Blind Date (1987)
Written for newlyweds Madonna and Sean Penn, this yuppie-nightmare comedy gave our Bruce–then riding high on the success of TV’s Moonlighting–his first starring role.
The Bonfire of the Vanities (1990)
The Brucie train didn’t take long to come off the rails. As the insanely overpriced Die Hard 2 failed to repeat the original’s success, this misjudged adaptation of Tom Wolfe’s political satire crashed into cinemas. Rumours of Bruce acting up on the set were rife throughout production, making the film’s title all the more ironic.
Hudson Hawk (1991)
After Bonfire, could things get any worse for our hapless hero? As it turns out, yes. Cat-burgling thriller Hudson Hawk remains a byword for expensive flops, despite the fact that the film isn’t really as bad as everyone remembers.
Death Becomes Her (1992)
In the years since it was first released to a chorus of critical groans, this macabre black-comic oddity casting Bruce as a moustachioed mortician has become inexplicably popular with nostalgia fans.
Pulp Fiction (1994)
Golden boy Quentin Tarantino sought Bruce out for the role of Butch, the put-upon boxer in his exhilarating, modern classic crime movie. His performance is subtle, gentle and sweetly heroic—aspects of his repertoire that he wouldn’t display again for a very long time.
12 Monkeys (1995)
Once again, Bruce drags himself back from the brink, with the aid of Terry Gilliam and his eye for the bizarre and unexpected. This time-hopping adventure may not have aged perfectly, but Bruce’s performance remains a real treat: he’s a genuinely sympathetic, tragic figure.
Another film that divides the critics. But we’re fans of Bruce’s square-jawed, blue collar matinee idol performance in this ridiculously fun disaster movie. The messianic climax is a real tearjerker.
Breakfast of Champions (1999)
At this stage, Bruce was really racking up the misfires. His wildly indulgent leading performance in this adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut’s incisive satire on American commercialism ranks as one of his very worst.
The Sixth Sense (1999)
Another unexpected triumph, as Bruce plays the sad-eyed psychologist tasked with counseling a nine-year-old boy who can commune with the dead. The twist may not make complete sense, but it sure spooked filmgoers at the time.
The Whole Nine Yards (2000)
Bruce turned his hand to comedy in this featherlight tale of a mafia hood hiding out in suburbia. He may have coasted through his role, but the film was a welcome hit, spawning a totally unnecessary sequel.
Tears of the Sun (2003)
This ropey white-man-in-Africa adventure will have to stand for all the dodgy militaristic action movies Bruce has made over the past few decades (step forward The Siege, Hart’s War, Hostage, 16 Blocks and too many more to count). Lest we forget, it was around this time that Bruce volunteered to fight in Iraq, only to decide he was probably a bit long in the tooth.
Sin City (2005)
Some viewers loved comic-book artist Frank Miller’s seedy, ultra-stylied crime thriller for its slick dialogue and sprawling cast of characters. Others loathed its excessive violence and shifty attitude to women.
Cop Out (2010)
Director Kevin Smith loves to grumble about Bruce’s behavior on the set of this shaky cop comedy, his first straight-up funny role in several years. Whoever’s fault it was, the film really doesn’t work.
Bruce leads a pack of ageing ex-CIA agents whose ranks include Helen Mirren and John Malkovich in this comic thriller that really should have been a lot better. The stock geriatric gags and lumbering action sequences get (ahem) old pretty quickly.
Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
Thirteen long years since his last decent movie, Bruce accepted an invitation from master of whimsy Wes Anderson to take the role of an ageing, irascible cop in this wonderful coming-of-age tale. The twinkly-eyed result was his best performance since Pulp Fiction.
In a banner year for our Bruce, he followed Moonrise with another rock-solid, heartfelt, surprisingly dark-edged turn in this complex time-travelling actioner. Sure, he then decided to make the execrable Live Free or Die Hard. But hey, nobody’s perfect, as Willis’s CV makes abundantly clear.