Walter Bruce Willis was born on this date in 1955 in West Germany. A mere 30 years later, he was introduced to America as "that balding wiseass on Moonlighting," and the rest is mostly exploding history.
Since his David Addison days, Willis has become one of the biggest movie stars in the world. I won't claim much love for just about anything he's made since shaving his head and playing multiple variations of the "aging badass" character he should have trademarked in 2007, but the dude had plenty of quality films under his belt. Any of which would be perfect to enjoy while waiting to watch your tournament bracket implode.
In chronological order:
Blind Date (1987) Willis' first leading man role didn't force him to stretch his abilities much. Indeed, Walter Davis might as well be the Blue Moon detective's less confident brother. Still, I love John Larroquette, and even back in '87, the movie felt a little out of place, with a more 1970s aesthetic. Small surprise it was a Blake Edwards film.
Die Hard (1988) Well, duh. Not just one of the greatest action movies ever made, but possibly the greatest Christmas movie of all time. The original, and still the best (I rank the the DH movies 1. Die Hard 2. With a Vengeance 3. Die Hard 2 4. and 5., who cares?)
Hudson Hawk (1991) History will prove me right in asserting this movie's sorry legacy is more a result of lousy marketing than actual, uh, sorry-ness. Pitched as an action flick so soon after the second Die Hard, the goofy musical numbers and obvious comedy touches fell flat. It's worth a second look. Seriously.
The Last Boy Scout (1991) Between this and Hudson Hawk, people were actually writing Willis off as a had-been in 1991. I won't argue TLBS *isn't* misogynistic or flat-out mean-spirited, but what it is is a perfect snapshot of the moment '80s style action blurred into '90s hyper-stylized excess.
Plus: "If you touch me again, I'll kill ya."
Pulp Fiction (1994) Everybody talks about how Quentin Tarantino resurrected John Travolta's film career (and not all of us were happy about it), but what gets overlooked is how Willis' fortunes also rebounded following his take no prisoners (and spare no gimps) performance as boxer Butch Coolidge.
12 Monkeys (1995) I'm a big Terry Gilliam fan, and I was happy he went with Willis for the role of time-traveling prisoner James Cole. The movie kind of reminds me of John Carpenter's Prince of Darkness, only with fewer homeless guys impaled on shopping carts.
The Fifth Element (1997) It occurs to me that some of these might be good Bruce Willis movies only insofar as he's had the good fortune to be cast in some seriously weird shit. That makes a certain amount of sense, since luck plays a part in most of our lives.
Anyway, TFE is what plays in my mind when I hear the expression, "bugfuck."
Alpha Dog (2006) I didn't expect to like this loose adaptation the real-life murder of a teenage boy by wanna be gangster drug dealers, but it holds together pretty well. This is thanks not only to Willis and then newcomer Anton Yelchin, but Justin Timberlake, whose performance as the main dealer's best friend is surprisingly engaging.
16 Blocks (2006) Someone said Jack Mosley is the realistic approximation of how John McClane should've ended up: burnt out, alcoholic, corrupt. Maybe so, but this is recommended if for no other reason than portraying Willis in a non-heroic, non-action star context.
Looper (2012) Between this and Moonrise Kingdom, 2012 might have been Willis' best career year since 1995.
Shit, I forgot Unbreakable. That should totally be up there too.
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