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Bill Paxton: honouring the late actor's 14 greatest movies


Hollywood was rocked last night by the news that versatile character actor Bill Paxton had passed away following complications from surgery. In fact, Jennifer Aniston bid him a moving tribute at last night's Oscars. Take a look here.

Whether you're struggling to place him or are simply here to celebrate an incredible career, join us as we count down Bill's 13 greatest movies.

The Terminator (1984)

True, Bill is only in James Cameron's grungy, trendsetting sci-fi classic for all of 30 seconds but it marked the start of one of the most fruitful actor/director partnerships in the movies. Plus, the demise of his punk-haired character at the hands of a naked Arnie is so unforgettable, setting the vicious and relentless tone for the movie that follows, that we can't not include it.

Weird Science (1985)

It's a bit dated now but John Hughes' kitschy teen comedy about two young lads who construct their perfect woman (Kelly Le Brock) in a computer programme has its moments. The real scene-stealer is Paxton, embodying another memorable douchebag in the form of central character Wyatt's obnoxious older brother Chet. It showcases the actor's flair for manic, memorable comedy that would take greater shape later down the line.

Aliens (1986)

No matter what Paxton's career accomplishments were, he couldn't escape from the role of the nervy, paranoid Hudson in James Cameron's thunderously exciting follow-up to Alien. As the colonial marine barely holding it together amidst an onslaught of terrifying xenomorph attacks, Paxton embodies the fear and distress felt by the audience, and also walks away with several of the movie's best lines ("Game over man! Game over!"). 

Near Dark (1987)

Not just a veteran of the action and comedy realms, Bill could also be seriously scary when he wanted. None of his roles proved more chilling than his sadistic, vengeful vampire Severen in Kathryn Bigelow's cult classic, a moody mash-up of Western and midnight horror that is further juiced by the gleeful malice of Paxton's villain. The movie was a flop on release but has gained in stature over the years, as has the actor's scene-devouring performance.

Predator 2 (1990)

Not the best movie in which Bill appeared (although for us, it's somewhat underrated) but we're including it because it completes Bill's trio of on-screen deaths from a Terminator, Alien and Predator. He's one of only two actors who can claim to have been killed by all three (the other being his Aliens and Near Dark co-star Lance Henriksen), another reason why he's gone down in the history books.

One False Move (1992)

Devil in a Blue Dress director Carl Franklin's gripping thriller is one of the decade's most underrated. Co-written by Billy Bob Thornton, who would eventually go on to star with Paxton in the later A Simple Plan, it's the engrossing story of three notorious criminals who hide out in a small town overseen by Paxton's inexperienced Sheriff. Amidst a strong ensemble that also includes Thornton himself, the actor's mixture of decency and anguish stands out.

True Lies (1994)

Arnie's reunion with James Cameron offered a plum opportunity to Bill to once more steal the show. He plays a moustachioed swinder attempting to get close to the Austrian Oak's on-screen wife (played by Jamie Lee Curtis), offering a welcome and hilarious reprieve to the movie's onslaught of action and testosterone.

Apollo 13 (1995)

Ron Howard's triumphant staging of the Apollo 13 space disaster drew acclaim for avoiding gung-ho jingoism and instead honouring the heroism of the men involved. It's a measured, intelligent film that requires understated performances to match – and Bill is a vital part of the central ensemble alongside Tom Hanks and Kevin Bacon, playing imperilled astronaut Fred Haise.

Twister (1996)

Bill had to fight for screen time against some impressively animated CGI weather in this blusterous blockbuster, one focusing on a group of weather watchers literally headed into the eye of the storm. Bill and co-star Helen Hunt keep admirably straight faces in this enjoyably daft thrill-ride, one whose special effects stand up pretty well today.

Titanic (1997)

Another small but impactful role for the actor, here playing the treasure seeker whose modern day exploration bookends the tragic flashback story of the Titanic itself. Proving he can convey a tremendous amount with understatement, Paxton's closing words about how his character's search for the Titanic has blinded him to the real truth is genuinely poignant.

A Simple Plan (1998)

Prior to his blockbuster breakout with the Spider-Man trilogy, Evil Dead director Sam Raimi downshifted into something far more grounded and human in this chilling story of greed. He also extracts a career-best performance from Paxton, playing one of three men whose impulses get the better of them when they decide to steal a small fortune in money from a downed plane. When playing opposite his Oscar-nommed co-star Billy Bob Thornton, it's hard to imagine better acting.

Frailty (2002)

Not just a dab hand in front of the camera, Paxton also had real skills behind it, as demonstrated by his deliciously creepy gothic debut feature. A slow-cooked Texas chiller it centres on a a father slipping into religious mania and seemingly being compelled by a higher power to kill 'demons' in human form. Showcasing a mastery of slow-burning atmosphere with an eerie turn from a pre-McConaissance Matthew McConaughey, it's seriously underrated and deserves more recognition.

Edge of Tomorrow (2014)

By the time Doug Liman's terrific time-travel action movie rolled around, it felt like ages since we'd seen Bill up there on the big screen. Thankfully he was back to his scene-snaffling ways as Master Sergeant Farrell, the man whipping Tom Cruise's cowardly Bill Cage into shape over and over again as a result of the latter's groundhog day escapades. The infamous truck scene still makes us laugh now.

Nightcrawler (2014)

In what turned out to be one of Bill's final – and best – movies, he plays unscrupulous photojournalist ambulance chaser Joe Loder to Jake Gyllenhaal's reptilian central character Lou Bloom. It's another indicator of how the actor was willing to take on creepy and unsympathetic roles, fashioning them into memorable cinematic gold.

What are your favourite Bill Paxton performances? Let us know @Cineworld and join us in commemorating the memory of this superb actor.