The 5 Best Roles of Bruce Willis


A Good Day to Die Hard is being released on Valentine’s Day. It is Bruce Willis’ 5th go at playing John McClane. This is as good a time as any to look at Bruce Willis’ 5 best roles. Funny enough, 2 of them were jut this last year.

Bruce Willis Looper

Looper (2012)

Role: Old Joe

In Looper, up and coming director Rian Johnson, spins a tech-noir about a mob from the future sending targets back in time to be taken out. To close the loop (get it!) on these hitmen, they send back their future selves and send the hitmen into retirement. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is playing one of the hitmen when he finds himself face to face with his older self, played by Bruno himself. Bruce gets the best of them, and the two of them play cat and mouse the rest of the movie. This was one of Bruce’s best roles in years. Johnson smartly played to his strengths. Old Joe is sarcastic but slow and soft spoken. He doesn’t demand you attention, he draws it in. He earns it. That deadpan way of being a badass is something of a trademark for Bruce Willis.

Key Scene: Old Joe sits down at a diner with Young Joe to try to talk out their differences

Bruce Willis Moonrise Kingdom

Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

Role: Captain Sharp

When a young girl and a scout runaway together after falling in puppy love, a big search party is brought together led by the captain of the police department, played by Bruce Willis. I think director Wes Anderson’s sense of humor and Bruce Willis’ usual deadpan delivery make for a good marriage. Anderson’s writing and direction makes Willis’ deadpan stand out from the crowd. Part of his character seems like an outlandish version of John McClane grown old and looking for a quiet life in New England, and not even he can believe the ridiculousness of the situation constantly reigning in the strange Anderson characters from acting so zany.

Key scene: Captain Sharp talks to Sam over a beer about their shared love-loss.

Bruce Willis Unbreakable

Unbreakable (2000)

Role: David Dunn

David Dunn is a security guard in a failing marriage and a young boy who looks up to him. Unbeknownst to even him, he has superpowers. He is incapable of being hurt (unless water is involved), and he can “shine” sort of, being able to see people’s past sins. This superhero deconstruction is one of the few good films from M. Night Shyamalan, and it takes Bruce out of his comfort zone. Nowadays, there are a lot of quiet performances. Think Michael Shannon in Take Shelter. Think Michael Fassbender in Shame. This might seem like I am exaggerating, but Willis is in almost the same league as them here. He walks around with so much sadness and emotional vulnerability, and he displays through gestures and glances. His personality vulnerability is such a great contrast to his physical invulnerability.

Key scene: Dunn slides a newspaper with an article of his adventure over to his son and the two share a quiet moment.

Bruce Willis Twelve Monkeys

Twelve Monkeys (1995)

Role: James Cole

James Cole lives in a world where a plague made the Earth uninhabitable for humans. In response, they went underground. Occasionally, the lower class humans get special treatment when they go on special missions for the scientists. Cole is forced into volunteering for a time travel experiment to try and stop the plague, but he finds himself in the wrong time. This movie is directed by Terry Gilliam. Gilliam’s stories usually revolve around a very emotional protagonist being outclassed by a memorably manic supporting character. So those of you who have seen Twelve Monkeys probably remember Brad Pitt very fondly, but watch it again and focus on Willis. He knocks it out of the park.

Key scene: Mistaking insanity for a moment of clarity, Cole dances around in a lake thinking he finally knows what’s real.

Bruce Willis Die Hard

Die Hard (1988)

Role: John McClane

How could I not include this one? It is the movie the shot him to fame; one of the greatest movie stars Hollywood has ever had. John McClane is funny. Personable. Sarcastic. Resourceful. Capable. A black belt in barfighting. As the tagline reads: “He’s an easy man to get along with, but hard man to kill.” Bruce Willis just about single-handedly put the one-man-army movie of the 1980s (a la Commando/Rambo) to rest with his “everyman against the world” routine. Before Willis was even attached, the likes of Arnold the Governator and Sylvester Stallone. With the casting of Willis, he brought his Jersey Boy a-hole street charm to a character that was just going to be another one of those one-man-army.

Key scene: John McClane has to take a piece of glass out of his foot. Meanwhile, beat cop, Al, keeps him company over the radio