Bruce Willis has stepped away from acting to be with his family due to illness, but his innumerable devoted fans across the globe still have an expansive filmography to watch and rewatch. There’s even his odd appearance in sitcoms like friends and That 70’s Show to enjoy, as well as his lead role alongside Cybill Shepherd in moonlighting.
But Willis’ bread and butter has almost always been big action movies, even if they’re not the only titles to score at the box office. He’s put in smaller appearances in some hits, but due to the massive number of credits under his belt, Ocean’s Twelve, The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part, Splitand The Expendables franchise were excluded here.
10 Pulp Fiction (1994) – $214 Million
Quentin Tarantino’s non-linear masterpiece, pulp fiction, gift Willis one of the most interesting characters of his career in on-the-run boxer Butch Coolidge. Before his big segment, very little is seen of him, yet the viewer immediately gets the sense he’s both down on his luck and in with the wrong people. And while he does have a violent side, Coolidge is a man of principle, as seen via his saving of the very man chasing him down: Ving Rhames’ Marsellus Wallace.
Pulp Fiction‘s success revolutionized and practically defined the independent film industry for the mid-’90s. on a Box Office Mojo-reported budget of just $8 million, Pulp broke nine digits ($108 million) at the domestic box office alone. Add in nearly as much from international territories and Tarantino’s sophomore feature was perhaps the biggest hit of 1994.
9 Die Hard 2 (1990) — $240 Million
Willis returned as John McClane for Die Hard 2, which primarily thrives on repeating beats from the original film, yet with a change of location from a skyscraper to an airport. The franchise would sink in later years, but there was at least one more solid adventure for the beaten-down cop.
Die Hard 2 outgrossed its predecessor in both the domestic market (with a $117.5 million gross, per Box Office Mojo) and a further $122.5 million from overseas venues. In the end, it is mostly a successful film that deserved its dollars, but some of the magic was gone from McTiernan’s original.
8 Glass (2019) — $247 Million
after Split became a major hit, it was obvious that Shyamalan was back in his groove. That includes his proclivity for twists. But that Anya Taylor-Joy and James McAvoy film gave audiences a twist they’d never before seen: The movie they just watched was secretly a sequel to Unbreakableand Willis would be back as superhero David Dunn.
glass was essentially a merging of those two films’ casts for a grand finale and, while it didn’t reach the heights of Splitthe trilogy-capper crossed $110 million domestically and added another $136 million from international territories. Box Office Mojo puts the film’s budget at $20 million, making it a fairly sizable success.
7 Look Who’s Talking (1989) – $297 Million
Look Who’s Talking follows a woman left carrying the child of a married man, but with the twist that the baby is voiced by action star Bruce Willis, fresh off of Die Hard. There are a lot of scatological jokes throughout the runtime, a trend that continued in Look Who’s Talking Too (pairing Willis with Roseanne to predictable effect).
With such a silly concept, it’s shocking that Look Who’s Talking ended up being a bona fide blockbuster that led to not one but two sequels. Yet, it was, and the film generated nearly $300 million worldwide per Box Office Mojo. That said, the first sequel didn’t fare as well, while the third film outright flopped.
6 Over The Hedge (2006) — $339.8 Million
Willis did a vocal role every now and then, but the most prominent was certainly as Over the Hedge‘s main character: RJ the con artist raccoon. The actor is obviously having some fun in the role, and the movie even has him lead an all-star cast including legends such as Nick Nolte, Wanda Sykes, Steve Carell, and the late Garry Shandling.
Box Office Mojo doesn’t have a reported budget for Over the Hedge, but it earned a respectable $340 million worldwide. This doesn’t exactly make it the biggest earner of DreamWorks’ animation wing, and the film never got a sequel, but it’s still a lot of fun and memorably pairs Willis with Carell before he reteamed with Dreamworks in the role of Gru.
5 Die Hard With A Vengeance (1995) — $366.1 Million
after Die Hard 2 kept things fairly consistent, Die Hard with a Vengeance threw a deadly game of Simon Says at John McClane. But it also gave McClane a partner in Samuel L. Jackson’s Zeus Carver, and Willis’ chemistry crackled with his co-star so much that a first-time viewer would be forgiven for thinking he was also in the first and second installations.
Box Office Mojo puts the budget for Die Hard with a Vengeance at $90 million, which was substantial for 1995 but logical when considering the success of the first two entries. Twentieth Century Studios’ investment was worth it, as the film’s worldwide total was enough to make it number one for the year.
4 GI Joe: Retaliation (2013) — $375.7 Million
GI Joe: Retaliation isn’t one of Bruce Willis’ must-watch, unmissable movies, but it is a modest improvement on Stephen Sommer’s overly-silly GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra. The film mostly benefitted from a revamped cast including Dwayne Johnson, Adrianne Palicki, Ray Stevenson, Elodie Yung, and Willis’ original GI Joe (in what amounts to little more than a cameo). but Retaliation also kept on fan-favorite characters Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow, making for a fine balance of old and new.
With rebootquels, the only way to judge success is in comparison to their predecessor. In the case of Retaliation‘s predecessor, GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra barely cleared $300 million (per .) Box Office Mojo) on a budget of $175 (begging the question of why it earned a sequel at all). Retaliation cut the budget down to $130, and it even managed to improve upon the former film’s worldwide tally by about $75 million, but it still wasn’t quite a smashing success.
3 Live Free Or Die Hard (2007) — $388.2 Million
As the only installment of the franchise to be rated PG-13, Life Free or Die Hard had a wider scope of potential customers, and it did quite well both domestically and overseas. Audiences were glad to have McClane back and the marketing for Len Wiseman’s film promised a great adventure, which is a bar the film met, even if it is hampered by its comparatively tame rating.
Live Free or Die Hard was released at a period of Willis’ career in which he was a little more bankable than he was by the time A Good Day to Die Hard yippee-ki-yayed its way into theaters. Thusly, it carried a pretty decent budget of $110 million, which is a figure it earned three and a half times worldwide (per Box Office Mojo).
2 Armageddon (1998) — $553.7 Million
Michael Bay’s Armageddon is one of Willis’ most quotable movies just as it’s one of his most profitable. The film put the actor in the role he was born for: the utterly-American, smirk-wearing savior of the globe. Audiences also got a kick out of seeing Willis’ Harry S. Stamper interact with Ben Affleck’s AJ Frost, the young man putting the moves on his daughter.
Like just about every other Bay movie, Armageddon carried a sizable budget: $140 million, per Box Office Mojo. However, it was also a major hit like most of Bay’s other projects, scoring over $550 million worldwide.
1 The Sixth Sense (1999) — $672.8 Million
While he had shot a Rosie O’Donnell movie several years before, The Sixth Sense was effectively M. Night Shyamalan’s debut, and it excelled across the board. This includes the work of Willis as Dr. Malcolm Crowe. The action (and more) star delivers a performance worthy of the Oscar nominations received by his two peers. The tragedy surrounding the character works because Willis sells every moment with skill.
Shyamalan’s masterpiece played and played in theaters, with people who were well aware of its twist going back to experience more of the heartfelt performances from Haley Joel Osment, Toni Collette, and Willis. according to Box Office Mojothe film held the number one spot for five consecutive weekends but didn’t stop there. The Sixth Sense played in over 2,000 theaters (the bar for a “wide” release) throughout the entirety of August, September, and October 1999. By the time it left the big screen entirely, it had amassed nearly $673 million worldwide on a budget of just $40 million.
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