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Hollywood icon Bruce Willis's best movies (and where to watch them)

The celebrated actor is has retired from acting, and he leaves behind a stunning legacy.

Published onMarch 24, 2023

Bruce Willis crawls in a vent with a lighter in Die Hard - best bruce willis movies
20th Century Fox

Last year, Bruce Willis’s family revealed that the Hollywood actor was “stepping away” from his career due to a diagnosis of aphasia, a condition that affects the ability to communicate. The announcement came with an outpouring of support and spikes in viewership for Willis’s films on streamers like Netflix and HBO Max. Willis’s retirement comes after decades of iconic roles across virtually every genre. Few actors can boast filmographies as rewarding as Willis, and many of us grew up obsessed with his films. But what are the best Bruce Willis movies?

Below, we’ve compiled a list of 12 movies that illustrate his range, talent, and just sheer star power. Since bursting onto the scene in the ABC series Moonlighting in the 80s, Willis has headlined major studio outings, from Die Hard to Pulp Fiction to Armageddon and more. Willis may well be the most high-profile actor to never even be nominated for an Oscar — a poor reflection on the Academy more than Willis himself.

So, read on for the best Bruce Willis movies, including which streaming services you’ll find them on.

Bruce Willis’s best movies

Looper (2012)

Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt in a diner in Looper
Sony Pictures

What you need to know:

  • Rating: R
  • Runtime: 119 minutes
  • Director: Rian Johnson
  • Main cast: Bruce Willis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Emily Blunt, Paul Dano
  • Genre: Sci-fi/action
  • Ratings: 7.4 – IMDB / 93% – Rotten Tomatoes

Rian Johnson’s Looper is among the best science-fiction films of the 21st century, and it’s one of the best Bruce Willis movies from the actor’s later career. In the near future, a mob enforcer is part of a team with a peculiar job. He carries out hits on people from the future, sent back in time to help cover up evidence. He hits a snag with his latest mark: his future self. With Willis playing the older version of the character, Looper is a heady actioner that tackles the concept of fate and free will without getting too bogged down in its own mythology, and Willis shines as a cynical old killer with no time to lose.

Ready to watch? You can rent or buy the movie right here on VOD.

Armageddon (1998)

Armageddon - Bruce Willis best movies
Buena Vista Pictures

What you need to know:

  • Rating: PG-13
  • Runtime: 153 minutes
  • Director: Michael Bay
  • Main cast: Bruce Willis, Liv Tyler, Ben Affleck, Billy Bob Thornton, Michael Clarke Duncan, Steve Buscemi
  • Genre: Sci-fi/romance
  • Ratings: 6.7 – IMDB / 38% – Rotten Tomatoes

Michael Bay’s Armageddon is certainly one of the sillier blockbusters of the 1990s. When an asteroid is hurtling towards Earth, NASA has to rely on a team of blue-collar deep-core drillers to head into space and take care of it. Willis shines in a role that taps into his rough-and-tumble action star appeal. He’s a drilling company owner who knows that the best way to ensure a job is done right is to do it himself. While the role could have easily been reduced to caricature, Willis brought depth and heart to it, helping to elevate the film beyond some of its more absurd plot points.

Ready to watch? You can find the movie right here on HBO Max.

Max, formerly HBO Max, is your home for HBO titles, Warner Bros-made movies and TV shows, the DC Comics superheroes, and more. It's also the home for new and original movies and shows available nowhere else.

The Sixth Sense (1999)

Bruce Willis and Haley Joel Osment in The Sixth Sense
Buena Vista Pictures

What you need to know:

  • Rating: PG-13
  • Runtime: 107 minutes
  • Director: M. Night Shyamalan
  • Main cast: Bruce Willis, Toni Collette, Olivia Williams, Haley Joel Osment
  • Genre: Horror/thriller
  • Ratings: 8.2 – IMDB / 86% – Rotten Tomatoes

With one of the most famous twist endings in film history, The Sixth Sense became a sleeper hit in 1999 and established M. Night Shyamalan as a director to watch. It’s one of Bruce Willis’s best movies and features one of his finest performances as a child psychologist taking on a new patient. Nine-year-old Cole Sear can see dead people. As Willis’s Doctor Malcolm Crowe tries to help Cole process his disturbing fantasies, he comes to realize that the barrier between the living and the dead may be much more permeable than he ever believed.

Where to watch:

paramount plus from Impact
Paramount Plus
Paramount Plus includes thousands of movies and TV shows from CBS, Showtime, and Paramount Pictures. It also includes new and original movies like The Good Fight, Infinite, and more.

Unbreakable (2000)

Unbreakable M Night Shyamalan films
Buena Vista

What you need to know:

  • Rating: PG-13
  • Runtime: 103 minutes
  • Director: M. Night Shyamalan
  • Main cast: Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Robin Wright, Spencer Treat Clark
  • Genre: Sci-fi/thriller
  • Ratings: 7.3 – IMDB / 70% – Rotten Tomatoes

Just one year after blowing audiences away with The Sixth Sense, Willis reteamed with Shyamalan for an equally impressive thriller. In Unbreakable, Willis plays a meek security guard who comes to realize he’s nearly invulnerable. Drawing on comic book lore and leaning on Willis’s ability to subtly play on his action star bravado when needed, Unbreakable is a powerful fable about good and evil. Almost two decades later, Shyamalan returned to the film with two sequels, Split and Glass. Willis appears in both.

Ready to watch? You can rent or buy the movie right here on VOD.

Die Hard (1988)

Die Hard best movies on Peacock
20th Century Fox

What you need to know:

  • Rating: R
  • Runtime: 132 minutes
  • Director: John McTiernan
  • Main cast: Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman, Bonnie Bedelia, Reginald VelJohnson
  • Genre: Action
  • Ratings: 8.2 – IMDB / 94% – Rotten Tomatoes

One of Bruce Willis’s best movies, one of the best 80s movies, and the one he’s best known for, Die Hard is every bit as good as its reputation suggests. And Willis’s performance is a big part of that. Displaying far more vulnerability than the action stars of the day, Willis’s John McClane sweats, bleeds, and cries as he tries to save his estranged wife when her workplace is invaded by terrorists on Christmas Eve. The only person who can intervene, McClane has to think fast in this stripped-down action classic. Willis offers a very human portrayal of heroism, and it’s one that influenced the genre for decades after.

Ready to watch? You can find the movie right here on Starz.

starz logo
Starz offers thousands of movies and TV shows to stream, including acclaimed exclusive original TV series.

Death Becomes Her (1992)

Bruce Willis and Goldie Hawn handle poison in Death Becomes Her - best bruce willis movies
Universal Pictures

What you need to know:

  • Rating: PG-13
  • Runtime: 104 minutes
  • Director: Robert Zemeckis
  • Main cast: Meryl Streep, Goldie Hawn, Bruce Willis, Isabella Rossellini
  • Genre: Comedy/fantasy
  • Ratings: 6.6 – IMDB / 55% – Rotten Tomatoes

Some of Bruce Willis’s best roles are comedic ones. In the black comedy Death Becomes Her, he plays hapless plastic surgeon Ernest Menville, who leaves his aspiring writer fiancée Helen for her longtime rival, Broadway star Madeline Ashton. After a bout of depression, Helen comes back into their lives, looking as young and beautiful as ever and driving Madeline to seek a new rejuvenating treatment, which eventually leads her to a magic potion of immortality. Things escalate quickly, as Helen has a secret of her own, and the two women find themselves in deadly combat over Ernest, who is in way over his head.

Ready to watch? You can find the movie right here on Peacock.

Peacock logo large
NBCUniversal's Peacock streaming service offers a lot of great movies and TV shows to stream on demand, along with live news and sports. Best of all, you can watch lots of its content for free, or watch all of it with a paid subscription starting at just $5.99 a month.

Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Edward Norton, and Bruce Willis outside a police station in Moonrise Kingdom - bruce willis best movies
Focus Features

What you need to know:

  • Rating: PG-13
  • Runtime: 93 minutes
  • Director: Wes Anderson
  • Main cast: Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, Jason Schwartzman, Bob Balaban
  • Genre: Comedy/romance
  • Ratings: 7.8 – IMDB / 93% – Rotten Tomatoes

Bruce Willis turns in one of the best performances of his career in Moonrise Kingdom. Wes Anderson’s whimsical coming-of-age comedy tells the story of a 12-year-old orphan who escapes from a scouting camp to be with the girl he’s fallen in love with on a small island in New England. Willis plays the island’s police chief who mounts a search for the boy. He brings the role a degree of tenderness that is quite touching, as we watch him express genuine affection for the missing child, breaking somewhat from the film’s comical sense of stylized detachment.

Ready to watch? You can rent or buy the movie right here on VOD.

The Fifth Element (1997)

Bruce Willis carries Milla Jovovich in The Fifth Element - best bruce willis movies
Gaumont Buena Vista International

What you need to know:

  • Rating: PG-13
  • Runtime: 113 minutes
  • Director: Luc Besson
  • Main cast: Bruce Willis, Gary Oldman, Ian Holm, Milla Jovovich, Chris Tucker
  • Genre: Sci-fi/romance/action
  • Ratings: 7.6 – IMDB / 71% – Rotten Tomatoes

The Fifth Element is one of Bruce Willis’s best films and one of the best science-fiction films of all time. Playing on his action-star cred, Willis plays Korben Dallas, a caricature of yesteryear’s heroes living in a future where he just doesn’t fit. Dallas is a former special forces major who drives a flying taxicab in 23rd-century New York. When a mysterious young woman, Leeloo, lands in his cab, he suddenly has a mission worthy of a hero. Leeloo is the embodiment of a fifth element, and she needs to be reunited with the other four to save the world from an invading race of aliens.

Ready to watch? You can rent or buy the movie right here on VOD.

Pulp Fiction (1994)

Bruce Willis in boxing gear in Pulp Fiction

What you need to know:

  • Rating: R
  • Runtime: 154 minutes
  • Director: Quentin Tarantino
  • Main cast: John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Uma Thurman, Ving Rhames, Bruce Willis
  • Genre: Crime/drama
  • Ratings: 8.9 – IMDB / 92% – Rotten Tomatoes

Bruce Willis was among the biggest names in the ensemble cast of Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction. The film would go on to dramatically change American indie cinema and launch (or revive) a few careers, but Willis’s role as aging boxer Butch Coolidge remains one of the most moving in the film. Butch is on the run from mobster Marcellus. He’s playing with fire and hoping to escape with his girlfriend as he ages out of his profession and looks ahead to a depressing future. It’s a tragic role, and Willis proved he was a far more interesting actor than he’d gotten credit for with it.

Where to watch:

Prime video logo
Amazon Prime Video
Amazon Prime Video offers access to thousands of movies and TV shows to stream. That includes great original shows and movies like The Boys and The Tomorrow War. You can also sign up for other premium services within Amazon Prime Video.

12 Monkeys (1995)

12 Monkeys
Universal Pictures

What you need to know:

  • Rating: R
  • Runtime: 130 minutes
  • Director: Terry Gilliam
  • Main cast: Bruce Willis, Madeleine Stowe, Brad Pitt, Christopher Plummer
  • Genre: Sci-fi/mystery
  • Ratings: 8 – IMDB / 88% – Rotten Tomatoes

Terry Gilliam’s dark, smart reimagining of the French experimental film La Jetée is truly one of Bruce Willis’s best movies and even inspired a series on Syfy. Willis plays a man living underground in a dystopian future until he’s given the chance to go back in time to help prevent the terrorist attack that led to humanity’s downfall. Once in the present day, he comes to realize that cause and effect aren’t so easy to determine, and he may have closer ties to the end of the world than he realized.

Ready to watch? You can find the movie right here on Peacock.

Hudson Hawk (1991)

Bruce Willis drinks coffee in Hudson Hawk
Tri-Star Pictures

What you need to know:

  • Rating: R
  • Runtime: 100 minutes
  • Director: Michael Lehmann
  • Main cast: Bruce Willis, Danny Aiello, Andie MacDowell, Richard E. Grant, Sandra Bernhard
  • Genre: Comedy/action/heist
  • Ratings: 5.7 – IMDB / 31% – Rotten Tomatoes

Probably Willis’s least celebrated film, Hudson Hawk is nevertheless a fun, campy, and underappreciated romp. Hudson Hawk is a master cat burglar who’s just been released from prison. Looking for a quiet life — and a celebratory cappuccino — Hawk gets roped into a series of ambitious art heists. With surreal comedy, impromptu musical numbers, and cartoonish effects, Hudson Hawk is a bizarre outing, showcasing Willis’s lighter, fun side.

Ready to watch? You can rent or buy the movie right here on VOD.

Sin City (2005)

Bruce Willis and Jessica Alba in Sin City - bruce willis best movies

What you need to know:

  • Rating: R
  • Runtime: 147 minutes
  • Director: Frank Miller, Robert Rodriguez
  • Main cast: Jessica Alba, Benicio del Toro, Brittany Murphy, Clive Owen, Mickey Rourke, Bruce Willis, Elijah Wood
  • Genre: Noir/crime
  • Ratings: 8 – IMDB / 77% – Rotten Tomatoes

Bruce Willis heads up one of four neo-noir stories in this stylish crime thriller from director Robert Rodriguez, based on the comic by Frank Miller. In his segments, Willis plays grizzled cop John Hartigan. Hartigan is on the trail of a child killer. He hopes to close the notorious case before his heart finally gives out. Willis brings the role a kind of old Hollywood charisma that fits the film’s themes and aesthetic perfectly.

Ready to watch? You can find the movie right here on HBO Max.

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