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Bruce Campbell's 6 Best Movies — And 6 Worst

William Shakespeare once said: "Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them. But only one is Bruce Campbell." Okay, we made up that last part, but that's only because the Bard never met the Chin. Ever since his zombie-blood-splattered mug first appeared on movie theater screens four decades ago, Bruce Campbell has established himself as the king of the B's.

Lots of movie stars are more famous. Plenty make way more money. But few have achieved the legendary status and legion of loyal fans that span decades and cross borders like Campbell. After all, how many people show up to sci-fi and horror conventions around the world dressed like Leonardo DiCaprio? While Campbell is legendary, the same cannot always be said for his films. Using Rotten Tomatoes as our guide with supplemental consultation from the Necronomicon, we're going to list Campbell's best and worst movies. 

Keep in mind "good" and "bad" are relative terms and the subjective quality of Campbell's movies tends to transcend critical consensus. To keep things clean, we're only including movies where he had a credited role, so no cameos in Sam Raimi movies here. Feeling groovy? Then fire up your chainsaws and load up your boomsticks, because here are Bruce Campbell's six best movies and his six worst movies.

Worst: Moontrap & Mindwarp

Don't feel bad if you've never seen either of these moves. Hopefully, Bruce Campbell hasn't either. Here, we're including two movies — 1989's "Moontrap" and 1992's "Mindwarp" – because they're essentially tied on the bad scale. They both came out around the same time, during a period when Campbell was trying to capitalize on his cult-actor status by leaning into the B-movie genre.

Reading their synopses on Rotten Tomatoes is a treat in itself. "Moontrap" stars Campbell as an astronaut who is lured to the moon by aliens for human parts. The setup is glorious; the execution ... not so much. "Mindwarp" — the first of only three movies produced by famed horror mag "Fangoria" – finds Campbell playing a drifter in a post-apocalyptic future where elites hook into a VR-simulation inside an AI-ruled utopia while the rest of the population lives in a barren desert wasteland dominated by subterranean cannibals. As much as that sounds like an awesome mashup of "The Matrix" and "Mad Max," "Mindwarp" goes off the rails, with more endings than "The Return of the King" and enough twists to make M. Night Shyamalan roll his eyes.

Neither movie received much critical response and audiences didn't like them either. We can't rank one above the other. Both "Moontrap" and "Mindwarp" showed promise but fell far short of their potential. They're worth a watch, but not a place in our hearts.

Best: Army of Darkness

You're probably thinking "Army of Darkness," aka "Bruce Campbell vs. Army of Darkness," should rank higher. But remember, not every "Evil Dead" movie can be number one. Does that make you cranky? Well, don't come after us — go after the critics who gave "Army of Darkness" a consensus fresh rating, but didn't exactly rave over it. The late Roger Ebert, in a negative two-star review, said "The movie isn't as funny or entertaining as 'Evil Dead 2,' however, maybe because the comic approach seems recycled." Turns out even great critics miss the mark sometimes, as that's a bigger fail than Ash trying to pronounce "Klaatu Barada Nikto." 

Turns out everyone missed the mark, as "Army of Darkness" only made $21 million at the box office according to the Numbers. While that's the second-best of the original trilogy and four times what "Evil Dead 2" made, it was considered a bomb due to its $11 million budget. The financial disappointment of "Army of Darkness" was enough to bury the "Evil Dead" franchise for 20 years until the 2013 remake, and Ash remained dormant until 2015's "Ash vs Evil Dead" series on Starz. We don't know what moviegoers or critics were thinking back in 1993, but on behalf of geekdom, all we can say to Bruce Campbell is "We're sorry." 

Worst: Tornado!

Long before the Asylum film company cranked out low-budget, low-brow, direct-to-video mockbusters with an assembly line's level of efficiency, there was already a market for made-for-TV rip-offs of famous movies. Case and point, "Tornado!" — a direct-to-TV disaster flick meant to capitalize on the impending release of "Twister." We must say, we're impressed with the efficiency. "Tornado!" premiered on May 7, 1996, while "Twister" came out on May 10, 1996. 

However, while "Twister" made $495 million worldwide, selling more tickets than every other 1996 film save for "Independence Day," "Tornado!" made it on our list as one of Bruce Campbell's worst movies. That's almost as good as making more money than the first "Mission Impossible," right? In the straight-to-TV endeavor, Campbell plays a cowboy storm chaser who has to convince a government auditor, who happens to be a total bombshell, to continue funding a machine that may provide early detection for tornadoes. Turns out Campbell doesn't have to work very hard at convincing her, as a series of out-of-control, murderous tornadoes do the trick. So "Tornado!" is basically "Twister," just without flying cows, Bill Paxton, or any redeeming value. However, there is one thing "Tornado!" has that "Twister" doesn't ... Bruce Campbell. 

Best: Bubba Ho-Tep

The plot for "Bubba Ho-Tep" sounds like something a group of stoner film school students dreamed up during a late-night bong binge. Bruce Campbell plays an elderly Elvis Presley. After spending years in a coma, Elvis wakes up to find himself confined to an East Texas nursing home where he must join forces with a Black man claiming to be JFK (Ossie Davis) to stop an evil Egyptian mummy who is killing off members of their community. If you read that description and rolled your eyes, "Bubba Ho-Tep" is not for you. If you read it and have to wipe a big, fat smirk off your face as you shout "hell yeah!" then "Bubba Ho-Tep" is exactly what you're looking for. 

Based on a novella by Joe R. Lansdale, the movie delivers a king-sized dollop of B-movie corniness, as the premise might lead you to expect. But it also possesses a strangely poignant pathos, and Campbell's performance is especially a standout. He isn't just pretending to be Elvis Presley in a schlocky cinematic equivalent of an office Halloween party — Campbell gives a thoughtful meditation on staying relevant and aging gracefully that many senior citizens can relate to. He also battles a mummy.

For turning a ridiculous premise straight out of Mad Libs into a scary, funny, and thoughtful 92-minutes, "Bubba Ho-Tep" deserves its strong reviews and its place on our list as one of Campbell's best.

Worst: Icebreaker

Following his breakthrough as underdog Rudy Ruettiger in 1993's "Rudy" but before his standout performance as underdog Sam in "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy, Sean Astin played an action hero in 2000's "Icebreaker." No longer the cute kid we remember from "The Goonies," fully-grown tough man Astin plays a ski patrolman who must stop terrorists who threaten to blow up his ski resort with a nuclear device. Sounds incredible, right? What makes "Icebreaker" even more intense? The leader of the terrorists is played by ... Bruce Campbell. 

And we know he's evil before he threatens a soul because in this movie, Bruce Campbell is bald. Just like all the best psycho villains, Campbell sports a chrome dome in "Icebreaker" that would impress Lex Luthor. Basically, the movie is your classic "regular dude who is secretly a badass" setup we know and love from "Die Hard," "Under Siege," and "Cliffhanger," but with Astin as the ersatz John McClane and Campbell as the ersatz Hans Gruber. We know what you're thinking — "How could this possibly be one of the worst Bruce Campbell movies?" It makes no sense to us either, but Rotten Tomatoes has spoken. All we can say is Campbell's movies tend to defy critical consensus, and "Icebreaker" contains elements that might appeal to the kind of person who does things like read articles about Bruce Campbell movies, so we advise readers to consider "Icebreaker," if only for its significant novelty.

Best: Burn Notice: The Fall of Sam Axe

Hard as it may be for "Evil Dead" fans to swallow, there's a good chance more people recognize Bruce Campbell as Samuel "Sam" Axe than Ash Williams. "Burn Notice" ran for seven successful seasons on USA Network. During its heyday, it was one of the cable station's most popular shows not starring professional wrestlers. Campbell was a scene-stealing fan favorite as Sam Axe, the wise-cracking friend and mentor to "burned ex-spy" Michael Westen. Axe became so popular that the character got his own made-for-TV movie, "Burn Notice: The Fall of Sam Axe" in 2011. 

Directed by Jeffrey Donovan, Campbell's "Burn Notice" co-star, and set two years before the events of the series, "Burn Notice: The Fall of Sam Axe" finds Sam Axe sent to South America to advise a military platoon that includes an officer played by a young Pedro Pascal. Soon enough, Sam Axe discovers the real bad guys may be the side he's supporting. While the prequel was about the downfall of Sam Axe, the movie marks a considerable highpoint for Campbell's career, garnering excellent reviews from critics and fans. Whether you prefer Ash from "Evil Dead" or Sam Axe from "Burn Notice" all fans of Bruce Campbell can agree on one thing — Bruce Campbell.

Worst: The Color of Time

Bruce Campbell in a dramatic ensemble chronicling the life of a poet sounds like it could be awesome or awful. Based on its dreadful Rotten Tomatoes scores, "The Color of Time" appears to be the latter. "The Color of Time" calls itself "a poetic road trip" through C.K. Williams' Pulitzer Prize-winning life, told through adaptations of twelve of his poems with each segment directed by a different New York University film student. James Franco plays one version of Williams, alongside an all-star supporting cast including Zach Braff, Mila Kunis, Jessica Chastain, and Campbell. Franco also produced the film and was the creative visionary behind the project. 

If it all sounds a little ... "experimental," that might be the problem. Rex Reed of The Observer describes the situation here as "another in a growing line of pretentious James Franco disasters nobody will ever see." He was certainly right about that, as "The Color of Time" made $199 worldwide. No, we didn't forget a zero just now. Poets aren't known for making money, but that's ridiculous. 

Bruce Campbell plays Goody, who delivers a funny aside and not much else. It's still enough to get Campbell a credit, and thanks to the alphabetical ordering of the cast, "The Color of Time" is the first and probably only time Campbell will get top billing over Jessica Chastain and Mila Kunis.

Best: The Evil Dead

"The Evil Dead" is one of the most influential horror movies of all time and one of the best directorial debuts ever. Sam Raimi had only ever directed Super 8 short films before making the movie Stephen King called "The most ferociously original horror film of 1982." "The Evil Dead" cost Raimi, Campbell, and the crew about $375,000 to make and wound up making $29.4 million in total worldwide box office revenue. After that, it evolved into a franchise that launched two sequels, one remake, and a successful three-season TV show on Starz. There's "Evil Dead" toys, video games, and even an "Evil Dead" musical! However, the film's true legacy is the devotion of its legions of fans, who routinely storm conventions like an army of deadites. However, none of it would have been possible without the star at its center — Bruce Campbell as Ash Williams. 

Has there ever been a better actor-character pairing in cinema history? What Harrison Ford is to Han Solo and Indiana Jones, and Sylvester Stallone is to Rocky and Rambo, Bruce Campbell is to Ash Williams. However, the Ash of the first "Evil Dead" isn't yet the lovable yet loathsome quip-spewing doofus we know from "Evil Dead 2." In "The Evil Dead" Ash is just a dude who wants to hang out in a cabin in the woods with his friends. For his trouble, he gets attacked by zombie-ghost monsters. We've all been there, right? What could have been a forgettable performance launched one of horror cinema's great characters and one of Bruce Campbell's best movies.

Worst: Goldrush: A Real-Life Alaskan Adventure

Most people don't automatically associate the term "made-for-TV movie" with quality, especially when it comes from Disney. (No disrespect intended to any "Halloweentown" fans currently reading.) Even with that caveat, "Goldrush: A Real-Life Alaskan Adventure" is especially bad. It's never a good sign when your film has to add a subtitle to get people to watch it. Loosely based on historical events, the movie stars Alyssa Milano as a New York high society girl who ditches her boring job as a stenographer to venture out west, joining an all-male company under the lead of Bruce Campbell's smooth-talking PT Madison on an 18-month expedition into the Alaskan frontier in search of gold. 

We feel kind of bad picking on this movie. It wasn't intended to be "good," so much as something for mom and dad to plop the kids in front of on a Sunday afternoon. Alas, "Goldrush" is about as unexciting as a History Channel special inexplicably focusing on the least interesting things about Alaska. As Tony Scott put it in his Variety review, "The story as directed without much excitement by John Power moves through the assigned paces." He adds that "Campbell's okay as the undependable entrepreneur." Basically it's a paint-by-numbers bore. Some movies are meant to make you experience vicarious emotional highs and lows; some movies are meant to fill 96 minutes of time and occupy space at the bottom of lists like this one.

Best: 18 1/2

"18 1/2" is a strange project for Bruce Campbell. There are no zombies, gore, aliens, cannibals, mummies, fake blood, or smart-aleck remarks. But while "18 1/2" is one of the least obviously Campbell-ish entries on our list, it is also one of the best according to Rotten Tomatoes. In the 2021 film, Campbell voices President Richard Nixon in a darkly comic historical fantasy about a woman in the Nixon White House (Willa Fitzgerald) who tries to leak the famous 18 minutes and 30 seconds of audio erased from Nixon's Oval Office recording system (via The Wrap). 

While Campbell is technically never seen in the film, his voice is heard throughout as the movie posits what the president might have said during the infamous 18.5 minutes of lost audio. The movie had a decent run on the festival circuit, including scoring director Dan Mirvish top prizes at the Manchester International Film Festival and the Rome International Film Festival, as well as across-the-board glowing reviews. Based on the film's incredible response, "18 1/2" promises to shine a new light on this pivotal moment in American history, and perhaps do the same for Campbell's career.

Worst: McHale's Navy

Tom Arnold had a career as an above-the-title leading man in the 1990s and that's just something we're all going to have to wrap our heads around. We'll probably never understand exactly what was wrong with people in the '90s, but somehow denizens of the Clinton years thought it made sense to spend millions of dollars producing "The Stupids," "Carpool," and the worst movie on this list, "McHale's Navy." In this 1997 remake of the 1962 television series, Arnold plays a hard-partying former Navy officer who is called back into duty to lead a ragtag group of misfit sailors on a mission to bring down his evil Russian counterpart, Major Vladakov, played by Tim Curry. 

The fact that even Curry's vampy villainy can't save this shipwreck should tell you something. The movie also features Dean Stockwell and Ernest Borgnine (McHale from the original), potentially making this one of the greatest casts ever assembled for a horrible movie. Campbell emerges relatively unscathed as Virgil, a member of McHale's motley crew who is there to drop a few unfunny one-liners and nothing else. Box office bomb doesn't begin to describe this titanic turkey, as the Numbers tells us "McHale's Navy" only managed $4 million on a $42 million budget. While "McHale's Navy" put an end to Arnold's leading man status, Campbell's career prospects didn't seem to suffer much. Alas, due to being uninteresting, unfunny, and just plain unbearable, "McHale's Navy" is the worst movie of Bruce Campbell's career.

Best: Evil Dead 2

Despite the "2" in the title, "Evil Dead 2" is less of a sequel than a remake of "The Evil Dead." The 1987 follow-up tells pretty much the same story as "The Evil Dead," with a couple visiting a cabin in the woods only to unwittingly unleash a plague of zombie demons after reading from the Necronomicon, aka the Book of the Dead. "Evil Dead 2" expands on the original film's possibilities, only this time with a much bigger budget of $3.5 million compared to the first movie's $375,000, and a much more confident Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell.

While "The Evil Dead" is straight horror, "Evil Dead 2" is a much trickier horror-comedy hybrid. It's a tough tone to balance, but Raimi's deft direction and Campbell's gonzo performance as Ash come together to pull it off. As Andrea Thompson of Inverse put it, "...even with Raimi's prowess, it's hard to picture any of the 'Evil Dead' movies succeeding without star Bruce Campbell." Ash died in "The Evil Dead," so Ash in "Evil Dead 2" established the character as we know him — overconfident, underprepared, not very bright, but with the heart of a hero, showcasing all of Campbell's unique capacities for parody and physical comedy in one iconic performance. Based on its across-the-board glowing reviews from critics and fans alike, "Evil Dead 2" is the best Bruce Campbell movie of all time.