Everybody knows and loves Bruce Willis. He made a name out of himself by essaying a variety of roles from different genres, whether it is dramatic, comedic, or action. From wisecracking detective to a quiet, brooding action star, Willis has delivered some truly mesmerizing performances over his long career.
One of the few actors to be nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for the same role in a movie and television series (Moonlighting), Bruce Willis has come far since his humble beginnings in the 1980s. Some of his most enchanting performances have become iconic, praising him worldwide and cementing him as a Hollywood A-lister.
Without further ado, let us take a look at the top 10 of Bruce Willis’ most iconic performances to date.
1. John McClane in Die Hard (1988)
The role we can never forget – John McClane, a New York Cop, in 1988’s action masterpiece ‘Die Hard’. The film also became Willis’ giant-leap into stardom as he played a role of a smart, one man army against a elite team of robbers who take over a skyscraper in Los Angeles.
The character McClane is known for its quips, patriotism and love for his wife, and the actor managed to display all those attributes with great grandeur. It was no doubt the best performance of his career, thereby making it his most iconic one till date.
2. Butch Coolidge in Pulp Fiction (1994)
Another role we must talk about is Butch Coolidge, a boxer and a minor criminal in 1994 cult classic Pulp Fiction. Alongside heaps of big Hollywood names such as John Travolta and Samuel Jackson, Bruce gives an outstanding performance where he brings life to the awkward yet strangely likable character.
Despite having limited space, his depiction of a man looking out for a way in a world of crime, proved that he can deliver a compelling performance even with a limited script. That’s why, the character of Coolidge is remembered even today.
3. Hannibal in The Fifth Element (1997)
In 1997’s Sci-Fi extravaganza The Fifth Element, Bruce Willis delivered one of the most charismatic and over-the-top performances of his career. Playing a professional defensive specialist/ex-army major who goes by the name of Korben Dallas / Hannibal, Bruce literally carried the entire movie on his shoulders.
Korben is a wonderfully written character, who despite his rough demeanor, is actually quite sophisticated and principled. His love story with Leeloo, the mysterious alien woman, gave us the most memorable moments in the movie and Bruce Willis splendidly encapsulated the emotions, providing us with an excellent performance.
4. Lt. John Pryzbylewski in HBO’s ‘The Wire’ (2004-2008)
For HBO’s critically acclaimed drama The wire, Bruce Willis once again proved that he can deliver amazing performances even with a TV series. He played the role of Lt. John Pryzbylewski, a former detective and later, a cop trainer in the Baltimore Police Department.
The show became a huge success and Bruce Willis’s naturally goofy yet secretively powerful persona has won him several awards and nominations. His character’s career arc, from that of a violent drunk cop to a competent and responsible cop trainer, was praised and praised by both critics and fans alike.
5. Kenny in Forrest Gump (1994)
That’s right, even though one of the lead characters was Tom Hanks, Bruce Willis made a couple of unforgettable cameos in the classic movie Forrest Gump. He played the role of Lieutenant Dan’s friend Kenny who eventually dies of AIDs.
Just like the movie itself, Willis’ performance was greatly appreciated by both critics and the audiences. He happened to have real-life chemistry with Tom Hanks, which made the scenes even more powerful and enjoyable. His charming yet dangerous personality was perfectly encapsulated and it is no doubt one of Bruce Willis’ best performances ever.
6. Dr. Malcolm Crowe in The Sixth Sense (1999)
With his performance in M. Night Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense, Willis took the mantle of being a dramatic actor. Playing the role of a lead psychiatrist, Dr. Malcolm Crowe, Willis was able to bring the depth that was required for a role involving emotional turmoil and family dynamics.
His interactions with Haley Joel Osment and Toni Collette gave audiences one of the most memorable scenes of the movie. Overall, Willis brought the right amount of calmness and intensity which formed an unforgettable acting achievement which won him an Academy Award nomination.
7. Sever in Hostage (2005)
In 2005’s thriller Hostage, Bruce Willis portrayed the role of an ex-negotiator, now a hostage negotiator, Jeff Talley. Talley finds himself getting embroiled in a twisted web involving deadly criminals and innocent hostages after he decides to hide himself in a small town undercover.
Willis was able to deliver a performance which captures the nuances of his character and establishes him as a powerful yet vulnerable protagonist. But overall, he gave a performance which was both thrilling and heartbreaking, making it one of his best performances to date.
8. Harry Stamper in Armageddon (1998)
1998s action-packed thrilling ride Armageddon proved to be successful due to Willis’ performance as Harry Stamper, an oil driller who is chosen to make a decision that will save the world. Harry is an extraordinary leader who has no qualms in sacrificing his life in order to save the world, and Willis provided the right amount of heroic heroism, charm, and wit to make his character memorable.
Apart from grand visual sequences, what truly made this movie enjoyable was Bruce Willis’ gripping performance as the reluctant hero always finding himself in difficult situations but never giving up.
9. Sheriff Edger John Todd in Mercury Rising (1998)
98’s Mercury Rising was a thrilling movie helmed by Willis involving a concept of a high-level government secrets. Bruce powered this movie as a special agent and retired ex-FBI agent Art Jeffries, who is tasked to find and protect a genius autistic code-breaker.
The role required Willis to be at his best, and he excelled to craft a character which was both powerful and vulnerable. He showed that he can capture the transformation of a character who is initially quite brutal and violent, to a caring and tender guardian of an autistic child.
10. Joe in The Bonfire of Vanities (1990)
Last but certainly not least, Bruce Willis’ performance in The Bonfire of Vanities. Directed by veteran director Brian de Palma, Bruce gave one of his earliest memorable and iconic performances. He played the role of Joe, a lawyer and political advisor to the New York mayor, and his character had to negotiate through the city’s elite circles.
The character of Joe needed a versatile actor to perfectly portray, and Willis delivered. He excellently blended both comedy and drama to deliver a performance which was praised by the critics. His perfect translations of the character’s street-smartiness, and at the same time, loyalty towards his boss, was remarkable and what stands out till today.
Undeniably, Bruce Willis has given us some of the most iconic performances to date. From a simple one man army detective to an alien savior, he has played a variety of roles from different genres which have left us in awe. There isn’t any doubt to why he is still around in the show business and why he has achieved such legendary status.
He has given us some unforgettable performances, whether it is in the big screens or on the small one. He has the natural ability to capture a character’s complexity and emotions, serving us with some of the most remarkable theatre performances in Hollywood history.