Look Back on Bruce Willis' Best Roles

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Bruce Willis Diagnosed With Frontotemporal Dementia

Yippie-Kai-Yay, it’s Bruce Willis‘ birthday.

The legendary actor—cemented his action-hero status playing John McClane in the iconic Die Hard franchise—turned 68 on March 19, and we couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate the occasion than by looking back on some of Willis’ best movie roles. 

Willis stepped away from his prolific acting career in March 2022 after his family—including wife Emma Heming Willis, ex Demi Moore, as well as kids Rumer Willis, 34, Scout Willis, 31, Tallulah Willis, 28, Mabel Willis, 9, and Evelyn Willis, 7—announced he was diagnosed with aphasia, which impacts a person’s ability to communicate. 

Last month, they provided an update on his condition, sharing that Willis had received a “more specific diagnosis” of frontotemporal dementia, known as FTD.

Since his breakout role on the 1980s TV drama Moonlighting, which earned him Golden Globe and Emmy awards for Best Actor in a Comedy or Musical in 1987, Willis has appeared in more than one hundred movies—including Pulp Fiction, The Sixth Sense and Moonrise Kingdom—which have culminatively grossed over $5 billion worldwide. 

Keep reading to take a look back at his most memorable roles.

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Die Hard Franchise

Bruce Willis cemented his status as one of Hollywood’s top leading men in 1988 when he starred as John McClane in this action (and, arguably, Christmas) film. The movie ultimately spawned four sequels, all starring Willis, and the series has grossed $1.4 billion worldwide.


The Fifth Element

The actor’s first foray into sci-fi was this 1997 Luc Besson film playing a taxi driver who becomes responsible for the survival of planet Earth in the 23rd century. 

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Pulp Fiction

Willis co-starred alongside John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Tim Roth, Ving Rhames and Uma Thurman in Quentin Tarantino‘s 1994 noir film, which went on to gross more  than $213 million at the box office and was nominated for seven Oscars, winning for Best Original Screenplay.



Moviegoers didn’t want to miss a minute of Willis’ touching performance as a dedicated father who sacrifices his life to save the world (and Ben Affleck) in Michael Bay‘s disaster flick, which went on to become the highest grossing movie of 1998. 



Rian Johnson’s 2012 sci-fi action thriller saw Willis facing off against Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who was playing a younger version of Willis. Loopy, indeed.


The Sixth Sense

Willis and M. Night Shyamalan teamed up for the first time for this 1999 horror hit, which delivered one of cinema’s most shocking twists and went on to become the second highest grossing film of that year.

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Willis starred as a former football star who gained superhuman strength after surviving a train crash in this 2000 psychological thriller, his second collaboration with from Shyamalan. He’d go on to reprise this character in Split and Glass.

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The Expendables

Willis appeared alongside a stacked roster of action stars—including Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Mickey Rourke, Jet Li and Dolph Lundgren—in the first two films of the franchise, though he opted out of 2014’s The Expendables 3.

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Moonrise Kingdom

In his quirkiest performance, Willis starred alongside Edward Norton, Frances McDormand and Billy Murray in Wes Anderson‘s critically acclaimed 2012 coming-of-age dramedy.

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Sin City

In Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez‘s 2005 neo-noir crime anthology film, Willis fronted “That Yellow Bastard” segment as aging cop John Hartigan.

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Alpha Dog

Based on the true story of the kidnapping and murder of Nicholas Markowitz, Willis played Sonny Truelove, a character inspired by John “Jack” Hollywood, father of convicted killer Jesse James Hollywood, in this 2006 crime drama. 


The Whole Nine Yards

Willis played to both his action and comedic strengths while playing a hitman opposite Matthew Perry in this 2000 hit that spawned a sequel, 2004’s The Whole Ten Yards.

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The 68-year-old was R.E.D. (Retired, Extremely Dangerous) as a former CIA agent in the 2010 action movie, which also starred Morgan Freeman and Helen Mirren.


Death Becomes Her

The actor was the object of Meryl Streep and Goldie Hawn‘s affection in this satirical comedy from 1992. 

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The Siege

The 1998 action thriller saw Willis play General William Devereaux alongside Denzel Washington, Annette Bening and Tony Shalhoub

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Cop Out

Willis played straight (yet still funny) man opposite comedian Tracy Morgan in Kevin Smith‘s 2010 buddy cop movie.

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