Happy birthday, Bruce Willis! Yes, the iconic star of Die Hard, The Sixth Sense and Hudson Hawk turns a whopping 61 years old this week, and to celebrate we’re highlighting his very best films… sort of.
Because like many big stars, the works of Bruce Willis aren’t readily available on instant streaming. Only a handful of movies are offered by Netflix or Hulu or Amazon Prime without an additional rental fee, which means that if you want to see the actor’s best movies then you have to decide if it’s really worth shelling out the extra cash for it. Not that Willis’s best movies aren’t worth a few dollars, but if you’re going to pay to see Die Hard you might as well pay to own Die Hard, so it’s not really an impulse watch.
Fortunately, several of Bruce Willis’s best films – and some of his more interesting, less talked about movies – are currently available on a variety of instant streaming services. So we’ve scanned through all the major leaders in digital home entertainment and singled out the very best Bruce Willis movies available in all of them (unless, again, you’re inclined to pay extra for some reason).
So check out the best Bruce Willis movies that are currently online, and come back next Monday for an all-new Now Streaming!
There was a time when Armageddon was Michael Bay’s biggest, dumbest movie. And to be fair, the idea is still pretty giggle-worthy. The planet is about to be destroyed by an asteroid and the only way to save humanity is to train oil riggers to become emergency astronauts, so they can burrow into the rock and drop a nuclear bomb inside. Never mind that it would probably be a heck of a lot easier to train astronauts how to use a drill.
But Armageddon is one of the great stupid movies, so convinced of its own epicness that it either makes you laugh or, despite your own best judgment, makes you cry. Bruce Willis’s heroic final moments are the film’s ultimate litmus test: if you chuckle, you had a good time… if you weep, you had a GREAT time.
Bandits (Showtime Anytime)
Barry Levinson’s loose adaptation of an Elmore Leonard novel stars Bruce Willis and Billy Bob Thornton as mismatched thieves who embark on a successful bank robbing career. Willis plays a slick charmer and Thornton plays a brilliant neurotic mess. But when they take a fiery Cate Blanchett hostage they wind up with more than they bargained for: a woman who wants in on the job, and a woman who seems equally attracted to them both.
Bandits is a smooth motion picture. The heists are sometimes exciting but it’s the love triangle that really sucks you in, and to the film’s credit, the plot doesn’t follow conservative conventions. The solution to Bandit‘s romantic conundrum is daring in its simplicity, and it’s amazing that so few films have tried to follow in its progressive, albeit unusual footsteps.
Pulp Fiction (Netflix / Showtime Anytime)
If it’s really necessary to say anything more about Pulp Fiction – a film that transformed independent cinema in the 1990s, along with the way that practically all movie dialogue was written – then perhaps it is only necessary to say this: it really is as good as its reputation.
Quentin Tarantino’s sophomore feature is an interwoven series of crime stories, and in all of them, plans go awry because of the human element. The unsafe handling of a weapon ruins everyone’s day after hitmen accidentally shoot their associate in the face. A hired goon’s loyalty is tested when he falls for his boss’s wife. A pair of convenience store robbers get ambitious, but try to rob the wrong man. And a boxer who refuses to take a dive winds up in dire straits alongside the mobster who wants him dead.
Bruce Willis plays the boxer, and he’s just part of a rich tapestry. People get hung up on the language and style of Pulp Fiction, but it’s the film’s canny way of injecting real humanity into familiar movie situations that lingers. It’s worth watching if you’ve never seen it, and worth a rewatch even if you have.
Frank Miller’s Sin City comic books were always a cynical exercise in bleak, black-and-white machismo. Robert Rodriguez’s adaptation was faithful to a fault. It’s just as two-dimensionally “cool” as Miller’s stories, and it captures their seductive, tawdry, brawny charms.
Another series of crime stories, more violent than ever: a cop saves a little girl from a serial killer, then takes the rap to save her life; a powerful gang of prostitutes fights to stop a turf war; a mentally unstable brute tries to commit one good deed. There are heroes in Sin City, but the world they inhabit doesn’t really care about their struggles. Sin City is a story about strong-willed working stiffs chipping away at the privilege of the rich and powerful, taking violent stands and martyring themselves just to prove that doing the right thing is possible. It would be inspiring if you weren’t supposed to get off on how badass not being inspired is.
Twelve Monkeys (Showtime Anytime)
One of the best and most accessible films from Terry Gilliam, 12 Monkeys is an ambitious adaptation of Chris Marker’s incredible short film La Jetée. The set-up is basically the same: a man is sent back in time to stop an apocalyptic disaster, only to discover the complexities of time travel. The original film is a stunning piece of storytelling but Gilliam’s version is even more fun.
Bruce Willis plays the time traveler in 12 Monkeys alongside a maniacal Brad Pitt, who may be responsible for the death of the human race. Then again, maybe not. Or maybe. Wondering what’s real and what even matters is the audience’s job, but Willis joins them, somehow transforming a meandering emotion like confusion into a stirring motive. As always, Terry Gilliam films the hell out of his movies, giving 12 Monkeys a unique style and design that transforms an artful concept into something earthy and playful and bizarre.
William Bibbiani (everyone calls him ‘Bibbs’) is Crave’s film content editor and critic. You can hear him every week on The B-Movies Podcast and watch him on the weekly YouTube series Most Craved and What the Flick. Follow his rantings on Twitter at @WilliamBibbiani.