Bruce Willis is one of those A-listers who successfully transitioned from a career boost in the 1990s to a sustainable place as a top Hollywood actor more than two decades after that. Unlike many of his earlier contemporaries, he has clearly aged well through the years without losing a considerable touch of his action star chops. After a well-accomplished 1990s filmography, the new millennium welcomed him with movies where he starred in lead or supporting roles like the 2002 war drama “Hart’s War,” the 2006 crime drama “Alpha Dog,” and the 2009 sci-fi thriller “Surrogates.”
2007 highlighted his continuing career as a bankable star with the action thriller “Live Free or Die Hard” and the crime drama “Perfect Stranger.” 2010 further diversified his acting resume with the two action comedies “Cop Out” and “Red.” He also had a number of cameos and uncredited roles in movies like “Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle,” “Ocean’s Twelve,” and “Grindhouse.” As of 2011, he has about a dozen work-in-progress films including “G.I. Joe 2: Retaliation,” “Moonrise Kingdom,” and “Die Hard 5.”
“Die Hard” (1988)
The action thriller “Die Hard” was Willis’ career-defining role. Starring as the unstoppable cop John McClane, he became an iconic action hero, a role that would resound through his many other works. In no time, this John McTiernan movie revolutionized a new blockbuster formula of a loner character suddenly finding himself battling countless bad guys in an enclosed environment. Clearly, his charisma pushed this cinematic offering forward to make it one of the most influential action movies of all time.
This film was based on a 1979 Roderick Thorp novel entitled “Nothing Lasts Forever,” a sequel to the book “The Detective,” which was previously adapted into the 1968 film of the same title starring Frank Sinatra. As a pioneering action flick, “Die Hard” spawned a number of sequels all starring Willis as the quintessential heroic character McClane. It is now acknowledged as one of the biggest action movie franchises in Hollywood.
“The Fifth Element” (1997)
The futuristic sci-fi action epic “The Fifth Element” led Willis to an iconic role in what many people consider as one of the most memorable sci-fi classics of all time. This film starred Willis as Korben Dallas, a struggling New York taxi driver and former military serviceman. He meets the genetically manipulated femme fatale Leeloo played by Milla Jovovich after literally falling from the roof of his cab. The two of them join forces to recover mystical stones that can defend the planet from an impending destruction.
Filled with inventive imagery and amazing visual effects, the flair of this timeless opus from Luc Besson offered such a visually striking motion picture piece. It was a chock full of awesome performances and cool stunts. From its action, romance, and comedy elements to its dynamic and compelling music, this engaging package managed to find a worthwhile place within the sci-fi action canon.
“Sin City” (2005)
“Sin City” showcased a breathtaking neo-noir piece starring a number of A-list performers including Willis as John Hartigan, an ultimately risk-taking cop who protects a girl from a deformed pedophile. The stylized and cartoonish elements of the film allowed him to play around with such a character, while keeping the tough guy persona he’s best known for.
This adaptation vividly brought Frank Miller’s graphic novel to cinematic life. Directors Robert Rodriguez, Quentin Tarantino, and Miller mounted such a visually groundbreaking and violently cool film set in a dark, miserable town. It was able to rivetingly tell the story of three different people caught up in a city of violence and corruption.
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