Celebrate Bruce Willis' career with these 5 classic film performances

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Bruce Willis' acting career appears to be at an end. The iconic movie star's family revealed Wednesday in an Instagram post that Willis has been diagnosed with aphasia, a cognitive condition that affects one's ability to speak and understand language, and that as a result he will be stepping away from acting.

In recent years, Willis has most often been seen in low-budget direct-to-video movies with titles like Midnight in the Switchgrass and Survive the Game, but his decades-long career includes many more all-time classics. Here are some of our favorite Willis performances if you're in the mood to celebrate the man's on-screen legacy.

Die Hard
Die Hard

Moviestore/Shutterstock Bruce Willis in the first 'Die Hard.'

Die Hard

This, of course, is the classic Willis film performance, the one that set the stage for all the rest. Not only did it spawn a whole franchise of sequels and approximately one million jokes on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, the first Die Hard is what catapulted Willis from "TV star" (decidedly a lesser category back in the '80s, even if his work on Moonlighting remains fondly remembered) to full-fledged blockbuster movie star. Whether or not you call it a Christmas movie, what's not up for debate is that Die Hard's action beats and underdog narrative hit as well as ever. Say it with us: Yippie kay-yay, motherf---er!

Pulp Fiction
Pulp Fiction

Miramax/Buena Vista/Kobal/Shutterstock Bruce Willis as Butch Coolidge in 'The Sixth Sense.'

Pulp Fiction

Quentin Tarantino's breakthrough film remains chock-full of great performances (as you may have remembered from that odd tribute at the Oscars), but Willis' portrayal of aging boxer Butch Coolidge is the closest Pulp Fiction ever comes to having a hero. It's nice to see someone in that movie fight for what they believe in (even if that something is a gold watch that spent most of the Vietnam War hidden up Butch's father's butt). Zedd's dead, baby.

The Sixth Sense
The Sixth Sense

Ron Phillips/Hollywood/Kobal/Shutterstock Bruce Willis in 'The Sixth Sense'

The Sixth Sense

M. Night Shyamalan's influential debut is justly remembered for its incredible twist — but that twist only works because of Willis' heartfelt performance as child psychologist Malcolm Crowe. Everything you need to know about Malcolm's fate is on-screen from the opening scene of The Sixth Sense, but because Willis keeps you looking only at the things you're supposed to notice, the climactic revelation feels well-earned. It's little wonder Willis kept collaborating with Shyamalan over the years in Unbreakable and Glass.

Sin City
Sin City

Dimension Films Bruce Willis as Detective John Hartigan in 'Sin City.'

Sin City

Willis was starring in comic-book movies before they totally dominated Hollywood the way they do today. His work in Shyamalan's Unbreakable was an early example of an original superhero movie, while his starring role in Sin City successfully translated one of the most acclaimed non-superhero comics to the screen. In keeping with Frank Miller's original vision, Robert Rodriguez's movie adaptation of Sin City splits its time between various stories set in the titular noir dystopia. Willis stars as Detective John Hartigan in the segment titled "That Yellow Bastard," unquestionably a highlight of both the comics and film. As he first proved in Pulp Fiction, Willis is fully capable of summoning the aura of '50s film stars — a perfect match for this ode to film noir.

MOONRISE KINGDOM
MOONRISE KINGDOM

Focus Features Bruce Willis in 'Moonrise Kingdom'

Moonrise Kingdom

Perhaps the last great Willis film performance, Moonrise Kingdom casts the venerated action star as a small-town police captain. Wes Anderson is often underrated for his work with actors (to this day, none of his films have received an acting nomination at the Oscars), but he draws a warmth out of Willis that makes him believable as a father figure to young Sam Shakusky (Jared Gilman). If you're familiar with Anderson's other films, in which fathers are not usually portrayed as the most admirable people around, it's an especially impressive achievement.

Want more movie news? Sign up for Entertainment Weekly's free newsletter to get the latest trailers, celebrity interviews, film reviews, and more.

Related content: