Unfortunately, as with other great artists, it often takes an actor’s death for people to realize how much the person accomplished in life. That is certainly the case for Bill Paxton, who just died today at the age of 61 due to complications from a surgery.
To honor this under appreciated actor, the following is a look at three of the best Bill Paxton movies, along with some additional ones for you to consider. Criteria included in these rankings are overall success or impact of the film, the quality of acting and the significance of the actor’s characters within the story.
Paxton played Master Sergeant Farell in this futuristic action-adventure film from Director Doug Liman. Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt take the lead in this entertainment and well-developed drama saga, but Paxton contributes an excellent performance as a key character as Cage (Cruise) tries to figure out why he is stuck in a time loop after dying in battle.
Nightcrawler is a riveting crime-drama-thriller from Director Dan Gilroy. It tells the story of Louis Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal), an aspiring cameraman who quickly learns that the best way to make money in the film industry is to get the inside scoop (video footage) on crowd-pleasing stories of death and mayhem. When the news cycle is slow, Bloom takes his thirst for high-quality footage and attention-getting news features to a dark level by staging and then contributing to the stories he covers. While Gyllenhaal brilliantly portrays the lead character, Paxton performs wonderfully in a supporting role as Joe Loder, a more typical paparazzi who alerts Louis to the opportunities to sell compelling footage for profit and then competes with him for first access to breaking news.
Paxton plays second fiddle to no one in this stellar crime-drama-thriller with a twist. Not only is Paxton great as Dad Meiks, a religious fanatic who murders people God tells him are “demons” and involves his sons in the cover up, but he directed the film as well. Matthew McConaughey and Powers Boothe co-star in this captivating thriller.
In Apollo 13, from Director Ron Howard, Paxton plays Astronaut Fred Haise and is part of an excellent ensemble cast that also includes Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon, Gary Sinise, Ed Harris and Kathleen Quinlan. This film is an action-packed historical adventure that tells the story of NASA’s efforts to guide three astronauts aboard “Apollo 13” home safely after their spacecraft experience major damage during a mission.
In Aliens, directed by James Cameron, Paxton got a chance to be part of a cast that executed arguably the most groundbreaking and icon alien movie of all-time. Private Hudson (Paxton) is part of a rescue team sent to a colonized moon where contact has been lost. The film also stars Sigourney Weaver, Carrie Henn, Michael Biehn, Paul Reiser, Lance Henriksen and William Hope.
It is rare that one actor is able to be a part of the most visible or iconic films in multiple categories, but that is the case for Paxton who also starred in this 1996 film (from Director Jan de Bont) that set the standard for natural disaster/tornado films. Estranged couple Bill (Paxton) and Jo Harding (Helen Hunt) must set aside their personal differences to overcome the dangers they face while chasing tornadoes in the name of science. Loaded with intense action sequences, this film’s impact was symbolized by its inclusion on a famous theme park ride at Universal Studios.
Other best Bill Paxton movies deserving of consideration include (in descending chronological order): Red Wing (2013), A Simple Plan (1998), Titanic (1997), True Lies (1994), Tombstone (1993)
Let the debate begin. Do you know of other top Bill Paxton movies? Post a comment and share your personal favorites!