Top 10 Worst Bruce Willis Movies

by Eric Melin on November 6, 2007

in Top 10s

Some A-List movie stars are allowed to get away with murder, and no one seems to do just that more often than Bruce Willis. For every “Pulp Fiction,” “Die Hard,” or “Sin City” on his resume, the actor has ten movies as bad as “Perfect Stranger.” And since that scummy little stinker came out earlier this year, I thought it was time to round up ten of Bruce’s greatest misappropriations of film. The man seems to be flop-proof, as he showed this year by following up the paltry $23 million “Perfect Stranger” with $134 mil for “Live Free or Die Hard.” So here’s a quick reminder that John McClane is human, just like the rest of us. Make sure to check back next week for J.D.’s response!

jane-march-color-of-night1. Color of Night (1994)

Bruce’s steamiest movie seems to exist only to test the patience of those waiting for his naughty bits or those of his 20 year-old co-star Jane March. This poor girl appears in a dual role (as a gender-confused young man named Richie) so badly disguised that it makes you wonder how Willis’ psychiatrist never figured it out until the very end. The audience isn’t supposed to either, but its so obvious that the conceit of us not knowing is so completely blown that the entire film becomes this unconvincing camp film, and then begins to entertain on a whole different level. This is one of the funniest of Bruce’s bad movies, and a big winner for Worst Picture at the Razzies.

Dr. Bill Capa: Six weeks ago I spoke harshly to a patient and she commited suicide right in front of me.
Sondra Dorio: Oh I’m so sorry.
Dr. Bill Capa: I guess she would’ve done this anyway, my colleagues say, but I don’t know. And my patient, her name was Michelle, jumped out of a window in my office. So much blood! So red! And right before my eyes the red just disappeared just turned to grey so I don’t see red now! But you see I was her doctor! And I failed, so I can’t help you. I don’t think you want someone like me around right now.
Buck: I think I do.
Rose: Me too.

breakfast of champions willis2. Breakfast of Champions (1999)

Adapting Kurt Vonnegut to the screen is no easy task—just look at “Slaughterhouse Five” and “Mother Night,” two interesting, if flawed, pictures. But if one film put the final nail in the coffin of the rest of the late satirist’s movie properties, it is this awful, awful, awful version of one of Vonnegut’s funniest books. Alan Rudolph wrote the script soon after the book was first published in 1973, and apparently waited this long to adapt it so he could concentrate on getting everything wrong in just the right way. Willis plays deranged Pontiac salesman Dwayne Hoover with aplomb (as do his frenzied co-stars Albert Finney and Nick Nolte), but Vonnegut’s non-linear novel filled with absurd little illustrations makes for one hell of a frustrating and unfunny movie.

Dwayne Hoover: Modern science has given us a vast array of colors with exciting names like Red! Blue! Orange! Brown! and pink!
Harry Le Sabre: Why don’t you come right out and say it, Dwayne?
Dwayne Hoover: Say what, Harry?
Harry Le Sabre: That I like to wear women’s clothing.
Dwayne Hoover: Is that what you like, Harry?
Harry Le Sabre: Yes… I mean, No! No! Of course not!

willis berry perfect stranger3. Perfect Stranger (2007)

As I wrote earlier this year, ““Perfect Stranger” is an offensively slick and soulless piece of Hollywood crap.” Halle Berry is vacant, but poor Willis gets the worst of it. After playing head honcho in a Victoria’s Secret ad for half the film, his creepy character (in a movie full of creeps) is unceremoniously written out of the film without any acknowledgement whatsoever, a cheap pawn in a silly twist ending. Bruce uses his smirk for evil, trying to lure Berry; but wait—she’s luring him! What a brilliant female-empowering switcheroo! No, wait. It’s not. It’s just the opposite. This may still be the worst movie I’ve seen all year.

Harrison Hill: Do you have any idea what loyalty is?
Ro: I bet your wife is wondering the same thing!
Harrison Hill: AAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRGGGHHHH!

bruno willis4. The Return of Bruno (1988)

Okay, it’s cheating a bit to include this 56-minute vanity project, filmed under Hudson Hawk, Ltd., originally aired on HBO, and now only available on VHS, but it’s worth it to further point out that movie stars shouldn’t try to be rock stars. Bolstered by tons of cameos from famous friends such as Ringo Starr, Brian Wilson, the Bee Gees, Elton John, and Michael J. Fox, this “mockumentary” is as heartbreaking and impossible to listen to as “Blues Brothers 2000” (which came out in 1998). According to the film, Bruno is some mysterious and influential 1960s singer, but you wouldn’t know it from the R&B classics that Willis murders all over the soundtrack. To further show how huge Bruce was back then, let it be mentioned that the Bruno album (released by Motown!) actually reached #14 on the Billboard charts.

“Respect Yourself,” peaked at #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart (and would make the 1987 year-end Top 100 at #89), and “Under The Boardwalk” rose to #59.

bonfire-bruce5. The Bonfire of the Vanities (1990)

This one is a legendary Hollywood flop that all involved seem to have recovered nicely from. In a role that was initially offered to both Jack Nicholson and John Cleese, Willis is woefully miscast in this notoriously sanitized satire of Tom Wolfe’s book from director Brian De Palma. Originally British, his alcoholic reporter Peter Fallow tries to crucify a racist Wall Street investor (likable Tom Hanks, of all people) in the court of public opinion, but then eventually feels bad for it. A book about the tumultuous production called “The Devil’s Candy” fares better, illuminating every painful decision with unprecedented, unlimited access to the making of the movie.

Peter Fallow: If you’re going to live in a whorehouse, there’s only one thing you can do: be the best damn whore around.

hudson hawk bruce willis6. Hudson Hawk (1991)

Maybe this movie is where Dan Brown got the idea for “The Da Vinci Code,” which was adapted into a movie that’s just as bad as this one. This is certainly the most easily recognizable of Bruce’s bad films— a movie where cat burglars Willis and Danny Aiello suddenly and inexplicably break out into song in the middle of an elaborate heist of lost Da Vinci treasures. You can’t stop the man when he wants to sing. Once you give it points for being audaciously terrible, it’s almost fun. Almost. Richard E. Grant, Sandra Bernhard and David Caruso (!) are having fun ham it up as the eccentric and over-the-top villains, but Aiello and Willis’ smugness is absolutely relentless and ultimately kills what fun it is just laughing at the mixed-genre nonsense onscreen.

Hudson Hawk: Anna, we’re supposed to be saving you.
Anna: I know. I got bored so I saved myself.

7. The Jackal (1997)

This one was so bad, even Sean Connery, Liam Neeson and Matthew McConaughey all turned it down. Richard Gere and Sidney Poitier get mixed up in this awful remake of the 1973 film “The Day of the Jackal.” The mysterious Jackal, played by Willis in full bad-ass mode, is a legendary hitman prone to wearing silly disguises a la Val Kilmer in “The Saint.” (It doesn’t help that no matter what crazy long-haired wig he dons, he is always immediately recognizable as Bruce Willis.) Now, of course, the film is semi-famous for Jack Black’s “serious” supporting role, where the Jackal hilariously blows off his arm and a whole lot more! 

(After adjusting a machine gun’s sights, the Jackal shoots and blows Lamont’s arm off.)
The Jackal: I told you it was off!

look who's talking too8. Look Who’s Talking Too (1990)

Amy Heckerling directed the superb “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” in 1982, but by the end of the nineties, she was reduced writing and directing “talking baby” movies that were full of scatological humor. This quick follow-up to 1989’s surprise hit “Look Who’s Talking” again featured Willis as the voice of Mikey and John Travolta as his Daddy. Added frivolity (if poop jokes count as frivolity) also included Rosanne Barr as Mikey’s baby sister and a talking toilet, voiced by Mel Brooks. As chance would have it, Travolta would be reunited with Willis in a famous toilet scene four years later when Butch guns down Vincent after using the boxer’s bathroom in “Pulp Fiction.”

Mikey: Poor Daddy, hanging out with buttholes all day long.

9. Lucky Number Slevin (2006)

lucky number slevinA “Pulp Fiction” wannabe film twelve years after the fact, this tedious and exhausting movie has the indecency to lure Willis, one of the original Tarantino film’s stars, into the mess. There’s nothing worse than Bruce (as another hitman!) when he knows the lines he’s saying are supposed to be clever, and this Josh Hartnett vehicle is full of them. In an egregious overuse of his trademark know-it-all grin, Willis smirks it up all over the place with tons of mannered and phony dialogue that wouldn’t ring true if Lord Tarantino spoke it himself. Whatever natural flair for comedy Bruce had in “Moonlighting” is not present here, as he struggles to be funny through a hackneyed screenplay.

Mr. Goodkat: There was a time.
Nick: [looks at his watch] 4:35.
Mr. Goodkat: You misunderstood. I wasn’t asking for the time, I was just saying… there was a time.
Nick: There was a time?
Mr. Goodkat: Mmm-hmm. Take Brown Sugar back there, for example. She’s pretty fuckin’ foxy, right?
Nick: She’s 70.
Mr. Goodkat: If she’s a day. But there was a time.

billy bob willis bandits10. Bandits (2001)

Take three appealing leads (Willis, Cate Blanchett, Billy Bob Thornton), one Oscar-winning director “Rain Man” Barry Levinson), and one former “Twin Peaks” writer (Harley Peyton), and you get this lame-brained comedy caper in which Bruce and Billy Bob are a pair of mismatched bank robbers who fall for the same woman. Levinson tries every trick in the book to keep the movie fresh, including a reality-show parody and a time-shifting narrative, but its basically Thornton and Willis goofing off for two hours while Blanchett almost makes you care what’s happening.

Joe: What’d you bring her here for?
Terry: One, I had no choice, two, I may have suffered a slight concussion and three, she is mentally imbalanced to a spectacular degree.
Kate: I can hear you!

Eric is the Editor-in-Chief of Scene-Stealers.com and writes the Screen Stealers column for The Pitch. He’s President of the KCFCC, and drummer for The Dead Girls and Ultimate Fakebook. He is also Air Guitar World Champion Mean Melin. Eric goes to 11. Follow him at:

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{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Alan Rapp November 9, 2007 at 1:38 pm

How Hudson Hawk didn’t rank higher on your list I’ll never understand.

(And though I agree with you, don’t tell Ian you hated Lucky Number Slevin; he loved it!)

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2 Tony November 10, 2007 at 7:34 am

I agree with Alan Rapp.
Hudson Hawk was the worst movie I have ever seen.

I liked Bandits though.

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3 bigbird November 10, 2007 at 3:24 pm

what the hell, guys. hudson hawk was hilarious.

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4 Alan Rapp November 12, 2007 at 11:47 pm

Forgot to comment on Bonfire. Yeah, it’s a complete mess due to some of the worst casting, of every single character, of any film in recent memory. Still, it’s better than De Palma’s film from last year!

heh!

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5 NinjaYue November 29, 2007 at 12:54 am

The perfect stranger?! what in the hell…who made this list? And the jackal. this person simply isnt a fan.

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6 Big Daddy December 7, 2007 at 6:52 am

Man this list is terrible. Lucky Number Slevin a Pulp Fiction ripoff??? Did you even watch the movie? And where is “The Whole Ten Yards”, “Death Becomes Her” or “The Story of Us”? Man this list is a joooooke.

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7 Eric Melin December 7, 2007 at 7:18 am

Right. All that faux-clever dialogue and gangsters with guns who’d just assume talk about the Schmoo as kill you was a completely original idea. Whatever. As far as the other flicks, they were so bad, I never bothered to sit through the whole movies. Notice “Last Man Standing” “Hart’s War” and “Tears of the Sun” weren’t on there either.

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8 Laura December 14, 2007 at 7:53 pm

Eric, you wrote “All that faux-clever dialogue and gangsters with guns who’d just assume talk about the Schmoo as kill you”.

That makes absolutely no sense. Do you mean “Just as SOON talk”? jesus christ, think about what you’re writing, if you don’t understand what a phrase means (and you clearly don’t, since you misused it), don’t freaking use it! Go to school!

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9 Eric Melin December 15, 2007 at 12:09 am

You are right. That’s what I meant. It took me a full minute to write that entire response, and I didn’t proofread it. Good thing I’m not an editor. Wait…

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10 Si December 24, 2007 at 11:27 am

“they were so bad, I never bothered to sit through the whole movies”

OMG surely that makes them 1, 2 and 3 without a doubt.

BTW I agree that although slevin was a poor ripoff of snatch,lock stock I really have no idea how your managing to compare it to Pulp Fiction – surely if you have to compare it to a Tarintino movie then Jackie Brown would be a much closer match.

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11 Eric Melin December 24, 2007 at 11:42 am

I think making a comparison to “Lock, Stock” is fair, but “Pulp Fiction” was first, so that one gets the nod. Hell, I’d trace back a lot to “PF”‘s doorstep, including “Lock, Stock.” “Jackie Brown” didn’t feel like “Slevin” at all, it was fairly muted comparitively.

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12 Joe December 25, 2007 at 12:54 pm

I have to disagree on Lucky Number Slevin. The enjoyment I got from it had nothing to do with any attempts to be clever, but at the very least it should not be on this list because of how good Ben Kingsley and Morgan Freeman are. Those two actors did so much for me in that movie that I can’t even put it into words. The film has some tone shifts but they have a stretch that for me works really well up until the very last Lucy Liu scene.

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13 Joe December 25, 2007 at 1:02 pm

Also, I must echo the earlier comment of Last Man Standing which was a true piece of garbage. Additionally, North, Mercury Rising, Unbreakable, Armageddon is garbage, and contrary to popular opinion so is The Sixth Sense.

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14 John December 26, 2007 at 12:36 am

What?? This list is bs, some of these listed were great movies, I agree with a couple but lucky number sleven was awesome.

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15 Paul Mazzoni January 13, 2008 at 11:43 pm

Wrong, wrong, wrong on “Lucky Number Slevin”. I was really impressed with that one, though I can kind of see why you dimiss it as a “Pulp Fiction” wannabe. You need a spot for “Last Man Standing”. That thing was REALLY, REALLY bad.

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16 Eric Melin January 14, 2008 at 7:22 am

Never did manage to see “Last Man Standing,” but even if it had made the list, it would only have bumped “Slevin” down a notch, which would not be enough to drop the movie with the most forced dialogue on the list down off of it!

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17 dan January 24, 2008 at 10:41 pm

the jackal is a good movie

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18 NinjaYue February 15, 2008 at 3:46 pm

Hart’s war should be on the list…and even BW himself said, “want to ruin a movie? put a trial 2/3s the way through it”

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19 DS February 16, 2008 at 12:34 am

Has anyone said “The Last Boy Scout”?

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20 Rich Rostrom April 30, 2008 at 5:49 pm

You didn’t watch Hudson Hawk very carefully. The reason Eddie Hawkins and Tommy Five-Tone sing during the heist is for timing. This was explicitly mentioned earlier. Tommy says Hawk will have exactly 3 minutes and 14 seconds (I forget the exact time) to complete the heist, and Hawk responds “Swingin’ On A Star!” It has been previously established that Hawk knows the exact length of a zillion pop songs.

Tommy and Hawk use the song to synchronize Hawk’s escape from the heist site with Tommy’s covering actions. It was a silly conceit, but not senseless – and the movie is pretty silly over all.

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21 E_RayGuessFresh April 5, 2010 at 12:49 pm

Lucky Number Slevin was in my opinion a very interesting movie, with good plot twist and came together well at the end. dialogue could be stated as forced but was to the same degree as V for vendetta which was also very entertaining to me. Look whos talkin too was also a classic 80′s movie type of entertainment. Last Man standing should get a swap in for Slevin and swap in Surrogates or Unbreakable as horrible adaptations for Look who’s talkin too

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22 Nicky Mcgeary April 24, 2010 at 2:29 am

This is a very cool site.

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23 tuckersg16 September 5, 2010 at 8:45 pm

Dude, you don’t have a clue. What the hell do you mean, actors shouldn’t sing? What about Hugh Dillon and the Headstones? And Bruce doesn’t murder those songs. His music is excellent. And Hudson Hawk is great. I’ll admit, I HATED Perfect Stranger. But Color of Night wasn’t toooooo bad. It wasn’t outstanding. And “For every Die Hard, Pulp-Fiction and Sin-City on his resume, he has 10 movies as bad as Perfect Stranger”? It sounds like you’re trying to say that Bruce has wayyyyyyyyy more bad movies than good, and that’s just bull. Bruce is The Man. He is a great actor, and he has the ability to make even the worst movies worth watching. So you don’t even know what you’re talking about.

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24 Abel September 30, 2010 at 7:12 am

hi
Honestly , i like Hudson Hawk, remember when it was coming out.
The concept was funny and we had a good time. It s not a great movie but very pleasant.
The idea to sing was great and original foe me.
About Lucky number slevin , i am not at all agree with you .
If you see the decoration of the flat and the clothes everything match.
I love the color effect on this movie.
And it s not because bruce willis is not at his best leve that this movie is bad.

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25 brandy November 18, 2010 at 8:34 am

I think you are being very critical of Mr. Willis I love all of his movies. It is very easy to judge the work of others when you yourself have never created anything for critique.

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26 Joel November 21, 2010 at 9:34 pm

LOL. So based on this list Willis has made no good movies? Ohh wait I haven’t seen Die hard series on the list. Apparently anything different is bad but your standard action shoot-em up is high quality.

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27 hsheng June 20, 2015 at 8:53 pm

Another called A Maquina in 2015, totally shit

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