The Weekend Rent: Bruce Willis' Greatest Sci-Fi Roles

The Weekend Rent: Bruce Willis' Greatest Sci-Fi Roles

Sep 28, 2012

"The Weekend Rent" offers quick-hit suggestions of what to watch at home to get psyched for new releases in theaters, on Fridays. Click on any of the links below to find out how you can watch the movie right now.


Bruce Willis has done, you know, a few action movies in his long career, but it's his current return to the sci-fi genre in Looper in theaters that is earning him glowing reviews. In the futuristic movie written and directed by Rian Johnson, Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays a time-traveling mafia assassin named Joseph Simmons who recognizes a target (Willis) as a future version of himself. When Joseph fails to take his older self out, his employers come after him as he tries to hunt his future self.

Although Willis is known best for his straightforward action roles like in the Die Hard movies, his adventures in sci-fi land have been pretty out of this world. His first foray into the genre came in 1995 with Terry Gilliam's 12 Monkeys, a movie that also involved time travel. Willis plays a convicted criminal in a post-apocalyptic future in which the Earth's population has been decimated by a deadly virus. Willis is sent back in time to collect information about how the outbreak occurred, and he discovers that an animal-rights group called the Army of the Twelve Monkeys is responsible. Also, not unlike in Looper, Willis encounters his past self as a young boy.

Willis went full sci-fi in the epic 1997 adventure The Fifth Element by Luc Besson. Willis plays a futuristic taxi driver named Corben Dallas who has a young woman (Milla Jovovich) crash-land in his cab. It turns out that the woman, Leeloo, is an alien known as the "Perfect Being" who, in combination with four sacred stones, offers the only hope of defeating the Great Evil that appears every 5,000 years.

Since The Fifth Element became an international success, it was only natural that Willis returned to space in Armageddon. Michael Bay's 1998 sci-fi disaster film is about a Texas-sized asteroid hurdling toward Earth that will result in certain doom for the planet. Willis plays the head of the shuttle Freedom drill team tasked with journeying to the doomsday rock and blowing it apart before it reaches Earth. Who do you think is left behind on the asteroid to manually detonate it and save humanity?

Willis took a nearly 10-year sabbatical from sci-fi after Armageddon until appearing in Robert Rodriguez's horror show Grindhouse: Planet Terror in 2007. In Rodriguez's half of the Grindhouse double feature, Willis plays a military lieutenant trying to contain the effects of a deadly biochemical agent called DC2 (codename: Planet Terror). The gas has turned the unsuspecting denizens of a small town into psychopathic zombies, and Willis himself begins to mutate as he tries to control the situation.

Before Looper, Willis' most recent sci-fi role was as an FBI agent in the underappreciated Surrogates. In the futuristic movie, people rarely leave their homes and live life vicariously through remote-controlled androids called "surrogates" who are idealized versions of themselves. Willis never sees his wife in the flesh—only through his surrogate—but that is the least of his problems. Willis must investigate the mysterious death of two people who seem to have died when their surrogates were destroyed out in the real world. There is an anti-surrogate movement rising, and Willis eventually must face the world in his own body and not via a surrogate. A modern-day equivalent would be people interacting with each other in person instead of via glowing little touch-screen smartphones. Just saying.

All of the movies listed above are available on DVD, Blu-ray and various VOD services. Looper opens in theaters everywhere on September 28.

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