“Art imitates life and, sometimes, life imitates art. It’s a weird combination of elements.”
Walter Bruce Willis was born to a “long line of blue-collar people”, with his father working in the military, an upbringing that ultimately impacted his view on life.
Known for various awards and accolades, including Emmys and Golden Globes, Willis had earned the name of ‘Buck-Buck’ due to his stutter. He soon realised that he found that on-stage acting helped his stuttering problem, and it was a breakthrough that seriously altered his life path. His job as a private investigator foreshadowed his later roles in Moonlighting and The Last Boy Scout and Willis’ entryway to Hollywood was as a stunt double for Paul Newman in The Verdict. Willis, who received his first lead role in 1987 film Blind Date, is arguably most well-known for his reprising role as John McClane as a pop-cultural icon in the Die Hard franchise.
“I have zero interest in performing in films to try to convey any kind of message. My job is to be entertaining, said Willis, “There’s a very different point of view about messages in films in Europe than there is in the States. Audiences rebel because they feel that they are being preached to.”
Known for his incomparable swagger and blunt and bold self, we decided to pay a tribute to this iconic actor on his 66th birthday by taking a look at some of his best films on Netflix.
The best films starring Bruce Willis on Netflix:
10. The Expendables (Sylvester Stallone, 2010)
Stallone’s action-fest is every action lover’s wet dream, featuring some of the greatest names in the genre, including Stallone himself, Jason Statham, Willis, Terry Crews, Steve Austin, Mickey Rourke etc. although Willis appears in a small uncredited cameo, this is undoubtedly one of the exciting films in his filmography after Die Hard which is unfortunately not available for streaming on Netflix.
The titular Expendables is a group of skilled mercenaries who have a wide range of abilities, including wielding snipers, knives, excelling in martial arts etc. they are commissioned by a mysterious Mr Church (Willis) to assassinate a Latin dictator from where a near-suicidal mission commences.
9. Alpha Dog (Nick Cassavetes, 2006)
This crime drama is based on the real-life kidnapping and murder of Nicholas Markowitz in 2000 during a feud over drugs between his half-brother and the dangerous drug dealer, Jesse James Hollywood. The film has an extensive cast, including Emile Hirsch, Justin Timberlake, Bruce Willis, Sharon Stone, Amanda Seyfried, Ben Foster, Olivia Wilde and others, whose roles are based on real-life characters. Cassavetes’ searing portrait of a group of hedonistic, reckless teenagers is elevated by their performances.
Violent, crude and mercenary, two groups of gun-wielding teens clash over money for drugs. During one such feud, one group decides to retaliate against the other by capturing the other group member’s 15-year-old brother which turns out to be a grave mistake and things begin to spiral.
8. RED (Robert Schwentke, 2010)
Disillusioned, lonely and retired, Frank is a former black-ops agent whose peaceful life is disrupted when a figure from his past enters his life and threatens to destabilise it frank reassembles a group of people who form the R.E.D aka Retired Extremely Dangerous, and together, they aim to fight against these threats.
The film stars an extensive cast, including Willis, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren, Mary-Lousie Parker etc. It is pretty entertaining to see the reunion of jaded agents against a common evil force. With abundant gunfire encounters, crazy action and insane twists, the film is a quintessential Willis film that is a light-hearted watch for all action aficionados.
7. Armageddon (Michael Bay, 1998)
When a rogue Texas-sized asteroid bears the impending end of the world within 18 days, Dan Truman from NASA finds out that the only way to save humanity from this impending disaster would be by drilling a nuclear bomb in the surface of the asteroid and making it disintegrate into several pieces he contacts the renowned driller Harry Stamper who agrees to be a part of this dangerous mission along with his own disparate crew. As the problem approaches, Harry and his crew members brace themselves for this enormous mission; Harry has one more problem to encounter. He disapproves of A.J, one of the crewmates who is, according to him, not good enough for his daughter, Grace.
It was read by film scholars to be a work masterfully crafted to celebrate the working potential of men amidst the utter chaos and explosion. However, the lack of character development, as well as the overall lack of intellectual stimulation, made the film worth watching only once. The unrealistic premise was a major let-down. However, Bay later blamed the studio as well as various other discrepancies that were taken as a possible reason for the failure of the film.
“Houston, you have a problem. You see, I promised my little girl that I’d be comin’ home. Now I don’t know what you people are doing down there, but we’ve got a hole to dig up here.”
6. The Whole Nine Yards (Jonathan Lynn, 2000)
Oz is a likeable everyman who is a dentist in Canada. He dislikes his wife, Sophie, and needs to pay off the debts incurred by her father before he can divorce her. When Sophie comes to know that their new neighbour is a hitman with a bounty on his head, she urges Oz to give up the identity of the hitman named Jimmy. Now, Oz’s friend needs to claim the money. Although hesitant, Oz reluctantly travels to Chicago to do so. Meanwhile, Sophie tries to be the snitch and rats out Jimmy leading to an epic face-off.
Although the cast was pretty great, the film failed to perform at the box office and did not garner many upvotes from the audience in general. Bruce Willis and Matthew Perry could have had a good on-screen camaraderie but that is lost in=between the lack of humour in the somewhat sitcom-like narrative.
“It’s not important how many people I’ve killed, what’s important is how I get along with the people that are still alive.”
5. Extraction (Steven C. Miller, 2015)
Leonard Turner is a CIA operative who gets kidnapped by Russian dealers that threaten to spare his family if he lets slip information. Although he defeats them, his wife is fatally shot and his teenage son Harry narrowly escapes. When Harry wants to join the CIA, Leonard disapproves and rejects him quietly innumerable times. However, when Leonard is ambushed and kidnapped by a weapons dealer named Drake Chivu while on an undercover mission in Newark, it is upon harry to combat skilled assassins to save his father.
Full of conventional cliches and same-old action sequences, the only magical aspect of the film is Bruce Willis. Seeing Kellan lutz and Willis play father and son while descending down the rabbit hole of crime should have been so much more entertaining, but alas.
“Don’t ever threaten my family again.”
4. Fire With Fire (David Barrett, 2012)
After a gruelling and laborious day of work, some firemen decide to unwind with a bottle of Scotch. When firefighter Jeremy Coleman enters a convenience store to procure alcohol, he witnesses a violent scuffle and brutal murder, narrowly escaping. He is put in the witness protection programme and is asked to testify against a notorious crime lord David Hagan. However, his identity gets compromised and he has to transform himself into a whole new individual to protect the ones he loves.
Bruce Willis plays Mike Cella, a detective, who seeks vengeance as Hagan had brutally murdered his partner. He seeks justice for his friend as sees Jeremy as his only opportunity to do so. Josh Duhamel does well as Coleman and the film, despite certain sporadic hiccups, is entertaining and watchable.
“I need you to trust me. Do everything that I ask and I promise we’ll survive this. Do you trust me?”
3. The Sixth Sense (M. Night Shyamalan, 1999)
Malcolm Crowe is a child psychologist based in Philadelphia who gets into an encounter with a dissatisfied ex-patient named Vincent Grey the same night he receives an award for his distinguished work. He is soon visited by a young boy named Cole who claims to see dead people. Dismissing the child thinking he is delusional at first, Crowe gradually comes round to believing him and helps Cole navigate through the tribulations and in an attempt yo seek redemption.
With an incredibly riveting plot, the film sees brilliant performances from all actors especially Haley Joel Osment who shows an incredible knack for acting at a very young age. This is the only horror flick that Willis has starred in and does a great job as the disillusioned and troubled psychologist tormented by his failure to aid his ex-patient. The minor details in the film that go unnoticed make sense at the very end when an unexpected ending shall make the audience gasp.
“I see dead people.”
2. Moonrise Kingdom (Wes Anderson, 2012)
Wes Anderson, the master of colour and symmetry, had always been keen on portraying the innocence and sanctity of romance between children. He spoke of this “feeling” he experienced as a child when all he could think about was “what might happen”. His film the Moonrise Kingdom is an escape from reality for young lovers Sam and Suzy who both look to elope from the respective oppressive structures they belong to. The idea of juvenile love, fantasy, childhood and escape have been beautifully explored in this film complemented by a burst of colours.
Anderson had given a lot of thought while casting the characters. Bruce Willis plays Captain Sharp who eventually adopts Sam and aids them to be with one another. Anderson had envisioned Sharp to be played by James Stewart and after finishing the screenplay decided to cast Willis who would be brilliant as an “iconic” cop. Willis was more than excited for the collaboration, having had watched all his films.
“I think you’ve still got lightning in you.”
1. Pulp Fiction (Quentin Tarantino, 1994)
Pulp Fiction is a product of Tarantino’s eccentric mastery and made him a household name. The narrative transcends chronology to mirror the anthological structure of Tarantino’s favourite pulp magazines. John Travolta, who had become a lost Hollywood star, had his career resuscitated by Tarantino when the later roped him in to play the role of Vincent Vega. Tarantino’s brutal and complicated crime and drug-fuelled odyssey through L.A.’s underworld witnesses Vincent and his partner, Jules Winnfield to recover the stolen briefcase containing valuable possessions from the gang and return it to Marsellus Wallace, while constantly evading the seductive advances of his boss’s wife, Mia Wallace.
Bruce Willis played the role of an ageing boxer Butch Coolidge who was trying to escape from Marsellus having incurred his wrath. The film earned bruce Willis money, as well as new respect as Willis’ career, was suffering due to consecutive box office disappointments. His buff “50s actor” look was tailormade for the role of Coolidge.
“I’ll be back before you can say blueberry pie.”