In Memoriam: The Top 10 Films Starring Bill Paxton (1955-2017)
Film and television fans everywhere were saddened by the news on Sunday that Bill Paxton had passed away following complications from heart surgery. Best known to most movie fans for his small but memorable roles in genre films like Aliens and True Lies, Paxton was the rare character actor who was also capable of carrying a starring role. Garnering critical praise for his first major starring role in One False Move, Paxton went on to star in a variety of genres, from thrillers (A Simple Plan) to disaster films (Twister), and true-life dramas (Apollo 13) to horror (Frailty).
Paxton was thrice nominated for a Best Actor Golden Globe in the Television Drama category for his starring role as polygamist Bill Henrickson on Big Love. He was well known for working with director James Cameron, appearing in four of Cameron’s films. Two of those are part of the trifecta that made Paxton the link between three major 1980s science fiction franchises: Aliens, Predator and The Terminator.
The following are the ten films ranked highest by Flickchart’s users that feature Paxton in one of the five major starring roles.
10. Predator 2 (1990)
The alien hunter that battled Arnold Schwarzenegger in the original 1987 film moves from the jungle to downtown L.A., looking for a few more trophies. There he tangles with veteran LAPD Lieutenant Mike Harrigan (Danny Glover). Paxton plays Harrigan’s cocky partner, Jerry Lambert, who comes out on the losing end when he engages the Predator on the subway.
- Global Flickchart Rank: #2,950
- Ranked 85,662 times by 11,958 users
9. Twister (1996)
Paxton co-stars with future Oscar winner Helen Hunt as an estranged couple who work together to chase what may be the biggest tornado ever recorded. Somewhat unusually, Paxton plays the straight leading man in this disaster flick, while the color of the supporting cast is provided by the likes of Philip Seymour Hoffman and Alan Ruck.
- Global Flickchart Rank: #2,663
- Ranked 422,062 times by 68,087 users
8. Frailty (2002)
Pulling impressive double duty, Paxton not only turns in one of his best performances, but also directs this taut supernatural thriller. Paxton plays Meiks, a father who pulls his two sons into his holy demon-hunting crusade. One of the boys grows up to be a troubled Matthew McConaughey, who relates the disturbing tale to an FBI agent (Powers Boothe).
- Global Flickchart Rank: #1,782
- Ranked 39,024 times by 4,176 users
7. Weird Science (1985)
John Hughes directed this tale of two nerds attempting to use science to create the perfect woman. Paxton was a scene-stealer as bullying older brother Chet.
- Global Flickchart Rank: #1,340
- Ranked 69,262 times by 9,242 users
6. A Simple Plan (1998)
Two brothers and a friend discover a bag stuffed full of cash in a downed airplane, but things get out of hand when they decide to keep the money and try to cover up their “perfect crime.” Paxton may have been overshadowed by Billy Bob Thornton’s Oscar-nominated turn, but he very capably holds the lead in this thriller from Spider-Man director Sam Raimi.
- Global Flickchart Rank: #1,266
- Ranked 46,711 times by 5,072 users
5. True Lies (1994)
In James Cameron’s action comedy, Arnold Schwarzenegger plays Harry Tasker, a husband who hides his life as a secret agent from his wife, Helen (Jamie Lee Curtis). Bill Paxton garners some of the film’s biggest laughs as Simon, the sleazy used car salesman who Harry suspects may be having an affair with Helen.
- Global Flickchart Rank: #664
- Ranked 473,038 times by 62,946 users
4. Edge of Tomorrow (2014)
Tom Cruise is stuck in a time loop in this futuristic sci-fi war film. Paxton plays Master Sergeant Farell, leader of the rough-and-tough J-squad, in a role that hearkens back to his most famous role as another military officer battling Aliens…
- Global Flickchart Rank: #631
- Ranked 53,892 times by 3,463 users
3. Near Dark (1987)
In the feature directorial debut of Oscar winner Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker), Paxton plays Severen, a member of a nomadic family of bloodsuckers… though the term “vampire” is never mentioned in the film.
- Global Flickchart Rank: #590
- Ranked 25,502 times by 1,938 users
2. Nightcrawler (2014)
Paxton appears as Joe Loder, the ambulance-chasing reporter from whom Louis Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) begins to learn the tricks of the trade. When Bloom’s methods of capturing the story start to become more and more extreme, Loder discovers just how dangerous this man is becoming.
- Global Flickchart Rank: #511
- Ranked 45,932 times by 2,725 users
1. Apollo 13 (1995)
In Ron Howard’s true-life take on the disaster aboard moon shuttle mission Apollo 13 and the subsequent effort to bring three astronauts safely home, Paxton plays Fred Haise, the lunar module pilot, and holds his own sharing the screen with the likes of Tom Hanks and Kevin Bacon.
- Global Flickchart Rank: #355
- Ranked 500,979 times by 64,982 users
The Smaller Roles
Bill Paxton will forever be remembered for working with James Cameron, including his memorable turn as the mouthy punk who confronts Schwarzenegger’s T-800 when he first arrives in 1985 in The Terminator (ranked #74 on the global Flickchart), and as modern-day treasure hunter Brock Lovett, whose search for the long-missing ocean liner frames the story of Titanic (#759).
Yet, undoubtedly, Paxton’s most immortal role is as the wisecracking Private Hudson in Aliens (#52). Immensely quotable (“Game over, man! Game over!”), Paxton provides most of the scant comic relief in Cameron’s epic alien war film, while never quite relinquishing his authenticity. It’s a fine line Paxton walks in the film, and Hudson justifiably remains one of his most popular roles to this day.