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The 6 Best And 6 Worst Bruce Willis Movies

Bruce Willis has spent more than three decades shooting bad guys, quipping sarcastically, blowing up asteroids, and launching cars into helicopters. He's the quintessential grizzled cop, the guy who's sick of all this mayhem despite being the cause of most of it, the man who comes out of retirement one last time. He's been in some of the best action movies ever made — but he's also been in some of the worst.

For every Sixth Sense, there's a Reprisal. For every Fifth Element, there's an Air Strike. For every Die Hard, there's an A Good Day to Die Hard. It seems that just when you think he can't possibly reload for another movie, he comes back, just as ready to put the hurt on whoever needs it as he's ever been. Whether the film in question will become a timeless classic or a direct-to-streaming embarrassment is a coin toss — but hey, we love him anyway. Here are the six best and six worst Bruce Willis movies ... so far.

Worst: A Good Day To Die Hard (2013)

It's one thing to release a film that's clearly the first in a planned series — think The Lord of the Rings. It's another thing entirely to release a one-off movie, and then, surprised by its success, scramble to release increasingly unnecessary sequels to cash in on the craze. Even if you get lucky with the first sequel, the crushing gravity of diminishing returns will almost always drag the franchise down. Think of the Terminator franchise, the Alien movies, or Jurassic ParkIt is, typically, a losing game.

The Die Hard franchise, sadly, is no exception. What's strange is that 2007's Live Free or Die Hard was an unexpectedly worthy entry in the long-running franchise, raising hopes that, like John McClane himself, the series simply could not be killed. Then came 2013's A Good Day to Die Hard, a tired, preposterous movie in which McClane tries to break his CIA agent son (Jai Courtney) out of a Russian prison, only to get tangled up in a global terrorist plot. Not even spectacular action set pieces could save this middling embarrassment from a cliche-ridden script and uninspired direction.

Best: Unbreakable (2000)

It seems crazy now, but twenty years ago, Sixth Sense writer-director M. Night Shyamalan was the man to watch in Hollywood. His 2000 follow up to that film, Unbreakable, was another hit. Willis stars as David Dunn, a security guard who's alerted to his own superhuman invulnerability after he survives a train crash that kills everyone else on board. Samuel L. Jackson plays Elijah Price, an art dealer with brittle bone disease, who guides Dunn with his knowledge of comic book lore.

Critics and audiences alike praised the movie as an emotional, thought-provoking subversion of comic book flicks. But it wasn't until it gained cult status in the years following its release that it became one of Shyamalan's most enduringly popular films. In 2016, M. Night released Split, in which James McAvoy plays a man suffering from severe dissociative identity disorder. The film, hailed as a return to form for Shyamalan, was later revealed to be a sequel to Unbreakable. 2019's Glass failed to satisfactorily conclude the trilogy, much to fans' disappointment. Yet Unbreakable remains a classic that features Shyamalan and Willis at their best.

Worst: Reprisal (2018)

2018 was not Bruce Willis' year. In March, he and Eli Roth teamed up to reboot the 1974 revenge movie Death Wish, a critical and commercial embarrassment that celebrated gun violence just weeks after the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting sent the nation reeling. Then came Willis' second revenge flick of the year, Reprisal, and somehow, things got even worse.

Willis does what Willis does best in this film: He plays a cop who comes out of retirement one last time to help a neighbor thwart the burglar that robbed his bank. If the premise sounds like a studio executive pulled it off the shelf and told someone to take a crack at it, you're right on the money. Critics blasted it as a paint-by-numbers snoozefest unworthy even of being watched out of boredom. Audiences weren't keen either: Reprisal made only $180 thousand worldwide, and just over $1 million in domestic video sales.

Best: Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

Bruce Willis is best known for playing seasoned action heroes who live on the edge of law and order. But every once in a while, he'll take on a role in a completely different type of film ... and absolutely shine in it. Such is the case with Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom. Willis joins an ensemble cast (featuring Tilda Swinton, Ed Norton, and Bill Murray) as a police captain who organizes a search party for the movie's child leads, who've run off in search of love and adventure.

Critics loved this film and audiences did too, quickly making Moonrise Kingdom a modern classic. In typical Anderson fashion, it's a movie bursting with color and detail that nabbed Anderson and co-writer Roman Coppola an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay. This might not be one of Willis' most prominent roles, but it's a true delight to see the actor take on such heartfelt material, and absolutely worth a watch for any serious Willis fan.

Worst: The Prince (2014)

"Bad Bruce Willis Movie Screenwriter" appears to be a salaried gig, for which two or three awful, direct-to-steaming scripts are due each year. That's the only way we can explain The Prince, a thoroughly forgettable schlock-fest in which Willis plays a former assassin who comes out of retirement to face his rival and rescue his kidnapped daughter. Maybe he's just picking up roles Liam Neeson turned down? It's hard to say.

The movie earned a shockingly brutal shellacking from critics. Audiences were more forgiving, as expected, but still unimpressed. Reviewer Andrew Barker put it quite nicely for Variety: "John Cusack and Bruce Willis yawn their way through this basic-cable-quality actioner." For The Village Voice, Chuck Wilson added, "The action thriller The Prince is so bad that the most noteworthy thing about it is that the opening credits list 19 executive producers."

So remember: If you ever come across this movie in the depths of Netflix some idle afternoon, skip it and watch Taken instead.

Best: Looper (2012)

Looper puts Willis entirely in his element, minus the paint-by-numbers laziness that characterizes so many of his later direct-to-streaming efforts. This gem, featuring Willis as the future version of Joseph Gordon-Levitt's time-traveling assassin, boasts one of the most inventive action scripts of the 2010s. We won't spoil anything for those of you who have yet to see the film, but rest assured that like all good time travel flicks, Looper features mind-bending twists and turns, locked down by sharp direction and a satisfying conclusion. Within Rian Johnson's confident vision, Willis absolutely shines.

Critics loved the movie, hailing it as a truly thought-provoking action thriller. Numerous top ten lists celebrated the film as one of 2012's high points, and its twisty screenplay garnered more than a few awards and award nominations. Looper remains as fresh and entertaining as the day it was released — a reputation that stands to only shine brighter with time.

Worst: Vice (2015)

A truth emerges, once one has studied Bruce Willis' filmography for an extended length of time: If he's in a movie you've never heard of, it's almost certainly skippable. Vice is a perfect example. Instead of Willis playing a former cop forced out of retirement to pull off one last mission, he plays a resort owner who lets his guests act out their darkest fantasies on the resort's resident androids. It's interesting. It's also Westworld – if Westworld was little more than a mindless shoot-'em-up.

Critics savaged the film, noting Willis' wooden performance as especially phoned-in. Writing for Variety, Justin Chang criticized the film for "barely [engaging] with its potential ideas beyond the most blandly expository, bullet-ridden level." That's Vice in a nutshell: Interesting in only the most theoretical sense, bogged down by ho-hum writing, and capped off by bland action spectacle. Somehow, Vice makes robots, Bruce Willis, and futuristic resorts boring. That would almost be impressive, if it didn't also result in such an utterly dim movie.

Best: The Sixth Sense (1999)

If you could go back in time to 1999 and tell people who'd just seen The Sixth Sense that M. Night Shyamalan would one day be an industry joke, you'd likely be laughed at. The film is, of course, known best for its iconic twist ending, in which Bruce Willis, a child psychologist working with a kid (Haley Joel Osment) who claims he can see and communicate with the dead, discovers that he's been dead the whole time. It is indeed a killer movie moment, but it's easy to forget that the story leading up to that revelation is fantastic in its own right, and worth watching even if you know the twist is coming.

Critics were impressed by the film's expert blend of horror and action. It was also a commercial smash, raking in a then-monster haul of $672.8 million, making it the second-most successful film of 1999 after Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace. Willis himself received widespread acclaim for his performance, though it was Osment and Toni Collette who nabbed Oscar nominations.

Worst: Look Who's Talking, Too (1990)

1989's Look Who's Talking was a moderately fun romantic comedy starring John Travolta, Kirstie Alley, and Bruce Willis as the voice of Mikey, the talking baby. Reviews for the movie were lukewarm, but not terrible. It's the sort of movie one could absolutely enjoy, especially at a young enough age. And really, who can't see the appeal of watching Bruce Willis voice a baby?

The sequel, 1990's Look Who's Talking Too, got vastly worse reviews. Audiences weren't entirely unmoved — it was a moderate success at the box office — but once it had aired, it was swiftly forgotten. We're still not sure what people hated about a movie in which Mikey gets a baby sister voiced by Roseanne Barr and Mel Brooks voices a toilet. Apparently you can't please everyone, although John Travolta certainly tries, singing "All Shook Up" to a gym full of babies while Gilbert Gottfried yells at them.

Best: Die Hard (1988)

The Die Hard debate orbits around a single question: Is it just one of the greatest action films of all time (indisputable) or one of the greatest Christmas movies of all time as well? There's no easy answer. Willis himself has weighed in on the question: "Die Hard is not a Christmas movie! ... It's a g*****n Bruce Willis movie!" Hard to argue with the man himself. This film, about a cop who's forced to rescue occupants of his estranged wife's Los Angeles skyscraper on Christmas, is arguably the g*****n Bruce Willis movie.

It is also the one of the most insane, unapologetic, straight-up action thrillers ever made. It puts hair on your chest. It makes you want to punch terrorists in the teeth, even if they're played by beloved thespian Alan Rickman. It makes you want to leap away from an explosion using a fire hose to keep yourself tethered to the building. But of course, you can't do these things. Only John McClane can. Yippee-ki-yay indeed.

Worst: North (1994)

Bruce Willis is no stranger to critical disappointment, but director Rob Reiner of This is Spinal Tap, The Princess Bride, and A Few Good Men fame certainly was when he released the critically panned North. The movie, in which Willis helps a young Elijah Wood search for ideal parents, is among the career low points of both actors, as well as Reiner, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jason Alexander, Scarlett Johansson, and pretty much everyone else associated with the movie. Having one of the most impressive ensemble casts ever assembled isn't enough to make up for a melodramatic script and misguided direction.

Nobody put the film's flaws more beautifully than Roger Ebert: "North is one of the most unpleasant, contrived, artificial, cloying experiences I've had at the movies. To call it manipulative would be inaccurate; it has an ambition to manipulate, but fails." He later added, "I hated this movie. Hated hated hated hated hated this movie. Hated it. Hated every simpering, stupid, vacant, audience-insulting moment of it." His hatred of the film became somewhat infamous, to the point that North writer Alan Zweibel once met as Ebert at a party and jokingly told him, "And I just have to tell you, Roger, that that sweater you're wearing? I hate, hate, hate, hate, hate that sweater." Enabling that joke might be the only good thing North accomplished.

Best: Pulp Fiction (1994)

If you were wondering how Die Hard could possibly be outdone on a list of best Bruce Willis movies, look no further than Pulp Fiction, in which Willis plays a past-his-prime boxer on the run from a kingpin he's double crossed. The film is often cited as what revitalized John Travolta's sagging career, but it provided a significant boost to Willis as well, whose filmography immediately preceding it featured far more bombs than blockbusters.

The movie also launched director Quentin Tarantino's career — and a horde of imitators. Roger Ebert summed up the film's influence on screenwriting perfectly: It is "so well-written in a scruffy, fanzine way that you want to rub noses in it — the noses of those zombie writers who take 'screenwriting' classes that teach them the formulas for 'hit films'".

As for Willis himself, he had to take a pay cut and risk his superstardom to act in the moderately-budgeted film. But the gamble paid off. He received more recognition for pure acting than he ever had previously, and made millions in the long run. And of course, there are plenty of aspiring actors who would gladly take part in a North or a Vice if it meant getting to include something like Pulp Fiction in their filmography forever.