Skip to main content

Main Area

Main

Best and worst Bruce Willis movies

1/
Rich Fury // Getty Images

Best and worst Bruce Willis movies

It’s not an easy leap, but Bruce Willis jumped from being a TV star (on the hit “Moonlighting”) to leading man (as John McClane in “Die Hard”) in record time, eventually becoming one of the biggest box office draws ever, with films generating more than  $5 billion worldwide. “Die Hard” brought him his first major role and first blockbuster. The villain Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) aptly labels Willis’ wisecracking cop “Mr. Cowboy.”

Willis became a new classic American hero: a cowboy of his own making and charismatic action star who makes murder look effortless, cool, and—most of all—good. McClane’s famous “Yippee ki yay” rejoinder (complete with profanity) captures the hallmarks of the Willis star persona: the smirk and the one-liner that combine unstoppable bravery with tactical know-how that seems superhuman—all that in a regular everyman with contagious charm and a five o’clock shadow. Even when Willis’ characters are vulnerable, they’re still infused with power. McClane picks glass out of his bare feet, but still beats the terrorists.

Willis’ McClane character spawned a franchise and remains an icon, representing ideal, masculine heroics. “John McClane” even shows up in the Urban Dictionary as both a verb and a noun that names a white, ribbed undershirt.

As a modern action cowboy, Willis' characters almost always intersect with cultural ideas around the law, giving audiences a sense of right and wrong, and of justice. Willis is known for playing cops, black-ops agents, CIA guys, hostage negotiators, detectives, and private eyes. He’s also frequently cast as the bad guy, usually a likable one—an ex-cop who’s gone rogue, a hitman, a heist mastermind, a gangster, or any mob type who knows his way around gun craft and beatdowns.

In the recent “Death Wish,” his surgeon character enforces his own laws, moving the moral line as he exacts vigilante justice. David Dunn from the “Unbreakable” franchise has the same function, as a superhero working outside the bounds. Willis' characters make their own rules whether as rogues, vigilantes, or soldiers like the menacing commander in “The Siege.” Willis’ roles as family men, animated characters, and comic heroes still carry his signature smirk and the charm that, in action films, makes violence somehow charming too.

Stacker compiled all the IMDb data as of October 2019 on feature films featuring Bruce Willis as an actor and ranked these films according to their IMDb user rating, with ties broken by the number of votes. Cameos, uncredited roles, and production credits without acting roles were not considered. Willis’ latest release, “Motherless Brooklyn,” was left off since this is ranked by audience reaction and it hasn't been publicly released yet.

You may also like: 100 best films of the 21st century, according to critics

2/
Origin Films

#78. Air Strike (2018)

- Director: Xiao Feng
- IMDb user rating: 3.2
- Votes: 2,838
- Metascore: data not available
- Runtime: 97 min

Mel Gibson was a producer for this Chinese film starring Bruce Willis as a colonel who trains fighter pilots during World War II during the Japanese bombings of Chongqing. The release was delayed in China and went straight to video in the U.S. Rumer Willis, Willis’ real life-daughter, makes an appearance in a small role.

3/
Emmett/Furla/Oasis Films (EFO Films)

#77. Extraction (2015)

- Director: Steven C. Miller
- IMDb user rating: 4.1
- Votes: 8,843
- Metascore: 25
- Runtime: 82 min

Willis brings his characteristic black-ops action grit to this major flop with a limited release that then went straight to video. Kellan Lutz plays Willis’ son, both CIA operatives, but the plot—extracting a briefcase computer called “The Condor” that can hack any global network—proves banal and uninspired, despite Willis star power.

4/
Highland Film Group (HFG)

#76. Reprisal (2018)

- Director: Brian A. Miller
- IMDb user rating: 4.2
- Votes: 4,655
- Metascore: 19
- Runtime: 89 min

One review accused Willis of “phoning it in” as yet another ex-cop pulled into criminal mayhem that requires him to save the day. In the 2010s Willis’ roles often build on his familiar star persona, a tough guy routine still in rotation as the actor ages. Willis plays the neighbor of a banker with a kidnapped wife, who helps enact vengeance and reprisal.

5/
Emmett/Furla/Oasis Films (EFO Films)

#75. Vice (2015)

- Director: Brian A. Miller
- IMDb user rating: 4.2
- Votes: 14,640
- Metascore: 17
- Runtime: 96 min

Similar to Willis’ “Surrogates” from 2009, “Vice” references “Westworld,” “Blade Runner,” and other sci-fi set-ups about humanoid robots. Willis plays Julian, the maniacal owner of “a better reality,” a resort called Vice populated with humanoids where anything goes, mostly violent crimes. Willis plays the antagonist, rather than the rogue cop investigating homicides. The cop role goes to Thomas Jane who ends Vice, although a twisty final shot of Julian casts doubt.

6/
Grindstone Entertainment Group

#74. Setup (2011)

- Director: Mike Gunther
- IMDb user rating: 4.4
- Votes: 19,854
- Metascore: data not available
- Runtime: 85 min

Early 2010 action films start Willis’ passage to straight-to-video thrillers that play on his considerable star power as a tough rogue who can play either a criminal or a crime fighter with equal ease. In the low-budget “Setup,” Willis plays mobster “Biggs,” who teams up with a betrayed robber (50 Cent) to seek vengeance and retrieve heist money.

7/
Castle Rock Entertainment

#73. North (1994)

- Director: Rob Reiner
- IMDb user rating: 4.5
- Votes: 12,698
- Metascore: data not available
- Runtime: 87 min

In this Rob Reiner-directed family film, a boy (Elijah Wood) wants to divorce his parents. Willis both narrates and shows up as a series of wise mentors along the boy’s journey. Willis gets a softer role, but the action star’s bravado is still in place. At one point, he gives the kid sage advice (via macho wisecracks) while costumed in a pink bunny suit.

8/
Flying Heart Films

#72. Breakfast of Champions (1999)

- Director: Alan Rudolph
- IMDb user rating: 4.6
- Votes: 7,387
- Metascore: 42
- Runtime: 110 min

The runaway blockbuster “The Sixth Sense” came out in 1999, as did this disastrous flop that was pulled from theatrical release shortly after its premiere. Willis’ career often careens between megahits and bombs, with the actor making consistent recovery and remaining popular. In this black comedy, he plays a suicidal car salesman, but the bizarre surrealist style falls flat. The ensemble cast also includes Nick Nolte, Barbara Hershey, Omar Epps, and Glenne Headly.

9/
Emmett/Furla/Oasis Films (EFO Films)

#71. Precious Cargo (2016)

- Director: Max Adams
- IMDb user rating: 4.6
- Votes: 7,653
- Metascore: 27
- Runtime: 90 min

“Precious Cargo” is another of Willis’ 2010s-era, straight-to-video action capers, this one garnering 0% on Rotten Tomatoes. Willis brings his signature smirk to yet another mob kingpin role and gives whispery delivery of lines like, “All this, just to get shot up here on this roof, that’s your plan?” This round, the mobster seeks vengeance against the woman who betrayed him, and anyone else close by, after a botched heist.

10/
Emmett/Furla/Oasis Films (EFO Films)

#70. Catch .44 (2011)

- Director: Aaron Harvey
- IMDb user rating: 4.6
- Votes: 16,084
- Metascore: data not available
- Runtime: 94 min

As another mob boss, Willis plays Mel, the mastermind behind a treacherous set-up involving a drug shipment at a roadside diner. Malin Akerman and Forest Whitaker round out the cast in this stylish attempt to give life to a tense tangle of violent double-crosses and shock kills.

11/
Emmett/Furla/Oasis Films (EFO Films)

#69. The Prince (2014)

- Director: Brian A. Miller
- IMDb user rating: 4.6
- Votes: 16,324
- Metascore: 19
- Runtime: 93 min

“The Prince” is the first of three video-on-demand, low-rent action thrillers Willis made with director Brian A. Miller. Willis plays the unhinged mobster Omar who kidnaps the daughter of the man who accidentally killed his own wife and child (played by Jason Patric). At one point, there’s mention that these kind of mishaps are just a part of mob life.

12/
TriStar Pictures

#68. Look Who's Talking Too (1990)

- Director: Amy Heckerling
- IMDb user rating: 4.7
- Votes: 42,333
- Metascore: data not available
- Runtime: 81 min

In this sequel, Roseanne Barr voices the infant sister of the now-older Mikey—the wisecracking baby Willis voiced in the first film. John Travolta and Kirstie Alley star again as the parents. Though Mikey’s now a toddler of speaking age, the child actor moves his mouth while Willis’ sarcastic riffs provide his voice.

13/
Emmett/Furla/Oasis Films (EFO Films)

#67. Lay the Favorite (2012)

- Director: Stephen Frears
- IMDb user rating: 4.8
- Votes: 10,717
- Metascore: 38
- Runtime: 94 min

Characters scheme to clear gambling debts in this clunky adaptation of a “memoir of gambling.” Willis plays a Vegas bookie who meets a young stripper (Rebecca Hall) who he thinks is his good luck charm. The all-star cast includes Catherine Zeta-Jones and Vince Vaughn.

14/
Kirk Shaw Productions

#66. First Kill (2017)

- Director: Steven C. Miller
- IMDb user rating: 4.9
- Votes: 8,473
- Metascore: 39
- Runtime: 97 min

Willis vehicles released during the 2010s usually concern heists and cops, and “First Kill” follows the formula. Hayden Christensen plays a stockbroker vacationing in remote backwoods—he wants to teach his son how to hunt and nail his “first kill,” but the youth gets kidnapped by robbers. Willis shows up as a double-dealing police chief investigating a heist gone wrong and a cop left dead. He performs with a country accent and delivers climactic cackles in this violent and incoherent production.

15/
Summit Entertainment

#65. The Cold Light of Day (2012)

- Director: Mabrouk El Mechri
- IMDb user rating: 4.9
- Votes: 33,381
- Metascore: 22
- Runtime: 93 min

Willis (as a secret CIA agent) plays Henry Cavill’s dad which seems a conspicuous genetic improbability, except that both characters are adept at impromptu spycraft and brawling. Cavill’s businessman character brings his family to Spain for vacation, but they’re suddenly abducted due to his father’s previously undisclosed career as an operative. Sigourney Weaver plays an agency bigwig and the plot concerns the whereabouts of a briefcase.

16/
Colecar Productions

#64. Acts of Violence (2018)

- Director: Brett Donowho
- IMDb user rating: 5.2
- Votes: 8,484
- Metascore: 28
- Runtime: 86 min

In yet another limited release then video-on-demand action caper, Willis plays a cop (this one of moral stature) investigating human trafficking. The title provides an on-the-nose description of a film featuring shootouts, kidnappings, and arduous skirmishes set amid strip clubs, train yards, and piles of cocaine.

17/
Cinergi Pictures Entertainment

#63. Color of Night (1994)

- Director: Richard Rush
- IMDb user rating: 5.2
- Votes: 21,626
- Metascore: 36
- Runtime: 121 min

Willis plays a psychologist, Bill, in a role that departs from his usual cop-thug action hero. Bill takes over the support group of his murdered colleague (Scott Bakula) and lands in a preposterous web of intrigue where the patients are murder suspects. The big reveal relies on an obvious and clumsy disguise that adds to the film’s over-the-top, noir style. This erotic thriller was mostly known for the racy love scenes between a vocally orgasmic Willis and his costar Jane March.

18/
Movie Trailer House

#62. Once Upon a Time in Venice (2017)

- Director: Mark Cullen
- IMDb user rating: 5.3
- Votes: 15,300
- Metascore: 28
- Runtime: 94 min

Willis plays Martin, a private investigator whose beloved dog gets stolen by a drug kingpin named Spyder (Jason Momoa). Spyder insists Martin endure a series of ridiculous, violence-infused commissions to win back the dog. When Martin says, “We cool?” to Spyder to makes sure his work is done, it recalls the same line Willis (as the boxer Butch) exchanged with Marsellus Wallace in “Pulp Fiction” before he was also released from further duty.

19/
Twentieth Century Fox

#61. A Good Day to Die Hard (2013)

- Director: John Moore
- IMDb user rating: 5.3
- Votes: 190,544
- Metascore: 28
- Runtime: 98 min

The fifth installment in the “Die Hard” franchise failed to impress domestic audiences or critics, despite the return of John McClane, this time on a mission to bust his adult son (Jai Courtney) out from a Russian prison. McClane’s quips seem more world-weary than wry, and his son is a serious grump, rather than a wisecracker. The two embark on international shenanigans involving a crucial file that can bring down a Russian bigwig. Explosions ensue.

20/
Covert Media

#60. Rock the Kasbah (2015)

- Director: Barry Levinson
- IMDb user rating: 5.5
- Votes: 9,762
- Metascore: 29
- Runtime: 106 min

Bill Murray plays a talent manager who wants to represent a young woman with a stellar voice on “Afghan Star,” a show similar to “American Idol” in the U.S. As the talent scout travels war-torn Afghanistan, Willis plays his security detail—reprising one of his usual stock roles as a military guy ready for action. “Rock the Kasbah” was deemed a “culturally insensitive,” off-key comedy.

21/
Emmett/Furla/Oasis Films (EFO Films)

#59. Marauders (2016)

- Director: Steven C. Miller
- IMDb user rating: 5.5
- Votes: 17,204
- Metascore: 42
- Runtime: 107 min

“Marauders,” another of Willis’ bank-heist capers, features masked, homicidal robbers and slow-motion violence. Director Steven C. Miller also made “First Kill,” and “Extraction,” two more Willis action movies guided by heavy plotting, twisty turns, and brutal mayhem. Willis plays a corrupt bank magnate investigated by FBI agents (Christopher Meloni and Adrian Grenier) who track the banker to Mexico for a final slo-mo showdown.

22/
Nine Yards Two Productions

#58. The Whole Ten Yards (2004)

- Director: Howard Deutch
- IMDb user rating: 5.5
- Votes: 51,846
- Metascore: 24
- Runtime: 98 min

This box-office bomb attempted to reprise the moderate success of the first comedy, “The Whole Nine Yards,” and brought back the cast of criminals. Willis reprises the hitman Tulip, still matched with girlfriend assassin, Jill (Amanda Peet). Matthew Perry returns as the bumbling suburban dentist pulled into the fray.

23/
Klasky-Csupo

#57. Rugrats Go Wild (2003)

- Directors: John Eng and Norton Virgien
- IMDb user rating: 5.6
- Votes: 7,123
- Metascore: 38
- Runtime: 80 min

There’s actually a “Rugrats” franchise—this is the third installment with a fourth in production. The animated kid’s film is a crossover between the popular ’90s cartoon and “The Wild Thornberrys.” Willis voices Spike, a dog who’s interrupted marking his territory and, as he puts it “can’t even smell his own butt.” Willis’ performance is energetic and filled with child-level gags.

24/
Warner Bros.

#56. The Bonfire of the Vanities (1990)

- Director: Brian De Palma
- IMDb user rating: 5.6
- Votes: 20,467
- Metascore: 27
- Runtime: 125 min

Adapted from Tom Wolfe’s novel, “The Bonfire of the Vanities” is a notorious flop. Its off-key story centers on the hit-and-run killing of a black youth; the premise is treated insensitively. Willis plays a reporter who profits from the tragedy, but the film isn’t a scathing commentary of white privilege, it’s a blatantly racist depiction of black communities that’s also forgiving toward the white people played by likable stars Willis and Tom Hanks.

25/
Grindstone Entertainment Group

#55. Fire With Fire (2012)

- Director: David Barrett
- IMDb user rating: 5.6
- Votes: 23,916
- Metascore: data not available
- Runtime: 97 min

Vincent D’Onofrio plays a racist, murdering mobster, Hagan, who harasses a firefighter (Josh Duhamel) who enters witness protection. Willis is the grizzled cop who intends to take Hagan down (or protect those who do) in this violent, hackneyed action film that went straight to video.

26/
2929 Productions

#54. What Just Happened (2008)

- Director: Barry Levinson
- IMDb user rating: 5.6
- Votes: 25,681
- Metascore: data not available
- Runtime: 104 min

Willis does a terrific turn as himself in this story about a producer (Robert De Niro) struggling in Hollywood. In one memorable sequence, Willis rants about his “artistic integrity” and destroys an office because he’s been asked to shave the beard he’s been growing for six months.

27/
Warner Bros.

#53. Cop Out (2010)

- Director: Kevin Smith
- IMDb user rating: 5.6
- Votes: 82,386
- Metascore: 31
- Runtime: 107 min

Almost titled “A Couple of Dicks,” “Cop Out” stars Willis and Tracy Morgan in a ridiculous comedy where they play suspended cops who go on an odyssey involving a baseball card. Violent and ridiculous, it was panned in reviews. Director Kevin Smith railed against critics, causing more controversy.

28/
Cecchi Gori Group Tiger Cinematografica

#52. Sunset (1988)

- Director: Blake Edwards
- IMDb user rating: 5.7
- Votes: 3,656
- Metascore: data not available
- Runtime: 102 min

Before “Die Hard” catapulted Willis to superstardom, he did his first two movies with director Blake Edwards. First, the rom-com “Blind Date,” which had a decent box office, but was critically panned. Second, was “Sunset,” a box-office failure and critical flop. Willis stars with James Garner in this story about the Western hero Wyatt Earp. Garner plays the actual Earp who’s an adviser on a movie set where Willis is cast as the famous cowboy. This early film is largely a forgotten part of Willis’ oeuvre.

29/
Columbia Pictures

#51. Mortal Thoughts (1991)

- Director: Alan Rudolph
- IMDb user rating: 5.7
- Votes: 7,850
- Metascore: data not available
- Runtime: 103 min

Demi Moore was married to Willis when they both starred in this noir thriller where two friends, Moore (Cynthia) and Glenne Headly (Joyce) each end up with dead husbands. Harvey Keitel is the cop investigating. Willis plays Joyce’s abusive husband, Jimmy. In an uncomfortably brutal scene, Jimmy attacks Cynthia. The two women come across as mysteriously violent, and there remains ambiguity around killing in self-defense and which woman is responsible for the acts.

30/
Revolution Studios

#50. Perfect Stranger (2007)

- Director: James Foley
- IMDb user rating: 5.7
- Votes: 42,897
- Metascore: 31
- Runtime: 109 min

Halle Berry starred with Willis in “The Last Action Hero,” and in this thriller, she’s an investigative reporter (Rowena) trying to prove he’s killed her friend. Willis plays a powerful ad exec who falls for her, but then gets convicted of murder. That’s not the end of this absurd murder story—a montage goes through previous scenes reworking them to fit a ridiculous twist that reveals the real killer.

31/
Columbia Pictures

#49. Striking Distance (1993)

- Director: Rowdy Herrington
- IMDb user rating: 5.8
- Votes: 38,322
- Metascore: data not available
- Runtime: 102 min

Plagued by production problems and rewrites, the convoluted “Striking Distance” was a box-office flop and critical failure. Willis plays an alcoholic cop on a Pittsburgh police force searching for a serial strangler. Sarah Jessica Parker plays Willis’ love interest—she’s also posing as his partner, but really investigating him. In the climactic, confused showdown, the main characters Willis, Parker, and Tom Sizemore get tied to chairs (which they eventually weaponize) in their fight with the strangler who’s also a cousin and a cop.

32/
TriStar Pictures

#48. Hudson Hawk (1991)

- Director: Michael Lehmann
- IMDb user rating: 5.8
- Votes: 49,264
- Metascore: 17
- Runtime: 100 min

“Hudson Hawk,” a financial catastrophe, was inspired by a song about a cat burglar Willis co-wrote before he was a star. The film begins with Leonardo da Vinci inventing a machine that turns lead to gold via a mirrored crystal gadget. Then, the movie zips ahead 500 years to Hawk (Willis) getting out of prison. He’s quickly tasked by gangsters with lifting various da Vinci artifacts. Hawk and his partner (played by Danny Aiello) do their heists while singing, as if in a musical. The song “Swinging on a Star” accompanies the robbery of an auction house. “Hudson Hawk’s” absurdist silliness continues throughout.

33/
Paramount Pictures

#47. G.I. Joe: Retaliation (2013)

- Director: Jon M. Chu
- IMDb user rating: 5.8
- Votes: 167,098
- Metascore: 41
- Runtime: 110 min

The classic Hasbro toy soldier spawned a movie franchise, and in this second entry, Willis stars with Dwayne Johnson and Channing Tatum. He plays a general who steps in to help the “Joes” once they figure out a villain is impersonating the president and wreaking havoc. Willis’ general comes across as a trustworthy uncle figure (still with stealthy virtuoso soldier skills) in a film with childlike appeal despite its rambunctious violence that brought in nearly $400 million worldwide.

34/
Warner Bros.

#46. In Country (1989)

- Director: Norman Jewison
- IMDb user rating: 5.9
- Votes: 2,595
- Metascore: data not available
- Runtime: 120 min

In this drama Willis plays a Vietnam veteran with PTSD trying to adjust after the war that took the life of his niece’s father. Willis gives an understated, sensitive performance, while sporting a long mustache and a Kentucky accent, to embody a regular guy. In a rare turn, he plays, in his own words, “not the flashy lead character,” but a former soldier, trying to move on from the after-effects of violence.

35/
Touchstone Pictures

#45. Billy Bathgate (1991)

- Director: Robert Benton
- IMDb user rating: 5.9
- Votes: 10,808
- Metascore: data not available
- Runtime: 106 min

Willis plays doomed mobster, Bo Weinberg, up against Dustin Hoffman as the brutal Dutch Schultz in this gangster film adapted from the E.L. Doctorow novel. In a horrifying execution scene, Bo gives advice to the “kid” just entering the business, asking him to take care of his girl. Willis performs Bo’s catalog of emotions, his feet in concrete, before he’s thrown into the ocean by Steve Buscemi as a thug following orders.

36/
TriStar Pictures

#44. Look Who's Talking (1989)

- Director: Amy Heckerling
- IMDb user rating: 5.9
- Votes: 73,483
- Metascore: 51
- Runtime: 93 min

Willis’ comedic star power comes out in this hit featuring a talking baby. John Travolta and Kirstie Alley play the new parents of Mikey, who upon leaving his mother’s birth canal exclaims, “Put me back inside!” voiced with the familiar wisecracking tone Willis made famous the year earlier as John McClane in “Die Hard.”

37/
TriStar Pictures

#43. Blind Date (1987)

- Director: Blake Edwards
- IMDb user rating: 6.0
- Votes: 19,496
- Metascore: 49
- Runtime: 95 min

Willis was known as the wisecracking P.I. David Addison in the TV series “Moonlighting” when he appeared in his first leading movie role in the rom-com “Blind Date.” As Walter, he’s a regular guy set up with Nadia (Kim Basinger), a woman who goes berserk when she drinks. The couple starts out sedate and mild-mannered, but things get weird and wild fast during a night of chaos that ends with Walter’s arrest. He falls in love anyway. The climax features a wedding altar showdown and a happy ending dive into a swimming pool.

38/
Castle Rock Entertainment

#42. The Story of Us (1999)

- Director: Rob Reiner
- IMDb user rating: 6.0
- Votes: 20,435
- Metascore: 37
- Runtime: 95 min

Rob Reiner previously directed Willis in “North,” both films that place the actor’s smirking bravado in family settings. Here, he’s a father-of-two contemplating the break-up of his 15-year marriage. Michelle Pfeiffer plays the wife in a drama that features a montage of scenes across the couple’s life—ups, downs, big moments and small. The final shot (with the fighting couple reconciled and now seated on a couch) recalls the similar ending of Reiner’s much more famous rom-com, “When Harry Met Sally.”

39/
Chester Films Inc.

#41. The Kid (2000)

- Director: Jon Turteltaub
- IMDb user rating: 6.1
- Votes: 38,495
- Metascore: 45
- Runtime: 104 min

In this sentimental Disney drama, Willis dramatizes inner-child psychology. He plays a cranky middle-aged grump who gets to interact with his kid self, reliving childhood moments of harrowing trauma—like getting yelled at by his dad and losing his mom. With the kid’s help, the adult figures out how to cry and sets his life on a better path.

40/
Universal Pictures

#40. Mercury Rising (1998)

- Director: Harold Becker
- IMDb user rating: 6.1
- Votes: 63,437
- Metascore: 37
- Runtime: 111 min

Willis plays an FBI agent taken out of the field after a botched stint undercover. His next case pulls him to a genius child, an autistic savant who’s cracked the “Mercury” code, the most sophisticated puzzle on the planet. Military bigwig (Alec Baldwin) wants the child dead, but Willis’ good-guy agent thwarts that plan and saves the day. Roger Ebert’s review noted that a film about brilliant cryptography featured conspicuous stupidity from its characters.

41/
Vertigo Entertainment

#39. Assassination of a High School President (2008)

- Director: Brett Simon
- IMDb user rating: 6.2
- Votes: 15,122
- Metascore: data not available
- Runtime: 93 min

Willis brings his authoritarian bravado to his role as a high school principal where his takedowns of students lace with “effing” instead of F-bombs. The plot centers on a high schooler investigating an SAT score conspiracy and draws on tropes of film noir in a comedy that ended up with a straight-to-video release.

42/
Fox Searchlight Pictures

#38. Fast Food Nation (2006)

- Director: Richard Linklater
- IMDb user rating: 6.3
- Votes: 22,702
- Metascore: 64
- Runtime: 116 min

Willis plays an exec at Mickey’s, a McDonald’s-like fast-food chain in this loose adaptation of the nonfiction book of the same name that critiques the fast-food industry. As Harry Rydell, Willis embodies corporate apathy when the marketing director, played by Greg Kinnear, lets him know the chain’s meat is contaminated.

43/
Cheyenne Enterprises

#37. Hart's War (2002)

- Director: Gregory Hoblit
- IMDb user rating: 6.3
- Votes: 48,968
- Metascore: 49
- Runtime: 125 min

Set during World War II in a German prison, this war movie stars Willis as Colonel McNamara (a fourth-generation West Point military man) who chastises Hart (Colin Farrell) for only enduring three days of torturous interrogation instead of a month like he did. McNamara convinces the German officers to let him litigate a court-martial, shifting the film into courtroom drama territory. The trial is a cover-up for a scheme to destroy a nearby munitions plant. McNamara’s willing to frame a black soldier (Terrence Howard) for the greater good. Brutal events, harsh conditions, and frequent executions make this a brooding, sullen exploration of themes related to duty, sacrifice, and honor.

44/
Touchstone Pictures

#36. Surrogates (2009)

- Director: Jonathan Mostow
- IMDb user rating: 6.3
- Votes: 164,412
- Metascore: 45
- Runtime: 89 min

Ving Rhames and Willis reunite in the futuristic thriller “Surrogates,” 15 years after their iconic scenes in “Pulp Fiction.” Rhames plays “The Prophet,” a public figure against “surrogates,” the A.I. bodies that go out in the real world while their human operators hook to “stem chairs,” safe at home. Willis plays both his blond surrogate and its human operator, a much scruffier man with a goatee and bruises. He’s a detective who investigates the murders of surrogates and their operators, humans whose brains liquefy when their surrogate dies.

45/
Lone Wolf

#35. Last Man Standing (1996)

- Director: Walter Hill
- IMDb user rating: 6.4
- Votes: 50,726
- Metascore: data not available
- Runtime: 101 min

“Last Man Standing,” inspired by Akira Kurosawa’s “Yojimbo,” is set in a Western saloon town in the 1930s. Willis plays a lone stranger who drives into town only to have a gang inexplicably vandalize his car, which causes an immediate deadly duel. Willis narrates using a hardboiled, classic film noir voice-over that describes local thugs as “goofballs” from a “dime novel.” Christopher Walken plays a scarred henchman, and action sequences include hysterical gunfights where bullet-ridden bodies are held upright, jittering from continuous gunshots, for far longer than gravity should allow.

46/
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)

#34. Death Wish (2018)

- Director: Eli Roth
- IMDb user rating: 6.4
- Votes: 53,818
- Metascore: 31
- Runtime: 107 min

Charles Bronson starred in the shocking original about vigilante justice. In the remake, Willis plays an ER surgeon whose wife and daughter are killed in a home invasion which sparks his own murderous rampage and torture of the culprits. As a doctor, his character knows that, as he puts it, “a caustic agent applied directly to a nerve,” in this case brake fluid on an exposed sciatic, proves extremely painful. One review called “Death Wish” a “celebration of American gun culture” that cast Willis as an admirable arbiter of violent justice.

47/
Twentieth Century Fox

#33. The Siege (1998)

- Director: Edward Zwick
- IMDb user rating: 6.4
- Votes: 65,360
- Metascore: 53
- Runtime: 116 min

“The Siege” explores what would happen if Brooklyn were occupied by an army commanded by one of Willis’ military men. He plays a staunchly fascist military leader in a portrayal that comes across as sympathetic rather than deranged. Annette Bening and Denzel Washington play FBI and CIA agents dealing with a terrorist crisis. The film was protested by Arab American groups for its insensitive plot connecting Muslims with violence.

48/
Universal Pictures

#32. The Jackal (1997)

- Director: Michael Caton-Jones
- IMDb user rating: 6.4
- Votes: 100,817
- Metascore: 36
- Runtime: 124 min

Willis plays the Jackal in this remake of the acclaimed 1973 thriller “The Day of the Jackal,” about a fleet-footed assassin. In the update, Willis plays the wily hitman, a master of disguises which are basically a series of different hairstyles including one much like Billy Idol’s. The highly paid killer is tasked with murdering the First Lady. Richard Gere plays the man released from prison in exchange for stopping the elusive trickster.

49/
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)

#31. Bandits (2001)

- Director: Barry Levinson
- IMDb user rating: 6.5
- Votes: 62,912
- Metascore: 60
- Runtime: 123 min

Cate Blanchett plays a housewife caught up in a love triangle with an ex-con played by Willis and his pal Billy Bob Thornton. While on the lam, the two bank robbers hook-up with the woman and the three engage in comic adventures while they pull off one last heist before the escape.

50/
Universal Pictures

#30. Death Becomes Her (1992)

- Director: Robert Zemeckis
- IMDb user rating: 6.5
- Votes: 95,683
- Metascore: 56
- Runtime: 104 min

Willis plays a plastic surgeon, the meek and nerdy love interest of women obsessed with staying young in this fountain of youth comedy with gothic elements. He’s the straight man manipulated by the insane rivalry between women played by Goldie Hawn and Meryl Streep who find an elixir to stay ever young. It keeps their bodies youthful, but also alive, after accidents, and they force the surgeon to repair their increasingly ghoulish injuries.

51/
Aldamisa Entertainment

#29. Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (2014)

- Directors: Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez
- IMDb user rating: 6.5
- Votes: 143,343
- Metascore: 46
- Runtime: 102 min

Willis’ John Hartigan died in the first “Sin City.” In the sequel, Nancy’s vignette begins as she cries over Hartigan’s grave—he’s the cop who saved her from the Yellow Bastard’s sadistic torture. Hartigan’s ghost shows up in mirrors, haunting Nancy as she finishes the vengeance Hartigan started against the sinister Senator Roark (Powers Boothe) as his vast ploy to cover-up the deeds of his evil son.

52/
Miramax

#28. Hostage (2005)

- Director: Florent-Emilio Siri
- IMDb user rating: 6.6
- Votes: 103,156
- Metascore: 44
- Runtime: 113 min

Willis starts the film with a full beard and long, shaggy hair, on a call as a hostage negotiator, Talley, when things veer violent and deadly. In the next sequence, “one year later,” he’s clean-shaven, bald, and still too traumatized to handle another hostage sitch. Then, a henchman known as The Watchman kidnaps his wife and daughter (played by real-life daughter Rumer Willis) and threatens to kill them unless Talley intervenes in an active hostage situation (a family held by a gang of teens) to prevent a DVD filled with incriminating evidence from falling to police authority.

53/
Cheyenne Enterprises

#27. Tears of the Sun (2003)

- Director: Antoine Fuqua
- IMDb user rating: 6.6
- Votes: 108,053
- Metascore: 48
- Runtime: 121 min

Willis’ army guy character, Lieutenant Waters, goes rogue for moral reasons after his commander (Tom Skerritt) tasks him to extricate a doctor (Monica Bellucci) from an African nation involved in a civil war. Lt. Waters, sporting a swarthy, sweat-streaked five o’clock shadow, commands a team who disobey direct orders, and instead fight bad guys and get innocent people to safety.

54/
Alcon Entertainment

#26. 16 Blocks (2006)

- Director: Richard Donner
- IMDb user rating: 6.6
- Votes: 122,593
- Metascore: 63
- Runtime: 102 min

Sporting a mustache, Willis plays another hard-boiled cop, this time, the type who stops at a liquor store for breakfast, while tasked with transferring an informant (Mos Def) 16 blocks to testify against a corrupt cop. The action takes place on city streets, in narrative real-time, to up the tension, and provide Willis’ cop character an opportunity to find his moral center.

55/
Summit Entertainment

#25. Red 2 (2013)

- Director: Dean Parisot
- IMDb user rating: 6.6
- Votes: 151,014
- Metascore: 47
- Runtime: 116 min

Retired operative Frank (Willis) just wants a normal, Costco-shopping life with girlfriend Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker), but the couple gets pulled back into violent havoc when they have to save the world from a nuclear bomb. John Malkovich and Helen Mirren return for a world tour of murderous chaos. One foe notes that Frank’s pretty good “for a retired guy,” counts the men he’s up against, and then asks if he’s “7-1 cuffed with no weapon good?” It’s quickly shown that Frank’s brand of old-school ruckus is that good.

56/
Lionsgate

#24. The Expendables 2 (2012)

- Director: Simon West
- IMDb user rating: 6.6
- Votes: 280,620
- Metascore: 51
- Runtime: 103 min

The villain in “The Expendables 2,” named Vilain (Jean-Claude Van Damme), runs a cruel mine, yet perhaps worse, round-house kicks to death Billy the Kid (Liam Hemsworth), the youngest member of a gang of elite strongarms who take on international baddies. Willis was uncredited in the first installment, but returns in the second as Mr. Church, a super-soldier talent scout, and booker of gigs that require expert muscle. The franchise is famous for deploying an ensemble of action stars: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Terry Crews, Jet Li, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Chuck Norris, and Dolph Lundgren.

57/
Franchise Pictures

#23. The Whole Nine Yards (2000)

- Director: Jonathan Lynn
- IMDb user rating: 6.7
- Votes: 104,251
- Metascore: 47
- Runtime: 98 min

As an ex-con looking to get back in the game, Willis gives his familiar signature, a comic brutishness, to the contract killer Tulip in this black comedy that sets in suburbia. Matthew Perry, starring on the TV hit “Friends” at the time, plays a nerdy milquetoast dentist who provides a foil for Willis’ slick, masculine bravado that’s still affable even when deadly.

58/
DreamWorks Animation

#22. Over the Hedge (2006)

- Directors: Tim Johnson and Karey Kirkpatrick
- IMDb user rating: 6.7
- Votes: 150,051
- Metascore: 67
- Runtime: 83 min

Willis shows he can bring his tough-guy signature to any genre, in roles that prove crowd-pleasing for audiences of all ages. In this animated kid’s film, Willis voices a scheming raccoon who pulls fast ones on the humans living in a suburban tract. Garry Shandling voices his sidekick, a turtle. The all-star cast includes Nick Nolte, Wanda Sykes, and Steve Carell.

59/
Universal Pictures

#21. Glass (2019)

- Director: M. Night Shyamalan
- IMDb user rating: 6.7
- Votes: 161,210
- Metascore: 43
- Runtime: 129 min

Critics skewered “Glass,” but fans of M. Night Shyamalan’s “Unbreakable” universe generally liked the third entry in the franchise. Willis returns as superhero David Dunn, now known as The Overseer, a vigilante, in this interlocking plot that draws on the character’s histories. Mr. Glass (Samuel L. Jackson) joins with The Beast (James McAvoy) from the second film in the series, “Split,” to mastermind a confrontation that ultimately makes public an important secret that a doctor (Sarah Paulson) wants to keep hidden.

60/
Touchstone Pictures

#20. Armageddon (1998)

- Director: Michael Bay
- IMDb user rating: 6.7
- Votes: 375,975
- Metascore: 42
- Runtime: 151 min

Willis plays the ultimate everyman hero, an oil driller tapped to bore a hole on an asteroid hurtling toward Earth in this epic disaster film. “Armageddon” features director Michael Bay’s characteristic film style, sweeping slow-motion shots and severe camera angles that serve sentimental, patriotic themes around the sacrifice and bravado of Willis’ heroic driller, who one character calls, “the bravest man I’ve ever met.”

61/
Paramount Pictures

#19. Beavis and Butt-Head Do America (1996)

- Directors: Mike Judge, Mike de Seve, Brian Mulroney, and Yvette Kaplan
- IMDb user rating: 6.8
- Votes: 48,954
- Metascore: 64
- Runtime: 81 min

In this animated comedy, the hapless titular duo get embroiled with a couple who, mistaking the notorious idiots for hitmen, hire them to kill the other, in a bit where “do” gets misinterpreted as “have sex with.” Willis and Demi Moore (his wife at the time) give voice to the seedy couple.

62/
Sidney Kimmel Entertainment

#18. Alpha Dog (2006)

- Director: Nick Cassavetes
- IMDb user rating: 6.9
- Votes: 95,867
- Metascore: 53
- Runtime: 122 min

Justin Timberlake gives a hammy performance as a degenerate bad boy in this film about wild, drug-swilling California youths based on a true story. Willis plays the father and drug supplier of the young dealer who masterminds a kidnapping that turns tragic.

63/
Geffen Pictures

#17. The Last Boy Scout (1991)

- Director: Tony Scott
- IMDb user rating: 7.0
- Votes: 87,545
- Metascore: 52
- Runtime: 105 min

One review called this Willis vehicle a “cynical piece of nastiness.” Set amid football games and corruption, Willis plays a detective who fell from grace now tasked with protecting a stripper played by Halle Berry. He pairs up with her boyfriend (Damon Wayans) so the two can get to the bottom of corrupt nonsense, quip one-liners, and shoot up baddies.

64/
Summit Entertainment

#16. Red (2010)

- Director: Robert Schwentke
- IMDb user rating: 7.0
- Votes: 274,737
- Metascore: 60
- Runtime: 111 min

“Red” starts with Frank (Willis), a retiree having a sweet phone flirtation with the customer-service clerk (Mary-Louise Parker) who manages his pension checks. Soon his humble life gets rocked when he must slay mercenaries in his bathrobe. He gets pulled back into his black-op life of explosive action. He gets the girl and joins forces with cohort elders (Morgan Freeman and John Malkovich) who prove they can still brawl with the best.

65/
Twentieth Century Fox

#15. Live Free or Die Hard (2007)

- Director: Len Wiseman
- IMDb user rating: 7.1
- Votes: 374,633
- Metascore: 69
- Runtime: 128 min

The fourth entry in the “Die Hard” franchise brings McClane into the digital age as he battles hackers and “some kind of computer breach” as well as clashes with his daughter’s boyfriend over the Fourth of July weekend. The film was both a critical and commercial success showing the ongoing cultural allure of the McClane figure, now middle-aged, but still a force of unparalleled heroism, especially when compared to the tech-savvy millennial played by Justin Long.

66/
Twentieth Century Fox

#14. Die Hard 2 (1990)

- Director: Renny Harlin
- IMDb user rating: 7.2
- Votes: 317,282
- Metascore: 67
- Runtime: 124 min

Willis returns as John McClane in this hit sequel that out-earned the first “Die Hard,” now setting the terrorist tension at an airport. The same formula applies, with McClane offering punny quips like “Just the fax, ma'am” while holding a fax. McClane calls his cop friend Al (Reginald VelJohnson from the first film), this time at a desk job and still away from the action. Now nicknamed “Cowboy,” McClane takes on mercenaries led by a captured drug lord (Franco Nero).

67/
Touchstone Pictures

#13. Unbreakable (2000)

- Director: M. Night Shyamalan
- IMDb user rating: 7.3
- Votes: 361,995
- Metascore: 62
- Runtime: 106 min

M. Night Shyamalan’s follow-up to “The Sixth Sense” again stars Willis, this time as a haunted superhero in a role conceived for him. Willis’ persona as a working-class everyman who’s also invincible fits well in this moody, atmospheric origin story of a reluctant hero with special powers. Samuel L. Jackson plays Elijah or Mr. Glass, a sage nemesis with the opposite attributes, his body is particularly vulnerable to breaking.

68/
Capella International

#12. Nobody's Fool (1994)

- Director: Robert Benton
- IMDb user rating: 7.4
- Votes: 17,193
- Metascore: 86
- Runtime: 110 min

In this acclaimed drama Paul Newman (nominated for a Best Actor Oscar) plays a 60-year-old drinker who’s no good at adulting. In a supporting role, Willis plays a rakish contractor in a rivalry with Newman over a snowblower, and whose wife (played by Melanie Griffith) has a secret affection for the older man.

69/
Endgame Entertainment

#11. Looper (2012)

- Director: Rian Johnson
- IMDb user rating: 7.4
- Votes: 507,213
- Metascore: 84
- Runtime: 113 min

Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays the younger Willis (both the same hitman at different ages) in this time-travel thriller. The younger hitman is supposed to assassinate his elder self, sent back from the future for quick execution. Instead the older man outwits the young one, smacking him down and escaping the hit. The looping narrative offers a meditation on time and trauma, but much of the film’s charm comes observing Gordon-Levitt’s facial alteration, created so the actor could resemble a young Willis.

70/
Dimension Films

#10. Grindhouse: Planet Terror (2007)

- Directors: Robert Rodriguez, Eli Roth, Quentin Tarantino, Edgar Wright, and Rob Zombie
- IMDb user rating: 7.5
- Votes: 171,971
- Metascore: 77
- Runtime: 191 min

Willis joins an ensemble cast (Rose McGowen, Josh Brolin, and Freddy Rodriguez) in Robert Rodriguez’s entry in the Grindhouse double feature that paired with Quentin Tarantino’s “Death Proof.” “Planet Terror,” set during a zombie apocalypse, is an homage to the ultraviolent, low-budget production values of exploitation cinema. Willis shows up as a hardboiled lieutenant who throws a bag of testicles back and forth and claims to have killed Osama Bin Laden.

71/
Cinergi Pictures Entertainment

#9. Die Hard With a Vengeance (1995)

- Director: John McTiernan
- IMDb user rating: 7.6
- Votes: 345,264
- Metascore: 58
- Runtime: 128 min

In the third “Die Hard” installment, McClane’s back (and wearing his famous white, ribbed undershirt) to take down another foreign criminal mastermind, a bomber played by Jeremy Irons. Samuel L. Jackson turns up as an average shopkeeper caught up in the action who becomes McClane’s buddy. Jackson’s character openly quips about racism, as their scenes bristle with wry comic chemistry.

72/
The Weinstein Company

#8. Lucky Number Slevin (2006)

- Director: Paul McGuigan
- IMDb user rating: 7.7
- Votes: 290,275
- Metascore: 53
- Runtime: 110 min

This hyper-violent neo-noir gangster film involves a flashback plot about mistaken identity and features hardboiled dialogue with a visual style that glamorizes brutality. Willis, the hitman Goodkat, pairs with Josh Hartnett, as they embark on vengeance for long-ago deeds.

73/
Gaumont

#7. The Fifth Element (1997)

- Director: Luc Besson
- IMDb user rating: 7.7
- Votes: 409,416
- Metascore: 52
- Runtime: 126 min

This stylish and bizarre sci-fi caper features the iconic scene where Milla Jovovich’s character (a cyborgian being) slo-mo leaps from a futuristic skyrise ledge, costumed in a white jumpsuit made of straps. She falls directly into the hovercraft taxi driven by Willis’ hero character, a wisecracking cabbie, and they join forces to save the world.

74/
Indian Paintbrush

#6. Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

- Director: Wes Anderson
- IMDb user rating: 7.8
- Votes: 296,323
- Metascore: 84
- Runtime: 94 min

Willis tones down his smirk to give an understated performance as a police captain on a remote island. His delivery matches well with Wes Anderson’s precise, quirky film style. The captain’s having an affair with a local (Frances McDormand) whose young daughter has run away with an orphan boy scout. Willis’ police captain costume skews hip and cool, despite featuring highwater black pants, white socks with dark shoes, a blonde shock of top hair, and glasses.

75/
Universal Pictures

#5. 12 Monkeys (1995)

- Director: Terry Gilliam
- IMDb user rating: 8.0
- Votes: 546,048
- Metascore: 74
- Runtime: 129 min

“12 Monkeys” is a remake of the 1962 French film “La Jetee,” a short composed of still photographs about a time-traveling man who witnesses his own future death as a child. In Terry Gilliam’s expanded redux, Willis is the time traveler, a prisoner sent from the future to thwart a plague outbreak in the past. His child self also witnesses his own future death in an elaborate finale shoot-out.

76/
Dimension Films

#4. Sin City (2005)

- Directors: Frank Miller, Robert Rodriguez, and Quentin Tarantino
- IMDb user rating: 8.0
- Votes: 720,399
- Metascore: 74
- Runtime: 124 min

“Sin City,” adapted from Frank Miller’s graphic novels, features an arresting visual style—stark black-and-white compositions appear with sharp stabs of occasional color that resemble comic illustrations. Willis plays a police detective, Hartigan, obsessed with helping the now-grown woman (Jessica Alba) who he also saved when she was a little girl. One sequence, like a painted tableau, displays Hartigan, with his flat-top haircut and trench coat blowing in snowfall, as a rugged silhouette of classic masculine heroism. He’s a man driven by a doomed love that inevitably merges with a vengeance.

77/
Hollywood Pictures

#3. The Sixth Sense (1999)

- Director: M. Night Shyamalan
- IMDb user rating: 8.1
- Votes: 857,932
- Metascore: 64
- Runtime: 107 min

“The Sixth Sense” was a runaway hit propelled by a twist ending that struck audiences as both obvious and surprising at the ending’s big reveal. Willis plays a child psychologist who has gentle patience for his haunted patient (Haley Joel Osment) even when the kid utters his iconic, ever-creepy line, “I see dead people.” The film also dramatizes a tragic love story—one made more crushing when the final twist comes to light.

78/
Twentieth Century Fox

#2. Die Hard (1988)

- Director: John McTiernan
- IMDb user rating: 8.2
- Votes: 732,128
- Metascore: 72
- Runtime: 132 min

Willis’ portrayal of action-hero titan, John McClane in “Die Hard,” launched the actor to superstardom. McClane is both vulnerable (he spends much of the film with bare feet), while at the same time invincible. Willis gave the character a signature smirk to punctuate one-liners, as well as epic bravery that matched with a sentimental soul. The character still inspires sequels and imitations over 30 years later.

79/
Miramax

#1. Pulp Fiction (1994)

- Director: Quentin Tarantino
- IMDb user rating: 8.9
- Votes: 1,684,411
- Metascore: 94
- Runtime: 154 min

Willis appears in one of the most notorious sequences in “Pulp Fiction,” the one involving threats of a blowtorch and pliers, and the Gimp. Willis brings tension and humor to his scenes, especially when (as boxer Butch) he decides which pawnshop weapon (a samurai sword) to take back to Zed and Maynard’s basement lair in order to save his nemesis, Marsellus Wallace (Ving Rhames). The film wouldn’t be the same without Willis’ performance of Butch’s horrified reactions to the deviance.

You may also like: 100 best films of the 21st century, according to critics

2018 All rights reserved.