Bruce Willis’ long and eventful career is drawing to a close, his family announced this week after the actor was diagnosed with aphasia.
The news was hard to stomach for fans, who have seen Willis storm across our screens screaming, often wearing a vest, for decades.
While the actor will always be known to most of us as the indestructible supercop John McClane, his filmography is also littered with underrated gems that show why he made such a likable action hero.
Here are eight of Willis’s most underrated roles of all time, in no particular order.
Kingdom of the Moonrise (2012)
We’re all very used to Willis playing tough cops, but in Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom, he plays very nicely. As Captain Sharp, a local sheriff on an island off the New England coast, Willis is lovesick and touchy.
“Mr. Willis always tried to make the little khaki scouts he worked with relaxed,” his co-star Bob Balaban said in a promotional video for the film. As with most of Anderson’s work, Moonrise Kingdom charm abounds, but it’s particularly worth seeing Willis showing his softer side.
Ignore the somewhat significant snag that Joseph Gordon-Levitt bears no resemblance to Willis – his supposed older self – and this is an excellent, if very confusing, film. Gordon-Levitt plays a “looper,” someone who kills people sent back from the future (where time travel is possible but illegal). One day the man he’s supposed to kill is a middle-aged version of himself (Willis).
Death Becomes Her (1992)
Willis plays Dr. Ernest Menville, object of the attention of Meryl Streep and Goldie Hawn. In their fight for the doctor, the women drink a magic potion that gives them eternal youth, but they soon learn that immortality comes at a price. The film was met with critical ridicule but won an Oscar for its innovative visual effects, which were way ahead of their time. It has since grown into a cult following, particularly in the LGBTQ community.
12 Monkeys (1995)
Willis is wonderfully confused in this Terry Gilliam classic. It doesn’t get quite the same fees as Willis’ other ’90s supernatural thriller The sixth Sense, but it should not be forgotten. It’s also worth checking out Brad Pitt’s wacky, rambling monologues.
It’s all about the cast in this crime comedy starring Willis, Billy Bob Thornton and Cate Blanchett. Directed by Barry Levinson (Good morning Vietnam, rainman) the film follows two bank robbers who fall in love with the girl they kidnapped. It also features Willis in some gruesome hairstyles, including a ponytail.
Access unlimited streaming of movies and TV shows with Amazon Prime Video Sign up now for a free 30-day trial
Over the Hedge (2006)
This is a criminally underrated DreamWorks animation starring Willis. The film follows a raccoon named RJ (Willis) who manipulates other forest animals to help him replace the food he stole from a hibernating bear. It’s great fun for the whole family.
16 Blocks (2006)
Willis is in his element here as an aging alcoholic cop with a mustache to match. He needs to transport a witness (Mos Def) from local custody to a courthouse 16 blocks away. Easy right? Of course, it turns out to be anything but. This film was also Richard Donners (Deadly Weapon) most recently as a director before his death in 2021.
In the Country (1989)
“The character Emmett is the opposite of every other character Willis has ever played,” wrote American film critic Roger Ebert in his review at the time. Willis plays Emmett, a Vietnam War veteran with PTSD. The film itself is a solid watch, but Willis shines as a meandering, injured survivor.
https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/features/bruce-willis-best-movies-b2048228.html The 8 most underrated Bruce Willis performances of all time