle one of his films through the studio system, it's a cause for celebration -- and that goes double for a picture like Twelve Monkeys, which almost seamlessly weds Gilliam's signature flights of fancy with good old-fashioned commercialism to produce a knotty time travel story starring a pair of matinee idols (Willis and Brad Pitt) in an apocalyptic thriller that never stops asking questions -- or forcing the audience to answer their own as they hustle to keep up with the unfolding drama. "There's always overripe method to his madness," observed Janet Maslin for the New York Times, "but in the new 12 Monkeys Mr. Gilliam's methods are uncommonly wrenching and strong."
An ensemble dramedy that brought to life Richard Russo's book about an aging ne'er-do-well who's forced to confront (or at least acknowledge) the error of his ways in a small New York town, Nobody's Fool quietly matched its smart and funny script with an impeccable cast that included Paul Newman, Jessica Tandy, Melanie Griffith, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Pruitt Taylor Vince, and -- as the spendthrift construction company owner who spends much of the movie trading quips with Newman -- Bruce Willis. Although it made a pittance at the box office, most of the critics who watched it came away impressed; as Scott Weinberg pointed out for eFilmCritic, "Nobody's Fool offers a hell of a lot more than just Paul Newman at his very best, although that alone would make the flick worthy of your attention."
3. Die Hard
A man, a tank top, and a high rise full of murderous terrorists. It seems like such a simple formula -- hence the many, many thoughtless imitations that followed -- but the original Die Hard was far greater than the sum of its reductive parts, thanks largely to the bruised, wisecracking humanity Willis brought to what could have been just another chin-jutting tough-guy role. Although the franchise would quickly spiral off into silliness, its first installment remains an action classic. "For what it is, this is the top model," argued ReelViews' James Berardinelli. "Flash, bang, and witty one-liners all included."
Willis joined Wes Anderson's repertory quirk factory with 2012's Moonrise Kingdom, which found the director focusing on a New England island in 1965 where of a pair of tweens (Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward) run away together, causing a kerfuffle that throws the lives of the boy's scoutmaster (Edward Norton), the girl's parents (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand), and the local sheriff (Willis) into chaos. "The usual complaints and caveats about Anderson -- he's precious, his characters have no grounding in the real world -- can be made about Moonrise Kingdom," admitted the Philadelphia Inquirer's Steven Rea. "But so what?"
1. Pulp Fiction
By the early 1990s, Willis seemed to lose his footing for a bit, vacillating between tired action-hero retreads like Striking Distance and high-profile duds like The Bonfire of the Vanities and Billy Bathgate. But by the middle of the decade, he started to to regain his script-picking mojo, passing up big paychecks in favor of smaller, more warmly received indie films like Mortal Thoughts -- and Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction, which proved Willis hadn't lost any of his physical, comedic, or dramatic gifts by offering him a role that gave him a chance to use all three (not to mention one of the most memorable lines in the script). "It's the movie equivalent of that rare sort of novel where you find yourself checking to see how many pages are left and hoping there are more, not fewer," wrote Mick LaSalle for the San Francisco Chronicle.
In case you were wondering, here are Willis' top 10 movies according RT users' scores:
1. Pulp Fiction -- 95%
2. Die Hard -- 91%
3. Moonrise Kingdom -- 90%
4. The Sixth Sense -- 87%
5. Live Free or Die Hard -- 86%
6. Lucky Number Slevin -- 86%
7. The Fifth Element -- 84%
8. Twelve Monkeys -- 84%
9. Die Hard 3: With a Vengeance -- 83%
10. Armageddon -- 77%
Finally, here's Mr. Willis making a pitch for Seagram's Wine Coolers: