The sudden and unfortunate passing of Bill Paxton from complications due to surgery has caused an outpouring of sadness among the film community. Many of us have expressed our own sadness on social media. Thus, we celebrate the career of a great actor and filmmaker by listing our ten favourite Bill Paxton movies.
NOTE: While Bill Paxton is the only man other than Lance Henrickson to be killed by an Alien, Predator, and Terminator, The Terminator is not on this list simply because Paxton was only in it for about 30 seconds.
10. Indian Summer (1993)
This small and often forgotten romantic comedy is about a group of young adults, now in their 30s, reuniting in an Ontario campground where they used to attend as children. The film is a heartfelt tribute to childhood memories and growing up. Bill Paxton plays one of the grown ups, Jack Belston, who was sent home from camp in disgrace. Of course he’s one of the more interesting characters as there’s the underlying mystery as to why he was invited back all these years later.
9. Predator 2 (1990)
Critics maligned this sequel to the action horror Arnold Schwarzenegger starring original. It’s unfortunate because for all its faults, Predator 2 is a great sequel that makes the heart of Los Angeles a slaying ground for the iconic creature. Bill Paxton plays Jerry Lambert, a cop who provides much of the film’s comic relief. Paxton excelled at these kind of roles and even if you don’t enjoy this film, you will love Paxton’s performance in it.
8. Weird Science (1985)
This cult classic is often seen as the film that introduced the world to Bill Paxton. Directed by John Hughes, this sci-fi comedy sees Paxton playing Chet, the sleazy older brother to one of our main characters who extorts them for money in order to keep silent on their little science project. This is a great calling card for the actor, showing how much range he has even with a not quite fully realized character.
7. Twister (1996)
One of the most popular and successful special effects disaster films of the 90s, Twister saw Paxton playing a tornado chaser alongside a team that starred Helen Hunt, Alan Ruck, Cary Elwes, and Philip Seymour Hoffman. It’s a big, loud, dumb movie that defies logic on many occasions. But it’s also damn fun, and Paxton is fantastic as the film’s leading man.
6. True Lies (1995)
I was debating putting Titanic on this list, since Paxton is my favourite on screen lost ship excavator, but then I remembered how amazing he was in James Cameron’s take on James Bond starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis. Paxton plays the con man who manipulates Jamie Lee Curtis to go on top secret missions with him so she will fall in love with him. Of course, Paxton doesn’t know that her husband is a real life spy. True Lies is still today the only film to be able to balance high octane action scenes with quirky romantic comedy so that both male and female audiences can walk away from date night thoroughly entertained. A big chunk of this is due to Bill Paxton.
5. Near Dark (1987)
Kathryn Bigelow’s vampire western is simply astounding in almost every way. Bill Paxton plays Severin, one of the twisted members of the vampire gang. Many critics and audiences have credited Paxton to stealing the entire movie away from everyone else. The blu ray cover unfortunately makes the film look like the 80s version of Twilight, and in many respects it is …. with buckets of gore, exploding body parts, nasty burns, and swearing that certainly hits double digits.
4. Apollo 13 (1995)
This immensely successful historical drama has Bill Paxton playing Fred Haise, one of the astronauts on the spaceship that was so damaged, the ship almost couldn’t return to Earth. A movie like this can only be as absorbing and gripping as it was with a cast of actors who make the main characters relatable and likable. Paxton makes up one third of the crew while Tom Hanks and Kevin Bacon make up the rest.
3. Frailty (2001)
Bill Paxton plays a very disturbed father who believes demons exist among us. He tells his children he has been sent by God to execute these demons. So, when his children see human beings tied up in their barn and murdered with an axe, they naturally start to question their father’s sanity. This horror film plays like a classic Stephen King tale. Matthew McConaughey co-stars in one of his best performances. Bill Paxton doesn’t just demonstrate his talent in front of the camera, he demonstrates his ability to command it. Frailty was directed by Paxton as well. (NOTE: Bill Paxton’s second directorial feature, The Greatest Game Ever Played, is also worth watching despite Paxton not starring in it.)
2. A Simple Plan (1998)
One of the greatest thrillers of the 90s, A Simple Plan almost feels like a film the Coen Brothers would have made. Sam Raimi shows his versatility away from horror and comedy in a dark crime story about a group of friends who find millions of dollars in cash. Their plan to keep it away from authorities and divide it among themselves soon ends up overly complicated and destroyed with deadly results. Paxton’s performance is so good, it puts the audience into the same situation and makes them wonder what they would have done in this situation, and how different would they expect the outcome to be.
1. Aliens (1986)
Despite being an all around perfect movie, Bill Paxton’s performance as Private Hudson is considered by almost everyone to be one of the best things about it. I wholeheartedly agree. Paxton adds much of the comic relief in the film, but he does so with his usual charisma and insight into the character’s motives, adding so much more depth and likability than probably even James Cameron thought to put towards the character. If you’ve never seen Aliens, crawl out from under your rock because this film will instantly convince you of Bill Paxton’s unique screen presence.
Did your favourite Bill Paxton movie make the list? Let us know in the Comments!