Bruce Willis made his first credited debut in an episode of Miami Vice (which you can probably find online if you look hard enough), but his breakthrough came with the hit detective TV show Moonlighting, starring alongside Cybill Shepherd. There was also a little film that came out around that time in theaters, called Die Hard, maybe you guys heard of it.
Currently you can see him in The Expendables 2 and The Cold Light of Die (although you will probably want to skip this one) and two weeks from now you can catch Looper. So there is no better time to look at his top 10 most successful films at the box office, in North America, adjusted for inflation (unadjusted number in parenthesis)
10. Unbreakable (2000) $140.8 million ($95M) – M. Night Shyamalan’s sci-fi thriller gives us a very different take on a superhero origin tale. Bruce Willis plays here a man that was never sick a single day in his life, except that one time he almost drowned. But after a terrible accident he discovers something extraordinary about himself and if the title didn’t already spoil what that is, I certainly won’t. Suffice to say Unbreakable is a great film, one of the best directed by M. Night (which doesn’t mean much today unfortunately).
9. Live Free or Die Hard (2007) $156.8 million ($134.5M) – The 4th film in the Die Hard series, this was also the first not to be rated R, instead Fox went for a PG-13 rating, upsetting many of the fans in the process. But aside from that, Live Free or Die Hard is actually a really good action flick that you should not miss.
8. Die Hard (1988) $161.9 million ($83M) – This right here is where Bruce Willis became an action star. He would not star alongside the likes of Sylvester Stallone and many others in The Expendables 2 if not for the original Die Hard. I lost count how many times I’ve seen this genre masterpiece over the years, starting at a very young age, way before I was allowed to watch anything this violent. But hey, I saw Predator when I was 5 and I grew up fine.
7. Die Hard: With a Vengeance (1995) $184.3 million ($100M) – As you probably noticed by now, this top 10 features quite a lot of Die Hard films, Die Hard: With a Vengeance being the 3rd in the series. This time around they changed the style quite a lot, instead of a single location featured (skyscraper, airport) we have several, moving very fast between them in a constant race against the clock. It becomes more Lethal Weapon (an unlikely partner is introduced) and less Die Hard but still very entertaining.
6. Over the Hedge (2006) $189.8 million ($155M) – Bruce Willis has quite the history of voice-overs and with his unique vocals it’s easy to spot him in those films. Over the Hedge is a fun animated flick from DreamWorks Animation, great for all ages.
5. Pulp Fiction (1994) $203.6 million ($107.9M) – The current #4 film on IMDB’s top 250 and winner of the Palme d’Or award at the Cannes film festival in 1994, Pulp Fiction is simply put a masterpiece. Don’t ask me why, just watch the thing if you haven’t already, make up your mind and then come back. But chances are you’ll like it just as much as everybody else.
4. Die Hard 2: Die Harder (1990) $222.8 million ($117.5M) – Lt. John McClane is one badass dude and once again, extremely hard to kill. Sure, the film follows the exact same formula as the original down to a beat (like most sequels did back then) yet it became one of very few that managed to out-gross their predecessors. See, back then sequels were not as well regarded (for the most part) as they are today and most of the time people stayed as far away as they could from those films. Die Hard 2 didn’t make more money because it was better, no, it did because Die Hard, as a series, became more popular in those two years. Fans of the first couldn’t wait to see John McClane.
3. Look Who’s Talking (1989) $279.4 million ($140M) – Between two Die Hard films Bruce Willis managed to squeezed in a comedy where he voices a newborn baby boy. Now this description probably sounds very weird if you haven’t seen Look Who’s Talking so let me explain. Bruce Willis voices the boy’s inner thoughts, placing the viewers in the mind of a new-born with everything associated with that. It makes for an entertaining comedy that aged pretty well. There’s also a sequel out there, nothing to write home about unfortunately.
2. Armageddon (1998) $344.7 million ($201.5M) – This is one of those films that you know is bad yet you like it so much, a true guilty pleasure. Yes haters out there, it might be disjointed, loud and obnoxious, too long for its own good and many other things but you know what, I used to love Armageddon and I probably still do. Now if you’ll excuse me I’m gonna watch this video again.
1. The Sixth Sense (1999) $461.7 million ($293.5M) – “Cherish this moment cause it’s about as high as you will ever get.” If I had a time machine this is what I’d say to the 1999 version of this now infamous director. Boy how the mighty have fallen. Once on top of the world, M. Night Shyamalan is now only a shadow of his former self. The Sixth Sense is one of those classics you must watch at least once if you consider yourself a film buff. With everybody spoiling the ending left and right, it might not have the same impact if you see it now for the first time unfortunately.
This is the part where I mention films that maybe didn’t make this top 10 but definitely deserved too. An easy pick here is Sin City, the fantastic Frank Miller graphic novel turned film under Robert Rodriguez’s directing hand. Then there’s Bandits, another exceptional flick. The Fifth Element is a great sci-fi adventure and unfortunately, while there are more films out there that should be here, sometimes you have to know when to stop.
In 2013 Bruce Willis has Another Day to Die Hard, the the 5th Die Hard film opening February 14th, G.I. Joe: Retaliation on March 29th and Red 2 starting August 2nd, all sequels.
So your favorite Bruce Willis film is?