Every Bruce Willis Action Movie Ranked From Worst To Best

Every Bruce Willis Action Movie Ranked From Worst To Best


Bruce Willis‘ name has become synonymous with high-octane films over the last four decades, but which of his action movies rank worst and best? The American-born Willis has been nothing short of prolific across a wildly successful 38-year career, boasting over 70 feature films to his name. Yet, despite being best known for his thrilling action turns, Willis has also dabbled in music and theatre, while also being the co-founder of the themed restaurant chain Planet Hollywood alongside fellow action stalwarts Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone.

Willis’ first big break first arrived in 1985, when he reportedly beat over 3,000 other auditioning actors to land the role of David Addison Jr in critically acclaimed ABC comedy-drama Moonlighting. However, it was his then-unexpected turn (following a series of comedic roles) in Die Hard that catapulted him to star status, with the pulsating blockbuster grossing over $138 million upon release. Willis’ turn as the gruff ever-ready Sergeant John McClane immediately ingratiated him to action audiences worldwide, with Willis still being the first choice for many action feature films to this day.


Related: The Two Major Roles Bruce Willis Regretted Passing On

Since his breakout performance in Die Hard, Bruce Willis has starred in 50 credited action movies to date. From Rian Johnson’s sci-fi-action mind-bender Looper to more run-of-the-mill fare, such as The Expendables, Willis has cemented his position as one of the legendary action genre names of his generation. Here’s every Bruce Willis action movie ranked from worst to best.

#50 – Cosmic Sin

Bruce Willis in Cosmic Sin

Cosmic Sin is irrefutable proof that newer does not equal better, with Bruce Willis giving a dead-eyed performance in Edward Drake’s ill-conceived sci-fi and action mishmash. Themes of alien genocide and time travel alongside a horribly paced narrative ensured Cosmic Sin was quite rightly eviscerated by critics upon release, with the film having no redeemable qualities to speak of. Edward Drake’s Cosmic Sin is, quite simply, a sinful piece of cinema that does not deserve the theatrical release window it unbelievably was granted in early 2021.

#49 – Breach

Breach‘s plan for success seems to be simply sticking Bruce Willis at the forefront of the film’s runtime hoping that his enduring talent will mask any narrative frailties. This, unfortunately, does not work for Breach, with many of Willis’ scenes feeling so shoehorned into existence that the sci-fi action horror blend quickly turns into a garbled mess. Breach was already aiming for a specific subgenre of interstellar horror before a scene was even shot here, and its anemic space-virus storyline will satisfy only the most forgiving of audiences to date.

#48 – Apex

At its core, Apex should work as a film, particularly with Willis and co-star Neil McDonough (Red Stone) in fine fettle throughout. However, the issue with Apex is that it tries to port the timeless concept of The Most Dangerous Game into a sci-fi action setting, with the results nothing short of disastrous. Apex is an unadulterated mess of a film that will be remembered more for its ham-fisted, paint-by-numbers dialogue than anything else in years to come as its characters continue to shout, “I’m the apex predator!” until they are blue in the face.

Related: Every Movie Where Demi Moore Kills Bruce Willis

#47 – Air Strike

Bruce Willis has proven his military drama chops time and again with striking performances in films such as Tears of the Sun, which makes the lack of punch in the straight-to-video Air Strike all the more confusing. Air Strike should be compelling viewing with Mel Gibson (Mad Max) serving as art director on the film that tells the story of the Japanese bombings on the Chinese city Chongqing during World War II. Yet, while the premise is undoubtedly tense, Air Strike falls flat amongst its own sense of grandeur. Air Strike trades excitement for endless historical exposition, with the film’s joyless build towards a six-year-long air battle over Chongqing feeling more thrilling compared to the protracted battle itself.

#46 – Hard Kill


The bodies pile up predictably fast and high in Hard Kill, in which Bruce Willis’ Donovan hires a mercenary team to rescue his kidnapped daughter. Whereas some B-movie offerings on this ranking suffer from trying to shoehorn Willis into their narratives, Hard Kill becomes frustrating due to Willis’ lack of overall involvement. He is replaced in spirit mostly by Jesse Metcalfe’s Derek Miller, whose lack of on-screen charisma does little to sell the size of the stakes supposedly facing Donovan’s daughter.

#45 – Survive The Night

Bruce Willis Survive The Night

2020 was not a vintage year for Bruce Willis, with his other turns in Hard Kill and Breach being emblematic of the malaise that quickly envelops Survive the Night. Chad Michael Murray stars as a disgraced physician who takes up arms against a grieving father (Willis), but despite several gritty hunter-vs.-prey action scenes, Survive the Night has very little actual story to fall back on, which softens the impact of the violence at hand. This rushed feel to the film’s final version is perhaps to be expected, however, when Survive the Night‘s principal photography reportedly took just ten days to complete.

#44 – Extraction

Extraction Trailer: Chris Hemsworth Stars in Netflix Action-Thriller

Extraction‘s premise is as uninventive as it is worn, complete with CIA defectors, Russian arms dealers, and a bright-eyed field agent in Harry (Kellan Lutz) all thrown together in a blur of espionage and aggression. The problem with Extraction is that all of these action tropes have been played out thousands of times before, with not one scene memorable enough to live long in the memory. While Bruce Willis performs admirably with the limited script and Dan Bilzerian bizarrely pops up as a member of Harry’s security detail, Extraction is best left in the “unseen” category for all but the most action-deprived audiences.

Related: Every Movie Bruce Willis Regretted Making

#43 – Reprisal

Bruce Willis in Reprisal

Reprisal centers on Jacob (Chopshop‘s Frank Grillo), a bank manager haunted by a violent heist that took the life of a coworker who subsequently teams up with his ex-cop neighbor, James (Willis), to bring down the assailant. However, Jacob and James quickly realize that their target is a highly trained, Jason-Bourne-style criminal, who proceeds to dismantle their lives. Reprisal, while containing sharply choreographed action, falls down at the first narrative hurdle, with Brian A. Miller’s film unable to explain quite why a man with such an impressive skillset is charging around Ohio causing bloodshed and robbing banks indiscriminately.

#42 – Trauma Center

bruce willis trauma center

Trauma Center‘s insular plot works rather well, for a time, as a terrified nurse accidentally shot in the leg flees two unknown assailants. Trauma Center turns farcical, however, when Nurse Taylor’s (Nicky Whelan) pursuers turn out to be corrupt policemen who can only be tied to their crimes within the hospital by the bullet in her leg. Fan-favorite Bruce Willis also features very little here, with his turn as Lt. Steve Wakes a mere formality when Taylor begins to fight back against the men hunting her.

#41 – Setup


If Reprisal represents Willis’ worst attempt at a heist-style film, Setup does not follow far behind, as it attempts to deliver every bank-robbing cliché without any of the exposition its title carelessly promises. Setup is endemic of the straight-to-Blu-Ray early 2010s films that pedal mindless action; although Curtis Jackson’s turn as the conniving Sonny is more engrossing than it has any right to be in the context of the film.

#40 – Precious Cargo

Bruce Willis in Precious Cargo

One bone-crunching casino-set scene is the only thing that elevates Precious Cargo above other options listed here, with the rest of the film’s story offering very little action, despite its genre listing. In Precious Cargo, murderous crime boss Eddie Filosa (Willis) convinces thief Jack (The Passage‘s Mark-Paul Gosselaar) and his gang to steal $30 million in diamonds from another crime gang, which will, in turn, be traded for a woman. Precious Cargo is straight-to-video fare at its best (or worst) that stacks up decently for late-night viewing, but otherwise withers in the cold light of day against other far superior action choices.

Related: Every Similarity Between Girl In The Spider’s Web & Bruce Willis’ Mercury Rising

#39 – The Prince

While by no means an awful film, The Prince suffers from its close narrative ties to the vastly superior Taken, with Jason Patric’s Paul nowhere near as convincing in the heavily-worn vengeful father role. The Prince is not alone here, with Taken spurring a string of pale imitations in the years following its 2008 release, although none match up to Luc Besson’s original project. The Prince‘s problem is that it follows the Taken formula so closely that it feels as if there is very little original content in the movie, a fact made all the more galling by the 19 executive producers attached to the film.

#38 – Survive The Game

Bruce Willis in Survive the Game

Survive the Game admirably attempts a no-frills, no-holds-barred feast of action that certainly has its peaks and troughs despite a bloated 97-minute runtime. Chad Michael Murray and Bruce Willis star here as two dangerous men marooned at a remote farm, which, coincidentally, is surrounded by a vicious gangland mob. Predictably, chaos ensues, and while Survive the Game scores points for some brutal fight scenes, its emotive beats feel terribly misguided in the context of its 2021 release date.

#37 – The Cold Light Of Day

Henry Cavill in The Cold Light of Day

The Cold Light of Day brings a delectable all-star cast together in what proves to be an entertaining, if not slightly underwhelming, tale of contemporary espionage. Bruce Willis’ short-lived appearance as the Shaw patriarch is serviceable enough, but it is a young Henry Cavill in his pre-Superman years that carries The Cold Light of Day‘s winding plot forward skillfully. Sigourney Weaver is also highly entertaining as defective CIA team leader Jean Carrack, although she, like Willis, deserves more screen time than she gets here.

#36 – First Kill

Bruce Willis and Hayden Christensen do their absolute best with a bizarre script that oddly allows both actors to shine in their respective roles in Steven C. Miller’s First Kill. The Star Wars prequel’s Hayden Christensen plays Will Beeman, a raving success on Wall Street that struggles to connect with his family emotionally, as he takes his wife and son back to his hometown. Once there, he is embroiled in a cat and mouse game of corruption and conspiracy that offers some genuinely shocking twists mixed with mostly standard, man-against-world action fare as Will pushes back against the secrets his hometown holds.

Related: Red 3 Movie Updates: Will The Bruce Willis Sequel Happen?

#35 – A Good Day To Die Hard

A Good Day To Die Hard proved to be a stretch too far for Bruce Willis’ otherwise golden Die Hard franchise, with John Moore’s entry removing almost everything that made the first Die Hard memorable. The nuanced characters on both sides of the conflict, as well as the political subtexts and quick wit, have been dissolved almost entirely here as Die Hard‘s John McClane and his son take on Russia in a pale imitation of the franchise’s first three installments. Bruce Willis is A Good Day To Die Hard‘s one saving grace, with his smirking John McClane proving an irresistible protagonist even amongst the film’s garbled mess of explosions, stereotypes, and stock dialogue.

#34 – Once Upon A Time In Venice

once upon a time in venice 2017

Once Upon A Time in Venice‘s premise of a Los Angeles detective seeking the gang that stole his dog carries more than a shade of John Wick-inspired action. Bruce Willis’ 2017 action fare is so similar to John Wick in its story development, in fact, that it almost translates as a comical send-up of Keanu Reeves’ universally praised franchise. Once Upon A Time in Venice undoubtedly ranks as Bruce Willis’ best action performance of the past four years, but that does not detract from the fact that the film cannot decide whether to mock John Wick‘s emotive dog narrative or embrace it in the hopes of emulating the Wick franchise’s success.

#33 – Acts Of Violence

bruce willis acts of violence

Acts of Violence is certainly a serviceable slice of action cinema, which sees three Midwestern brothers, a crime lord, and an incorruptible police officer placed on a deadly collision course. As its name suggests, Acts of Violence features a tableau of horrifying scenes from human trafficking to visceral, close-quarters shootings. While Bruce Willis is largely marginalized here, the trio of Cole Hauser, Shawn Ashmore (The Boys), and Ashton Holmes undoubtedly carry Acts of Violence as the vengeful MacGregor brothers.

#32 – Marauders

Marauders 2016

Marauders‘ action-packed plot veers from the gritty to the unbelievable at a high rate of knots, with millionaire bank owner Jeffrey Hubert’s (Willis) financial clout only covering some of the many plot holes the film is littered with. Despite some glaring narrative errors, however, Marauders packs a punch as Willis and his co-star Christopher Meloni slug it out in a battle of wills and muscle over Marauders‘ 107-minute runtime that helps smooth over Cody and Sivertson’s incoherent script.

Related: How Looper Made Joseph Gordon-Levitt Look (& Sound) Like Bruce Willis

#31 – Fire With Fire

bruce willis fire with fire

The lasting impact of Fire With Fire on its audiences largely depends on what pre-existing expectations they had going into the film, which is a bizarre blend of cheesy quips and over-the-top violence. Fire With Fire is certainly an acquired taste that sees a stellar cast of Josh Duhamel, Rosario Dawson (Sin City), Vincent D’Onofrio, and Willis wreak havoc on an unsuspecting Long Beach taken over by the Aryan brotherhood. It must be said that while Fire With Fire is by no means a cinematic masterpiece, the 50 Cent-produced film definitively falls into the “so bad, its good” category with its relentlessly excessive approach to a vigilante justice story.

#30 – Catch. 44

bruce willis catch 44

The first well-rounded film in this ranking, Catch. 44 switches slickly between an action-thriller and niche comedy as three drug world underlings become trapped in a diner following a botched robbery attempt. Bruce Willis’ Mel steals the show here, with his portrayal of an unhinged crime boss belting “Respect” alone worth a viewing. Forest Whittaker also tackles a somewhat unique role to his usual fare as the lovestruck Ronny that turns on his superiors to save Tes (Rampage‘s Malin Åkerman).

#29 – Cop Out

Kevin Smith’s Cop Out does not always deliver the laughs its duo of Bruce Willis and Tracey Morgan promises, but it is nonetheless a strong buddy cop offering that presents a comical look at contemporary memorabilia obsessions. Seann William Scott, Kevin Pollak, and Rashida Jones also star in this hilarious, baseball card touting adventure that contains enough Cullen brothers dialogue to ensure its continued re-watchability as a late-night offering.

#28 – G.I. Joe: Retaliation

G.I. Joe: Retaliation - Dwayne Johnson

The second film reboot in the beloved children’s franchise, G.I. Joe: Retaliation, doubles down on the CG’d action, international villainy, and intrigue of 2009’s G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. G.I. Joe: Retaliation is certainly not aiming for anything close to high art, with much of its 100-minute runtime not even stopping to pause for breath between fight scenes. Yet, the vapid nature of G.I. Joe 2‘s plot does little to detract from the slice of fun it serves up as Dwayne Johnson, Channing Tatum, Jonathan Pryce, and Willis clash over the fate of the world.

Related: That ’70s Show: Bruce Willis’ Sleazy Character Explained

#27 – Hudson Hawk

It must be stated right out of the gate that Hudson Hawk is an undeniably bold movie and was even more so upon its 1991 release. Cartoon-style slapstick scenes, complete with sound effects and a wholly surreal approach to humor, conspire to make Hudson Hawk a unique offering that covers bizarre conspiracy theories, secret societies, and historic mysteries in its own jarring format. While Hudson Hawk was roundly panned by critics upon release and offered little by way of box office success due to the assumption it would offer a similar experience to Die Hard, Hudson Hawk remains an enjoyable slice of absurdist comedy for the discerning Bruce Willis aficionado.

#26 – Striking Distance

bruce willis striking distance

Striking Distance‘s premise feels at home in any number of slick, contemporary thrillers, as Bruce Willis’ disheveled Sergeant Tommy Hardy realizes with horror that a serial killer is targeting people he personally knows. Sarah Jessica Parker and Tom Sizemore also add weight to Striking Distance‘s initially tense story, which is only let down by a deus ex machina-trope villain that emerges from the ether to the trite line “we thought you were dead!Striking Distance‘s lack of ingenuity within the action-thriller genre ultimately prevents it from ranking higher on this, but it is still a solid choice for those looking to watch a by-the-book early 90s detective flick.

#25 – Mercury Rising


Mercury Rising continues to divide opinion to this day as a film that stands to offer so much without ever truly delivering on its premise of taut FBI corruption that characterized Ryne Douglas Pearson’s original novel. Alec Baldwin and Bruce Willis are surprisingly flat as special agents butting heads, which is made all the more surprising by their subsequently compelling chemistry when reviewing Motherless Brooklyn. However, Mercury Rising is worth watching for Miko Hughes’ stunning performance alone as a nine-year-old autistic boy, Simon Lynch, with Hughes winning several accolades for his heartfelt work here.

#24 – Surrogates

Bruce Willis’ only film of 2009, Surrogates, centers on a dystopian future in which humans can purchase remote-controlled robots that act as beautiful, real-world avatars of themselves from the comfort of their own home. Surrogates‘ premise is eerily plausible given modern-day social media, which has ensured this Willis action outing has aged surprisingly well. Surrogates also features a Ving Rhames cameo alongside Willis 15 years after the pair first appeared together in the iconic Pulp Fiction.

Related: The True Story Behind Bruce Willis’ Friends Cameo

#23 – Death Wish

Eli Roth’s remake of a Charles Bronson classic does exactly what it says on the tin, with Death Wish providing ample gore and hard-boiled-detective style characters along the way. Bruce Willis stars in Death Wish as Paul Kersey, a Chicago doctor who sets out to get revenge on the men who attacked his family. It is a simple premise, but one that the experienced Roth clearly relishes as he packs Death Wish with gleeful revenge-porn scenes, as Kersey massacres those who wronged him with a bowling ball, a dart, a wrench, and any other household item in close proximity to his wrath.

#22 – The Jackal


Director Michael Caton-Jones’ The Jackal hits all the right notes without ever truly excelling within the bounds of the action genre. Caton-Jones knows what makes a hit film, however, assembling Richard Gere, Sidney Poitier, and Willis to rampant commercial success as The Jackal more than doubled its $60 million budget upon release in 1997. Bruce Willis also compromises on something different compared to his usual, wise-cracking action roles, with a more sinister turn as the titular Jackal, a highly-skilled, largely silent assassin who cuts through several high-profile targets before settling on the First Lady herself.

#21 – The Siege

bruce willis the siege

The Siege is now viewed as a rather incendiary piece of cinema through a contemporary lens, although in 1998, it proved to be an exciting, purposeful thriller from director Edward Zwick. The film revolves around fictional terrorist cells that make several attacks in New York City, forcing Denzel Washington’s special agent Hubbard and Willis’ army general Deveraux to fight back. While The Siege now tracks as insensitive following the events of 9/11 and the dangerous stereotypes it pedals, it is still a well-made piece of cinema that is simply emblematic of a different time in Hollywood.

#20 – Hostage

bruce willis the hostage

For those looking for grisly, bone-crunching action, Hostage is an immediate pick. While not the most nuanced of films, as Bruce Willis’ avenging police chief quickly identifies his enemy combatants before slaughtering them mercilessly, Hostage contains enough emotive drama via the Talley family to ensure its numerous fight scenes land.

Related: Looper’s Bizarre Blunderbuss Shotgun Explained

#19 – Last Man Standing

Bruce Willis in Last Man Standing

Walter Hill’s taut tale of prohibition era Texas contains all the gangsters, glitz, and gunfights one would expect from a hard-boiled period piece backed up by an in-form Christopher Walken. However, beyond being an entertaining film, Last Man Standing is viewed fondly in hindsight due to it being one of the first pure Western antihero portrayals, as the dryly named John Smith mows down waves of opponents with little regard for his affability.

#18 – Sin City: A Dame To Kill For

Sin City A Dame To Kill For Lady Gaga

The explosive follow-up from Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez boasts the same stylistic palette, gratuitous violence, and comic style as its 2005 predecessor Sin City. Sin City: A Dame To Kill For is highly entertaining stuff, fleshing out Miller’s visceral on-screen world and giving more depth to compelling characters like Mickey Rourke’s Marv. Truly, Sin City: A Dame To Kill For only suffers critically compared to the original Sin City movie, which simply packs more of a punch due to its originality in 2005.

#17 – The Expendables

Trench, Barney, Ross, and Church with gun in airport attack The Expendables 2

Bruce Willis is one of many all-star faces in The Expendables ensemble that wholly pays tribute to the blockbuster action films of the late 1980s and early 1990s. While Willis’ cameo is short as the mysterious Mr. Church, his inclusion is highly warranted off the back of his Die Hard outings that helped redefine the modern action genre. This is to say nothing of The Expendables formulaic action plot itself, which is a rip-roaring, brainless ride that mashes a glut of action stars together in homage to the men that shaped high-octane Hollywood for a generation.

#16 – RED 2

red 2 bruce willis

The RED sequel pits the three retired and extremely dangerous Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, and Helen Mirren against a new generation of faceless Russian enemies to toy with. While lacking the originality and spark of its predecessor, RED 2 still packs a punch via its hilarious premise of senior citizens taking down far younger and less experienced agents. From viewing RED 2, it is also quite clear how much fun Willis, Mirren, and Malkovich are having in their respective roles, elevating the film’s infectious humor to a different level.

Related: Will Sin City 3 Ever Happen?

#15 – Tears Of The Sun

Getting into the good stuff now is Tears of the Sun, director Antoine Fuqua’s thrilling tale of a Navy SEAL team stuck amidst the chaos of the Nigerian civil war. Tears of the Sun‘s stakes feel incredibly high, owed in no small part to the inclusion of real African refugees in the film that hammers home the plight of the Nigerian nation on display. Willis is also highly compelling as SEAL Lieutenant A.K. Waters, who is forced to watch his team die one by one as waves of determined militia overcome them.

#14 – The Expendables 2

The Expendables 2 Bruce Willis pic

The 2012 Expendables sequel absolutely blows its predecessor out of the water, upping the stakes and brutality that the original Expendables offered. Gone are the excessive homages to the action stars of yesterday, replaced with heapings of violence and self-deprecation exemplified by Jean-Claude Van Damme’s terrifying new villain. Bruce Willis’ Church role is also expanded upon in The Expendables 2, which improves on the first Expendables offering in almost every possible way.

#13 – 16 Blocks

Bruce Willis with gun walking with Mos Def in 16 Blocks

Richard Donner is certainly no stranger to the buddy cop action genre, and the director’s follow-up to his iconic Lethal Weapon franchise pays immediate dividends here. Perhaps most surprising is 16 Blocks‘ unexpected pairing of Mos Def and Bruce Willis, who absolutely shine together on-screen, highlighting a criminally underused pairing by Hollywood in the years following 16 Blocks‘ release.

#12 – Armageddon

Bruce Willis In Armageddon

The highest-grossing film of 1998, Armageddon is a sci-fi, big-budget action movie of the highest order that combines a stellar cast with the maximalist direction of Michael Bay and Jerry Bruckheimer. Criticized by some quarters for its lack of scientific accuracy, Michael Bay’s Armageddon works best in a vacuum of its own grandeur, delivering many highs and lows as NASA scientists discover they have eighteen days before an asteroid the size of Texas impacts Earth, destroying all planetary life. Armageddon is an important piece of cinema, if not a universally loved one, simply due to its cultural impact in 1998, with the epic film spawning a number one ranked soundtrack, several Disney World rides, and earning $553 million through the sheer weight of its impressive collective parts.

Related: ‘Sin City: A Dame to Kill For’ Review

#11 – RED

red bruce willis morgan freeman john malkovich

Inspired by the Homage comics series of the same name, RED was a breath of fresh air to the stale espionage-action genre in 2010. RED trades all-out violence and dense action sequences for a sharp wit, backed by a stellar core cast of Willis, Mirren, Malkovich, and Morgan Freeman (Barb & Star Go To Vista Del Mar), who sparkle as deadly pensioners in Robert Schwentke’s film. There is an intangible, yet incredibly satisfying quality that arrives with watching masters of their craft outwit young, cocky opponents, and this is exactly the notion RED wholeheartedly embodies as Frank Moses and his team dispatch countless enemies with consummate ease.

#10 – The Last Boy Scout

Bruce Willis and Marlon Waynes in The Last Boy Scout

One of the last great offerings from the golden age of buddy cop action, The Last Boy Scout is a slick, ultra-violent thriller that plays to its leading cast of Bruce Willis and Damon Wayan’s strengths. Given the star power and hype surrounding the then-record price of $1.75 million paid for the screenplay by Shane Black (Lethal Weapon), it is little wonder why The Last Boy Scout feels so much more polished than many of its contemporary genre rivals. Extra points here go to the film’s phenomenal and gruesome helicopter blade sequence, with the scene nominated for an MTV movie award in 1991.

#9 – Planet Terror

The cast of Planet Terror

Robert Rodriguez’s film follows the survivors of a biochemical outbreak as they battle zombie-like creatures and a rogue military unit, a standard premise that quickly evolves thanks to Rodriguez’s deft touch at the helm. Planet Terror is such a thrilling watch because it is so unpredictable, with zombies taking a backseat as humans kill each other with syringes, wooden legs, and high-powered machine guns. Planet Terror is grindhouse cinema at its absolute best, with critics even ranking it above its double-feature partner Death Proof upon release in 2007.

#8 – Live Free Or Die Hard

Bruce Willis as John McClane in Live Free or Die Hard

Originally marketed as Die Hard 4, Live Free Or Die Hard is proof of the franchise’s continued staying power some 33 years after its inception. Live Free Or Die Hard is a telling portrait of the zeitgeist in 2007, as rapid technological advances left a swathe of previously confident men feeling alienated in the modern world. Bruce Willis’ John McClane exemplifies this feeling to perfection, with his brand of grit and wit initially stacking up poorly to the advanced methods of a brooding cyber-criminal (played by Timothy Olyphant). Extra points here go to Justin Long’s turn as hacker-turned-reluctant-hero, who gives a career-best performance as a man with nothing to lose.

Related: The Die Hard Series Doesn’t Need Another Sequel

#7 – Die Hard 2

Bruce Willis as John McClane Die Hard 2

While lacking the fresh thrills of its groundbreaking predecessor, Die Hard 2 is still a film packed with iconic action moments, with its plane crash scene still living long in the memory. Bruce Willis is back here as the legendary John McClane, who this time goes up against the corrupt military as they shanghai an airport’s control systems. Die Hard 2 doubled the box office success of Die Hard and firmly cemented Willis as one of the prominent action stars of his generation.

#6 – Die Hard With A Vengeance

Die Hard 3 - Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson

Die Hard With A Vengeance added a freshness back into the franchise after a more pedestrian showing from Die Hard 2, owed in no small part to Samuel L Jackson’s inclusion as Bruce Willis’ co-star. John McClane this time teams up with Jackson’s Zeus Carver to stop bomb threats across New York City, which are being carried out by Jeremy Irons’ salacious Simon. Jackon and Willis’ interplay is what elevates Die Hard 3 above the franchise’s prior sequel, with the pair clearly relishing being back on-screen together after their time on Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction.

#5 – Looper


Rian Johnson’s Looper delivers a smart and frankly brave original blend of futuristic sci-fi and classic action as it follows contract killers called “loopers” hired by criminal syndicates from the future to terminate victims whom they send back through time. Looper is a wholly original, unique piece of cinema that rivals other mind-benders of its time period, including the much-vaunted Inception. Despite clear physical differences, Bruce Willis is imperious as Joe’s older self here, with the pair’s final, climactic clash a classic piece of cinema that lives long in the memory.

#4 – The Fifth Element

Fifth Element 2 Was Planned Based On Cut Story From Original Movie

The Fifth Element is an unabashed sci-fi-action effort that rightly sits atop many genre lists for its dazzling scope. The film won in categories at the British Academy Film Awards, the César Awards, the Cannes Film Festival, and the Lumières Awards for a variety of factors, with many critics praising its sumptuous exposition, costume design, and narrative scale. The Fifth Element delivers exactly what is expected from the most expensive European film ever made (in 1997), intertwining themes of manhood, capitalist distrust, and environmental damage into its interstellar narrative.

Related: Die Hard 6 Was Always Better Than A McClane Prequel

#3 – Lucky Number Slevin

Lucky Number Slevin

While Lucky Number Slevin benefits from its stellar ensemble cast, it is a testament to the film’s plot that almost any set of actors could conspire to make the film a success due to its intricately woven beats. To explain Lucky Number Slevin‘s true storyline would rob first-time viewers of the pleasure of being swept along by this enthralling film, but, sufficed to say, its slick twists and turns are numerous. Ben Kingsley does steal the show here, however, as the nefarious Rabbi with a performance to rival his seminal work in Sexy Beast.

#2 – Sin City

Bruce WIllis in Sin City

Frank Miller’s neo-noir crime anthology is a sight to behold, championing the best of comic book adaptations long before the birth of entities such as the MCU. At a time when compelling comic-to-screen choices were threadbare, Sin City is a daring project that pays off in the most spectacular fashion. Its action is pulpy and visceral, its characters are larger than life, and its narrative weaves disparate chapters together in a patchwork way only bettered by Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction.

#1 – Die Hard

Not only is it Bruce Willis’ true breakout film, Die Hard also remains his best work to date by quite some distance. The beauty of Die Hard is that it is as complex as it is simple, with a plot and themes that essentially mirror its audience’s inherent qualities. Die Hard can be viewed as a Christmas movie, a commentary on the lost cowboy culture in America, or a straightforward shoot-em-up depending on the depth with which it is being analyzed. Even stripping these nuances away does not rob Die Hard of its quality, however, with John McClane so compelling in his taut battle against Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) that Die Hard is still considered the pinnacle of the action genre (and Bruce Willis‘) career some 33 years after its release.

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